Grammarly calls!

I use Grammarly’s online plagiarism checker because with two fractured wrists I need all the help I can get! Even without fractured wrists, it’s a boon to have not only a plagiarism checker, but an online proof reader, grammar checker, and of course, spell checker (where would we be without the ubiquitous spell checker?) all in one.

To be honest, the wrists are much better now and the splints are due off in a fortnight. I can just about exist that long without the full use of my hands and arms. The moral of this story? Don’t attempt the dry ski slope without full body armour. After I fell and they’d picked me up, dusted me down and sent me off to A&E, my instructor went back into the club house and said, “I think I’ve just broken the vicar!”

Stiff wrists have delayed the continuation of my ongoing murder/mystery novel (as you know, I only write it in the winter when the weather prevents much in the way of outside entertainment) and although the splints will be off, life gets particularly busy in December. But after Christmas, I intend to get cracking again. And yes, I know. No need to remind me how the road to hell is paved.

Meanwhile, volume three of ‘Children’s Stories’ is now available, and is based on Year A (the year of Matthew, which starts on Advent Sunday, December 1st) of the Sunday gospel readings. Once again they are fun stories with an underlying-but-not-in-your-face message, suitable for adults as well as children.

Back at the ranch – well, the church actually – we’ve just started to fund raise for the redevelopment of our church hall. It’s a lovely building but in such a sad state of repair that it’s dangerous and can’t be used. We want to develop it for community use and have in mind nursery provision during the week (there’s none in this part of East Norwich) with an after-school club, some youth work and clubs for all ages in the evenings, and possibly lunches for the isolated at the weekend.

If you’d like to give us a helping hand, you can either text TROW75 and the amount you’d like to give, to 70070, or you can click on our Just Giving page. Every little helps, as they say in a well known store, so THANK YOU in advance!

MOOC and MOODLE

moocMooc. No, not a type of advanced cow or a bit of East Anglian gossip, but a brilliant online higher education system which is open to all and is FREE! Launched at the British Library by FutureLearn.com, the first UK-led provider of free, open, online higher education courses, our own University of East Anglia was the first to go live, offering a ten week course on’The Secret Power Of Brands’. But several other UK universities are also in on the act, including the Open University which is offering a course on ‘An Introduction To Web Science’ and ‘An Introduction To Programming’. Many more courses are in the pipeline, so this initiative will open up higher education to anyone who wants to learn. It’s a system which has been running in America for a number of years and since it’s online, you can access from the UK too, but it’s great to know we are now officially part of it.

Visit www.futurelearn.com to sign up for access to the course lists and register for courses. I’m going there right now to have a look and see what interests me, so why don’t you come too?

Meanwhile, Norwich Diocese has been offering ten week online courses for a number of years. Yes, we’ve beaten the universities, although our courses are based on Moodle rather than Mooc!  (Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.)

These courses too are open to anyone who is interested. ”Being Christian Beyond Church” which is just starting, discusses issues such as: What does it mean to be Christian in today’s secular workplace? Or in voluntary work or the community come to that? How do you make tough decisions? Is “what would Jesus do?” a valid question? Can you use the Bible as a guide? Why look after the inner you? All questions designed to make Christianity relevant to life today, and to deepen our own Christian faith.

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But I haven’t signed up for that course. Instead, I’m going to study ‘What Is ‘The Naked Gospel’?’ a course based on Vincent Donovan’s ‘Christianity Rediscovered’ alongside ten readings from the Acts of the Apostles.

 

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Donovan was sent to Tanzania as a Roman Catholic priest to evangelise the Masai people and found himself forced to ask very basic questions about faith and the church. Donovan’s search was for the naked gospel – stripped of all unnecessary accretions – and to bring it to bear on the ‘real flesh and blood world in which we live’. Alongside this we’ll be looking at ten passages from Acts, observing how the Holy Spirit of God constantly leads the apostles out of their comfort zones and equips them for new territory, new challenges and new peoples. Sounds a bit scary, as it might prod me out of my comfort zone too!

Again it’s a ten week course so fairly intensive, but I can do it in my own time and hope to find it stimulating and thought provoking as well as scary.

For either of these course, email Casper James: caspar.james@norwich.anglican.org

And finally, watch this space! The third volume of ‘Children’s Stories From The Village Shepherd’ is now at the proof stage and is with the publishers. Based on Year A of the Sunday gospel readings, it should be out before Advent when Year A begins. Meet again Praxis the naughty pixie, and meet for the first time Bushman the Squirrel, Ahmed the camel, and the donkey who witnessed the crucifixion and bears the cross on his back, plus children in school, at home, and with grandparents.

Again, my aim has been to present Christian thoughts and themes in a way which is accessible to adults and children, and to stimulate some thought about the deeper issues of life. And I wanted to present some of those issues which can seem trivial to adults but which matter to children, in a positive light, showing that the God within us all, displayed so very clearly in Jesus Christ, still can and does help us in our lives today.

‘Children’s Stories From The Village Shepherd’ Volume III, is out soon,  so do keep tuned!

Stressss….

They say that moving house is one of life’s most stressful events. I had forgotten all that as our last move merely necessitated getting rid of surplus furniture and trotting up to the bungalow we’d had for some years. As we lived in a house provided by the job, the bungalow served as a bolt hole and holiday home, so was pretty well furnished for our comfort.

   When I retired from my post as a country priest, we moved from the rectory to the bungalow full time. OK, it required a good deal of down-sizing, but with six country parishes all holding jumble sales and fetes from time to time, it was relatively easy to hand over much of our surplus. The bigger furniture went to charity shops, and we hunkered down in our little bungalow for four years. Not at all stressful.
   Not that they were idle years. I quickly discovered the old maxim ‘Once a priest, always a priest’ to be true, and spent many happy hours helping and enabling worship in various different churches.
   Then out of the blue came a new call – for a return to duty as a part-time priest-in-charge of one parish. Along with the post came a house, so we began to sort out accumulated rubbish in the bungalow prior to moving into the much larger house.
   We also discovered we needed to up-size again, so it was off to the self-same charity shops to buy back necessary furniture.
   This time we had the removers pack all our belongings, and an excellent job they made of it too. Unfortunately they don’t unpack at the other end, so there we were late on Tuesday evening in our new home, surrounded by packing cases in every direction.
   A week later and we’re slowly getting straight, but it’s a major task, and if we want to get it right first time (I can’t do all this shifting about again, I really can’t!) then we need to work at a much slower pace than I would like. Being one of those impatient types, I want it all perfect yesterday. Fortunately Ian has a brain as well as a head, so he forces me to slow down.
   I’m left with just one puzzling question. When we’ve moved from a much smaller bungalow into a much larger house, how come all this stuff won’t fit in? No wonder moving house is so stressful!

 

The delights of sat-nav

I had a phone call last night asking me to play in a golf match, as two people had dropped out. From this you will deduce that I’m not the best golfer in the world. It’ll take me another week or two to measure up to Tiger Woods. Still, I was pleased to accept, as the weather promised to be good and it was an away match at a course which was unfamiliar to me.

The problem was, I didn’t know the route. But we recently invested in a new sat-nav, so this was the ideal opportunity to try it out. Yes, I know. All of you have been using sat-navs for years and are thoroughly blase about them, but I’m not. This was a new experience for me.

I should explain. We have had two previous sat-navs, neither  of which were completely satisfactory. The earliest one – OK, it was probably a prototype – gave new instructions the moment you’d completed the last instruction, even though the next move might be anything up to eleven miles away. So  you’d hear, ‘Turn left’, with no indication whatsoever of when you were to turn left. We had some fun with that one, as you can imagine. The next sat-nav was a lot better, but only recognised about half the country’s postcodes, very few of which were in Norfolk. And if you had the temerity to change route half way, the sat-nav went into an unnecessary sulk,  refusing to function again.

Not good, and hence my trepidation when I set off today. However, clearly sat-navs have moved in the last few years, for this one was perfect. A lovely, calm lady gave me explicit instructions in plenty of time in a beautifully modulated voice, didn’t get rattled by the traffic (or my driving) and deposited me exactly at my destination just as required.

The match was great, and we won (even greater!) It was a friendly so we all had a good time.

Unfortunately, as I started the journey home  heaving the car over exaggerated speed bumps in the golf club access road, the sat-nav fell off the dashboard, utterly scrambling the display.  Needless to say, I didn’t know how to get the display back, but bless her! The dear lady within continued with her clear instructions just as though nothing had happened. The display never recovered, but she got me home with no trouble at all.

That’s it – I’m a convert. I shall never worry again about getting to my destination, but rely entirely on the sat-nav.

Treasure hunting…

The advantage of having your youngest daughter home for the Easter holidays is that she drags you out to all sorts of unexpected and novel experiences.

The latest is geo-caching. For the uninitiated, this is a sort of glorified and occasionally sophisticated, treasure hunt. The aim is to find hidden caches, using map co-ordinates and clues.  When you find the cache, you fill in a logbook and maybe exchange a small treasure – a coin, or a badge or some other tiny token. If your knees are already buckling at the thought of co-ordinates and maps, don’t despair. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds, thanks to the delights of smart phones which do most of the work for you.

From the geo-caching webpage, you decide which caches are near you and which you would like to visit. This is a world-wide movement  so there are geo-caches everywhere, and this area of Norfolk is no exception. There are literally hundreds within a few miles.

We started on Tuesday. Downloaded the information into the smart phone and set off. The first cache, near Hemblington Church, took us several minutes to find, but the next cache, near Panxworth (ruined) Church was very easy.

Encouraged and cock-a-hoop, we ventured forth again yesterday morning, this time to Blofield. There’s a group of geo-caches in the vicinity named after Dad’s Army characters, so we thought we’d hunt for them.  This is where it all started to go horribly wrong. We couldn’t find the first two, and the wind was so bitterly cold we gave up and went home for coffee. But not to be outdone, we had another attempt in the afternoon, this time different caches within a few hundred yards of home. Should be easy, right? Wrong!

One was a ‘puzzle’ cache, where you had to work out quite a challenging puzzle to find the cache. We managed the puzzle – at least, I think we did, but who knows? – but couldn’t find the cache, so we moved on to the next one which should have been easier. It wasn’t. On the other hand,  had we  known our north from our south we might have had more success. Again the weather was bitterly cold, and for some reason, home with a mug of hot tea was more inviting than scrabbling about in the undergrowth searching for a micro-cache.

I’m afraid the sum total of our joint success so far is two miserable caches, but never fear! We’re merely waiting for warmer weather before setting off again, fired with renewed enthusiasm. Watch this space, for as you know, where your treasure is, there is your heart also. Or something like that.

 

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