Themed tours

(Mon 28-Mar-2016)

I love travelling around the UK. I like the idea of running tours for very small groups. Here are some ideas for holidays I’d love to take people on:

The Living History Tour:

  • Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans – An outdoor museum with more than forty buildings representing the architecture of Wales, including St Fagan’s “castle” (an elizabethean manor house) a nonconformist chapel, a village schoolhouse, a working blacksmith forge, and two working water mills: one flour mill and one wool mill. My favourite building is a row of terraced houses, with each house (and garden) set up and decorated in a different period style, starting with how it would originally have been, moving closer to the current day as you go along the row. There is also a small working farm; produce from the museum’s bakery and flour mill is available for sale.
  • Blists Hill Victorian Village at Ironbridge – A recreated Victorian village with Victorian characters such as a photographer, candlemaker and printer. Use old money in the sweet shop and fish and chip shop. Also visit The Iron Bridge, the first cast iron arch bridge in the world, and a scheduled ancient monument. These are in Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Crich Tramway Museum – A museum with over 60 trams, two to four will operate each day, running from Crich Tramway Village, a period village containing a pub, cafe, old-style sweetshop and tram depots, into nearby countryside with views over Derwent Valley on the edge of the Peak District. It’s about a mile from the gloriously named (and very picturesque) village of Whatstandwell.
  • Black Country Living Museum – Another open-air museum of rebuilt historic buildings. Like Blists Hill, it has costumed staff demonstrating activities in buildings within the village, and is in an area with a claim to be “the birthplace of the industrial revolution”. The museum also has a 1930s fairground and an extensive transport collection, with boats, busses, trolley buses, cars and motorcycles.

Other ideas

I’ll expand a bit more on these in the future, but I also have ideas for:

Victorian literature

Visiting Brontë country, home of Jane Austin, Dickens and filming locations for BBC adaptations.

Industrial revolution

Ironbridge, Quarry Bank Mill, Mining and pottery museums, Birmingham “back to backs” (working-class housing for factory workers).

Capital cities

Short (London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, possibly Belfast) and extended (add Tamworth, Winchester, York, Scone, Winchester) versions.

World War Two

Military museums, Blenheim Palace, and the National arboretum memorial.

Public transport

  • London underground museum
  • railway museums in York and Crewe
  • Manchester Transport museum
  • Tramway museum
  • trams in Blackpool

Roman history

Sites including Bath, the village of Wall, Chester and Hadrian’s Wall.

Food Tour

Top restaurants and traditional food production places like Wensleydale, Melton Mowbray, Cornwall.

Thrill seekers

  • theme parks
  • climbing and other outdoor activities
  • driving days

Staffordshire History

From the iron age Castle Ring, Cannock Chase, through Roman remains at Wall (near Lichfield), the Staffordshire Hoard, to industrial heritage – pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, brewing in Burton.




Visit to the Whitworth Art Gallery

(Mon 27-Apr-2015)

I recently had a day to spend in Manchester with my children, so took them to Whitworth Art Gallery. Lauren and I had gone and taken Story once before, while Atticus was in nursery, and she’d been much more interested than I had expected, so I thought we’d go again.

Atticus was looking out of a window when Story called over to him, “Look at this!” – and showed him this:

Dove II, 1997, by Gary Hume

Atticus liked this.

They then saw “Genesis”, by Jacob Epstein, and both talked about “the lady has a baby in her tummy”:

There was an exhibition of work by Cornelia Parker. Atticus like two pieces which were made from Flattened instruments and flattened metal tableware suspended from the ceiling. The children showed no interest in in it, but I enjoyed a piece that was a cast of cracks in a pavement in Jerusalem.

Cornelia Parker’s most famous piece, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) was on display in its own room. On our previous visit, Story found it scary, and wanted to leave the room straight away. On this visit, Story still said it was “scary”, but was more willing to stop and look. Atticus was fascinated by it, and spent a long time looking at what he could see, and talking to the gallery staff in the room.

“Decoy” (a glass drum) caught Story’s attention last time, and Atticus was interested in it too.

We spent a while looking at watercolours, and Atticus seemed to like any with a river, and one of Lichfield Cathedral.

Atticus also liked Beast XXI, by Lynne Chadwick:

By this point, they were both starting to lose interest.

Mary Kelly, Multi-Story house (2007). I liked this, but didn’t get a good look because the children were getting restless. It has short pieces of writing about feminism on the panels to read and consider.

From here we went outside, where there was an activity for children to make their own pieces of art:

Story hard at work.

Atticus showing off some of his art.




Discipleship is...

(Sun 1-Feb-2015)

Lloyd Cook Potter’s House
Sermon recording

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6 v1-6 ESV

Our call as a church is to make disciples, not churchgoers, converts etc, so: what is a disciple?

  • Follower
  • Believer
  • Supporter
  • Student
  • Often about the hidden things; the test of a person’s faith is what they do in solitude, when no-one is watching

When you pray, when you fast, when you give.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 7 v21 ESV

Salvation is not by what we do, but following Christ does involve doing.

The call to discipleship has to be accepted as the norm for every Christian. And that has to begin with the understanding that we need to learn how to follow Jesus. It does not happen automatically. After all, unless we are convinced that discipleship is the core vocation of the church, it will stay as something that the keen ones, or the committed ones, get involved in. It will be seen as A level Christianity for the ones who are really serious about faith, when most of us feel that we have settled for the GCSE level.

Imagine Church, Neil Hudson.

Discipleship is for all Christians, not an optional extra.

What are the marks of a disciple?

  • Will worship God
  • Obey God.
  • Loves people, forgives people
  • Sacrifices, gives.

Which of these things seems most difficult to you? That may be what God is challenging you on.

Are you a disciple?

Do I worship and obey God? Read the Bible and pray regularly? Give willingly? Yet it is not all about us, it should be about God, a love response, not out of guilt or condemnation.




How to pray

(Sun 18-Jan-2015)

Sermon notes, Wallingford Baptist Church, Pastor Simon Hudson

From a series on prayer based around 2 Chronicles 7 v14

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7 v14 ESV

1: Pray in desolation – “humble”

No matter how great personal circumstances, we need to recognise our greatest need is our need for God. Our priority in prayer should be God himself, not what we can get from God, not using God or prayer as a machine for what we want, or for other attempts at solutions to our problems. This doesn’t mean we should never pray for health or wealth etc, but that we should pray for them only that they may help us to know God better, and not to try solve problems with them, when the real solution is more of God in our lives.

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30 v7-9 ESV

Augustine letter to Proba

2: By discipline – pray

Martin Luther wrote a letter to Peter Beskendorf, his barber, in response to being asked how to pray.

So, a good and attentive barber keeps his thoughts, attention, and eyes on the razor and hair and does not forget how far he has gotten with his shaving or cutting. If he wants to engage in too much conversation or let his mind wander or look
somewhere else he is likely to cut his customer’s mouth, nose, or even his throat. Thus if anything is to be done well, it requires the full attention of all one’s senses and members, as the proverb says, “He who thinks of many things, thinks of nothing and does nothing right.” How much more does prayer call for concentration and singleness of heart if it is to be a good prayer!

Martin Luther, How One Should Pray, for Master Peter the Barber, 1535

Make prayer a habit:

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, “Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.

Martin Luther, How One Should Pray, for Master Peter the Barber, 1535

The letter also provides a four stranded approach to praying from the scriptures:
*What does this Bible lesson teach me to do?
*What does it teach me to be thankful for?
*What does it teach me to confess?
*What does it teach me to be thankful for?

God hears a silent prayer in our head, but speaking our prayers can help us focus on our prayer, rather than letting mind wander.

3: Pray With disciples

As well as praying alone, praying together as a church, with family, and with other groups should be part of our prayer life.

4: Pray depending on the name of Jesus

Pray in the name of Jesus, relying on him. It is Jesus’ intercession that gives us the right to be heard.




Overhead at the school gate.

(Fri 9-Jan-2015)

“…and they’re suspecting that she’s got the e. Boli virus”

Parent at a primary school in Stoke-on-Trent.




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