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.



Maybe we should all be a little more Amish

For all its bad press, the USA is a remarkably beautiful country. We [the Wilson family] recently returned from there, having spent a delightful three weeks holidaying in various parts of the country. We spent 5 days in Philadelphia, mid-hurricane, and it was great to catch up with old friends who are dotted around the city. We then flew to Denver, rented an RV and spent 2 weeks touring the Rocky Mountains and several National Parks, The Grand Canyon included, en route to Las Vegas. It came as a relief that we only had to spend one night in “Sin City” – interesting as it was, it was also a very depressing place to stay.

Whilst in PA, we had the chance to visit Washington DC [where we saw President Obama]. We also enjoyed a trip out to Lancaster County, home of the Amish people. I enjoyed every day of our holiday, but I think this was probably the most memorable of the lot; not because of any incredible event that took place, and definitely not because the scenery was remarkable [we have our fair share of fields in England]. I just found the Amish people to be a very interesting case of extreme living – technology is readily available to them, yet they choose to stick to less conventional and more traditional methods of travel, communication and medication.

I’m unsure what to make of the Amish. I disagree with a lot of their interpretations of scripture, and as far as I could tell most of their principles had double standards. I was amused to see a woman tie up her horse-drawn wagon outside her house whilst jabbering away to someone on her mobile. Yet I can’t help but feel slightly attracted to their way of life, and I definitely think that it wouldn’t hurt for a lot of Westerners to take a few leaves out of the Amish peoples’ book. I can’t see much wrong with living a life of simplicity, starting from humble beginnings and living in a modest homestead. I’d like to think that Christians would sooner take that lifestyle than one where material wealth and possessions are the focal point of our being. I also believe that, as followers of Christ [who suffered the ultimate suffering and humiliation], we would be more than willing to give up all worldly things we hold dear and live a simple life. Here are some points on which I agree with the Amish:

1. We need to be responsible stewards of our planet. There is no doubt that the Amish take exceptional care of the world they live in, that they have a minuscule carbon footprint and that they probably get pretty annoyed at everyone else burning gaping holes in the Ozone layer. If we all lived like the Amish, we wouldn’t even know there was an Ozone layer to worry about! Sounds refreshing to me.

2. Self-indulgence is a sin. 1 Timothy 6:17 is probably the passage I would normally turn to in this instance. That’s not to say that God doesn’t want us to enjoy the things he’s made for us! We just need to discern the point at which we stop serving God and start serving ourselves. The Bible consistently makes it clear that, when it comes to it, it’s better to give everything up and follow Christ fully than to cling onto the things of the world and follow Christ with half-heartedness

3. Horses are more fun than cars. I think life would be a lot more enjoyable if we still rode everywhere in a horse and cart. Admittedly the Amish seemed a miserable bunch, but I’m confident we could make things work.

So I’ve blown the Amish trumpet pretty loudly so far, but unfortunately they wouldn’t allow me to use a PA system so I’m going to voice my disagreements a little more vigorously. I am partially sympathetic with their ideologies, but on the whole they annoy me. Here’s what I have against their philosophy:

1. They are a cult, and not a branch of Christianity. The Amish people believe in salvation by works – that is, a person’s life is weighed up by God when it reaches its culmination, and if God declares them to have met his “standards” then they spend eternity in his presence. The catch is that no-one’s quite sure of what standards they are required to meet, so from a young age the Amish find themselves imprisoned in a vicious society that requires perfection for fear of being insufficient. It’s a message that completely contradicts that of the gospel.

2. They have a selfish attitude. Surely people who live in such an extreme way have an important reason for doing so? And if the Amish really believe that they are enlightened in their beliefs then it is surely appalling that they’re not doing anything to convince others of [what they believe is] the truth. Christians believe evangelism to be an essential part of their faith – once you’ve heard the good news, it’s only natural that you want others to know about it too. Yet the only visible sign of “Amish Evangelism” was a collection of leaflets in a shop that explained what it meant to be Amish, and I have a feeling that they were more heavily aimed at the tourist trade than anything else.

3. They’re a moody bunch! I struggle to remember seeing a single Amish person who took joy in what they were up to. Folk scowled at us as we drove by them in their carts, the lady behind the shop counter seemed immune to my attempts to strike up conversation. They didn’t seem to have much to be cheerful about. The sermon preached at my church last Sunday was on Philippians 4, where we read that we are to “Rejoice in the Lord always”. What the apostle Paul means by this is that we are to be filled with joy and thankfulness when we receive blessings, and be filled with comfort and strength when we don’t like our situation. We are to draw upon the Lord and be reflective of his glory and grace.

I do think that we should all be a little more Amish though. They do get some things right.


Where do I call home?

My recent return to Worcester marked the end of what I worked out to be the longest period of time I’ve ever spent away from my city of birth (with the obvious exception of my 28 months in Philadelphia). This was a sobering realisation, and one that initiated a lengthy but insubstantial five minutes of cogitation as I reflected upon a question that I’d never had to ask myself before: “Where do I call home?”

Naturally, the initial contention in my mind involved a conflict of loyalties. In the blue corner of the metaphorical ring of allegiance stood the defending (and undefeated) heavyweight champion – my home town, Worcester. In the red corner was the challenger – my university town, Portsmouth.

Now whilst this is hardly one of life’s more important enigmas, it is still one that balances values of sentiment with security. In that five-minute period of cognitive pondering, I unsurprisingly arrived at no definitive conclusion. It was only several days later that I finally realised where my home truly is. It occurred to me that it is highly unlikely that I will spend the rest of my life in Worcester or Portsmouth, or in any other place for that matter. I can’t get into a habit of wondering where “home” really is whenever I change location! I shouldn’t be getting too attached to anywhere or anything, but rather making the most of any situation that I find myself in or any opportunity that is placed in my path. This passage from Matthew sprung immediately to mind:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus tells me that whatever I store up and treasure in my house on Earth is useless. In fact, many of the things I store up in my heart are useless too, but it is those things that will count in eternity! My true home isn’t Portsmouth, Worcester or any other place on this Earth. It’s not a place where things perish and fade. My true home is with my Father in heaven! Jesus has even prepared a place for me there – “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

Not even Homebase can compete with that!

I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I last blogged. There have been several issues and stories which I would liked to have shared, but my literary and creative shortcomings have been all too evident in my futile attempts to express my opinions in a comprehensive and meaningful manner. Alas, I speak no more.


Camp France 2010 Diary – Part 3

This is the final instalment in my three-part diary journaling my experiences and thoughts on Camp France 2010.

Three days gone already, but another three days to go. Friday morning brought about a fresh sense of anticipation – we were going to the mountains! Not only that, but the weather had taken a turn for the better. Sunshine winked through the trees at us, and glimmered off the morning dew. Excitement had spread through the group like a piquant and agreeable odour. The routine scramble for a good seat in the vans ensued – a good seat had several varying attributes. Here is what went through some people’s heads when deliberating over seat choices:

– Is the seat by a window?

– How many of my “top 10” friends are in that van?

– Which CD does that van have? Everyone knows CD1 is lame!

– Is my boyfriend in that van?

– Is my girlfriend in that van?

– Which van has the most candy left in the box?

– Where’s Jonny sitting? He makes everything more fun.

– Is it Kirst’s birthday? No. Good, I don’t have to sit by her.

– Which van is the Tete de Moine cheese being kept in?

Although I can’t confirm the criteria on the list to be 100% accurate, I think it’s probably safe to assume that it is. Sadly, Abi was ill so missed out on the excursion. This was made even more painful by the fact that it was her birthday! Anyway, the Swiss Alps were breathtakingly beautiful. We visited Isenfluh, the same mountain we ascended two years ago, but this time around I felt more appreciative of my surroundings than before. I’ve put this down to the fact that I’d spent a month trekking in the Himalayas just two weeks before Camp France last time. A definite highlight from the whole trip was Larry’s “sermon on the mount” – not so much a sermon, but hearing God’s word preached to us in all the glory and majesty of his creation was a truly remarkable experience.

Many Wilson TV interviews and crazy stick-throwing championships later, we descended the mountain on large scooter-come-bikes, or “trotty” bikes as we called them. This was good fun, and I’m glad to report there were

no broken bones or significant injuries. Not even the miserable lady who rented the bikes out to us and owned the restaurant on the mountain could ruin the experience, despite her best efforts. I think she’d fallen off one too many trotty bikes in her day.

The Cailler chocolate factory provided the afternoon entertainment. Ooh la la! There was a lot of chocolate, and annoyingly I didn’t have much of an appetite. General consensus was that the milk chocolate was delicious, but the rest was pretty ordinary. Remembering Abi, we bought plenty of confectionery to take back for her. I’m sure she was delighted when, having been retching all night, we brought her back about 7000 bars of chocolate.

Saturday was pleasantly laid back. We visited Basel, the third largest city in Switzerland (pop. 190,000). It was good to just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the shops and streets, although at one point in the day we were approached by a bunch of weirdos who were getting married the next day and basically tried to rob us of anything we possessed that held some sort of financial value under the pretence that it was a tradition. In return, they were offering an old earring. but we weren’t falling for that old trick. They kept pressing us:

“Are you sure you don’t have anything you can swap with us?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I’m always sure. Or, at least I think I am?”

We escaped.

Let’s wrap things up quickly now. On Sunday morning we attended our hosts’ church – unfortunately for the uneducated amongst us, nominally myself, the whole service was in German. We were under the impression that we would have someone translating for us, but alas…no such luck. Not to worry, it was interesting regardless and we were at least able to understand the words “Betty Bossi.” Don’t ask.

On the downside, it was ridiculously hot in that room – I estimated that I lost 54 gallons of water through sweat in the 90 minutes we spent there. Heavy investment in air conditioning would certainly not go amiss!

The afternoon provided us with plenty of laughs. The Kineman family photoshoot culminated in the three unsuspecting Kineman kids – Mike, Bec and Kirst – getting drenched by buckets of water that were tipped from above by, well, everyone else. Mike, not one to sit back and be humiliated, took a swift revenge that involved wet underwear at the Monday morning breakfast table. On Sunday evening we took a trip up to some castle ruins, where we lit up a bonfire and took communion and s’mores together. That was a fine ending to a great week. Ryan, our youth leader, challenged every one of us to take greater steps of faith and asked us what we personally had taken from the week. It was a great encouragement to hear what some people had to say, and made me wonder whether I’d taken this opportunity to develop my faith as much as I might have. In absolute retrospect now, I’d have to say no. My mindset going into Camp France was that of someone going on holiday, not that of a Christian ready to be filled with the love of God and the message of his word. I’m disappointed in myself for that. I like to think that in this last year my faith has really grown and I have developed to be a true man of Christ. Yet when I think about my conduct and my attitude, I find it hard to see God’s love reflected in my behaviour and my interests. Sort it out Wilson.

The rest is history. The trip home was slightly shorter than the outgoing journey (because we didn’t get lost), although it involved dirty underwear for a couple of the guys and some equally dirty poker playing. I soon ended that nonsense with some clean, honest royal flushes and a couple of full houses. To be brutally honest, the opposition was of a low and disappointing standard. Still, a win’s a win!

On that note, I’d like to thank you for reading the Camp France 2010 Diary. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from writing all these thoughts and memories down, and I hope you have too.


Camp France 2010 Diary – Part 2

Sorry for the delay, I’ve had a busy coupla days!

Anyways, when I left you last we had just escaped the clutches of the Cheesemakery, and were headed off to a beautiful lake for lunch. I was a little apprehensive to begin with; I’d been to plenty of lakes in my time, and the incentive of eating a sandwich by another one hardly justified an hour-long drive. I was wrong. For a lot of people, the 3 hours were the best of the whole trip. Allow me to recount my steps:

– We arrived in fgodfdsfhas, a small town by the beautiful lake of sfdgaperwc.

– We ate our lunch. For me, this comprised of a crisp ‘n’ ham sandwich. Nom nom nom.

– We got handed an hour of free time to spend as we please. “But there’s nothing to do!!”

– Out of the corner of my eye, I see some sea kayaks and a small hut situated by the lake. Interesting…

– Afraid to go alone, I gather some minions and venture toward a woman lounging near said hut. Here goes nothing!

– I notice a sign and stop to read it. The words “bateau à moteur” leap out at me. You can do the translation.

– Soon after this, the number “40” plays its part. 40 francs, that is, the cost for 6 people to use a motor boat for one hour. That equivocates to around £25. You do the math.

– My excitement spreads like wildfire. Some people eye up the pedalos, but the sensible ones hop on a motor boat and we speed off into the sunset.

– Within 10 minutes the other guys have followed suit. Soon there are 3 motorboats of English teens out in the middle of a Swiss lake, swimming and splashing and having a great time, basking in the glorious sunshine and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly made that experience so memorable. Was it the spontaneity of it all? Was it the stunning surroundings? Or was it simply the laughter and banter that the day was so fraught with? In my mind, it’s insignificant. Mike Kineman, a friend and brother in Christ, put it like this:

“I was grinning from ear to ear.”

Now, if you know Mike then you’ll know that he takes any opportunity available to flash his pearly whites in public – rumour has it that they glow in the dark – but I think Mike summed up the mood of the group very well in those seven words.

What did I personally take from that afternoon? I did a lot of thinking throughout the week, mostly with an open bible. One thing that I particularly like to reflect on is the manner in which I have conducted myself during that day, and I often do that by sitting down before I go to bed and assessing myself. Here is my “self-assessment” from Thursday:

Love: Surrounded by amazing people and an amazing creation, it was hard to not be filled with love for those around me and most of all for my amazing and sovereign creator God.

Joy: Much joy.

Peace: Lots of outer peace, but inside I think I always seemed to be wanting something else from the day. Greed? Covetousness?

Patience: Weak. Exposed weakness of character in my inability to respect authority and the decisions of those wiser than me. Have been proven wrong time and time again. Work on grace and understanding.

Kindness: WWJD? Cliché, but an excellent way to stop and think before you speak. Encourage, rather than oppress. Know when to stop

Goodness: No notes

Faithfulness: No notes

Gentleness: Work on modesty. Don’t be boastful when you do something. Acknowledge and encourage those with spiritual gifts.

Self-control: Getting better. Remember, Satan will do anything to get a foothold. Resist even the most innocent-looking temptations.

Looking back over this FOTS self-critique, the one that remains most vivid in my memory is “gentleness.” Also referred to as meekness, gentleness is a key fruit of the spirit because it not only helps to build others up in Christ but it is also an excellent way to share the love of Jesus with those who have not yet come to know him. On Thursday, I did not show humility and meekness. I was boastful, arrogant and self-conceited. The cause of this attention-seeking was my discovery of the hire boats. I saw the joy of those around me, I saw Mike grinning from ear-to-ear, and something inside of me was telling me that I had brought about this happiness. The same something was also telling me that I deserved recognition for it, and as a result I found myself constantly reminding my friends that “this was my idea,” and “I saw the boats first.” Why?

1 Corinthians 1:31b reads thus: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

My boats boast – there’s an interesting pair of anagrams – is an issue that Paul addresses in his letter to the church in Corinth. Boastfulness. The Corinthian church fails, time and time again, to recognise that their gifts are from God. They take enjoyment in self-glorification and self-gratification, ignoring the true provider of all things good – their heavenly father.

Well I started this post with the intention of filling you in on the rest of my Camp France 2010 diary, but inevitably I’ve hit a (relevant) tangent and have only covered a period of about four hours. At this rate of 884 words – no, 888 now – for four hours I’m gonna take approximately 21600 words to journal all the events of the holiday. Eeek.

                   Anyways, that’s me for today. Blessings.

Camp France 2010 Diary – Part 1

Last night I got back from Camp France 2010, a youth retreat with about 20 youth of a similar age to myself. Loaded up in three vans, we embarked upon an epic roadtrip that spanned three countries and featured a ferry, the dragon James Khan and me putting my hand in vomit.

Being stuck in a van with the same 8 people for such a prolonged period of time – about 18 hours, in fact – was no easy thing. Inevitably people were going to get hungry and tired, and in some cases need the toilet every 30 minutes. We got lost several times, and turned up two hours later than we had originally intended. In hindsight, though, the hours spent in the van were in fact some of the best from the trip. Whether we were screaming out the words to Bohemian Rhapsody with all the air in our lungs or just playing a cheeky game of poker (at which the back row persistently cheated), we found ways to keep our spirits high and our bladders shy.

The first couple of days flew by. We stayed in a large farmhouse on the Swiss/French border – the girls stayed in the house itself, the boys were spread across outhouses, barns and tents. The weather wasn’t doing anything special – we actually had a fair amount of rain – but we were quite happy to just chill out and enjoy the beautiful rustic scenery that we were surrounded by. The guys helped out around the farm a bit, the girls went shopping. Stereotypes needed to be fulfilled at some stage!

Wednesday morning brought about Kirst’s birthday, and her excitement was infectious. We set off at about 9.30am, and the first thing on the agenda was to look around a small town situated nearby. It was extremely pretty, but the thing that will stick most in the memory for me was a cat we saw there. I kid you not, this unfortunate puss was sporting a toothbrush moustache that bore an uncanny resemblance to Hitler’s. The only difference, I guess, was that this cat was more of a “fur”er than a Fuhrer.

In the afternoon we had the privilege of feeding monkeys popcorn from out of our hands. Seeing a man being kung-fu kicked by a monkey made that definitely a worthwhile experience; it was like something out of a Jackie Chan movie from the 90’s. Reminded me of a young Jonny Wilson. Brutal.

“It’s surprisingly exhausting being a good friend.”

These are the words of Albert Einstein, arguably the cleverest man who ever lived. Well, he might have said them at some point in his life. Anyways, the point is that being around Kirst on her birthday – constantly laughing and joking around and taking insults on the chin in the knowledge that for the other 364 days of the year you can hand them out like candy – is an energy-draining experience. Prompted by the prospect of an early start the next morning, I hit the sack at approx. 10.30 on Wednesday night and woke up fresh and ready to visit the cheese factory. No amount of sleep could have prepared me for what came next, though.

In hindsight, the smell could have been worse. If all the workers at the “Cheesemakery” had eaten curry the night before and left a couple of dead bodies lying around the place, the stench-o-meter may have been tipped to breaking point. As it was, we held our breath (and our nerve) and survived the deepest echelons of Swiss cheese-making that remain available to the public. We didn’t hang around for too long which meant I didn’t have time to think up any cheesy jokes, but that may be a blessing (not) in disguise as I heard there have been 11 deaths related to the potency of the cheese aroma in the last 12 months. That’s nearly one a month!

On the plus side, I did get a free foam wheel of cheese. A tour guide who was dressed as a monk (he assured us he wasn’t gay) had the kindness in his heart to gift me a splendid souvenir which turned the hearts of memorabilia-loving Mike and Luke a deep green with pure and unblemished envy.

Anyways, I need some sleep so I’ll finish the journalling of the week some other time when my energy levels are higher and my wit is sharper.



Isn’t it strange how conflicted the human race is in its ideals, culture, traditions, language and politics? Rarely do we view humanity as an entity; rather as an incoherent collection of countries and nationalities that have unwillingly and unwittingly been forced to share the same planet. In the midst of the “us vs the world” stance that political journals and newspapers contaminate society with, it is difficult to take a step back and view mankind as it really is; a nationality in its own right.

What makes a country a country? I browsed some websites, and found this definition which I thought pretty much nailed it on the head:

“A country is a tightly-knit group of people which share a common culture”

It’s as simple as that. One country is set apart from another country because it has its own unique identity.  If Afghanistan were to have the same moral code as the USA then the “War on Terror” would never have needed take place. If every nation was run by the same politics and had similar natural resources, then war would be unlikely and unnecessary. It sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it totally is.

Then again, certain aspects of a country’s identity will be appealing – thus tourism is born. Americans visit Paris because it is considered the city of romance. Millions of holidaymakers flock to Australia to witness the beautiful natural scenery and the incredible wildlife. So diversity of culture not only sets countries apart, but it also brings them together. What a sweet romance.

Romanticising aside, I do consider it of utmost importance that we should embrace the bigger picture. It’s only too easy to start talking about how proud we are of Britain and our magnificent heritage, but give this a thought – you could so easily have been born into the 60% of people living below the poverty line on this planet. You didn’t do anything to deserve Britain – you have to earn the privileges that are handed to you, remembering the less fortunate members of the human race who inhabit the same planet as you.