Friday, 21 August 2009


"I have to say, I'm a compassionate man...." I didn't need to listen to any more on this morning's 9 am phone-in on Radio 5 about the release of the Libyan, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, from Scotland. You know, don't you, that the next word will be "but", and probably the next sentence will be "that man deserves to be hung by his toenails in a cell and the key thrown away"? Well, I didn't listen to the rest of the programme, which in this case was bound to be a sharing of ignorance. Sometimes it's best to be silent. However there's a selection of those introductory excuses, such as 'I'm not prejudiced, but...', or 'I don't have anything against...,but...', or 'With all due respect...', and 'I hear you...', which effectively mean little or nothing. They're certainly warning signs, of a big 'BUT' coming up.

I've not much enjoyed the first day of the final test at the Oval, I must say. A bit of a disappointing opening innings by England. BUT I have been enjoying the athletics. A BBC commentator aptly called Usain Bolt 'an absloute godsend for athletics'. Two emphatic new world records. He certainly shows a God-given natural talent, plus of course a lot of hard work. The British medalists seem to me to be triumphs of dedication. Jessica Ennis who won the gold in the heptathlon had a broken bone in her foot last year and so had to change her take-off foot for the long jump. Phillips Idowu won the triple jump after years of 'unfulfilled potential'. In terms of performance on the day, I thought none was so impressive as Jenny Meadows in the 800 metres, who missed the silver by a whisker, after an amazing sprint up the back straight. The much maligned South African teenager, Caster Semenya, who's in a class of her own, won the gold, but Jenny Meadows was outstanding in her determination and finish.

Earlier this week I had a session with my new speech and language therapist, Helen. I like her - which is important; I suppose it's because she didn't talk down to or lecture me. She doesn't reckon I need speaking aids, like a lightwriter; that encourages me, her being a professional. We discussed swallowing and the danger of things going down the windpipe instead of the oesophagus. Again she was helpful on how to recognise the signs, and again encouraging about my cough, the protective mechanism, which is still strong. I'm blessed. No buts.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Watch it!

I've just received something unmissable on my Facebook wall. It's from Jozanne Moss, a friend of mine with MND in South Africa. It's called REJOICE! It's 10 minutes on YouTube: You might have to search for 'Jozanne Moss'. I do recommend you view it. You'll understand more and be inspired.

Friday, 14 August 2009

A time to speak

Today I've had an article published in The Catholic Herald - which I must say I'm chuffed about. You can read it on line ( I wrote a longer version which appeared elsewhere, but you can't access it on line. Basically I was saying if we don't say anything it will be assumed that the public consensus is in favour of assisted suicide. As Edmund Burke was reputed to have said, 'All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.' Whatever view you take, this issue is too important to do, or say, nothing. There's a Downing Street petition, which says: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to retain the law that makes it a criminal offence to assist another person to commit suicide". I've put a link to it ('PETITION') to make it easy to add your name. And although it says it's past the deadline for signing, I did it successfully today. So you probably can as well - but quick! Actually I think we also need to talk about it in the pub, at work, on the radio - wherever we get the chance. Because I think life and individuals' lives are infinitely precious. I don't want any of my ill, or disabled, or elderly friends to have their lives ended prematurely. That doesn't mean officiously extended, but it does mean faithfully and tenderly cared for until the end. Life is given to me; it's not mine by right. And you can quote me on that!

Olympian madness

Well, personally, I think they're a bit unhinged. The IOC looks set to admit Rugby Sevens and Golf as Olympic events for 2012, as well as Women's Boxing. Well, I think I'd allow Seven-a-side Rugby, as a sport, even if hardly a universal one. But Golf and Women's Boxing... I reckon they both fall down on several counts. Much as I enjoy and admire the skill involved in golf - walking round hitting a stationary ball into holes, seems like a bit of a rich man/woman's pastime! And I'm afraid I can't consider women trying to knock each other out a sport - actually I'm not keen on men doing it either. Brain injury's not a good spectator sport. I know they have head guards and so on. I have to say I profoundly agree with Amir Khan: 'Deep down I think women shouldn't fight. That's my opinion.' I guess it's in the name of equality. If so, it's daft. I think it's demeaning. My vote would have been for squash, which is highly competitive and skilful.

Can anything good come out of Wales?

The answer, of course, is yes. Male voice choirs singing Cwm Rhondda, and the sound of Land of my Fathers at the Millennium Stadium, to start with, and in the last century the Welsh Revival before World War 1 and the National Health Service during WW2. Now let my transatlantic readers have no doubt they were both seriously GOOD THINGS. Sadly the revival didn't last as long as the NHS has. If it had, our western world, economy and all, wouldn't be in its present mess. (But I've recently heard things which give me hope for other parts of the world - if you don't believe me, have a look at the Transformations video clip, And maybe it could happen here....).

Meanwhile don't take notice of the Tory (Conservative) Member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, who is seriously off the wall. I guess his party leader regards him as a loose cannon. But he is wrong about the NHS. It's not by any means perfect. What human institution is? However I owe so much to the free access to diagnosis and care which I receive. In one sense, of course, it's not free, in that all my working life I've contributed to it via taxation. OK, I've probably subsidised people who didn't pay tax but I don't mind that. Neither did my children pay taxes. But to have healthcare available to all, free at the point of delivery, is an incredibly good thing. And when it works well, as it does for me, it's a great blessing.

Come to think of it, to have both revival and the NHS would be a great combination. Because revival would bring improved health (at least) and reduce the headache of funding the NHS - a far better option than euthanasia, for example.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Party time

What fun it was last night! Some of my best friends came round. Jane produced a cracking three-courser, and we finished with champagne (courtesy of who else but party-girl Janet). You can tell what a good time WE had by the fact that we didn't get to bed until two hours later than usual. Never was the truth of the proverb (which we heard at New Wine) proved more true, except it was a good deal more than a meal of herbs: 'Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.' But the special ingredient was the love. Thanks, folks.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Son of New Wine

Today a group from our church in Grove have gone off to Soul Survivor, the younger version of New Wine. It's held on the same showground and is remarkable for a number of things, such as the quantity of young people, the volume of the music, the absence of alcohol and the enjoyment and seriousness of the whole thing. I'm glad for them that the campsite will have had almost a week of drying out, so that they won't be pitching their tents in a quagmire. Next week a similar-sized group will go to the next Soul Survivor, in spite of traumatic conditions last year!

As I said, we are not made of such hardy stuff and have found three wonderful self-catering cottages called Sleepy Hollow about 15 minutes south of the site (, two of which are ground-floor only and so feasible for the likes of me, still
walking with
assistance. Here's Jane outside
our back door.
And you can see that it's
sunny despite my previous

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The big SIX O

Today is a landmark. I'm now eligible for a bus pass and for a winter fuel allowance. When I was diagnosed with MND in 2002, we decided that when (if) I reached this grand age we'd have a grand celebration. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Monday, 10 August 2009

New Wine - thoughts from a sodden field

The 'camp' movement is an interesting and surprisingly old one. I believe it reaches back to the primitive Methodists, and probably earlier to wherever believers were too enthusiastic to be contained in church buildings. I suspect St Francis was a handful. Certainly one of my heroes, Daniel Rowland, had to preach outside the church at Llangeitho. Anyway, there's something about getting away from the normal routine of life to concentrate on God. Whether you sit alone on a pillar in the desert, or camp out with others in the woods, or go 'on retreat' to a place of prayer, or go to a pop-festival style week, there's something that these approaches have in common. And it's the idea that God is worth taking seriously. Which should go without saying, you'd think. If God is God, then he must be total, totally worth pursuing.

The Independent reporter wasn't quite right when he suggested it was all about dumbing down worship in order to attract the masses. 'If you swap organs and hymns for guitars and pop songs, people will come flocking.' Actually, Jerome, with respect, it isn't that at all. Certainly it's about contemporary expressions; and it's true that it's using culturally popular idioms; but that's not the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Sorry that sounds corny. But on the whole what you have at something like New Wine is a lot of people who want to spend quality time with God. Now unlike the Quest campers down the road at Bruton they have already found good evidence for his existence, both historical and empirical, and logically enough reckon that's sufficiently important to take time out to try to encounter him some more. What's interesting is although there are so many there, no one's encounter seems the same as anyone else's, which suggests it's not mass hysteria, but it's authentic experience. Certainly in a worship meeting people sing their lungs out, and quite a lot jig around, and hold up their hands. (I did - hands, not jigging, sadly.) But not everyone. And when the time comes for praying or being prayed for, there's simply no pattern. It just seems individually different. One of our friends had long-term deafness healed. I'm still as I was, physically, but I have to say that I feel happier and more myself than I have for many months, if not years. Don't ask me to put my finger on a particular reason, or a particular moment, although I was prayed with at times, not always audibly. So there we go.

One of the best things about an event like that is meeting different people, as well as people you've not seen in a long time. I really enjoyed meeting Ian on the last day. He has Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, physically, but he hasn't allowed it to make his spirit bitter. In fact he's amazingly positive, though he does have his moments, he said - as I do, of course. He interviewed me for the site radio station. The 20 minute slot flew by, but I'm hopeful it encouraged someone who was listening, as they were packing up. Happily the sun had been shining for two days by then, and so the quagmire which had been occasionally liberally replenished during the week was drying out. It's not much fun taking tents down when they're sodden.

We're pencilled in for next year....

Sunday, 9 August 2009

'Glastonbury' for God - we were there

The Independent called it 'Glastonbury for God'. 'Church of England pews may be empty, but the fields of Somerset are rocking with a series of evangelical festivals this summer. Jerome Taylor joined the faithful.' And so did we, along with 59,998 others in all, according to the report. And we really enjoyed it. To be honest, it's the fourth year we've been to New Wine CSW, the second of five camps on the Bath and West Showground, And to be brutally honest, we didn't actually camp on site, but stayed in a very comfortable cottage nearby. It's a significant place in many ways, but for me it's the place where my book received its big impetus when I first heard Louise Halling talking about her experience of Muscular Dystrophy - which echoed so much of my experience. It was the last time, so far, she went there and it was my first time. You could say just a coincidence, but I consider it more than that. Anyway, more tomorrow. You can find the article on
The picture is on the last afternoon, and if you look very carefully by the big tent with yellow Tear Fund banners you might see me in my chair. This is the food stalls area, where you can get chips, burgers, noodles etc. Most people cook at their tents all round the site, but on the last day, when they've begun packing up, a lot come and the stalls do a roaring trade. Jane had a salt marsh organic lamb burger and I had a well-hung beef burger. And then Peter came along with the rather gloomy test match score. English wickets were tumbling and the Aussie commentators were crowing. Apparently the English ones had gone off to drown their sorrows.

Here's another cricket fan, James, sheltering from the rain at New Wine - and, who knows, Laura may turn out to be one too. Hopefully by then the English side will have improved their consistency. At least the Oval test match might be exciting.