Archives mensuelles : juin 2014

Special times

Life has it’s magical times, but how often have you forgotten about the best bits? I haven’t been particularly thorough about writing them down, but I think it’s a good practice to pick out those special moments – to help the memory, but also to help reflection on just what is important in life. Often those moments are worth months of otherwise forgettable activity. Here are my notes from a Word document I haven’t modified since 2007…

Snoozing at Saltway house after the Chedworth 10km cross-country race. Lying next to each other on the grass. Warm summer day. Sense of fatigue born of achievement.

Riding through Romanian villages in the back of a pick-up truck.

Beside Lake Kivu receiving a text saying I’d got into Oxford.

A-level results day. Top of the year, straight As.

Getting a perfect score (70/70) in my first A-level Maths modular exam. Receiving a letter from the examining board asking me to consider a career in maths.

Watching the sunset over dinner beside the castle in Assisi in the summer of 2000. Hitch-hiking around, wandering through Assisi, buying a simple meal of fresh bread, olives, ham and cheese and sitting on the grass with all the plain below us and the rolling hills behind us. Thomas Berger.

Breakfast with Thomas at the Kipfer’s near Bern. Fresh yogurts. Overlooking the valley. Blissful. We’d hitchhiked there.

Drinking unpasteurised milk by the pint as we collapse on completing the 190 mile coast-to-coast walk in 11.5 days. Aged 16.

Hostile environments training day five.

Winning blades with the college first boat in Torpids 2006. Intensive week, so much time together. Snatching victory from defeat.

High Table at St Antony’s college after winning rowing blades in Torpids.

The X61 (Nottingham-Leicester-Oxford)

Here’s an email saved in the archive from August 2005 that was sent to my best friends Anna, Jason and Sam. I was on the verge of leaving a good job for a year back at university…

Every school day for seven years I walked along a small section of the X61 bus route with my friends. And so the well-laid timetable of the bus proved a useful guide to the following seven years. First stop in moving from my small sleepy market town was Nottingham for my first taste of university. Then Leicester for my first proper job. Finally I move to the third city served by the bus; its southern terminus, Oxford.

From October I’ll be among the first students starting a new M.Sc. in African studies, and I can’t wait. For me 12 months is about right at Anglia. I’ve learnt a bit about how television news works and I have to say it’s been the most enjoyable job I’ve ever done. But, I’ve come to realise that two of the goals important to me, being a good overseas journalist, and being a good husband / father, are likely to be incompatible. And so, I’m keen to waste no time in doing the former before beginning the latter.

That having been said, going to Oxford is really about experiencing something new and intellectually challenging. St. Antony’s college will give me some great contacts, a good knowledge base in African affairs, and an important boost to my credibility-lacking bid to work in Africa. While I’m single, un-mortgaged and youngish it’s an offer I can hardly refuse. And although it’s always easier to do something that you pay for, rather than that pays you, I’d rather tell my children about a year in Oxford than a second year in Norwich.

In Congo there are some bridges which consist of only a metal structure and four planks. The idea is to drive from one set of planks to the other, and then take the flooring from behind to put in front. There’s a certain insecurity from having no way back and no clear way forward.



Personal statement (September 2006)

I’m pretty organised about backing up my computer, which means as the years build up there are a good number of old documents hanging around in the archives from previous years. I plan a series of posts this week publishing a few of them. These can be windows on previous eras of life.

One of the books that had an influence on me was ‘7 Habits of Highly-Effective People’, which as all good books, was discovered through serendipity. During a research trip to East Africa for my masters dissertation I was staying a Kenyan friend’s flat, and this being pre-Kindle days, I’d run out of reading material. As I remember it, he only had a handful of books to his name, but this was one of them. One of the activities that the book recommends is writing a Personal Statement. From 2001, I’d found writing down goals and such-like a useful exercise, and so I went ahead and wrote a statement. I reopened that statement a few months back for the first time in years.

Looking back, I didn’t follow it to the letter, but it holds up fairly well looking back at the last decade. Here it is…

My aim is to pursue excellence in a broad range of human endeavours intellectual, spiritual, athletic and relational in a way that best advertises Christ and seeks best to live out his Kingdom’s values. With integrity and honesty as to my failings, and through disciplined and organised hard-work, I hope to develop the talents God has given me within the vocation of journalism, international analysis, politics, economics and development. I hope to push boundaries in my field by keeping at the forefront of technological developments, exploiting fully the internet, cheap and lightweight recorders and new developments in the way we access and create information. Alongside this, cultivating a broad range of skills that breach traditional boundaries; specifically by developing myself as academic, photographer, writer, journalist and linguist. I hope this will enable me to link the academy to politics to elite-end journalism, and be so involved in these centres of knowledge that my vocation is done in an atmosphere of osmosis-learning. This devotion to development should not come at the expense of spending time with others and being a good friend.

I hope to continue a regular devotion to God’s Word and engagement in the building of his Church, while at the same time being an approachable and understanding communicator to those on the outside. My hope is that all this can be accomplished in a spirit of kindness and generosity, in which money and wealth are means and not ends, although they can provide a bearing on the value others place on my activities. My lifestyle should bear a radical edge that is a powerful statement to the world by rejecting materialism, unhelpful boundaries between people and unnecessary norms of behaviour, I hope to embody a freedom. Athletically, I hope to maintain a level of fitness which sustains other activities as well as learning from and enjoying the leisure and challenges sport provides. Looking to the long-term, my dearest desire after serving Christ is, God willing, to be a caring father and husband, in no way treating others as less than humans made in the image of God.