Category Archives: Cafes

Bangs and Brummies

This weekend consisted of some much needed chilling out and relaxing. On Saturday, I headed to Birmingham to meet up with TractorGirl and go to a GCN gathering. We had an hour to catch up and chat before joining the others for some time praying in a church near the Bullring and then on to a French restaurant of the relaxed variety for a meal. The food was nice (I had some cheesy garlic bread and vegetarian risotto) and the company lovely. I learnt a lot about Eastern Orthodoxy and being in an Irish folk band!

I was feeling pretty knacked after food (think I’m coming down with something, which makes having to wait for my passport to come through before I can register with a GP more than a little annoying…) so we retired to the hotel for a happy few hours of just chatting and chilling and, for the first time in what seemed like ages, a good catch-up. The hotel in question was the City Inn, which is in the heart of the Irish district. The staff were friendly and the room was spacious, clean and comfortable. I was sad at not being able to pinch the shampoo and shower gel (from the White Company, so good stuff!), which is after all the main reason for staying in a hotel! The only downside was the location, and it was quite noisy till late with all the clubs around and about, but ear plugs sorted that out. Worth the money!

On Sunday, we had breakfast in an Italian place near the Bullring. They did nice bacon and egg butties with accompanying cheesy Italian power ballads! Next, we went to the church we’d visited the previous day for a ‘Crossing Service’, which was basically Common Worship Order One with modern songs. Enjoyed the latter half, but the sermon was full of business cliches and “purpose-driven prayers” and life coaches and “making an impact” – if I ever preach such dribble, shoot me! Afterwards, we went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet place, which was nice enough (I’m fussy about places being too crowded). TractorGirl, new book in hand, headed off early and I retired to the pub at New Street station for a pint and to read my book, which is very funny. Dawn French’s wicked sense of humour comes through and I think I unnerved people around me with suddenly laughing out loud!

On getting back to Milton Keynes and after a quick pit stop to layer up (it was freezing!) and unpack, I was off to the fireworks with some people from church. They (the fireworks, not the church people!) lasted about fifteen minutes and were pretty, just about justifying standing around in the cold. We then had dinner at an Italian place in the shopping centre, and I got pasta down my tie, which was annoying, but the food was good and the company interesting, so it didn’t matter.

Overall, it was a lovely weekend which reminded me exactly why I’m head-over-heals in love with TractorGirl and how much I like the GCN folks, and showed me that my current location and choice of church are pretty good 🙂

Just wish the long-distance relationship thing was easier – I miss you, darling!

Yorkshire isn’t always so bad…

Yesterday, I went with my parents to Richmond in Yorkshire to escape Durham for the day. While there, we visited the Station, which is, among other things, an arts space, cinema and cafe. Around the place were paintings, I think mostly by local artists, for sale at incredibly high prices. I think, if the worst comes to the worst, I may take up throwing paint randomly at a canvas and calling it modern art. If the man I spoke to is right and people really do pay hundreds of pounds for that sort of thing, I’d be rolling in it! The food in the cafe was very nice (if a little pricy – £4 for a sandwich and salad) and the atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed.

While we were there, we paid a quick visit to Easby Abbey, which is a ruined abbey owned by English Heritage. It’s quite extensive and parts of the ruins are in pretty good condition. The lack of signage made it difficult to work out what was what, which is a shame, but it’s set in really lovely countryside, and the views make up for it somewhat.

I guess I really needed a day out of Durham, and this did help give me a much-appreciated break. My mum’s comment about my waistline was less helpful, but then I’ve figured out that while my parents are great at the big things (they’re helping me out of my interesting financial situation, which is a huge sigh of relief), the little things are always going to wind me up!

All-in-all, my day out proves that Yorkshire can be ok 😉

Time for a re-think?

I spent the weekend on retreat with a group from GCN at Buckfast Abbey, which is near Totnes in Devon. It’s only the third GCN event I’d been to, and I was nervous that I would be stuck spending my weekend with deeply irritating camp blokes or people all too like some folks I’ve known in Durham who aren’t very comfortable with their sexuality and act like jerks to hide the fact. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong about it!

The first evening we had a lovely meal, much wine and a talk about 1 Peter from the priest leading the weekend. On the Saturday, TractorGirl and I led a session looking at the prologue to St John’s Gospel in the morning. As a couple of people requested it, I’ve added the text of my talks. We had a nice lunch at the Abbey’s cafe, which does extremely tasty-but-bad-for-you puddings. In the afternoon, one of our members talked about his experience of the ex-gay movement and we had a good discussion about being gay in the church. That evening saw us decant to the pub for a lovely meal (or at least it was when my food finally got there!) and I spent the Sunday morning chilling while TractorGirl went to mass.

For the most part, the weekend gave me much-needed space to relax, to catch up with people (though some all too briefly – methinks some travel might be in order) and make new friends. It did me good to get out of Durham for a while, and I got to spend some quality time with TractorGirl which I really appreciated and was lovely.

So far, so good. However, God was also doing his thing of unsettling things. One of the people on the retreat was an Anglican priest and after hearing me preach, told me he thinks I am a natural preacher, teacher and pastor and that in his belief, I am called to some sort of ministry within the church. This wasn’t the first time someone has told me that – it has happened several times after preaching and when getting to know people in the church – but what scared me a bit was his certainty.

Now, since I left the ordination process in Durham Diocese, for what I think was a sensible and principled reason, I’ve been doing a certain amount of re-assessment of my faith and place within the church. I had initially concluded that Anglican ordained ministry was not for me and that I would be better giving up altogether or looking at switching denominations. However, in the last couple of months, I’ve been wrestling with all of this and the jolt over the weekend confirms my initial thoughts:

  • Within my remaining time in Durham, I would like to keep worshipping at the Methodist Church that has become ‘church family’ and who have loved and accepted me unconditionally. The Cathedral is lovely and I will still go there sometimes, but I’ve had enough.
  • Joint Anglican-Methodist membership is something I would like to do purely for its own sake, because it does express my journey and theological roots. However, I don’t think I’d pursue local preaching unless after the move I end up in a Methodist church. First and foremost, I am an Anglican. The Church of England, despite its many faults, is my home and I love it very much. I feel deep down that it’s where God wants me to be, and after all, it won’t change if everyone who struggles in it flees.
  • Leaving the process hasn’t lessened my desire to serve God in the church as well as the world of work. I don’t think full-time parish ministry is for me, but NSM or reader training do appeal, and I need to stop running away and look at them.

In short, the conclusion I’ve come to is that God doesn’t seem to want to give up on me in ministry in the church of some form. The task now is to discern the right expression for that. This means dealing once again with the thorny issue of sexuality and after the weekend and sharing my story and, far more interestingly, hearing from others, I just about feel in a position to do that. I will have to get better at ‘playing the game’, but I think stepping back for a while and talking to so many encouraging people has helped me see how that might work.

I think, through all the ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ of the last few weeks, what has emerged through much prayer, thought, wrestling and tears, is a sense of the need to step out, take risks and use my gifts to serve God. I can’t really talk about the other part of my life where the need to take a leap of faith and just live with the uncertainties has become apparent and I hope I’m responding appropriately, but in both cases, I’ve realised that I can either carry on running away, or take the risk of love. It’s very scary, but I honestly believe I’m doing the right thing in both cases.

There’s a clip from one of the best films of all time, in my humble opinion, ‘Good Will Hunting’, about taking risks. I couldn’t find the specific clip I wanted, but the end of this illustrates my point about safety nets and the need to risk getting hurt to find love:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAF8zRUdp18&feature=related[/youtube]

The Infidel

Yesterday, TractorGirl and I went to the Tyneside Cinema (apparently the best preserved newsreel cinema in the country) to see director David Baddiel’s latest film, ‘The Infidel’.

It’s about a Muslim man, Mahmud Nasir, who discovers when emptying his dead mother’s house that he was adopted and that by birth he is Jewish and called Solly Shimshillewitz. At the same time, his son wants to marry a girl whose new stepfather is a Muslim extremist and expects the family to live up to his definition of a ‘good Muslim’. In trying to get to see his dying father, Mahmud gets lessons on ‘Jewishness’ from a cabbie, Lenny Goldberg, but finds himself caught in an interesting cultural muddle.

I really enjoyed the film; it’s very funny and handles difficult issues by taking the mickey thoroughly. I would recommend it. Even the Guardian liked it!

The Infidel scores 8.5/10.

While we were there, we saw  a trailer for Russell Crowe’s latest film, ‘Robin Hood’. It looks like another CGI spectacular, with dialogue that the knobs who comment on things like The Review Showwould love. Think I’ll give it a miss, especially as Crowe reminds me too much of Jon Culshaw from Dead Ringers and I can’t help wonder if the film is a spoof as a result!

We also saw a trailer for ‘Four Lions’, about a group of inept terrorists, which looked very funny and we will be going to see.  Afterwards, we discovered that there are various nice cafes at the cinema, which makes it ideal for an arty day out, maybe along with a trip to the Baltic. All in all, a good day 🙂 I’ll leave you with a trailer for ‘The Infidel’:

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5etNeaNlM8M[/youtube]: