Thursday, 30 August 2007

Today, my lucky daughter no 1 won another competition. Tickets for all of us to go to Paultons Park. Devotees will remember the bargain price gained for our last visit in July, so imagine my delight to be going again for the price of a second class stamp.

H is really good at winning things. While they were camping in Swanage, she spent £4.50 in a jewellery shop, entered a raffle and won a £30 voucher to spend there. Which she did, with vigour, as only a 6 year old with style and attitude can do in a costume jewellery store. Previously, she has won a cassette player, lunch box and colouring book that I can recall. There will be more than that, I just can't remember them all.

I have recently (in last year) won a book about villages of England, a cloth bag and a £30 voucher to spend at Saints shop. I am really looking for someone to buy it off me for £25, as I don't have any need or desire for any Saints merchandise. My most exciting win is of a bike light, which has not arrived yet. I got it for writing the star letter in Rob's cycling magazine. I sent them an email tonight reminding them to send it to me. I feel like that guy who writes Timewaster letters to people.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Just when you thought I had got too cosmopolitan I return to old turf - Bitterne. Thanks to Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, my friend A and her son, and all of the Bowen clan, enjoyed a free game of bowling at AMF Bitterne Bowl this afternoon. You too, can join the AMF club and print your voucher for a free game for up to 6 people, just roll along to the AMF website. Anyhow, I may have neglected in the past to tell you that Bitterne has its own bowling centre. I do not use it enough, I found out today that if I bowl right handed and with the kiddie bumpers up I do better than if I try any other combination. Having scored above 40, I might go along on a Monday for 'Monday night madness - unlimited bowling for a fiver!'

I bumped into the NRG aerobics instructor in the bowling alley bar. I recognised her legs. I spend a lot of time looking at them - well, an hour a week, as I try to fathom out what I am supposed to be doing with mine. Last night was the usual fun and games, with some crazy jive or line dancing or who knows what and some belly dancing moves. We are 4 now, as Donna has made it a regular part of her life. In the past I have exercised alone, like a hunting lioness, but iits quite fun going with a gaggle and all giggling together on the way home, as the endorphins hit in.

We camped for 5 nights over the weekend, which is something I could feel in my bones when we got back. We were at Greenbelt, the annual arts festival with a Christian home. It is a very 'broad' church, with all sorts of people from all kinds of denominations and none. There were about 30 000 on site, at Cheltenham race course, which is a beautiful setting. I was volunteering on the kids team, with the Infants, which meant I got to 'supervise' children, including one of my onw, and watch a clown, puppets, tropical animals, a piano trio and Fischy Music. And got in for free and got fed! We went to see Fischy music's show in the Arena, one of the bigger outdoor stages, and I was very emotional there. I already have Fischy's CDs, but I want to tell you about their music. It is for kids, and is all about self esteem, postitive message music, anti bullying, that kind of stuff. They are doing some amazing work, shame they are in Scotland. I listen to the CD while I am cleaning the kitchen.

One thing that is funny about Greenbelt is the clothes people wear. I spend my time wondering if people have 'festival wardrobes', or if they live in a parallel universe and wear their colourful costumes and rags the whole time. And how the clever people have those clever recliner chair things to sit on without being too high up and annoying others behind them. R's uncle lives nearby, so on the Friday R took the girls there and snuck them in the bath. Then on the Sunday morning we skived the communion service, as last year it was very dull, long and un child friendly. We went to Cheltenham Lido instead, so I got my fix of outdoor swimming. The difference between Mostar and Cheltenham for outdoor swimming is this: at one, you get in the pool to cool down. In the other you stay in the pool to keep warm. You can work out which is which. A got out when her lips turned blue. H insisted we stay in and she did 2 lengths, with a few breathers on the way. So, that counted as a wash. But by the time we stopped in to see a friend I used to work with on the way home on Tuesday, we were all quite smelly. She wisely kept us out in the garden for most of the time. Since getting home, I have washed everything, including all 4 sleeping bags. Hurrah. No more camping till next year.

In case you want my life in numbers, here goes:

nights under canvas this year - 9.

I will add to this statistic from time to time.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

These are a few of the young people at a barbecue and at a cafe where we went to shelter from the rain as there was a thunderstorm. It was the same cafe that we had used for shelter the week before, but that time we had got more transport and more kids home before the rain. We played the animal game, you know, when you pretend to be an animal and make your noise and them someone else's noise. Another game that was a big hit was 'In the bag' with lots of names of Bosnian footballers mixing with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. We played that with the older age group, which was all guys aged 16-23.
The water in the river was freezing, so I declined my training schedule on that day and looked after the bags. We did do another trip to the pool though, where I got in another 2km swim. Now I am home and back to Bitterne fitness.
The barbecue on Friday night was particularly heavenly. There were about 25 young people there, and it felt so good with them all sitting down and mixing with each other, although some come from different sides of town. There are different school systems, fire and police services, hospitals, rubbish collections - everything is split in two. You might as well stick a wall up. Oh, someone did that before in Berlin and it didn't work! The fact that kids come from both sides to KNM is an amazing testimony to the work of the long term team and local workers to not show favour to any one group. In fact, they do a great job of serving the least and the poorest and they get counted in too. Reminded me of heaven.

On our last night we ate out at the poshest restaurant in town for our debriefing. Four of us had starters and main courses, all of which could have fed a family from one plate, for £21-22. It was on the west side, and as we didn't walk over there much I hadn't seen the grander bits of it. We walked past a graveyard, which had previously been a park. The thing that got me was that ALL the tombstones were acknowledging people who had died in 1992. Whether your life started in 1940, 1970 or 1991.

And they were all Muslim gravestones. On the Croat, west side of town. They were people who died defending the city against the Serbs in the initial battle for Mostar, when the Croats and Muslims joined together to defend their city. These Muslims were buried on the West side, and as the Croats then started fighting against the Muslims, from 1993-1995, the graves were left unmarked, as no Muslim widow would make her way across the front line to tend a grave - or had the cash to pay a mason, I guess. Apparently in 1998 a bus load of Muslims went across to tend the graves and got some kind of violent response. Things are better now, and it would be ok to go there. But how gutting and crushing to have your husband die defending his city with allies, who then turn on you when you are at your weakest and satrt firing at your house.

You can see, from my expert analysis of the war in Bosnia, that it is hard work to build a new bridge between the people groups. And that is what Novi Most (new bridge) are seeking, that is their calling, a hard and long work in a city which is dry and dusty spiritually as well as literally.
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Not sure if these will be a bit too small to actually see, but they are views of Mostar and of my team mates.
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These are some of the little children we worked with one afternoon at the Klub, that I mentioned in an earlier blogging. I have made them wear masks to protect their identities on the web.
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Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Another afternoon at the pool. Hot and dry here, so walking along the street is like walking into a hairdryer. I did a 2km swim today, and then some comedy aqua aerobics made up by Jenny, one of my team mates. We are now so competent with the language that a lady in the market managed to communicate that she had taken her baby to Sheffield for an operation once. And a man in the market, who insists we eat his figs, told us all about his special honey which wins prizes in Sarajevo and can cure a cold in 50 minutes.

This morning the club was open as usual, we do crafts and play games and clean up. Tonight is the turn of the younger ones, 11-13s, and it went ok last week, we did the story of Cain and Abel, and talked about families and how to make choices. Tonight is Jacob and Esau, again talking about families and arguments and how to make good choices. We are using the CURBS programme of materials which I use for GGG and which we have used in the past at Sunday am church for a time.

Our best session so far was on Sunday afternoon, when 10 little children came for a treat. They all live in the community on the edge of town and are mostly refugees or gypsies and looked down on by other people here. It was a great treat for these little kids, aged 3-10, as their older brothers and sisters etc come to Klub, so they were dressed in their best and were delightful. Definitely confirmed my gifting for children rather than teens! I did a godly play style story of the 4 friends and the paralysed man, using a banana box as the house and play dough people. They were so into it. They concentrated so well and I did the 4 classic wondering questions and they responded brilliantly to them too. So, as far as I know the first GP to take place in BiH was a big hit, and once again proves my theory that it works for everyone! Even the marginalized and despised smallest kids in a poor and struggling nation.... who are Muslim by tradition and have no knowledge of Jesus other than what they see lived out among them in the lives of the Christians here.

On Monday we got a trip to the beach, in Croatia, where the sea is Adriatic and the beach packed. Such fun to be in the sea, and we came back by a mountainous route which showed the incredible beauty of such a mountain filled country as Hercegovina. That is the bit of Bosnia we are in, btw. Its a bit like how people talk about England when they mean the UK, people say Bosnia when they mean Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hi from Bosnia, I am in Mostar, in case you havent been keeping up with me lately. Today I had a fantastic afternon, on my own, at the Bazin, which is swimming pool. The air fare makes it a bit pricey for a day trip, but the pool well, put it this way, I will struggle to go back to the verruca pond of BLC. It is outdoors, and today was hot and sunny and cloudy, so not too much of a sun hazard. The main pool is 50m long, and 25 wide I guess, I did not get out my tape measure. Bliss. All around are the mountains and I worked out a new fitness routine. Interval training. Do 10 lengths, then have an interval lying in the sun, drying. The water is freezing - ok - not actual ice, but nearly, it takes 4 lengths to feel your fingers and toes again. I sat and watched the river and chatted to some girls in the pool. They are good at English. I do have some great vocabulary, such as seagull, cat, pirate, mermaid and jellyfish. In fact, my first thing I did in the Klub was pretend to be a jellyfish for a game. I guess its a good icebreaker, and I am good at breaking the ice...

I also know the words for ice cream and have been really brave at trying lots of Bosnian speciality foods, and saying the words to the very patient waiters. Tourism is a big thing here now, when I first came here (9 years ago) the only tourists were us and a bunch of KFOR soldiers from Holland. Now there are backpacks everywhere you look. Have got loads more to tell you but that will do for tonight. If I ever invite you to come here with us, come! Its like a second home for me, feel comfortable and like I belong. Having dark hair helps, someone thought I was a local yesterday...then they heard me talk.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Victoria was the subject of this week's offering from LA, and boy, does she have eating 'issues'! Better leave it at that as don't fancy a journey through the courts for saying wht I think and paying the price. How scary is that? Have you noticed how I have cunningly not mentioned anyone by surname, so that the Vikki in question can never be sure I meant her? She does read my blog, btw. All the royals do.

I noticed today that the Queen uses Andrex toilet paper (shame on her green credentials). I noticed, not because she had a bit trailing from her shoe, or because I saw her changing a roll in the palace privvy, but because she puts her stamp of approval over everything she has ever touched.

I am writing live from Claygate, and you can't come here without coming near to Scouting. My pa is a Scout Extraordinaire, having been a memeber of 1st Claygate since Baden Powell was a lad. R and H and A got the tour of the new 'Scout Centre' ( NOT hut) this morning, I was excused as did it on a previous trip. It s all terribly complicated and more twisted than an Eastenders storyline, but the developer who built 20 terraced housed ( dahling - in Claygate - how dreadful!) on the old Hut site bought the land ( green belt - don't ask how) and built the new Scout Centre as part of the deal. So, we wandered through the new development on the way to the cinema last night. Nice. We could afford a garage - I looked in the property paper last time we were up. The rental prices per month in Claygate would be mistaken for house prices in Thornhill. Anyway, where was I - ah at the cinema.

Now, one of the best features of Claygate ( along with the countryside, high house prices and friendly American and South Africans who live there) is that you can walk to the cinema. It is in Esher, which makes Claygate look like a shanty town on its edge. Apart from the cinema and Waitrose, there is almost no other useful shop in Esher. OK, theres a Boots and a stationery shop. There are over 12 restuarants, plus pubs, a stockbrokers and a Costa Coffee. And a Christian Science reading room. But mainly you would go there to buy a house, if you are extremely rich. Or you would go there to go to the cinema. You need to be rich to do this too, as the 2 tickets came to £16. We had dinner out before hand as well, ( this was all part of our late anninversary celebrations), thus wiping out with one Italian meal the deposit for the garage.

In the olden days, when you could go to the cinema in Esher for £1.10 - my first film just with friends was ET - there were 2 screens. A massive one with velvet padding on the walls, and an upstairs one, which was squashed but ok. The big screen had a balcony too. Now, the Odeon have tried to turn it into a multiscreen, with the result that we sat in someones lounge to watch the film. The choices were Transformers, Simpsons or Evan Almighty. Now, Transformers obv no no for me, did toy with the Simpsons as had read good reviews but decided I coudn't bear a hour and a half of cartoons. so that left Evan Almighty. Now, there were lots of things I liked about Bruce Almighty, and although this was a sentimental, moralistic God bless America film, the main thing to like was still there. Morgan Freeman as God. Perfect. The intimacy of relationship with God that Evan ends up with seems to me to be worthwhile aiming for, if not building an ark as you go. The way he raises his eyebrows and smiles in a 'I love you and you make me laugh but in a nice way' - yep. And especially the full white outfit, reminding me of the new dad in the maternity ward when H was born, who had not yet learnt to wear beige, or mustard, at all times with a new born.

Have bagged another NT while up here - Polesden Lacey. Worthy of further explorations, on the North Downs, an incredibly steep valley side for Surrey, feels more like Switzerland. Very nice, well done NT. Also did Claremont again, but in the rain, and I spent the whole time the others were walking around the lake on my phone to my stockbroker. Doesn't count as we have done it before. Need to get some more NTs bagged before our membership runs out in November. Poor R.