I failed at University. Why?


I remember much of my first day at junior school like it was just yesterday. It was quite an introduction to formal education: the disappointment of discovering that my only friend was in a different class to me; the excitement of meeting up with him at break time; the bravado involved in asking the boy 2 years my senior (his name was Ben) whether we could join in with his game of football; the resultant ecstasy when he granted us permission, and the humiliating lesson in football that followed. I loved every minute of that day, and did not have a care in the world.

Now it’s time for me to be brutally honest, both with myself and with you.

Almost 16 years later, the education system has chewed me up and spat me out in the cruelest of fashions. Yesterday, on the 4th of July 2014, I was granted an unexpected and thoroughly unwanted independence. In an email received from the University of Portsmouth, I was told in no uncertain terms that my failure to make significant academic progress over the last year had left the relevant authorities with no choice but to exclude me from my course (English Literature & American Studies, for those not in-the-know) with ‘immediate effect’.

It was all rather callous, rather cold. It felt strange to not receive a message saying ‘We hope you enjoyed your four years at Portsmouth’, or even a simple ‘Thank you for your £14,000’. Not that I was expecting words of that nature, of course, but it still hurt. There was merely a short paragraph comprising of 4 sentences which spelled the end of my academic career that started all that time ago on that busy playground. I was pretty torn up.

Anyway, I’m lying in bed at 1.30am (it’ll probably be much later by the time I’ve finished this post)* and the rain is hammering against my window. I don’t think I’m going to get to sleep any time soon, so I want to get to the bottom of how this all happened. How did my time at university end with just a meaningless piece of paper as reward?

Academically, I struggle. In fact, since the age of about 13, I always have done. As a child, my parents and teachers agreed that I showed a lot of promise. I won an academic scholarship to my senior school, King’s Worcester, and immediately my every move became heavily scrutinised. Academic scholars were expected to set an example for others in their behaviour, work ethic and exam results. The truth was, I had never achieved proficiency in any of those three disciplines. I secured my scholarship through an aptitude for mental mathematics, a relatively good understanding of the English language and a decent grasp on the logic behind verbal reasoning.

My behaviourial record throughout school was poor. I recall a 5-day period in year 5 when, partners-in-crime in-tow, I appeared in the headmaster’s office every day. Even at an age when I would have been expected to be showing signs of maturity, I regularly found myself sitting in detention on a Wednesday afternoon while all my friends skipped merrily home. I actually bagged myself a Saturday morning detention for snapping a clothes peg off a changing room wall, but thankfully that particular punishment was cut short by an hour due to rugby commitments.

Maybe I’m exaggerating for effect. I wasn’t a rebel, and nor was I a notorious attention seeker. I was just a bored child who was completely disillusioned with the very concept of education.

My teachers were excellent, and must have despaired at my total lack of enthusiasm for their subject (ex-teachers, if you’re reading this – you were all great, thank you). Still, my academic performance was becoming a cause for serious concern. My distinctly average GCSE grades – 5 A’s, 3 B’s, 2 C’s – set in motion a drastic plan to rescue my university prospects.

Before long, an educational psychologist had been called in; I’d been instructed to spend all of my free periods in the library, I was assigned a personal mentor in the form of the (lovely) deputy headmaster Richard Chapman and I was required to collect weekly progress reports from all of my teachers.

No pressure then, Jonny.

Spending my school years in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral was an immense privilege.

Sixth form was a difficult time for me. Halfway through fifth form (year 11), I sustained a serious knee injury during a rugby match which ruled me out of all sport for a year. This came at a time when I was heavily involved in rugby, football, basketball and tennis.

When the physician broke the news to me, I wanted to cry for days on end. Confined to the library, it was heartbreaking to watch all my friends traipse happily off to the playing fields every Monday and Wednesday afternoon to enjoy the sports that I loved so much.

Not only did my abstinence from sport hurt me mentally, it also damaged me physically. Without regular exercise in my life, I started to put on weight pretty quickly. In my younger years, I was a decent athlete. Anyone who knows me will have heard how I came extremely close to representing my county at the 400 metres, and I regularly played A team rugby and football. On one occasion, I even snuck into the A team for cricket. It was infuriating, therefore, to lose all that hard-earned fitness in my year away from sport.

King’s was a great place to be at school, and I’ll always be inexpressibly grateful to my parents for sending me to be educated in such a pleasant environment. I still have many treasured friendships and memories from my 11 years there – it is a time that I’ll always look back upon with much fondness. Sadly, the same cannot be said regarding the decisions that I made about my future. Or, to be more specific, what influenced those decisions.

[At this point, I stopped writing and went to bed. The date is now the 1st of August, and once again I am lying in bed unable to sleep. My emotions are no longer raw, and the feeling of disappointment has subsided somewhat.]

I’d always had it drilled into me that the natural path for my life to take after school was the university one. After that, everything would just slot into place. However, as my time at school began to draw to a close, it became increasingly apparent to me that I was not cut out for academia.

Everyone kept talking about my ‘potential’, and how I wasn’t living up to it. The truth was, my potential never lay in school work. Notions of me attending one of the UK’s more prestigious universities started to dissipate as it became obvious that I wasn’t going to get the necessary grades. As a compromise, we started attending open days at (no disrespect intended) ‘less selective’ establishments – Northampton, Oxford Brookes, Salford, Aston, Lincoln and finally Portsmouth.

Through (limited) natural intelligence alone – I honestly can’t have done more than 10 hours of actual revision – I scraped three C’s at A level. It was enough to get me into my first choice of university, Portsmouth, but the overwhelming emotion felt on that day was relief, not joy.

Phew. Didn’t let anyone down.

Truly, I didn’t actually want to go to university. And if I did, it was for all the wrong reasons. I remember mulling over all the fun things that I’d miss out on if I didn’t go to Portsmouth, rather than being excited about the potential long-term benefits of gaining a degree in a subject that I supposedly enjoyed. I told my house tutor that I was considering going straight into employment after leaving King’s.
‘That sounds like a very sensible idea, Jonny’ was her reply; knowing smile and all. Maybe I should have heeded that smile.

Then again, maybe not. Whilst my time at university has come to an unsatisfactory conclusion, I can’t claim to have not developed as a person during my venture into higher education.

I’ve enjoyed four truly brilliant years at Portsmouth, and have learned many life lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. I spent a thoroughly challenging but equally enjoyable year as President of the Christian Union, organising – and the ‘etc’ is fully justified here – a weekend away, a carol service, two weeks of events…etc! I’ve had my heart set on sports journalism for a fair while, so in more recent times I have relished the opportunity to get involved in reporting for the sports section of the university newspaper. Two of my greatest passions are sport and writing, so what better career to pursue than one that combines the two?’

The city of Portsmouth is awesome, as are the people who inhabit it. The number of wedding invitations that I’ve received for this summer serves as an apt reminder as to just how dynamic and warm the social scene is in Portsmouth, and having my Grandma 20 minutes’ walk away made for unpredictable entertainment on an all too irregular basis. Only those who have been fortunate enough to meet the aforementioned Grandma will fully appreciate my use of the word ‘unpredictable’.

However, despite all the thrills and spills of the last four years, there is no hiding from the fact that I have failed in what I set out to achieve. I’ve covered the highs and lows that I experienced at school, and you’ve heard about the positives that I’ve drawn from my prolonged and unfruitful time at university, but now it’s time for the post-mortem.

I think I lack the motivation required to complete a degree. To be more specific, I hate learning for the sake of learning. If new knowledge serves a practical purpose and provides an immediate outcome, then I’ll lap it up and wrap it up.

I could, for example, label every English county, every US state and every country in the world without looking at a map. Those things were fun to learn, and are always useful in a pub quiz. However, writing a 3,000 word essay on how African Americans turned their service in war into civil rights is not going to directly enhance my ability to write an article on Worcestershire’s latest cricketing triumph. I’m aware that this isn’t a problem for most people, but my brain just ain’t wired that way.

It’s fair to say that, largely inadvertently, I’ve been under a considerable amount of pressure to succeed academically. I’m not pointing the finger here. Honestly, I’m not. I am solely responsible for the course that my life has taken thus far, and I will continue to shoulder that responsibility in the future.

However, both my parents are both Oxford graduates, two of my grandparents were Cambridge graduates and my education cost over £100,000. I know these are things that would give most people an advantage in life, but I think the personality and mindset of the individual plays a large role in determining whether that supposedly advantageous position works for or against them. In my case, I think the evidence points to against.

An overwhelming expectation to succeed, married to an apprehensive fear of failure.

I think this pressure is largely self-inflicted, a direct result of poor decision-making and misplaced motivation.

The truth is, though, that through all of the failures and successes, in all of the valleys and on all the mountain-tops, there has been one constant and that is my Lord Jesus Christ. He is my rock and my shelter, and in my weaknesses and my shortcomings his perfection is magnified. The world will look at the last 4 years of my life and tell me that I’m a failure. The world will look at my future and tell me that it is uncertain.

The world will stop at nothing to make me adhere to the standards that it sets. But when I come to Jesus, I know that he has already done everything that I need to be accepted, and I know that my future is in eternal glory with him!

Jesus took my sins and failures, and made them his own when he died on the cross. He loved me so much that not only did he want an eternal relationship with me, but he was willing to die in order to make that happen.

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” – Psalm 139:5

So whilst I’d have quite liked my time at university to have finished in a more positive manner, I am not afraid of what the future holds. I know that Jesus loves me more than I can possibly imagine, and I know he walks with me down every path – rocky or otherwise.

Sure, I’m going to have to learn how to manage my expectations and discover what stimulates my mind, but the one person whom I can never let down is Jesus because he already knows all of my weaknesses and stumbling blocks. In fact, he knows exactly what lies in store for me – how exciting is that?!

My plan now? I’m going to give my brain a rest. I’m taking a week’s holiday to Normandy with some friends, and when I return I’ll weigh up my options. I think the Lord is presenting me with several doors of opportunity, and I would appreciate your prayers as I seek his will in discerning which one to open.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading this testimony. I never intended for it to be this long, but once I started writing I just found I couldn’t stop.

Blessings,

Jonny.

 

*4 weeks later, in fact!

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Let’s Face It, The Best Health Service Is Always Free


I read a recent news article about a French lady, Isabelle Dinoire, who in 2005 became the first-ever person to undergo a face transplant. Isabelle’s tale is a truly horrifying one; allow me to quote the BBC website as I tell it to you.

“In a fit of depression in May 2005, Isabelle took an overdose of sleeping pills in an attempt to end her life.

“She awoke to find herself at home, lying beside a pool of blood, with her pet Labrador at her side. The dog had apparently found her unconscious, and desperate to rouse her, had gnawed away at her face. The injuries to her mouth, nose and chin were so extreme that doctors immediately ruled out a routine face reconstruction. Instead they proposed a ground-breaking face transplant.

Isabelle

“Dinoire’s delight at her new face, however, quickly turned sour. She was completely unprepared for the attention her case brought her. Pursued by the media, harassed by passers-by and curious onlookers, Dinoire spent months after the operation hidden away at home, not daring to venture out.

“Nowadays, people still recognise her around town, but the attention is “not as brutal” as before, she says.

“”With time I have got used to my own face. This is what I look like, what I am like, who I am. If people stare at me insistently, I don’t care any more, I just stare back!” she says, with a hint of a smile.

“But has her personality changed as well as her outward appearance? “No” she replies quickly, “I am the same, just with a different face.””

I found this account of Isabelle’s life fascinating, first and foremost because it reminded me of the 90’s film “Face Off” starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, but also because this is a suicidal woman who, in one dramatic evening, had her life turned into a living hell but has come out of her ordeal with a more positive mentality than previous. Her case is fairly unique, and here’s why.

1. Her suicide attempt worsened her appearance, yet her desire to end her life has gone. Dinoire went from having a “normal” face and feeling suicidal to having a scarred, misshapen and transplanted face but being happy to declare that she is comfortable with who she is. The general trend is that the more distinct your abnormalities are, the more depressed you become about them. Yet when Dinoire was made to appreciate where true beauty lay, she realised that maybe this life is worth a shot. Let’s pray that any inclinations towards suicide would subside.

2. Everyone knows who she is and what she tried to do, yet she pities them rather than herself. She found herself dealing with tormentors, bullies and sneering onlookers, people who took great amusement in her obvious misfortune. How does she respond? “I just stare back,” says Isabelle. “I don’t care any more.” Through her reaction to both her situation and to the attitude of those around her, she’s able to practise incredible grace and forgiveness. What a great example Dinoire is of how we mustn’t let the words and actions of others dictate the sort of person we become.

So, Jonny, it’s an interesting article but that doesn’t really explain why are you discussing it on your blog. Let me fill in the cracks. As I read through this article I started drawing parallels between this woman’s ordeal and the Christian life. They weren’t all direct parallels, but there were several thought-provoking admonitions littered between the lines. Here are three Christian lessons that I drew from this article:

1. It’s human nature to allow curiosity to dictate our actions, regardless of whether we intend it to. Sadly this can often see us imposing ourselves on others unintentionally. All too often we become the curious onlooker-turned-tormentor that Dinoire talks about – we want to know why A broke up with B, why H wasn’t singing at church in the morning, or – in this case – how this lady came to look so peculiar. It’s just a habit – we’re all on a knowledge trip, aren’t we? We live in a sea of curiosity, but maybe it would be good for us to swim up to the surface for a big gulp of perspective every once in a while.

2. When we become Christians we are different, with just the same face. That is to say, when we find our transformation through Christ, something inside us changes that makes us new, beautiful, gracious and hopeful people. Isabelle Dinoire tells us about how she’s remained the same person on the inside despite her change of face, and it’s great that she’s not allowed her operation to be a stumbling block, but when we walk with Christ we gain much more than that. The Scriptures tell us [Galatians 4:6] that “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  Everything about us apart from our face changes [unless you’re a “shave-once-a-month” kinda guy].

3. The medicines of this world, whilst brilliant, do not compare with the miracles of God. The most advanced transplant available to this woman still left her physically scarred. Medical treatment is great, and it’s developed a remarkable amount in a very short space of time, but this article serves as a reminder that science’s best efforts pale into insignificance when compared with the supernatural feats of an almighty God. I’m referring to resurrections, the removal of lepresy, the curing of blindness and the healing of cripples. I’m also talking about the most significant healing that has ever occurred, and the only one that holds eternal significance – the removal of our sin, through Jesus’ death on the cross. Just like the NHS, this particular health service is free. Unlike the NHS, it comes with the rather generous freebie of a life in heaven with the God of the universe for the rest of time.

Beats a free bottle of shampoo and a box of tissues.

Salvation’s Song


The Christian music scene of today is a mixed bag. There are some extremely gifted songwriters who write very heartfelt, Gospel-focused songs and there are those who write rather more fluffy love songs which could probably be sung to a boy/girl friend [delete as appropriate].

In my opinion, a good hymn should sing of God’s loving grace, promises, sacrifice and might. I do go through phases of listening to different hymns, but this song has been at the top of my playlist for a good couple of years and is beautifully written.

Go For The Hard Cell


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a Christian at University, and how exactly I/we fit into society and the church. I have often marvelled at how the life a student leads is perpetually estranged from the “real world”, and how we as students tend to warmly embrace this unhealthy notion by pro-actively ensuring that our contact with those outside of University circles is restricted to a few words over a shop counter. The average modern day student, Christian or not, seems to have a chip in their brain which convinces them that they are the centre of the world/ are in some way different to the rest of society in terms of what they are entitled to. Admittedly the blame does not fall completely at the feet of the student – you need only walk down the High Street to see that shops and businesses have identified students as a key target market in their advertising campaigns – but It saddens me that this is a particularly common problem within Christian circles. That sounds a little harsh, I know, but please give me a couple of minutes to provoke a thought or two.

In relation to my introductory paragraph, I would like to call into question the helpfulness of the infamous “Student Cell Group.” I’m aware that they’re hardly a new phenomenon, and most churches these days seem to have adopted them into their vision, but I’m unconvinced that they hold a great deal of value [although I do appreciate that there are advantages to them].  I was having a conversation with my Pastors at the beginning of the summer about how to cater for the students at my home church, and they were quick to point out that students, of all people, do not need “catering” for. Students have the most time and energy out of everyone so surely, they reasoned, it is only logical that we are the ones doing the giving? We discussed the pros and cons of setting up a student study group at the church, and arrived at the conclusion that it was neither a biblical nor a beneficial move for the students and church alike. Why, Pastors Roy and Ryan reasoned, should students feel the need to separate themselves from the rest of the church when in Jesus’ eyes they are deemed the same as all other adults? At what age do young adults stop considering themselves to be walking the Christian faith differently to other folk in the church and instead embrace the wisdom and experience that they can glean from those who have already been through University and the world of work?

This also raises the question as to where in the Bible we are instructed to slice the church into age brackets and enforce exclusivity. I would suggest that a glance at the Early Church shows us that folk from every background imaginable met together and enjoyed one another’s fellowship. I’m aware that it’s much more cosy/easy to just hide away from everyone else in our little student world and set up what I now like to call “Cell lite” [because how can we get the full meat out of a discussion if everyone involved has the same experience?], but Jesus doesn’t instruct us to seek out convenience and exclusivity. Church is about meeting under Jesus’ name with all of his family together – young, old, poor, rich, funny, annoying. Sometimes you have to put up with it, but tolerance teaches patience and patience is a fantastic Fruit of the Spirit. Can we get a more perfect example of how to do fellowship  than Jesus, who spent loads of time hanging out with some spectacularly diverse groups of people from many different walks of life? Acts 20:35 and Leviticus 19:32 also spring to mind.

You [the young adult] also have to remember that when you go to a mixed-age house group, you become an incredible blessing to the elderly folk with whom you have fellowship. Imagine yourself, if you will, at the age of 80. Do you not think it would be a little saddening to see a Christian generation growing up intent on separating themselves from you and your peers and you’re not really sure why. When the young you shows a desire to invest time and interest into sharing your Christian experiences with the unemployed man in his mid-40s or the 60 year-old cleaning lady, it is immeasurably more rewarding than discussing the quotidian nuances of University life. Although it is not always the case, most Christians tend to grow in maturity and wisdom through time. That man in his mid 40s and that 60 year old lady will have an excellent grasp of the scriptures and a wiser head upon their shoulders. Obviously I generalise somewhat, but it’s undeniably a trend. Does your church have mixed-age cell groups? If so, I encourage you to attend one of them.

I appreciate that there are a lot of stones that I’ve left unturned, some of them rather heavier than others. I hope you have felt sufficiently challenged by this article to leave a comment, drop me an email or – even better – just “Go For The Hard Cell”.

Star Wars and The Gospel: A Formidable Combination


This is a fantastic video of a young girl summarising the plot of one of the Star Wars movies through the eyes of a 3 year old. Whilst some of us might chuckle at her childish interpretations, it’s actually a surprisingly accurate review! Being young and culturally/socially ignorant means that she literally tells the story as she sees it, making for some simple but refreshing feedback.

Sometimes I feel we can get so caught up in the ins and outs of the Gospel that we lose our focus on the basics of it! Maybe if we were to hammer home the essentials of Jesus’ life and death, our understanding would be clearer and our faith would be more defined. As Jesus says in Luke 18:17: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Blessings.

A Brighton Diary


For those of you who were unable to be in attendance, or are simply curious to know what we got up to, here’s a breviloquent review of the recent Portsmouth Christian Union Weekend Away to Brighton.

Patrick and I arrived several hours before the rest of the group. We were welcomed to our home for the Weekend, Holland Road Baptist Church, by a friendly Church Manager [Sean]. He showed us the ropes, threw a few health and safety guidelines our way and got us very excited about the prospect of boiling hot water on tap. Tour over, it was time to set about making last-minute preparations for what promised to be a very exhausting but also very exciting weekend. We still had a couple of hours to burn before folk started arriving, so Patrick and I [hand-in-hand] decided to venture out into the uncharted depths of Hove.

We set off in the vague direction of the County Cricket Ground, hoping to find a place for us all to stand and watch their Saturday night fireworks display without having to pay the £10 entrance fee. A fifteen minute loop around the stadium was sufficient exercise to find a chink in the Cricket Ground’s armour. Between a block of flats and a row of houses, a view of the playing field was afforded to us. It would, we reasoned, have to suffice. We made the short walk back to Holland Road and settled down on sofas for a game of chess. For the record, I won.

James and Nick arrived about an hour later in James’s car, and promptly absconded in search of the local supermarket. Their brief: purchase enough sustenance to feed 30 hungry mouths for two days. I was rubbing my hands with glee in anticipation of Nick’s culinary delights. He is quite the cook. Anyway, the main group [having missed their initial train] arrived a little later than expected so we greeted one another with a brotherly kiss [or not], dumped our bags and headed straight to the meeting hall. After the initial welcome, I invited our speaker for the Weekend – Gareth Leaney, from UCCF – to come up and bring us the first of his three messages from the book of Jonah. Gareth was a blessing to us throughout the Weekend, and I think we unanimously agreed that his teaching was both challenging and refreshing.
We wrapped things up with a time of prayer, and spent the rest of the evening playing games and getting to know one another a little better. I hit the sack early [1am] in anticipation of a long day ahead.

As foreseen, Saturday was indeed a busy day. The Committee and I were up at 7.30am to pray and run through the plans for the day. Breakfast was followed by our second meeting, in which we looked at Jonah 2.

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

I used the 90 minutes before lunch to rush into the town centre, purchase additional underwear [I was a pair short for the Weekend!] and pick up a couple of other bits and bobs. After lunch the more industrious members of the group got their heads down and set about working on various bits of Uni work. The majority of us meandered down to Brighton seafront – not a patch on Portsmouth, but worth a visit nonetheless. It was at this stage of the proceedings that pop music’s latest sensation, the aptly named “Wrong Direction“, were subjected to their first official band shoot. I’m utterly convinced that there’s a Wrong Direction-shaped gap in the music industry…

5pm signalled the beginning of our final meeting of the Weekend. Gareth talked to us about Jonah 3 & 4, and we were able to enjoy a healthy time of discussion. We were challenged to share our thoughts on how we could individually and collectively aid the effectiveness of the Christian Union in its mission to share Jesus’ name with the rest of our University.

“Let everyone call urgently on God.”

We thanked Gareth for the sacrifice of his time [and his sanity], and bade him farewell. I am still debating whether his questionable decision to wear a pink cardigan around Brighton for the day was extremely bold or extremely foolish. Gareth was adamant that it was red, but I daresay that some of the Brighton residents may have thought otherwise.

One of the disappointments of the weekend was that there were no major injuries. Ben Putt, the chap I worked for at Gaines Christian Youth Centre, used to run camps with the view that “if no-one ends up in hospital, it’s a poor weekend.” Whilst I am sure that Ben was joking [and so am I], I fully empathise with what he’s saying. Far too often do we wrap ourselves and those for whom we are responsible in cotton wool, when really there’s a lot of fun to be had in flying by the seat of our pants. I was placing my hope of an injury in two things: the evening Fireworks display, and the ensuing quiz that I’d prepared.

We arrived at our viewpoint about 30 minutes before the fireworks were due to kick off. As anticipated, the crowds were starting to gather [due to this being the only location from where the fireworks could be properly seen for free]. We passed the time by singing songs, recounting endless tales of firework displays bygone and debating the legality of lighting sparklers in a public place. To be honest, the display itself was ridiculously long. I’m not sure if the Cricket Club felt some sort of obligation to make their fireworks last as long as their sport, but when they eventually came to some sort of halt after 45 minutes we promptly decided that we didn’t want to find out. They might, I thought, just be stopping for tea.

If they were stopping for tea, I’m confident that it can’t have been better than what we ate. There is something profoundly gratifying about having 30 portions of Fish and Chips delivered to your doorstep, especially when they’re obtained at a significantly cut price. Nothing can quite beat the gratification of their consumption, though. When we were all fed and watered, we turned our attention to the evening’s final event. The quiz turned out to be a deeply intellectual affair. Whilst Paxman’s job is probably safe, I’m optimistic that a CU quiz team would give Portsmouth’s University Challenge team a good run for their money. The only bitter pill was that the person from Wimbledon wasn’t able to identify Court Number One of the All England Tennis Club. The team called “In Wilson We Trust” pulled off a fine victory. No surprises there.

As is natural and proper, bedtime was followed by breakfast time – bacon and sausages, courtesy of Nick and a couple of others. I decided that an hour would be needed to tidy and clean the place up, with the aim being that we’d be out of the church by 9am. 8:45, and the last speck of dust settled in the hoover bag. Lavatories were sparkling, carpets were spotless and bags were neatly [!] stacked downstairs. The church service started at 10:30, so we trooped off to the nearest Starbucks and lounged about on their sofas with an array of fancy drinks at our fingers. I don’t think the coffee shop staff knew quite what had hit them, but it was probably one of their more profitable Sunday mornings for a while.

“I really enjoyed the church service, but would have liked to be slightly more awake” – Catherine Orr. In hindsight, probably a fair review of how the rest of the morning went, and one that I can definitely associate with. I should probably clarify that our state of fatigue was not a reflection of the quality of Holland Road’s service – it was actually right up my street! I’d seen 3am as being a reasonable time to retire on Saturday night, so credit must go to Marla-Joy for constantly pointing things out that kept me both awake and amused. I’d like to reiterate my thanks to Holland Road for accommodating us – it really was an ideal venue.

We rounded off the Weekend in fine fashion – a full Sunday Roast, followed by a short time of prayer and thanksgiving. Feeling that time had flown by far too quickly, and wishing that we had a longer period of time to spend together, we left the Church and caught the train home. Actually, that should read “we caught the train, the bus and then another train home” because Southern Rail, in their infinite wisdom, decided that Sunday afternoon would be the ideal time to perform repairs on the line. When it comes to use of public transport, I’m about as useful as a deep fat fryer in an ice cream factory, so it was definitely thanks to God that we were able to make it back to Portsmouth without any disasters or delays. In fact, we had the added bonus of occupying the whole top story of the double-decker bus, so [being good Christians] we decided it was the ideal opportunity to break out in choruses from “Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat.” I’m not sure what the other passengers made of the whole ordeal, but we found it to be rather amusing and passed it off as evangelism.

I’d like to extend particular gratitude to the rest of the CU Committee for putting in so much time and effort, and helping things to run so smoothly. I’d also like to offer my thanks to Nick and James who were instrumental in making the kitchen work so efficiently, Andy for running the Powerpoint, Hannah for being a willing driver and everyone else who in some way contributed towards making the Weekend such an enjoyable time. Harriet also demands thanks for constantly nagging me to finish this post.

Praise the Lord for his goodness and his mercies that he poured out on us, and for drawing us all closer together as a CU.

Blessings.