Benjamin Button on friendship

I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night.  I found it a really sad and poignant film.  Particularly the way it explores building attachments, sharing experiences and loving people and then losing them.  Naturally, due to his reverse ageing, Benjamin is forced to deal with this even more head-on but it seems his peace is found in his acceptance that this is the way life is.

People come into your life, you love them, you lose them.

Yesterday some friends came to visit and asked if we’d stay in touch after we leave Solihull.  Of course we’d love to stay in touch with everybody everywhere but it just isn’t practical.  We’ve only been married 8 years and we have dozens of friends from Sheffield, Solihull, Montenegro and other places as well as many other friends we have known before we met.  All of these friends are precious to us but I think the best way to cherish a friendship is to recognise that it is a friendship for a season.

Maybe the friendship is for a particular job or course.  Or to help overcome a particular difficulty or stage in life.  Some friendships span a decade or two and maybe a few can last a lifetime.  But just because people drift or don’t have the practical means to keep in touch does not mean the friendship has been any less significant.

Facebook is great for keeping in touch with old friends but is there a danger that we end up prolonging friendships beyond their natural course and therefore diluting the impact of that person on our lives?  I’m not saying it is like this, it’s just a thought.

But anyway…my point is this;  let’s cherish the friendships we have and have had and be thankful for the different seasons that people come into our lives and the roles they play there.  To all my friends out there, thanks for being there.  I am very grateful for your support and all the great memories – I look forward to any times together in the future and will be sad if that is not meant to be…….


I’m in a daze

I really can’t take it in.  I’m back home.  Sat in my bed.  The house feels fantastic.  It was so nice to have such a warm welcome from Dan & Cath.

I’m pretty speechless to be honest but it feels great.  It was a great trip but when I woke up in Frankfurt this morning and it was grey and rainy and the hotel breakfast was crowded with businessmen and the shower was cold…I just wanted to get home quick.  So we rushed to Dunkerque abandoning plans to call in on Maastricht and managed to get the earlier ferry.  The M25 was grim but we drove into Solihull at 9.20pm.  Anya has been a star.

Rada’s dad had his major heart op today.  It was successful and he’s in intensive care.  They should be waking him up tomorrow morning.  Please pray for him.  Rada will be back home in a couple of weeks.

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.

Neighbours at 6.30am

When I woke at 6.30am this morning (it’s Saturday by the way!) the first thing I heard were voices outside our back bedroom window.  I couldn’t quite descibe the voices as loud but they were definitely not quiet.  No matter which window I looked out of I couldn’t work out where they were coming from.

I went out the front and on nextdoor’s drive there were a couple of knackered looking blokes smoking and drinking from cans  and in the middle of what was obviously an exceptionally important conversation.  “Morning,” I said in my best possible Sheffield accent*.  The two blokes, looking surprisingly nervous, turned round.

“Er, hi, did we keep you awake?  Sorry, we’ve got rid of the noisy ones, er, bit of a house warming you see.  Do you think it’s going on a bit late?  Or is it early now?”

“Early I think.  So you just moved in?  I’m Nathan”

“Er, John, nice to meet you.”

Now John looked pretty rat arsed to be honest and very worried when he saw me.  Aside from the fact he thought he’d kept me up all night, I think it was also one of those occasions when I forget I am 6’2″ and fairly broad.  I got told the other day I look imposing and on another occasion that I look like a thug.  I must admit I like the thought that I could be ‘imposing’.  Just think of all I could achieve in life.

But that is by the by.  It’s an interesting way to move into a new house and meet your new neighbours.  I suspect there may be one or two ‘interesting’ occurances with John in the months to come.  I hope we can get on well and learn something from each other.


*the more I have lived in Solihull the more neutralised my accent has become but when faced with strong accents of any kind (in this case thick Brummy) I default to my Sheffield tones, I think this is partly an acceptance thing but mainly because people with a posh accent don’t understand my Sheffield voice, and people with a thick accent don’t understand my more neutral pronunciations.

Extreme Weather Conditions of Solihull: Part 5

My series on the immoderate meteorological events in the suburban conurbation that is Solihull has come full circle.  It is almost two years since ‘The Great Drift of 07’ which led to 17 members of the Womens Institute being trapped in John Lewis for at least 15 minutes.  Since then I have written about the floods, freezing fog and drizzle that have inflicted these brave people with hardship.

And today is no different.  Certainly not as bad as the Great Drift but there were at least 2cm of snow covering the pavement this morning.  Understandably there was pure disgust at the school gates.  What were the council thinking leaving it up to individual schools to make a decision about closure!?  It is very dangerous out there.  I expect there will be no bread left in the shops by the morning and it is only a matter of time before the water pipes freeze up. 

It looks like we’ll have to go to Starbucks to keep ourselves nourished and warm.  The staff of this rock of society always manage to get into work.  Which is good because we wouldn’t want the profiteering at the expense of Ethiopian farmers to stop, would we?  Or prevent some of their well earned revenue from reaching the good cause that is the Israeli Arms Fund as they had to spend a lot of money this Christmas.  I heard they sent a lot of presents over to their neighbours in Gaza over the festivities this year.

You know how easy it is to get carried away with spending during the holiday season so can I urge you all to dig out your snow shoes and a ski poles and make your way to your nearest Starbucks lest the evil stop.

The Journey

Run out of the house sometimes as far as Richmond Road but that depends how late I am.  Then it’s a brisk walk the rest of the way to the station and up onto the platform just has the train pulls in, timed to perfection.

Standing amidst the others, earphones, computer games, mobile phones, newspapers, books, sleep…anything to avoid communication with each other but we’re so close.

Pull through Moor Street and Snow Hill and the train is empty now.  I choose a seat, row in front, row behind, two empty seats to my left.  Nobody will come near my little cocoon now.  I need my space it is an oasis.  Choose a song, to chill, to think, to reflect, to enjoy.  Close my eyes, 6 minutes of heaven.

Off at The Hawthorns and hurry to the tram but the clock says there’s 3 minutes to wait.  6 minutes later, feeling deceived and wounded by unpunctuality I am sitting back with the crowd but a more common crowd of friendly black country faces and accents not the stern office workers of the city anymore.  But there is still the void between us as we travel.

The walk from the tram is too short.  Less than two minutes.  But I’m there now.  My oasis is far behind but the interaction begins.  Cleaner, receptionist, resident.  All willing to talk, a community.

Solihull, the YMCA, and the poor

I was thinking about how Jesus primarily came for the poor and this set off two trains of thought:

  1. Where I live in Solihull people are really rich.  Even those who consider themselves poor are rich compared to the average person in the world.  And I thought about the false gods that many of us in Solihull worship – money, jobs, success, social standing, a luxury lifestyle, entertainment, consumerism.  And my concluding thought was that in the Church in Solihull we subconsciously promote all of these idols.  I think it would be worthwhile Christians in affluent communities sitting down and discussing how they are counter cultural and what traps they have fallen into that mean they pander to cultural norms rather than being a radical and world changing community.
  2. My second thought process was about my own job.  I work for the YMCA finding accommodation for young people who are at risk of becoming homeless.  “A worthy cause!” I hear you cry and, yes, I agree it is a very worthy thing I do.  However, it can be all too easy for me to hide behind my job and claim that I fulfill Jesus’ mandate for the poor.   I can all too often think I am serving the ‘poor’ when in fact I am just enjoying job satisfaction and serving my own false gods of having enough money to be comfortable and own my own property.  Granted, our motives will never be pure and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about that.  However, we should continually be assessing our standing in terms of God’s call on us to serve him and make disciples no matter what status our job title or habitual lifestyle gives us.