What’s up, doc?

They say time flies when you’re having fun.  My recent absence from this blog is testament to the additional truth that actually time flies regardless.  True, I have had a lot of fun recently, but it has been mixed with periods of busyness too, the combination of which has meant that finding time to sit down and rant about it here has been quite difficult.  Nevertheless, the time has now been found, and here I sit to write a conspicuously verbose update.  In case such lengthiness should put you off, I’m dividing this blog into subheadings, to make the sheer quantity of text a little more bite-sized and easier to digest.  If you haven’t the time to read it all, I completely understand.  Just bear in mind that I went to the effort of writing it.  So there.

So, first of all, a general introduction.  Many things have happened since my last blog post, including (but not exclusively): two trips to theatres, some significant developments on the business front, a somewhat extended birthday, Neddy going to the garage a couple of times, a couple of additions to the Dawkins household, an above-average number of requests to lead worship, and a general realisation that Ellie and I are taking over our church.  That’s quite a lot to write about.  I’ll try to keep some of it brief.  Just to demonstrate that, you’ll notice the lack of information in the spaces between words.  Every little helps.

Glass Menagerie

This is a show Ellie has been working on in Ipswich, which finished last week.  She managed to get a couple of tickets for the penultimate show, and I quite enjoyed it.  A little random in places, but that’s all good and familiar.  Some fairly convincing American accents, plenty of imagery, clever lighting, and rather eerie music.  Not much to report really, but it was a good evening out.  Ellie and I joined the cast and crew afterwards for drinks, so that was a good opportunity to meet people and put faces to names.  And if I was lucky I got the right name with the right face.

Keeping busy with business

A couple of Saturdays ago I met up with a group of Christians in Colchester working in internet business, whether that be hosting, web design, SEO or general management.  It was a good meeting, lots was discussed, and it looks like I’ll be getting a little more work out of it.  One of the other guys is trying to get rid of all his clients (in the nicest possible way), and it looks likely that he’ll pass them on to me to look after.  Not a lot of work involved really, just annual billing for hosting and the occasional request for updates.

The major development, though, is a business link I’ve made with another web design company based in Hornchurch.  It’s run by a Christian chap, and his company deals mainly with high-flying businesses, so quite a different clientele to me.  He’s been rushed off his feet recently, and is really looking to find someone he can employ full-time.  Clearly I can’t give up my current commitments to my existing clients, so that wasn’t really something I could consider, but he’s now outsourcing to me and passing a fair amount of work my way.  It’s nice to have some variation in my work, and doing business web sites involves a very different approach – whereas churches spend forever thinking about things and passing everything through PCCs and committees and suchlike, businesses want it all done yesterday and are prepared to pay for the privilege.  It’s been quite exciting, and I’ve been doing a fair amount of PHP as a result.  All good stuff.  And it pays well too.

I’ve got a brand new combine harvester

Sadly I never did manage to find that song on the internet for free.  Ah well, never mind.  I had plenty of other folk music to satisfy my taste and provide a background ambience to my birthday party.  Yes, for those of you who didn’t hear (and therefore weren’t invited – sorry), my 25th birthday was celebrated this year with a fancy dress party (no surprise there) on the theme of ‘farmers and country folk’.  It was a good laugh, with people dressed up in chequered shirts and flat caps, eating home-made cakes (courtesy of my lovely wife) and kettle chips, drinking tea and cloudy lemonade (not at the same time), with Devonshire folk music in the background and a dog curled up in front of a roaring fire.  Yes, you read that right.  It was cheating a little, perhaps, in that the dog was a toy and the roaring fire was a screensaver on my computer, but the effect worked well.  Photos are up on Facebook.

Present-wise, the highlight was most definitely the radio-controlled Mini I got from three of my friends who clubbed together.  So much fun!!  I’ve driven it round the lounge more than a few times already, and had fun doing handbrake turns and powerslides and all sorts of things you’re not really supposed to be doing with radio controlled cars.  I also got some chocolate and another guitar strap.  Ellie’s present to me didn’t arrive in the post though, so I had to wait for that.

Gee up, Neddy

Neddy, my Mini Sidewalk, has been feeling considerably under the weather just of late.  Acceleration has been rather sluggish and uneven, he’s been leaking oil, and the fan belt has been slipping very conspicuously.  I had every intention of getting the work done myself, as none of it is particularly difficult.  But, as the lateness of this blog entry testifies to, I just never got round to it.  In the end I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to pay someone else to do it for me, and ended up taking my Mini to Wivenhoe Garage.  Last week they replaced the top engine steady bushes, replaced the oil and filter, and fitted a new rocker cover and gasket (which should stop the oil leak).  Yesterday Neddy went in for stage two, which involved replacing the alternator (bearings were gone, and it turned out to be cheaper to buy a new one than get the bearings replaced) and flushing the coolant.  Neddy is also lined up to be given a closer inspection by a tuning garage next week, which will involve interrogating the ECU to find out just how happy it is, and may involve putting it on a rolling road to get it properly set up – the new alternator has certainly helped a lot, but I’m fairly sure more power can be eked from the 1275cc block yet.

Diamond and Pearl

No, we haven’t been splashing out on fancy jewellery.  Ellie and I went to a pet shop on Saturday to buy some bird food, and ended up going back on Monday to buy some gerbils.  A little spontaneous, perhaps, but definitely worth it.  Expensive too, given that we had to buy everything in one go, but they’re apparently very cheap to keep after that.  We’ve got a fantastic cage, with a plastic bottom which gives them plenty of room to dig around in the bottom without sending sawdust flying out into the lounge, and a barred cage on top giving them two further levels to explore.  They’re so much fun!  And very cute, too.  I really must take some photos of the girls soon.  They’ve settled in really well already, and we’re beginning to introduce our hands to them and encouraging them out so they can play.  All good fun.

I have not forgotten you

Leading worship is one of my many passions, as my friends and family will know.  I’ve been a keen musician for years, and it’s been a natural progression from there to leading worship.  I led worship at the CU, I led worship at the Anglican Chaplaincy, I led worship at Orchard Baptist Church.  Pretty much everywhere I went, that was my focus, my responsibility, my blessing to the Body of Christ.  Until I came to St Margaret’s, that is.  Apparently they have a policy of not letting anyone ‘new’ lead worship, at least until they’ve been observed and checked out for at least a year.  It’s been over six months now, and I was beginning to think that maybe God didn’t want me leading worship any more.  Then, within about a week, I had two requests to lead worship.  One was a Christian event organised by a friend from the CYFA camp Ellie I go to in the summer, which sadly I was unable to agree to since the event fell on the same weekend as my birthday.  The second I did agree to, though, and that was leading a short worship slot for the Lent Course on Tuesday evening.  It was only 10 minutes or so, so only three songs, but it was still the first time I had led worship at the church, and despite what Christians generally say I’m pretty sure they were all judging me.  The response was good though, which is reassuring – I’ve been learning to lean on God a lot recently, and it was so wonderful to be given the chance to serve again.  So it sounds like they might ask me to lead again.  God apparently does still want me leading worship after all.  So much for the year of waiting!

The Great Dawkins Takeover Bid

In addition to being told that I wouldn’t be asked to lead worship for at least a year, when Ellie and I first started coming to St Margaret’s the vicar was quite insistent that we wouldn’t be asked to do anything in the church at all in the first year of our marriage, telling us to focus on our marriage first.  As we expected, and as I think our vicar is beginning to understand now too, that was never going to happen.  Ellie and I are both the sort of people who like to be active in the church community, always happy to be doing things.  Very soon after joining the congregation Ellie found herself leading one of the youth groups, and I quickly got myself into the worship band playing guitar and bass.  Ellie also does sidesman every now and then, and we’ve also done teas and coffees after the service.  Ellie has been asked to work the projector in a few weeks’ time, I’m down to MC an evening service next month, and both of us are on the rota to preach in the near future.  We’re not complaining, it’s what we love doing, but it just seems funny how little of the church is left for us to get involved in!  Not bad for being at the church for almost seven months.

Birthday part 2

Remember I said that Ellie’s present to me was delayed by the post?  Apparently that was a rouse.  The postal service wasn’t involved at all.  Ellie wasn’t going to work yesterday at all, despite what she’d said.  About lunchtime yesterday I got a text message informing me of the treasure trail she had planned, and told me where to find the first clue.  In the middle of a book in our bookcase I found the first clue and some instructions, and before I knew it I was hopping on a train to London with no idea where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there.  Once I got to London I followed a set of cryptic clues, sent by text message, which led me from one location to another on a route from Westminster tube station, along a whole load of roads I’ve never been down, through China Town, and eventually found my wife at the end of the trail, who took me round a corner and revealed my birthday present – there, a little way down the road, was the theatre showing Les Miserables.  It’s a show I’ve wanted to see for a while, and I really enjoyed it.  The treasure trail was superb though – a little random, but lots of fun.  I did feel a little conspicuous running through London looking all around for random objects, then stopping and texting on my phone, and then waiting for the next clue to come back before setting off again.  It was like being a secret agent, following some obscure set of clues.  Les Mis was superb – very sad, but very good.  Especially given the main part was being played by the understudy that night.  I won’t give the story away for those of you who haven’t seen it, but I would encourage you to go and see it if you’ve not already – some fantastic music, a very dense plot, some heart-rending moments, some funny bits, and quite a powerful resolution.

So thank you, Ellie, for a wonderful birthday present.  Suitably random.

3 thoughts on “What’s up, doc?

  1. All sounds good Matthew, glad things are going well 🙂

    You must let me know when you and Ellie are preaching, if we’re free we’ll come down and hear you! – I always enjoyed hearing you at the chaplaincy.

  2. Incidentally, I notice that the website of St Margaret’s could use a little work… I’m surprised you haven’t got in there already 😉

  3. Les Mis is a fantastic story! And it’s really important not to miss the fantastic display of the Christian message at the start either 😉

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