Monday, December 31, 2007

An Announcement

I am pleased to announce the birth of Jonathan Dean Baddeley at 2:32 am on the 27/12/07. He was 8lb 10oz or 3.9kg at birth. Jennie handled the seven and a half-hour labour so well that the attending midwife 'thought it was a shame' that the final stage had to be done with the assistance of forceps as young Jonathan got a bit stuck. That's possibly not surprising given his size.

The birth was induced. The medical types had been concerned about Jennie's blood pressure and some other issues in the final weeks, and this grew in the final days. We spent the day before Christmas at the hospital as a routine check-up with Jennie's GP ended up in a long stay at the Radcliffe Hospital as they ran a bunch of tests on her. This meant that Jennie pretty much slept through Christmas Day, as you'd expect. Then on the 26/12/07 we were back at the hopital not-so-bright-eyed but certainly early. They decided that they'd like to induce as soon as possible and it just so happened that there was a vacancy that day...

From here the news gets a bit grimmer, but it's nothing to panic about. Due to the concerns that led to the inducing they kept Jennie in for five days for observation and some regular tests. That's ok, except that being in a ward of four new mothers, each with a child, and with Jonathan (after the first day) eating with increasing franticness and regularity (eating for almost three hours straight one night), and with the Hopsital's own schedules of meals, tests, and me not being allowed to be there for 12 hours a day Jennie was getting between 1 to 3 hours of sleep out of every twenty-four, day after day.

I'm not sure how she's managed to cope - I doubt I could have, and certainly not as well. But it certainly has taken a toll. We both got the whole 'less sleep' thing going into this, but I feel that keeping her in for five days with an unsettled baby turned this into something of an extreme sport. (The tone may be light here, but understand that there is a lot of anger here at the inability of an institution to have a suitable policy in place for someone staying in for more than one or two days. Which is a shame, because otherwise the Radcliffe has been on a scale that begins at 'highly competent' and ends at 'amazing').

I know that many of you were entitled to a personal notification of the birth. I'm sorry it hasn't been forthcoming, but I've been trying to be at the hospital for the full twelve hours I was allowed to be there to pick up what load I could, add in a couple of hours of travel time, and there wasn't much time (or energy) left over for me either. I apologise, however. Nonetheless, we still mightn't have gotten around to it even today if it wasn't for the developments of today.

Today was the day that Jennie was going to be released as they were increasingly happy with what they saw from her tests. However, almost as an afterthought they thought they'd just give Jonathan one more check over with the paedatrician. The midwives also thought he looked a bit dehydrated.

The results were fairly concerning. He'd lost about 20% of his birthweight in 4 days, where 12% in 7 days was enough to push alarm bells. As a result his ammonnia (I think that's right, some element however) is imbalanced and his 'infection count' (which is probably his white blood cell count, although I didn't think to ask) is high. Unfortunately that meant they had to eliminate the (highly unlikely) prospect of meningitis. That required a lumbar puncture. Unfortunately it didn't work, so they're going to have to develop the blood cultures to see whether there is an infection there or whether the result is just due to the dehydration (the most likely scenario). But until the results come in Jonathan is on a course of antibiotics.

I had gone back home to get the stuff Jennie and Jonathan would need for another few days while the new rehydration regimen did its work when the results for the infection count came in. So Jennie was woken up five minutes after she hit the bed (again) to get the news that her new son was about to have a needle stuck in his spine and had to deal with it on her own. This has been a truly awful day.

Nonetheless, although we've been fairly rocked by today (when I got the news that they were keeping them in another two days, and before we found out how serious things were, I had to walk away I was so angry at the thought they were going to subject Jennie to another 48 hours of no sleep without doing anything to help), there's a lot we're grateful for and would like people to give thanks for. We're grateful that the problem with Jonathan not getting enough food from the breastfeeding was picked up before we went home today.

We're grateful that it doesn't look serious at this stage (they decided not to put him in intensive care, which was a really good sign). We're grateful he's responding so well to the new regimen--eating everything, and sleeping between feeds,and already more alert and active when awake. Everything looks very promising.

And we're grateful that Jennie has her own room now (it happened immediately after I walked away when the midwife got a glimpse of how upset I was, and not after the two previous occassions when I talked calmly and respectfully, yet fairly forcefully, on the two previous days-so not happy about how we got it, but still very grateful it's been given). And has already gotten a couple of hours sleep as a result. This in turn will help with milk production as lack of sleep inteferes with the milk coming through.

Nontheless, things are, it seems, potentially serious and so we would value prayer. Especially for Jonathan that God would preserve his life and enable him to come through this unscathed. For Jennie, that she would start to get enough sleep (even five hours broken up over the day would be a big step forward at this stage). And for both of us that we'd be wise and godly parents of new Jonathan.

I'm assured by the multiple female staff (including a cleaner) that he's very cute. Apparently it has something to do with the long eyelashes he was born with, which is a bit of a rarity among baby connoisseurs.

Apologies if this has been a bit too light in tone in places given the gravity of the news at this moment. But Jennie and I don't always like inflicting our somewhat black-shaded view of the world on others (while we've cried today, neither of us were really surprised at the development) and I'm probably not at my best to calibrate properly. And I also didn't want to take away from the great news of Jonathan's birth, and that God has looked after him so far. In the midst of the frustration and concern, we have been blessed. Please pray, but rejoice with us as well.MDB

Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Last week we woke up and the world was white.

We thought this was extremely cool. We also thought it was snow. Because, well, snow is white and this was white, so why wouldn't it be? Our snow education classes in Australia were fairly vague about the specifics of snow, but we did pick up the general 'whiteness' factor as being important. And as everywhere was white, we figured it had snowed.

So, we put on as many clothes as possible and went for a walk.

We admired the snow. It was on berries...

...on evergreens...

...on ivy...

...on lawns...

... and on more prosaic objects, like fences and cars and pebbles. It was a great walk. When we got home it got progressively whiter.

But it turns out that all that is white is not snow. Who'd have thought? This was just frost. Apparently frost is also white. Snow is crunchier. So, we have two different kinds of white cold stuff: one is frost (and therefore nothing to get excited about) and one is snow.

Well, frost still turns the world into a beautiful (and very cold) place. And it was cool to think that it was snowing for a day, even though it wasn't. JMB

Friday, December 21, 2007

Black Forest Birthday

This post is a response to the interest in whether there was a baking project for Mark's recent birthday (and if you don't know the date I'm afraid I can't divulge it - part of the division of labour in our marriage is for me to protect the identity of this date). The short answer is: Yes. But cake is only one feature of a birthday celebration. I think to create a good birthday, several things are required.

The first is conversation. This was covered by spending the evening with Jensens, talking and playing Bohnanza (an obscure bean growing game which can become strangely addictive, depending on your personality). We had a great evening, and managed to make some headway with the cake.

Because the second important feature is cake. The cake was Mark's favourite: Black Forest which I made using real chocolate, so it was very chocolatey (the way it should be), and covered with ganache (which involves more chocolate. And cream).

I still haven't quite made peace with the oven, so it doesn't do cakes quite right yet (everything else is fine - it's a fan-forced oven and we are both a little bit in love with it. It works so well, but of course, our last oven did not, and so my cake making was adjusted to a strange and recalcitrant oven and hasn't quite worked out what to do in the presence of an obedient oven that actually wants to help). So, the cake sank a little, but as it was a very large cake and there was a lot of cream to hold it together, that wasn't too bad.

My only real disappointment was that the British don't sell cherries in juice (that I was able to find), and so the best I could do was cherry pie filling which I privately thought was a bit clunky. However the excessive amount of chocolate and cream was a good distraction from the cherries, so all was well.

The third feature is steak. This is not a universal requirement for all birthdays. Just for Mark. So, I went to the covered markets and checked out all the butchers, scorning their boar, deer, goat, duck, pheasant and other exotic dead animals for sale. I found the butcher that seemed to take beef the most seriously and asked him for his best piece. It cost so much I felt like I was doing something illegal, but according to Mark it was very good steak, so it was worthwhile. It's probably a good thing that Mark will only be having three more birthdays over here...

The fourth part of Mark's birthday is to thank God for Mark. I think Mark is a remarkable man, and has used his years well. This is never to be taken for granted and shows that God is at work in his life which is a thing to rejoice about and to thank God for. So, we did that as well.

The only difference this year was we did some of the things on different days so that Mark wouldn't miss out if Tiny decided to come early. He really had no intention of making an appearance early, however so we enjoyed Mark birthday celebrations at a leisurely pace instead. JMB.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Homey Things

Yes, you have missed out on the final installment of the 'walk to class'. You should feel very ripped off. It should appear this week sometime, but right now the author of that series is working very hard with the Cappadocians and may not be disturbed. Feel free to contact our complaints department to lodge a complaint. We care about your pain.

Instead, you get to see some of the excellent things that God has given us to make our lives so much more enjoyable.

The first are our bookshelves. Mark put these together with a manual screwdriver (no mean feat); I hammered the backs onto them and here is one of them:

Of course, an empty bookcase is not the same as a full one. Particularly when it is full of some of your most favourite books in the world. Here is the one in our bedroom (there are another two in our lounge room). This one contains all our commentaries, important books that we can't do without (like Robin Hobb, Greg Bear, George Eliot, Chaim Potok, Terry Pratchett, Gurps series, etc...), and a small collection of books we really want to read in the next four years. It immediately made our bedroom feel more home-like!

The two bookcases in the loungeroom have mostly academic books, theology and philosophy, our DVD's and all the recipe books. (Providentially, Barth's Dogmatics and Brunner's Systematic Theology fitted exactly on the same shelf...let the reader understand. This caused me great amusement).

Mark in his role as 'Bob the Builder' also constructed a laundry hamper, which even has drawer-like sections and a shelf on top.

I was so impressed by this. I love things with drawers and compartments and so forth. And I like things to have their own spot, particularly dirty laundry, and this version has two drawers, so you can sort the colours from the whites in the process of putting the washing in the hamper, compressing two tasks into one smooth task. It's this kind of efficiency that makes my world a better place. (It's a personality thing; I take no responsibility for it).

We received this as a flat-packed parcel and Mark took it into the spare room. There were all kinds of noises and some long silences; the couple of times I ventured in there he was lying on his back, with assorted wood panelling in all directions, and once it looked like he was building himself into the laundry hamper which would have been an interesting outcome. And then I walked in and it was done. It went from this assortment of wood to this functioning set of drawers in one evening. It was like a small miracle! I was impressed.

Most impressive of all, however, was his construction of The Kitchen Trolley. To understand why I might be most impressed by this, you need to understand that constructing this involved a puzzling set of instructions with strange looking diagrams, screws, wheels, panels and a lot of other things which did not, in my opinion bode well. The only thing I knew about flat-packed things is that they often go wrong and are never the same as the picture. I didn't think I could really contribute to the process, so I went and did useful things in a different room. My expectations were not high. Yet the outcome was as miraculous as the laundry hamper - moreso as the complexity was greater, and it not only looked like the picture but functioned better than the picture had led us to believe.

To understand this, you need to know that our kitchen is fairly small. If you were the kind of person who wanted to swing a cat (not that I would advise it for various reasons, including the injuries likely to be sustained in the aftermath of the cat swinging exercise; cats understand vengeance), you might be able to swing one in the kitchen provided it was a small cat and your arms were not long. Probably you would just give up and find another place to swing the cat, I would imagine. The kitchen is small.

However, there is very little bench space and this probably wouldn't matter, but we like to cook together and there isn't really enough room for us to do that. We discovered this little trolley in the Argus catalogue. It was the skinniest one they had, and I still had misgivings about it taking up too much room in the kitchen and defeating the purpose of freeing up space. However, when this was built and we wheeled it in, it fitted snugly against the wall and didn't jut out into the doorway at all. There is now less room to swing a cat, (which is fine as we don't have a cat and are unlikely to swing it in the kitchen in any case. Unless it was a Schrodinger's cat, in which case we wouldn't know whether we were swinging it in the kitchen anyway.) But importantly there is more room to work in the kitchen because of the extra bench space this brings, which is at exactly the right height for me.

And there's more. It brings with it much needed storage space with a collection of shelves on wheels with nifty little boxes and drawers, which is fantastic given the limited amount of pantry space and shelving we have available. (Mark has several Coke caches around the house, in various cupboards, as the bottles won't fit in our 'pantry' which is small bookcase inside the electricity measuring cupboard).

Best of all it means that we can both work in the kitchen at once without ending up entangled, which is important when there are urgent Gravy Issues to resolve.

We have enjoyed these additions to our home immensely. And I'm very impressed with Mark's ability to turn flat-packed products into useful objects without power tools. JMB

Monday, December 17, 2007

Praying for us

This is our monthly update, letting those of you who are interested in praying for us know what we would most appreciate prayer for, and to let you know some exciting answers to prayer as well, so you can thank God with us.

Last month we mentioned how excellent it would be when Mark finally got a sense of his assessment. This has now happened (mostly). There is still some confusion over exactly what language some of the texts will be that he is to be examined on, and what those exact texts will be, and these are by no means minor details. However, the key pieces of assessment have been identified and some of the administration is being sorted. We are grateful that this has been settled, and it means that Mark is now busy working on his essays and starting to work towards his exam and dissertation.
Please thank God for this being settled, as well as for the excellent supervisor's report Mark received at the end of Term 1. Now that Mark knows the shape of his assessment, he needs to do a substantial amount of work over the next few months. Please pray that Mark will use his time well and be able to complete the assessment he needs to hand in.

Last month we also lamented our absent boxes, which if you are a regular reader you will know have now arrived. We were very glad to see certain items which have made our lives much easier and more enjoyable. Everything arrived unscathed, which surprised us and some riskier decisions (like bringing the breadmaker) are really paying off. We are grateful that God has blessed us in this way.

Jennie is pleased that she has made head way on a number of projects. More could be done, and hopefully will be done in the next little while before the baby comes (despite diminishing energy!), but she is grateful for the progress that has been made. Please thank God for this progress and pray for wisdom to know how to use the energy that she has.

Our biggest concerns this month have centred around the birth of our baby, due in a couple of days, though we expect to be waiting longer than that. Everything is now ready, as far as we can tell. Jennie is quite tired, but well and the baby seems to be enjoying the present confinement, communicating no burning curiosity to explore the world outside. So, we continue to pray for a safe delivery of a healthy baby, who will grow up knowing and loving the Lord Jesus, and for wisdom as parents.

These are the most significant things on our horizon at this stage. We continue to enjoy living here and getting to know people at Church and Wycliffe. And we continue to be amazed at God's generosity in bringing us into his kingdom to love and serve him.

Thanks again for praying for us. JMB&MDB

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Going to Class Oxford Style (II)

Well, we’re here at the side door to New College. I’ll hold the door open for you and we’ll go in.

That’s the way ahead, let’s walk to the end of the small passage and look out.

We’ll be taking the small door over on the far side of the courtyard on the left. No. Not the door directly facing us. Our door is facing at 90 degrees to us, and is much smaller. We can hardly make it out from here. We’ll move over to that side of the courtyard and turn left.

That’s where we’re going. It’s quite small. No really, it’s a small door:

Let’s turn around for a moment and enjoy the statues on this side of the side entrance

Jennie wasn’t going to take a photo of those until she realised that the one on the right was on his knees. Her words at that point? “A kneeling bishop? You can’t have a statue suggesting bishops kneel…” Very droll. But it did mean we got a photo taken. Let’s turn back around and walk into the small doorway and see what’s next.

Breathtaking sight. Often a bit lost on me as I was rushing to the lecture and couldn’t stop to take in this little alcove along the way. But breathtaking for all that.

We’ve just passed through the other alcove and are looking at the next, much smaller courtyard. This time we can see the doorway we're going to walk through, even though, again, it is at 90 degrees to us.

That’s the building where my lecture room was, over on the right hand side, on the ground floor. Most of it is given over either to faculty studies or residences for members of the College. People live there.

That’s the path retraced. Let’s walk over there and have a quick look around before we leave New College.

That’s the building we have just come from. Like the one where my lecture room is, it is primarily a place where people live. I really can’t imagine living in a place like this. You can see where J.K Rowling got the idea for Hogswarts (and Pratchett his Unseen University).

And there’s the view just a bit to the left of where we’ve come from. Some turreted walls begin that continue for a while. Why a College needs fortifications, I’ll never know. Perhaps Old College really didn’t like this upstart newfangled place. Or maybe they took their academic disagreements way too seriously back then. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword. (And those fortifications are mightier still…) MDB

Monday, December 10, 2007

Going to Class Oxford Style

One of the real treats about studying here at Oxford has been the amazing buildings one gets to see on the way to and fro. So we thought we’d spend the three posts this week giving you a small visual tour of what it is like going to lectures here. Today is arguably the least entertaining of the three (unless you work for Main Roads or somesuch) as we’ll be taking the journey from Wycliffe Hall where my study desk is through to the outside of New College (which is ‘New’ in the sense that it has been around since the 14th Century…) where I attended some great lectures on Heidegger’s Being and Time this term (that finished the week before last).

Wednesday we’ll pick up the journey inside New College to the building where the lecture room is situated. And Friday we’ll follow the path I take to meet with my tutor/supervisor in Christ Church.

But such a journey of a thousand miles (not literal miles, in case you’re worried, they’re merely poetic) begins with a single step. And so here we are at the intersection outside Wycliffe Hall. It took more than a single step to get here from my study desk, but that’s poetic license for you.

We’re facing in the opposite direction to where we are about to go. The benefit of this however (apart from the virtual exercise you’re about to get by turning around) is that it captures just how ‘modern’ (and therefore ugly…) some of the buildings in Oxford can be. It’s not a tourist city, where nothing has a function except for tourism. The old buildings are put to new uses, and in places new buildings (even by Aussie standards!) have been constructed. Well, it’s time to push off.

This is the road that is the most direct route from Wycliffe to New College, hence (once I worked that out—which took four weeks…) is the route I’d take. It’s also the route we took to Matriculate. On the left is a magnificently kept public garden that stretches for a fair while (nothing like Brisbane’s Southbank or Sydney’s Centennial Park, but a good size nonetheless). On the right, are some more fairly modern buildings. We’ll walk on.

We’re now passing around the gentle curve you could just see in the distance in the previous shot, we’ll keep walking.

We’re another 100 metres or so along, and the park is behind us, there’s buildings on both sides. Let’s look at the building to our left.

That is the engineering building. Personally, I suspect it’s wasted on them. From my experience of engineers I think most of them would be more comfortable in one of these buildings that we passed by a bit earlier on our walk.

Anyway, aesthetic failings of engineers aside, we’ve now reached the ‘city centre’ of Oxford and pedestrian traffic has picked up a bit.

We’ll be passing through the intersection and going straight on and just around the corner.

We’re just gone around the corner and turned left. Behind us is the place where the photo of me was taken immediately after I matriculated. This arch is apparently a big deal. If I understand things correctly then it was made to help counter an English version of the Aussie cultural cringe, duplicating the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. So I suppose it warrants a closer look.


Anyway, our trip goes under this arch and down the alleyway, which is, for me, one of the most quintessentially mediaeval-feeling parts of Oxford.

We’ve just turned right. Notice how the entire feel of the place has changed. The lane is small, the walls loom and they are a much darker colour than much of what Oxford is built with. There’s a few places in Oxford where you turn a corner and feel like you’ve completely changed your surroundings. This is definitely one of those.

We’ve just turned left, we’ll be heading to the end of the lane, even though there’s an option to turn right. Turning right would take us on around the side of New College, and we want that door up ahead. It’s the side door to New College.

There we are. We’ve made it to the door of New College. As you can see most people who are not named Goliath don’t need to use the whole door they made. So they’ve kindly set up a kind of small-door-within-a-large-door arrangement. A kind of kitty flap for normal sized humans.

You’ll notice I mentioned this was the side door. Non-residents can’t get in through this door unless we just happen to get there as a resident is coming or going. That’s right, for the first couple of weeks, I was taking the wrong entrance to class (and it made me late twice as I had to wait for someone so I could get through). Nonetheless, that ill-fated path is far more picturesque, so we’ll pick it up again on Wednesday. But before we go I want you to look up for a moment.

That’s an Oxford college for you. Even a minor side door has exquisite statues 10 metres above it, that are virtually impossible to make out clearly without some kind of telephoto lens. It’s an amazing place to walk to class. Maybe John Woodhouse would like to incorporate some features into the new Moore College? MDB

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Christmas Pudding Event

Last year I decided to make real Christmas pudding. This was partly an experiment in whether I could make complicated things. And partly because I think Christmas rocks and should be celebrated, and celebrations are made more enjoyable by good food.

Consequently, I went out and bought a real pudding basin – not as easy as it sounds. It took me a while to find one. I also figured out where the two places were in Australia where you can buy real suet and obtained some (surprisingly inexpensively). I found a recipe by a person who is really committed to Christmas pudding. (No really, he is – he has very strong views on how the breadcrumbs in the recipe should be made and so forth; a company even sent him their pudding bowl to review on his website).
I negotiated the various options for keeping the pudding off the bottom of the saucepan for 8 hours while it cooked. (I disregarded the suggestion on the website involving hanging the pudding from a broom suspended by a coat hanger; there was just too much that could go terribly, terribly wrong with that, what with gravity and boiling water and all). I even worked out what on earth was going on with the ‘string handle’ and the pleated baking paper and foil combination that was meant to tie the entire thing together.

All in all, it was the kind of learning experience that Develops Character. And it didn’t taste too bad on the day, so it was all good.

This year I decided to repeat the experiment. We have no idea when the baby will be born, so I figured I could make Christmas pudding early, and if nothing else, we could at least have Christmas pudding on Christmas Day, unless we were otherwise occupied, as for instance may be the case if we were spending quality time at the delivery suite in the JR Hospital. But we would no doubt appreciate Christmas pudding in the wake of such an event in any case.

So, I set about making Christmas pudding in early-mid November. Here in England I thought it would be remarkably easy to make Christmas pudding according to this recipe. This is the country of pudding basins and suet after all.

The pudding basin wasn’t too hard to find. It was about 3 times more expensive than the one I found in Australia, but that is fairly normal for most things. The suet however was trickier.

I set off to find suet at the place which would obviously sell it: The Covered Markets. (which will get its own post fairly soon). There were four butchers there. One specializes in sausages: the most extraordinary array of sausages, many of them local recipes from around the country, and all of them looking like they have had more of an association with actual meat than the average sausage one encounters. Another sells all kinds of exotic things: pigeon, rabbit, pheasant, goat and so forth. The other two are slightly more prosaic and sell ordinary meat as well as a few more interesting things on the side. In all, one would imagine that between the four of them, something as uninteresting as beef suet would be easy to obtain.

None of them sold suet.

In fact, a couple of them never sell it; the others told me that they were getting it in for Christmas in a few weeks time.

There are two problems with that.

The first is that any self-respecting Christmas pudding cook knows that the Christmas pudding needs to be made early. I was making it in about mid-November, which is late (and I felt a slight sense of having let down the side by leaving it so late: what would other Christmas pudding cooks think of such a thing? Most committed to the whole Christmas pudding ideal would have it made in October, so that the taste can really develop). A few weeks before Christmas just doesn't cut it!

The second problem is far more ideological: this is England. I can understand the special circumstances of Australia, where the heat means that the regulations surrounding the obtaining and sale of suet are seriously restrictive, which means that few people actually sell it. But it really isn’t hot over here. And there are all these ‘English’ recipes which call for suet.

So, I went back down to the shops near where we live, thinking that the ‘Organic Butcher’ probably wouldn’t have it, but I’d give them a try before I resorted to fake suet (which just isn’t the same!) To my surprise they had it. They had ordered it in especially for a person who was also cooking Christmas pudding and they had stashes of it in the freezer. The butcher told me that it was becoming more a rarity in England as people didn’t use it much. As I reflected on this it made more sense: I am really beginning to get a sense that an awful lot of people here don’t cook or don’t know how to cook. (That at least would explain the spam fritters!)

The ingredients all lined up (the suet is front left; quite prosaic after all that effort!) The breadcrumbs are made according to the very strict and precise instructions on the website and are on the right hand side, for those who are concerned that all the instructions were followed precisely.

Thankfully buying the dried fruit and various other ingredients was reasonably easy, and the pudding is now made and ‘developing’ quietly in the cupboard.

The excellent thing about England of course, is the fantastic quality of the cream we can buy to go with the pudding. I’m sure at Christmas we can (finally) justify buying clotted cream… JMB

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Unbelievable Customer Service: the good, the bad, and the simply…unbelievable

Customer service in England seems to vary in much the same way as Melbourne weather varies: it has extremes. It doesn’t really do just ordinary or middle of the road. In England we’ve decided, you seem to get unbelievable customer service the like of which we have never encountered (and didn’t think possible) – and you can add the adjective ‘good’ or ‘bad’ before unbelievable in that sentence. Either fits. As of today, we have another category: just 'unbelievable'. You'll see why.

I’ve already blogged about the unbelievably bad, and as that is resolved I think we should move on.

What we haven’t done is speak of the unbelievably good, and the simply unbelievable.

The unbelievably good is (itself unbelievably) to be found in, of all things, a bank. Yes, you read correctly, a bank. We have been impressed beyond our belief with our bank. Our general attitude to banks in Australia was tolerance. The service was usually average to uninviting; the bureaucracy involved in what seemed to us simple transactions was excruciating and the general experience of ever having to deal with the bank about just about anything was painful. And of course, banks in Australia now charge fees for any kind of contact you have (or don’t have) with them. That, we thought, was just how banks are. Thorns and thistles of a sinful world pop up in unexpected places and banks are just one place where they cause frustration. At least they don’t stop you in the street at gunpoint and make you hand over all your cash, ‘in the interest of their shareholders’.

Now when we return to Australia and need to endure such things again we can lie back and think of England. Because in England there is at least one bank that has completely changed the way we think of banking.

It all started when we went to open a bank account. They allowed us to do this from Australia (for a fairly hefty fee), and were incredibly well organized about it. They gave us the correct forms to fill out (not to be taken for granted). They told us this or that would happen, and lo and behold, this or that actually did happen. They told us to go to London with our passports when we arrived and collect our keycards. And when we went to London with our passports, we were actually able to do just that. Not only that, but they had a special waiting room for folk in our situation with tea, coffee and hot chocolate laid on. They actually had someone come and speak to us – one-to-one – and explain how everything worked. She spent about ½ to ¾ hour with us and answered all our questions, set up internet banking for us, and so forth and was genuinely friendly. And she told us the startling and extraordinary news that our bank does not charge us fees. (This we initially met with suspicion and incredulity… and then as it sank in were more and more amazed. What about the poor shareholders that we are always been told about in Australia? Were we expected to make donations? How does it work that the bank earns interest from our money and doesn't collect fees from us for the privilege?)

Every time we’ve been into this bank we’ve had a good experience. The most extraordinary time would have to be when we were randomly walking past the bank at about 4:50. To our surprise it was open. Partly out of sheer novelty value we walked in: new experiences and all – what would the inside of a bank look like after 4:30pm? The place was buzzing. There was a customer service counter, and as Mark had an Australian cheque in his wallet which was more than three months old, I thought it might be good to ask whether there was any possibility of actually depositing it in our account. I held out very little hope that anything would come of this and expected to be told off for even asking.

So, we waited in the queue (like good English people) and watched in amazement as the three customer service people interacted with great enthusiasm with some tricky customers. By the time our turn came it was just before 5pm and we were feeling a bit bad for bothering them so close to closing time and were going to leave, but the woman who came to serve us was so keen to help us and wouldn’t hear of us leaving. We explained the situation with the cheque and said that all we wanted to do was find out whether it was possible to deposit it in our account, and that we’d be happy to come back and do that some other time. We just wanted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. She seemed to take it personally that we might leave before having deposited the cheque and not only told us we could do so, but insisted on explaining to us how the process would work. (We didn't actually care, but she was very committed to explaining exactly what the process would be, what our options were and which option she considered the best one for us in our situation). She then co-opted one of her assistant customer service people to take us upstairs and explain the situation for us to the teller, so that the teller would be sure to choose the option most beneficial to us. We protested that it was too close to closing time and we’d be happy to come back, but as it seemed that this would cause her great distress, we dutifully followed the assistant upstairs where he explained all to the teller. The teller then explained to us exactly what the implications of the option we’d chosen were, and then apologized for charging us a fee for that service. Quite frankly, we’re happy to pay fees if a service of some kind is actually performed.

So we were impressed: of the three employees we dealt with just before closing on a Friday afternoon, all three were courteous, communicated clearly and did their job well. And the money even arrived in our account, along with a letter from the bank explaining exactly what had happened in the transaction. Efficiency and competence from a bank - who'd have thought??

We’ve visited the bank in its various branches at other times to sort things out and it has always been much the same as that experience. It’s making us begin to believe that banks can be something other than an exercise in frustration we've experienced in Australia. No doubt when we come back to Australia, we’re going to be those annoying people who say, “In England, our bank would never…”

So much for the unbelievably good.

Now for the unbelievable.

I ordered a cot mattress from a reputable company on the internet. They said that they would deliver it the day after it was ordered. That would be today. I can't help noticing the absence of a cot mattress in our unit.

Late this afternoon I looked up the site to find more information on delivery. There they say they ‘expect to deliver the goods within five working days’, between 7:30am-6pm, which is not exactly helpful. That means that either Mark or I have to be here to take delivery for the next four days. I looked further at the site to try and find out whether there was any indication of whether they had dispatched our mattress specifically rather than just their general delivery policy, of which they have two which contradict one another.

Finally, I found a ‘track order’ section of the website and found our expected delivery date. It was listed as “5 January 2010 – 7 January 2010”.

It’s not so much that this is bad customer service. I mean the information is there. In fact, it’s very specific information: they show a significant ability to plan, given that they aren't just planning on delivering it at any time in general in 2010, but between 5-7 January in that year. That's incredibly precise for three years out. I have no idea what I’m likely to be doing 5-7 January 2008, let alone 2010, so it is worth recognising their obviously excellent forward planning. It's curious that a company with those kind of logistical capabilities has such trouble delivering its goods in the same year as the purchase, but one must give credit where it is due.

But I have to say, it's not the information that I was hoping for. I admit, I was hoping for a date that was more in the region of this year. Maybe even in the next few days. Not 2010. Call me fussy, but when I buy something, I don’t really want to have to wait three years to take receipt of it. Especially not when we’re likely to have a small child in the next few weeks. It seems that it is easier to bring a child into the world than it is to transport a mattress from one side of Oxford to the other.

About as unbelievable as not paying bank fees! JMB

Monday, December 3, 2007

Expressive English

We are in the process of changing from the night congregation at St Ebbes to the 10:00am congregation, in the lead up to Tiny’s arrival. The thought of taking a newborn out into the English winter at night being something we’d probably hold off on until we’re ready for slightly more advanced parenting challenges. Sunday just gone was a small interruption into that process, however. St Ebbes was holding a kids’ Christmas event in the late afternoon. Over here in England it is generally expected that if you have someone’s kids about that time (say over to play with yours) that you’ll feed them around then—afternoon tea is sort of that, the afternoon night meal. Possibly has something to do with the moon being visible at 4:30pm in winter.

And so St Ebbes was providing afternoon tea for a few hundred children. Each child got their own Christmas box packed meal—a specially made cardboard box with a Christmas design on top (all made by a parishioner), two very small sandwiches, and (separate) sausages, one mandarin, a cupcake, and a lindt ball (!). They also got a small popper—orange or apple. These were all made or provided for by parishioners. Jennie and I helped out with the packing of these goodies into the boxes, which meant that we then went to the 11:30am congregation.

It was interesting to go to the third congregation. It was, even more than the night congregation, for uni students. If we’d been feeling old in the night service (which we had…ridiculous at the grand old age of mid 30’s) then it was even worse at 11:30am. Unusually in my experience, this congregation only exists when term is on—it’s so for uni students, that it shuts down between terms. So the week we went was the last one for 2007.

The thing that struck us when we went to the service yesterday was how expressive the English are in the public arena. Not the preaching so much—while that has been of a very high quality in exegetical rigour, theological reflection, drawing out the implications, and as a piece of communication—St Ebbes is sort of known as a preaching church, so, while appreciative, we haven’t been surprised by that.

No, what we’ve been constantly struck by has been the unbelievable quality of the English public Bible reading and praying.

The praying has been reverent, meaningful, theologically rich, and substantial without being either stodgy or overblown. And the people praying have ‘gotten’ what it means to pray publicly—they are neither just speaking to God as though they were on their own, nor are they speaking to the congregation. They are praying prayers that lead the congregation into praying with them. And so far, it has happened 100% of the time at St Ebbes.

The Bible reading has been everything I have ever looked for when preaching on a passage to be read. It has been read to us, by people who are confident with language and its use. It is paced, inflected, and there is no stumbling over the words. Most of all, it is read out with meaning—every sentence and phrase sounds like actual speech, and is easy to pick up on things that are being said. And again, it’s happened 100% of the time here, through a multitude of styles.

Cut back to Australia. In my experience, often the best one can hope for in a church that values the Bible is for the Bible to be read without too much stumbling over words. It is rare (not unheard of, but definitely rare) for the Bible to be read in such a way that the reading itself is sensitive to the literary and linguistic clues as to the meaning of the whole and reads the passage in such a way as to help the hearer ‘get it’ (without being hamfisted in over reading those clues, or over emoting the passage). It is rare even in Moore chapel, where the people doing it are both gifted and training for a lifetime of doing it. And the story is similar, but not quite as bad, when it comes to public praying.

Yet here at Ebbes, the readers and prayers have spanned the chronological spectrum from early twenties to sixtyish. And it has all been edifying in the best sense of the word. I wish we could bottle it and send it home.

It could be argued that Ebbes is an unusual sample—a university church in Oxford. No doubt there’s some truth to that. I doubt all English are this articulate in public. But I’ve been to university churches in Australia. And I’ve never seen anything like this, and it happens every week here. There’s something bigger going on.

It suggests to me that one of Australia’s distinctive cultural features is being inarticulate and hamfisted with language. I think this is why the Sydney Diocese’s ‘plain style’ of preaching works so well in Australia. The average Australian listener doesn’t ‘get’ anything other than the most prosaic and stripped back kind of style. We trust a Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s stammering or a Pauline Hanson strine or a Bob Hawke ‘common man talk’ far more than anything that might suggest that the person is comfortable with speaking publicly. We like our leaders to be as bad at public speaking as we are. I suspect it’s one of the reasons why our politicians have pretty much given up on doing anything other than speak to us in sound bites. One sentence to capture a complex issue in as stripped down a form as possible.

I’ve always noted how much easier Americans seem to find speaking in public. There’s minimal self-consciousness or nerves, just a confident expression of whatever they think or feel. Like the Romans of old, they seem to get how important public speaking is for a country of world rulers. But it’s clear the English have their version of it. Not so much the American sense of speaking in public, as an interest in language and how it works to enable them to express it well in a public setting. (Interestingly, the English also had a world-spanning empire, and still think of themselves a bit that way). In their own ways, both countries seem to get the value of communication.

What do we have in Australia? We are good at sport. And the quintessential Aussie bloke way of communicating is to punch his mate on the arm. When it comes to Australia, it really is the case that we say it best when we say nothing at all.

You see it in the movie Cosi. The protagonist has managed to pull off a performance of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in a mental hospital, with no training in diversion therapy or the like (it’s an Australian comedy, as you’ll gather). It has been, as is the wont with such movies, a transforming experience for many of the characters. We come to the great final scene, the dénouement, when something of the experience is to be captured for us. We don’t get any great speeches as per West Wing. We don’t get any witty statements that capture the issues as per Yes Minister. We get a long period of silence as the core characters look at each other. Then the head of security, who’d been as close to a nemesis as you get throughout the movie, says to the hero, in as matter of fact tones as possible, “You did good.” And the hero walks off in silence. Cue credits.

I suggest that if we’re looking for ‘Australia values’ for these citizenship tests, we could start by putting down something like ‘I swear to always be mildly inarticulate in a public setting.’ It’s as Aussie as…(silence). MDB

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Don’t Like Mondays: Part 2 (Now with added York)

We return to the gripping story of Monday the 26th of November. But this time around we've added some random pictures of York for your viewing pleasure. Think of it as a slide show of 'what we did on our trip to York' with a discussion about Monday running in parallel. It's a blog entry for GenX and Y and other strange types that enjoy multi-tasking. (We start with some glorious ruins of an abbey, a result of Henry VIII's closing of the monasteries):

You know what it is like when you are waiting for something good, something nice, something that will just really hit the spot. And then that thing gets delayed. And then delayed some more. And then some more. And yet, you don’t stop anticipating what it will be like when it finally arrives. You still look forward to it, knowing how good it is going to be.

We had two things like that over here in Oxford. One was that our shipment of 15 boxes would arrive.

Eight large boxes full of items that we thought would really help us manage daily life better over here—linen, baby clothes for Tiny, adult clothes for us, some kitchen gadgets like a bread maker, special pizza tray, and mixmaster. Our dvds—quite a number of hours of viewing for a couple without a TV. Some board games like Settlers of Catan and its expansions, Tigris and Euphrates, the epic War of the Ring (yes, if you have a spare entire day, you too can recreate the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy of books as a boardgame), Bohnanza, and even The Game of Thrones (which we’ve never had a chance to play so far). We like our games, you might have spotted.

Seven book boxes full of…well books. These are divided between two groups. The first is the books that would really help our studies along—essentially work tools. These are books on John’s Gospel, some systematic theologies and treatments of the doctrine of the Trinity, a good chunk of patristics, and the like. The other group contains books that we need for our sanity.

(This is the other side of the York Minster from where the other pictures were shot. The York Minster includes some quite stunning gardens and multiple large old buildings around the outskirts of the gardens. They're impressive, but a minnow to a whale compared to the Cathedral.)

This is one of those things that non-readers probably just don’t ‘get’. For many people reading is like housework. It needs to be done. It probably even has to happen fairly frequently. But it is a chore. Something you do because you need to, and you move through it as expeditiously as possible. Statements that books are needed, let alone for mental health, seems a bit bizarre.

But for some of us, and Jen and I definitely fall into this group, it really is the case that we need to read. And we need to read things just for the pleasure of the reading, or because we have an interest in the area. Documentaries, radio, conversation, don’t really work. Even newspapers and magazines don’t quite have the requisite effect. There is something about the sustained storytelling of a novel, or the sustained exposition of a work of non-fiction that keeps the mind and the sense of being open to the world ticking along. Sooner or later (and usually sooner) we need to read.

And so the other set of books are enjoyment books. Novels that we’ll really want to read again in the next four years. Books of history, theology, and cultural analysis that are on our ‘read sometime in the next four years’ programme. Books of poetry that are on Jen’s ‘read regularly’ list to sustain the soul. You get the picture.

The nice thing about the last ten weeks is that we’ve coped so well with little more than two suitcases, a fully furnished flat, and purchasing a fair amount of kitchen stuff. By the standards of typical Western materialism we’ve been almost camping! In fact, it showed that it is possible to function with a lot less stuff.

(What's left of a tower as part of an old fortification. Looks far more impressive at this distance than close up. The neat part of the defensive strategy were a series of signs right around the mound saying 'keep off the grass'. As long as you had a critical threshold of literate invaders, this tower should have been impregnable.)

However, it’s also shown that certain of the gadgets that clutter one’s life can make a huge difference. We’ve noticed the absence of many of the things in the boxes many times over the last ten weeks.

So, we’ve been looking forward to these boxes arriving. A lot.

So guess which day they came?

That’s right, and they arrived about five hours after we got into bed.

Baddeley’s don’t really function well on either:
a) low sleep
b) radically changed sleep

Both of those together are synergistic. Just not in a good way.

(Before we get inundated with messages about sleep and small babies...Relax. We're aware of the issue. But it doesn't seem like there's a cure, it's just something we'll have to persevere through.)

Anyhow, you know how you look forward to something and look forward to it and look forward to it, and then it comes at precisely the wrong moment. You can neither savour the moment, nor do you quite have the resources to cope with the extra load it places upon you.

That was Monday. The boxes came, and the rejoicing was a fairly tepid ‘I suppose this is good;’ ‘Yep, been waiting for this for a while now.’
(Part of the cemetery connected to a small church buried away in the centre of a town block. It didn't face onto any street at all, you had to walk down one of two lanes to get to it, and the lanes only existed to get you to the church. Why you had such a church right on the doorstep of the cathedral, and several other churches in easy walking distance is beyond me. But it was active up until the early nineteenth century.)

Receiving the boxes required a bit of work. The delivery company would charge us extra to take them to our flat (and even more to use the lift…). So I did it. This involved a minor logistical exercise that I’m proud to say I worked out the first day I faced it.

There are 8 boxes.

And 7 book boxes.

There is one lift.

It’s fairly small.

and it takes a little while to move several floors. So it is the rate limiting step.

So the way to tackle the move is to get all the boxes from outside the block to the lift. Then move the 8 boxes into the lift, go up with them, and unpack them out of the lift onto our floor. Head back downstairs and repeat the process. Then move the fifteen boxes into our flat. This way I have the minimum number of journeys in the lift. This may seem like a small thing, but you’d be surprised how many people need to be faced with the problem a couple of times before they twig to it.

So the boxes came in, and my body was not a happy camper. My brain was occasionally shorting out and coming back on line. (Seriously, there’d be times I’d just sit there and have to wait before my brain seemed to want to get moving again). This was OK for the box moving bit of Monday.
(This is the part of the York Minster that seemed to get used most often to do actual church stuff. On the other side of the raised platform there were multiple rows of chairs laid out.)

However, there was another task that Monday required of yours truly.

It was the other thing that had been anticipated. Remember I’m over here to do some doctoral work on a guy called Athanasius? All through this term I’ve been working on everyone other than Athanasius (not quite, but it seemed like it). Writing a two thousand word essay each week for a discussion with my tutor. It’s been great. But I have been waiting for the chance to write one on Athanasius. To get stuck in to him, use some of my previous thinking and reading, and produce something I could be pleased with. So guess what day that had to be written?

That’s right. Monday.

I got to write my long anticipated essay while my brain periodically went off-line every so often.
(An arrow slit in the defensive walls that go right around a fair sized chunk of the modern city of York. Not that the walls are modern, just that the city is now bigger than them. Just so that we're clear on that point.)

This was the Monday that not only was tough going, it took the enjoyment out of two of the things we’d really been looking forward to.

Bad Monday.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Don’t Like Mondays. (Part 1)

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
I wanna shoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oot the whole day down

Unlike Boomtown Rats we here at Baddelim don’t really have it in for Mondays. While not quite rating up there with squirrels, we’re happy to live and let live when it comes to Mondays. (And how exactly does one go shooting a day anyhow?!)

However, some Mondays distinguish themselves. And not always in a good way. Monday just gone was like that.

The difficulty was that Monday began without the normal ending process of the Sunday immediately preceding it. Somewhere a bit after eleven o’clock we began to make moves towards bed. We naturally tend to a bedtime after midnight, and it requires constant vigilance for us to keep our body clocks from being set too far back. Unfortunately, the more tired we get, the harder it is to marshal the energy to not stay up. One of those perverse paradoxes that makes being a Baddeley so much…fun.

So we were tired, which was why we were heading off to bed a bit late. (It takes time to go to bed early, because most of us resists the brain saying ‘go to bed now’ - so an eleven o’clock start to the process wasn’t a good sign). And then Jen informs me that she’s had constant stomach pain since 5pm in the afternoon (there’s apparently a “don’t worry Mark with trivial information” clause in our marriage vows that I don’t remember signing off on). This is a bit of a concern. Particularly as Jen had that the previous night, and couldn’t sleep for the middle three hours of the night as a consequence. (Can I just observe once again how grateful I am that I am not the pregnant one?)

The pain fits none of the criteria the amazing Radcliffe Hospital (and it really is amazing, it’s one of the best things about being here—which is pretty amazing in itself, as it’s got a fair bit of stiff competition) told us about in the pre-natal intensive we attended. It fits none of the criteria in any of the books we have. Jen even spoke with a midwife about this pain before and was assured it wasn’t an issue. Apparently the body generates all kind of random pains in this last stage. (Again. Grateful pregnancy is not me.)

Nonetheless, seven straight hours of moderately intense abdominal pain is probably worth some kind of check. And, as part of the amazing health care we get here, we have a 24 hotline where Jen can call a midwife and get an immediate answer. There’s a person at all times whose job it is just to take calls. You couldn’t colour us more grateful. We’ve used it once before when something unusual happened and they were fantastic, and assured us that it was nothing special.

So we called, expecting another, “It’s nothing” response. We like those. They’re very comforting.

What we got instead was, “Ring the delivery suite and tell them what you just told me.” Possibly not the answer we were looking for. And delivered (Jen assures me) in the kind of tones that suggested that the person was not weak-minded and so the Jedi mind-trick wouldn’t persuade her that these weren’t the droids she was looking for…

So Jen did what she was told (it’s possible that the Jedi thingy was working in reverse). The delivery suite listened to the information and said. “You need to come right in.” Again, not really the answer we were looking for.

So we looked at each other and realised that this could be it. The most likely scenario, we figured, was that they suspected preeclampsia, and if that was the case there would be a quick caesarean and not-so-little Tiny (that’s the pre-birth name so we wouldn’t have to call the new Baddeley ‘It’ all the time) would be coming three and a half weeks ahead of schedule.

That’s when it began to hit us just how unready we were at this stage. We haven’t taken delivery of the cot yet (not until the end of this week), although we have a travel cot. The hospital overnight bag wasn’t fully packed. There was no food in the freezer just ready to go (there’s only snack dispensers at the hospital…). We didn’t have a list of what to pack that wasn’t already packed, nor where those items were located.

Oh yeah. And we didn’t have a name.

We’ll probably need one of those.

We had a shortlist, for both genders. But you can’t really apply Heisenberg’s Uncertainity Principle to names. The child would probably want a particular name of their own, rather than a haze of probabilities around a small cluster of names. Not that using different names for the one child wouldn’t be entertaining for us

What we did have was Michael Jensen who was quite happy (not quite happy, but certainly not disgruntled) to be woken up just before midnight to drive us to Hospital. (We’re rather pleased with ourselves for arranging to have such a good neighbour in the same block of flats.)

This was a good thing, because that meant we had someone reliable for those times when you really just have to go, and you have to go now. We tried cabs once before when we had to go to the hospital. We tried four taxi companies. One wouldn’t answer their phone. It gets better. One had their phone disconnected (!). The third had a working phone and actually answered. It seemed like a winner. But they didn’t have any cabs available for an hour… The fourth one promised to send us a cab. But didn’t. So it was good to have the ‘Michael Jensen, hospital driver extraordinaire’ thing worked out.

However, we were flustered, on the back foot, and how can I put this? Not really in the mood. We were ready for bed. We still had three weeks to go. We were still thinking in terms of ‘soon’, not in terms of ‘any moment now’. We hadn’t done any of the running it through in our heads in advance that we do to plot out possible responses to things when we know something momentous is coming.

In a word, we weren’t ready.

We got to the hospital around midnight. And received simply the best treatment we have ever received from a medical institution. Both the receptionist and the nurse were everything you would want: confident, competent, nice, and relational. They put us at our ease without being cloying.

The first thing they did was measure Jen’s blood pressure and seemed to relax once that was in the clear. They seemed to carefully avoid the ‘preeclampsia’ word, but we’re fairly sure that was what prompted the call in.

Having gotten us in, however, they were taking no chances. Jen was placed on a bed in fairly short order and hooked up to two machines. One to measure the child, one to get a reading on her. We were told that they’d measure things for about 20 minutes and then a doctor would be in to see us. Oh, and to give Jen something to do, they gave her a button to press every time Tiny moved. As they didn’t even look at the tally later, I suspect it wasn’t even connected… (Jen assures me that they did look at the results of her tallying, and that they do turn up on the graphs generated by the machines. The things we try and convince ourselves of when we don’t want to admit that we were just being kept occupied…)

The amusing thing about that was that Tiny clearly didn’t appreciate the cold metal sensors even partially invading Tiny’s world (please note the skilful avoidance of any hint of gender there…). And so Tiny exploded into a sustained period of quite intense kicks. Which has been one of the few times I’ve seen this, because it seems that Tiny already has a Baddeley sense of humour. Apparently aware of Jen’s desire for me to witness this activity, Tiny has mastered the art of stopping kicking just at the point that Jen calls me over to look. But even the pursuit of a long running gag seemed to take back seat to sustained aggression against the metal pads.

About quarter to one in the morning, the nurse contacted us over the intercom to let us know that the doctor would be delayed because one of the births ‘wasn’t going well’ and had been taken to surgery. She said he would be with us as soon as it was finished, which ‘should be soon.’ About twenty past one in the morning she came back to let us know that there was no idea how long the doctor would be. She looked over the charts, really liked what she saw, and so took Jen off the machines. Tiny promptly returned to the “don’t kick when Dad might see” game—despite the fact that, Jen assures me, for the last few months 1:30am has been prime kicking time. The nurse still had no idea about the abdomen pain, which had continued throughout, and wasn’t going to discharge us without the doctor seeing us.

So, about 3 in the morning, two very, very disorientated and tired Baddeley’s looked at the funny doctor as he did doctory things, asked doctory questions, and declared everything in order. Oh yes, the abdominal pain was probably muscular, as everything expanded to get ready for D-Day. That was good to find out.

So around quarter to four the Baddeley’s made it in the front door of their flat. Apparently it’s easy getting a cab from the hospital than to the hospital. We promptly collapsed into bed. But only after acknowledging that the good thing out of this little false alarm was the way it flushed out where we were unready. We think we were probably 70% ready. But for something like this, 90% is really a minimum. Thanks to this, we know now where the problems are, and can take steps this week to address them.

However, that wasn’t the end of Monday… oh no. Not this Monday. This Monday had more to give... MDB

Monday, November 26, 2007

View from our Balcony

Last week we took this picture.

This is the view from our balcony. The beautiful tree in which squirrels and pigeons play is now bereft of all its leaves, except those at its base. When it rains and a lone pigeon huddles in its branches, it feels as though one is seeing a visual image of forsaken desolation.

And this photo was taken just after 4:30pm. About half an hour after sundown. So notice the thing in the photo that shouldn't be there. (A Clue: The Bright Light is Not the Sun). That's right, by 4:30pm, night has completely fallen.

Winter is coming...