Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Everything is Different but Just the Same

This hotel is good but it doesn't have a gym. I therefore went on an early brisk walk through Knysna to burn off some calories.

Walking down the high street I noticed a man foraging through the bins. That happens on Queen Street in Cardiff as well. Here the man is black: in Cardiff he's white.

Knysna is tidy and booming. We spent the afternoon on a boat having a fantastic sea food lunch. In the distance, literally on top of one of the hills, I observed a township through my wife's binoculars.

The guide on the boat stood in the right place to receive our tips. It's the custom here. The youngster on the street corner later during the day stood in the right place to beg for money. Apparently, it too is the custom here.

This place has it's own Penrhys estate on its hilltop. Through binoculars I observed a community impoverished but proud. Getting there wasn't on any of the information centre's brochures.

The day ended with a brilliant thunder storm. The little boy in me likes such things - even on a SAGA holiday. It light up the sky above the hilltop with its sheer energy.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Bread Basket

I thought a lot about my friends from Zimbabwe today as we took a long bus ride from Cape Town to Knysna through South Africa's bread basket. We saw mile after mile of prosperous wheat fields.

Zimbabwe used to be called the bread basket of Africa. That's what they called Zimbabwe before Robert Mugabe ruined it.

On the way our guide gave us all her life story. It was really interesting hearing a narrative from the perspective of a South African "coloured" both in terms of fears and hopes. I learnt a great that I did not know today.

I did know something about their Zimbabwean refugees however. They must be desparate to leave anywhere for a South African township.

Monday, 29 October 2007

On His Mother's Shoulders

My affections for whales didn't last that long. Cape Town was the place to be today.

The Bokke came to town to celebrate their well deserved victory. What a fantastic day! My more than understanding wife agreed to me staying in Cape Town while she went to see some whales. I had the time of my life enjoying another nation's joy in front of the place Nelson Mandela spoke to the crowds shortly after his release in 1990.

Cape Town's Parade was jam packed today as well. Being magnanimous in defeat I thought I would honour our guests by wearing my Bokke T-shirt.

The taxi driver outside the players' hotel knew that the team would be playing Wales in a month. He was fairly confident that South Africa would win. So am I.

My lasting memory of the day was being able to hold a small South African boy on my shoulders so that he could see the team. Both he and his mother appreciated the offer. On such a day it was a considerable honour.




Sunday, 28 October 2007

Cheetah's and Sharks

Tonight the Springbok team is staying in the hotel next to ours in Cape Town. They will be honoured in the city tomorrow.

I have brought a special T-shirt with "Thank You Bokke" written on it. I just thought that I would mark the event and join in. I upset an England fan who saw me buying it.

During today I stroked a cheetah and stood inches away from a shark in an aquarium. I didn't want to get any closer. That was really brilliant.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Whale

Look out, I may have acquired a new passion. I really want to save the whale.

Today, off the South African coast I saw several whales swimming in the sea. They were absolutely awesome.

Leaving a bay off Cape Town we sailed within a few feet of one whale. I have not felt so close to God for a long while.

I also saw some penguins and visited a botanical garden. Hmm...

Friday, 26 October 2007

Table Top Mountain

Although the long flight took it's toll, I couldn't resist going up Table Top Mountain in Cape Town straight away. It was well worth the effort. The place is truly awesome.

I was later told that they had a brush fire on the mountain recently. A Welsh person has thrown a cigarette stub on to the dry grass with fatal consequences. Fool!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Travelling to South Africa

Today was all about travelling by car, bus and plane. That's after trying my very best not to forget anything important. In my case, that's difficult but I did OK. It was also about waiting a long time in Heathrow.

I did promise to go and speak at a church in Caerphilly while I'm in South Africa. That was not a good idea, but my friend Themba came to my rescue and the minister was very understanding. He knows me.

I don't know why but a polite lady wanted to go through my "Race Convention 2006" bag at Heathrow. She even tested it for doggy chemicals.

It may have been all the electrical equipment that I took ready for the 12 hour flight.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Good to Be a Priest

It's been a long day. It's 10.20 p.m. and I'm still working in the office. Tomorrow I'll be on holiday. "Oh Yes!!"

Today, I conducted a funeral for a couple of friends and missed the company of some of my old parishioners from Dewi Sant Church in Cardiff. Sometimes, I think that I wasn't all that bad at being a parish priest after all.

I also got an invitation to conduct another wedding. If my memory serves me right it will take place on 28th December 2009. I'll be there if there isn't a game on. There won't be.

I was also blessed by the willingness of two colleagues from Swansea to help Cytun deliver its Inter-faith work. That was also a blessing. Many thanks Nigel and Alan! Today I enjoyed the work company of people of good faith and energy.

It's a great honour and privilege to be asked to be with families and colleagues in their greatest moments of joy and sorrow. Today reminded me that a priest is always a priest and it's good to be a priest.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Sir Emyr Jones Parry

I'm pleased that Sir Emyr Jones Parry has been appointed to consider the date of the referendum on granting the Assembly more legislative powers. It's a very good appointment and I wish him well in his deliberations.

I would very much want to see the Assembly's powers being strengthened but I would strongly advise that all concerned should make haste slowly. That's a theologian talking by the way.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Stationery or Stationary

Some days I'm reminded that English is not my first language.

Today, while writing a new set of financial regulations for Cytun I noticed, with my colleague Sasha's help, that I wanted all my envelopes and letterheads (stationery) to be still (stationary).

Some long days at the office are just like that!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Lewis Hamilton

Today I took advantage of a rare Sunday off to have a really good clear out of old papers at home. It did me and our study a lot of good.

I also watched Lewis Hamilton go for the World Championship in motor racing. Sadly, he didn't make it due to early problems with his car. That was tough and a disappointment. I really wanted him to win.

I haven't finished my tax forms yet but I am getting there. I am really, really looking forward to that break in South Africa.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Congratulations South Africa!

Tonight's game was close and England did well to get there but the better team won. I can now go to South Africa next week prepared to enjoy vicariously a victory well won.

England, as much as some will debate the issue, didn't score a try.

Here's looking forward to Wales welcoming the new world champions in a few weeks time. It's time to start being hopeful once again in that distinctive masochistic Welsh way.


Friday, 19 October 2007

Edinburgh

I like Edinburgh. Back in September 1997 I took a flight to Edinburgh the day after the referendum result that led to the creation of the National Assembly for Wales.

Totally exhausted after the campaign and the count that night and the most memorable low point of doing an early morning interview with a TV reporter who had a greater interest in her hair than in the difference between devolution and independence, I found myself celebrating the victory with two clergy friends on Princes Street in Edinburgh. That day I couldn't sit through the conference sessions I was supposed to attend. I just had to sleep.

Today, I kept awake all day during some supportive conversations with my colleague Bob Fyffe from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. He lives in Scotland.

Two bits of news saddened me today. One was all the job losses at the BBC. I dread to think what would happen to democracy in these islands if all our media outlets in the UK are owned by an Australian who lives in north America.

I was also saddened to hear that Deborah Kerr had died. She gave me a certain warped view of nuns. Real ones were bound to be a disappointment.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Different Faiths

Today was spent on different faiths.

In the morning, the National Assembly's Faith Communities Forum met with the First Minister and other party leaders. It was a good meeting. So was the subsequent meeting of the Interfaith Council. That's when the faith leaders meet without the politicians.

I was given a chance to speak about religion and new Equalities and Human Rights Commission. I also had a chance to offer a comment on the place of the Welsh language as a strand. I enjoyed that.

With a close friend from the Muslim community I fulfilled a longstanding commitment to offer some training to Welsh Assembly Government officials on Christianity. My friend presented a history of Islam. It was good.

I closed the day on my exercise bike watching the Great Escape on DVD. I don't know how many times I have watched the film.

One of these days Steve McQueen as "Hilts" will actually make it over that barbed wire on his stolen motor bike. I wish!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Covenant

This morning I found some deep seated ecumenical feelings coming to the surface at a meeting in Abergavenny of the Commission of the Covenanted Churches. I share their conviction that churches should work far more closely together.

Alas, I think Christians will have to wait until heaven for Christians to be together - presuming that they get there.

Wales beat San Marino 2:1. Wow!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Like Reading My Own Obituary

Today was the day I sat down by my work computer to go through my emails. They are self generating little "so and so.." In the old days, sending over sixty different letters out in one afternoon would be good going. It's now become the electronic norm.

I also eventually got to read my own profile in Golwg, the Welsh language weekly magazine. They rang me last week to say that they wanted to put me in the frame.

It was a little bit like reading your own obituary before you die. I appreciated the nice comments though and I'll live with the remark that I have a loud laugh. I don't know how to laugh any other way. A quiet laugh is nothing more than a giggle.

Monday, 15 October 2007

EHRC

Following a good staff meeting in the morning and a mad chase to complete a Big Lottery form for DPIA, I had my first Equalities and Human Rights Commission Wales Committee meeting. I was impressed by my new colleagues.

I enjoy public service and being on this particular statutory body will do me a lot of good. I hope that we will deliver on people's aspirations rather than their fears. Today was a good start.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Park End

I enjoy preaching at Park End Presbyterian Church in Cardiff. The congregation is large and warm. I preached on the transfiguration in the morning and on God's glory in the evening.

The other thing on my mind today was the South Africa and Argentina match. It will now be a South Africa v England final.

One member of the congregation asked If I would be supporting England. I couldn't possibly comment.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

South Africa

Lots of things happened in the sporting world today. Wales, sadly, lost 3:1 to Cyprus at football. That will make life very difficult for us in future tournaments.

Perhaps more dramatically England beat France to go through to the world rugby cup final. My prediction that they would not be world champions for too long may have to be revised next week. We'll see.

The other thing I did today was get ready for my South African holiday. All in all, I'd prefer to go there to greet them as world rugby champions. Again. I'll now have to wait and see.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Starbucks

After a day at the office I went with a couple of friends to Starbucks in Cardiff. Because I was in urgent need of fresh air we had our tea outside.

I suddenly realised that fresh air outside caf├ęs is in short supply because of smokers. That's irony I suppose.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Bricks and Angels

I enjoyed visiting Buckley in north Wales this morning. I remember this community mainly for the production of bricks. From now on I'll remember it for something else.

On the way to the Catholic Church I forgot the post code for the GPS. About two miles away from my destination I asked a lovely lady the way. She gave me clear directions which almost got me there. I got lost and had to turn back. That was my fault.

When I got to the Church I was surprised to see the lady who had given me directions.

There is only one problem with coincidences being God's way of keeping angels anonymous: you might miss them!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Board

Today I had a Cytun Board meeting all day in Abergavenny. The Priory is a really good place to hold meetings.

My colleague did a fantastic job making a totally incomprehensible constitution passable. It was also good to present what the staff team had completed over the last 18 months.

Recalling is good for the soul.

All Work

Tuesday was all work. Didn't have time to blog.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Swansea

Today started very early with a paper review for BBC's Good Morning Wales. It was followed by a morning at the office planning the Cytun board meeting

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Penrhiwceiber

If Wales had gone through to the quarter final I would have been in Marseilles today. I had to be content with supporting Fiji at a distance. It didn't do them much good.

I was also able to preach in Carmel, Penrhiwceiber as originally marked in my little red book. I have some preaching bookings as far ahead as 2011.

The saints were few and mature of age but the service was a real blessing. I'm looking forward to being back with them in December.

After tonight's match I feel really sorry for Scotland. Argentina are a joy to watch. I'm at that stage now where I am just enjoying the rugby and some chapels.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Australia 10: England 12

Today I sort of caught up with my family and my birthday getting a DVD player as a gift. It was just what I wanted for all those long train journeys that I go on and those away nights in church accommodation without Sky TV.

During the evening I went to see Atonement with my wife and daughter. It was really brilliant and I didn't anticipate the ending.

England did really well against Australia and they got, it must be said, through with style.

I have to say well done but
it's just asking too much for an avid Welsh fan to support the current world champions who are still in the game. That's the least that can be said tonight for Australia or the poor Old Blacks.

Tretower

The opinion polls have changed all of a sudden after the Conservative Conference. The Guardian has the two leading parties both at 38 per cent.

Tonight I went to Tretower to preach. There were some 90 there. I felt a deep sense of blessing.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Happy Birthday

My twin sister remembered my birthday this year. I remembered hers but bought an inappropriate (but not rude) card. I'll have to get something more discrete and a nice present for her.

It was just another day at the office otherwise except for the lecture by Professor Christine Trevett on "Women's Voices and Jewish Christian Relations".

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Conwy Cytun and War

Had another long trip to north Wales today to the Conwy Cytun. It was a huge encouragement.

Because I arrived a little early I went to see the new film, War. I wish I hadn't.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Many Thanks

This morning on the way to work I received a phone call that meant a great deal to me. One of the veterans who was involved in Sunday's service phoned to say thank you on behalf of himself and his friends.

When arranging national events you can't please everyone. On Sunday, the veterans were the people I wished to please most. To know that a liturgy helped them to remember those friends they had lost in conflict was a huge encouragement.

I will remember these very special men in my prayers with thanksgiving. It was good to work with them on a very special day.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Johnny Delaney

I slept late this morning. I blame the long journey back to north Wales last night and the comfort of my twin sister's spare bed.

My left hip hurt all the way up last night. My sister's hip has also hurt of late. Weird again!

Today was my sort of good day off. I gave a brief talk about my CRE work in the context of the killing of the Irish traveller Johnny Delaney in 2003. Cwmni'r Fran Wen are doing some fantastic theatre in schools work around his story.

I was introduced warmly in Caernarfon for the first time as Wales' former Commissioner for racial equality. That title will stick for a while. It was good to be back north.