Monthly Archives: December 2006

Critical Mass

And no, I don’t mean a vitally important Catholic communion, I mean this. Its basically a type of protest which occurs once a month in hundreds of major cities around the world. Large numbers of cyclists, cycle reasonably slowly around the inner city, during rush hour. Its aim is to promote the use of bikes and to demand more respect from other road users. I went for the first time today, in Manchester. My sister and some of her friends were arranging to all go on it together, and she dragged me along to. Not that I needed much dragging.

The first fun bit was trying to find bikes for everyone. My sister, Ceri and I, who were all using my parents house as a base, were all away from home, which meant that we had to raid their garage for bikes. My sister ended up with an old blue bike, and Ceri and I had the tandom. This tandom is quite old – my parents bought it soon after they were married and used to use it to go on holiday together. Then when they had us two kids, we’d go on the back of it, when weren’t considered road safe on our own. So I’m used to riding on the back of it – I spent years doing it when I was younger (got very used to comments such as ‘wow!!! its a 4 wheeled bike!’…). Ceri has also riden on the front of a tandom, with a blind person on the back. So we figured we’d be fine.

Except it wasn’t that simple. The front handlebars were touring ones, which Ceri didn’t really get on with, especially as she said they were narrower than most touring handlebars. This meant steering, especially suddenly, was difficult. The brakes were also interesting – Ceri had two brakes at the front, but they didn’t seem to have enough power in them to stop us properly. But my single brake on the back handlebars did. So everytime we needed to stop, Ceri would shout ‘STOP!’ and I would brake. This was fine until the way home, when my brake decided not to work either. But we managed by using her brakes but taking a longer distance to slow down. One of the key differences between riding with Ceri this afternoon and riding with my Dad many years ago, is the communication. My Dad used to take full control of the bike, stating that all I had to do was sit on the back and pedal. But because Ceri has only ever riden a cyclist with a blind person on the back, she went into automatic ‘running commentary’ mode. Which meant that it felt much more like a team effort, because we were communicating constantly about the stopping, starting, steering, etc.

Me and Ceri on the Tandom Me and Ceri on the Tandom

The actual critical mass was amazing. Unfortunately because its the middle of winter and Christmas, we only had 12 people on it. But I gather they usually get a good 20 odd, and in the summer it rises dramatically. And even though we had less people, we still managed to block 2 or 3 lanes of traffic, around central Manchester. One cyclist even had a small trailer with a sound system, which was blarring out music all the way round. We were cycling at a steady pace, but slower than we would do usually on the road. We pissed off so many car drivers. It was fabulous.

What I want to know is, why doesn’t Swansea do it???

Recharging my Batteries

As most people will know, I’ve been at home over Christmas. And its been great. I’ve slept for over 12 solid hours on numerous occasions. I’ve eaten lots of amazing food, including some of the 12 different types of cheese we currently have in our fridge, thanks to various Christmas presents and offers in the shops. I’ve drunk plenty of fabulous alcohol, the best of which being the organic cider and organic white wine my Dad picked up in Unicorn, as a Christmas treat. And generally, I feel refreshed and ready to go back to my hectic uni life. After this past term, a relaxing break and being spoilt rotten with home cooking is exactly what I needed. Ooh, and as well as resting, I’ve also managed to almost* finish my dissertation, which means there shouldn’t be lots to do on it next week, when I’m back in Swansea before its due in! 🙂

* All I’ve got left to do is the conclusion, abstract, final editing of the main body of text and tidying up my reference list. So I can definately see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Amazed and Amused

Being at home over Christmas not only means that I get to see my parents, grandparents and my sister, but I also get to hear all those family stories that I often miss out on when I’m away at uni. For example, I don’t get much chance to talk to my auntie and uncle when I’m in Swansea, but the other night my mum rang them to let them know my grandparents had got here safely, so I took advantage of this opportunity to catch up with them.

With my obvious fondness of children, these chats often include funny anecdotes about their grandchildren, all of whom I am close to. And last night was no exception. M, their 5 year old grandchild, is currently learning to play the violin. He’s been learning for over a year now, having declared as soon as he could talk, that he wanted to play it. He is surprisingly good for his age – last April when he played a simple piece at my grandparents Diamond Wedding anniversary, I was both very impressed at his playing and struck by the cuteness (his violin is 1/16th of a normal sized violin!!! – aww!!).

Anyway, earlier this week his music teacher organised a concert for all of her pupils to play in together. This concert happened to be straight after M’s school Christmas party, so his mother was quite concerned that he would be too tired to play in it. But, he went along and played. He had to play ‘London’s Burning’ on his own, and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ with the other, older children. When he got home M rang his Grandad to tell him how it had gone. Grandad asked how ‘London’s Burning’ had gone, and he declared it went well and he was very proud of himself (his words). And then Grandad asked M how ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ with the other children had gone. M said ‘It was good, I played it all right, and I even got to the end first!!!’

Photos

Alice tried to post some of my photos from the music night at Emily and Rhys’ house last Saturday, but they came out all squished, so I thought I’d have a second attempt here. I did half intend to blog some of them after I’d put them onto flickr, but with one thing and another, I haven’t had chance.

Getting into the swing of it Benjamin having a go on the guitar

And going back even further…. here are a couple of photos from our hiking club Christmas dinner (more photos can be found here).

Becky, Sarah, Jeni, Jen and Rosie Dancing

Update

Apologies for the severe lack of blogging recently. Christmas seemed to appear out of nowhere this year, and even now I don’t really feel in the Christmas spirit. These past few months I’ve been ill numerous times (at the moment I’ve got a chesty cough) and more recently, I have obviously been trying to deal with the shock and grief of Mike’s death. Not to mention the pressures of writing a dissertation, doing shift work in the hospital and trying to continue with ‘normal life’. I did my last shift on Thursday night and then suddenly realised that it was my last weekend in Swansea I hadn’t written any Christmas cards or wrapped up any presents for Swansea people. These past few days have been a rush to get Christmas preparations sorted, clean the entire house and pack up for travelling home today, as well as do all the Christmas celebrations with friends and church.

I just feel like this term has completely knackered me, both physically and emotionally. I look back on it now, and I really don’t know how I got through it. A friend in Swansea gave me for Christmas a Mr Happy cushion / hot waterbottle holder, saying that he saw it and instantly decided it was a perfect present for me! I did question whether I am really that happy generally, for him to make that association and my friends assured me that I am generally smiley and cheerful. I suppose I should take it as a compliment that I can come across as smiley and cheerful, even when life isn’t so great. I’m just bemused by it. Not sure quite how I do it. Although, I do know I could do it without Him upstairs and numerous good friends (obviously one is more than good friends and theres also more friends than I could link to – or not if they don’t have a blog). But anyway, thank you.

Mystery

I received a card today with some very wise words in, which seemed to follow on nicely from Sarah’s post earlier this week, so I thought I’d share them:

“I do not know. It is a mystery.” These words were written by a family friend when my aunt died in India after only 15 months teaching in a Welsh Mission School. Then he wrote “It is indeed a mystery we can not now comprehend, but God gives us the mysterious gift of His grace to enable us to go forward.”

So true.

The Press

Well, its finally hit the UK press. Or at least, the Welsh news and the Evening Post.

Many thanks to Ee for pre-warning me before I walked into uni and found it plastered outside the corner shop. And it meant I wasn’t particularly surprised to find Richard busy in the uni chapel, giving statement to a reporter. He also came and asked if any students in the chaplaincy at that time would like to give a statement to the reporter. A couple of people were brave enough. I wasn’t. And I felt that those who did speak knew him better and for longer than I did. I just gave them a hug afterwards. The cameras are expected in the chaplaincy any minute. Richard has the ineviable task of facing them this afternoon. He has my deepest respect.

Mike

I, like so many others at the moment in Swansea, just don’t seem to be able to find the words, so I apologise for the random babblings. Ever since I found out, I’ve been wondering around in a complete daze. Unable to believe it. He was such an amazing guy. Caring. Gentle. Funny. Talented. Modest. And fab friend.

Mike (and Sarah) were the first people I met in Swansea who I became good friends with. I remember spotting the two of them, across our church during my first ever term at Swansea and thinking ‘ooh! – young people!!!’. After the service over coffee, I remember him joking about how we almost had enough students to set up a Methsoc! The last time I saw him properly was at my trip to the pub before going away on placement (after that I was away, and then he went to India). I remember being slightly tipsy at the end of the evening and I was wearing uncomfortable sandals, so walking wasn’t particularly easy. Mike insisted on walking me home, past his house and all the way up the hill, to ensure I was safe.

One of the regular events that we both used to go to, was the Reel Issues, held in the chaplaincy. Last night SCM had a Reel Issues there, we watched ‘Its a Wonderful Life’. One of the lines in it seemed to sum up how I was/am feeling. ‘Every man touches many people, and when they’re gone, they leave a hole’. Its so true. Mike did touch the lives of *so* many people in Swansea, and across the world. And his death has left many holes.

These past couple of days, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Everywhere there are reminders of him. The Kate Rusby song playing in the background; the programme about India on during my break at work; the young man on campus who looked scarily like him; and my attempts to take some mildly decent photos when we had a quiet afternoon at Three Cliffs yesterday. I’ll never be half the photographer that he was, and as you can tell from previous comments, he was forever giving me tips on how to improve (which I had hopelessly forgotten yesterday). Anyway, the photos below was taken for him. In his memory. Rest in Peace.

Three Cliffs Bay Powerful Waves

Amazing Sun Three Cliffs Bay