Thursday 23 August 2012

An ALARMing story

In memory of the flat we've just moved out of,  I thought I'd tell you a little story.  Some of you will have heard this story.  But you might like to hear it again anyways...

One sunny morning in early October last year, the newly-weds stirred slowly in their new bedroom in their new flat.  (In their not new, rather uncomfortable sofa bed.  But that's beside the point).  They'd only got back from honeymoon a couple of days before.  Hubby kindly offered to cook breakfast.  Wifey sat in the sunny living room, enjoying the big bay window looking out onto a quiet terraced street and the smells of bacon wafting down the hallway from the kitchen.  All of a sudden her sleepy reverie was rudely interrupted by the most hideously loud alarm you can imagine.  Wifey remembered the landlord showing them the control board for the fire alarm should it go off.  So she ran out the front door into the corridor of the building they shared with 3 other flats.  But the alarm was so loud that any trace of rational thought residing in her still half asleep brain was blasted to pieces.  She had no idea which buttons to press to silence the awful noise.  So wifey hurried back inside and gestured frantically for hubby to come and help.  He left the bacon on the hob and stepped out into the corridor.  As he stood in front of the control board, keying in the code, the front door slammed shut.  Husband and wife froze as the realisation of what this meant dawned on them.

They were locked out.

The alarm had now stopped,

but they were locked out.

And the bacon was still cooking.

And, to top it all off, hubby and wifey weren't exactly fully clothed.  After all they'd only recently got out of bed.  And it was a warm day.  Hubby was in a pair of boxers, and wifey was in a rather skimpy red specially-bought-for-the-wedding-night silky nighty.  Neglige, does one call it?

So there they were.  The 'happy couple', half naked, locked out, with the threat of an actual fire starting in their kitchen.  No mobile phone, no wallet, no shoes, no nothing.  I haven't told you yet that the reason for the alarm going off in the first place was a stupidly sensitive smoke/heat detector that the estate agents neglected to warn them about.

They tried ringing the bells of the other flats in the building.  No answer.  Hubby went next door to see if anyone there could help.  A kind neighbour eventually let him in and allowed Hubby to climb out of his window into the garden of the flat below us in the hope that Hubbycould then get in through our bedroom window.  The climb involved battling with a thorn tree and coming off worse for wear.  Only to discover that their bedroom window was way too high above the patio below to be of any help.  Back over the wall and the spiky plant and back into neighbour's flat.  Meanwhile Wifey was pacing up and down the front steps, swearing more than ever before in her life, not caring that the whole street could see her.  Hubby reappeared, baring scratched legs and dressing gowns from the neighbour to make the pair a little more decent.  They finally remember that something called the fire service existed.  And probably needed to be called.  Afterall there was a threat of a real fire starting in our kitchen.  Again kind-neighbour-man came to the rescue by letting them use his phone. The fire engine arrived a few minutes later, sirens blaring.

*How embarrassing*

Thankfully the firemen were helpful, and got into the flat without having to knock the door down.  PHEW.

And the bacon wasn't even burnt - just about ready for a tasty breakfast, which was definitely needed by then.

The couple were exhausted after the drama of the morning, and took a while to recover.  But it wasn't too long before they could see the funny side.  AND DETERMINED TO NEVER LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN!

Monday 13 August 2012


Just thought the blog was lacking a picture :-).  This is one taken at a Farrago Spanish and English Poetry night at the Poetry Cafe in London.  I went there a couple of weeks ago and had a great time.  John Paul (who took the photo) runs regular poetry slams in London (in fact Farrago are 'London's longest running Slam presenters).  They are always full of life and a great mix of poets.   At this event people read poems in both Spanish and English.  I met some really interesting and warm people and enjoyed the challenge of performing poetry in Spanish (not my own... haven't quite reached that point in grasping the language!).

Life is a rollercoaster you've just got to ride it.... (oh Ronan, you were better with the other 'zonal boys' than by yourself. I digress.)

Apologies for weird white background, having uh... technical difficulties...!

More on change...

This time, JOBS.  Oh and flats.

A few weeks ago, I was about to finish my job, having been made redundant.  To be honest, we were panicking a little about how we were going to pay the rent, because one salary doesn't cover everything here in dear old Brighton town.  I'd known for a while that changes were a'comin' in the summer, but July came upon us very quickly I felt.  I didn't even realise it was July until halfway through - successfully managing to miss the wedding anniversaries of the two couples closest to me.  Doh.

 I did apply for a few jobs, felt very hopeful, and as with all nearly all jobs I've applied for in the past 3 years, didn't even get an interview: ("Thank you for your application for our administrator post . Unfortunately on this occasion you were not successful in securing an interview. We had over 80 applications and those who were shortlisted all had over 15 years experience of working as administrators").  That's how it is now folks... 15 years experience required.  So there's no chance, is there??!!! 

Anyhow so yes I was panicking a bit.  And I made one decision based more on panic than anything else.  Which is never that wise.  But then there's also being sensible... ai ai ai that whole balance thing again.  It's always cropping up.

THEN, the situation changed, and in the space of less than a month I believe, we have moved out of our very expensive one bedroom flat, into a significantly cheaper one bedroom flat - shared with a friend (there's a big loft space!!!), which means that the pressure is lifted in terms of earnings vs rent-bills-tax-food-etc.  AND WE ARE EVEN CLOSER TO THE SEA.  Woop de dee this makes me happeee!

So back to jobs - change of flat meant maybe I could study that journalism course I've been thinking of for aaages.  And even got a place on the course despite not knowing the name of any publications I could possibly submit an article idea to (shame on me!  My grammar must have been good for them to accept me...).  But for some reason I didn't feel settled about it.  Even though it makes a whole lot of sense.  After 3 post graduate years of definitely not post graduate employment, it does seem like the time to do something 'proper'.  And part of me really really wants to (could go into whole other 1000 word rant/thought-train here, but I won't today!).  However, as I said, I had that not-peaceful feeling in my belly and couldn't shake it until I decided not to do the course.  After all I only want to commit that much time and money to something I'm 100% sure about.  It might sound funny but that 'feeling in my stomach' does guide a lot of my decisions in life, and I'm learning to trust it, because I kinda think it's God's way of helping me pick my way through a bazillion paths and choices.

It helped that my somewhat shaky, last-minute decision to stay working for the church has been bolstered a whole lot by the new office - which has a WINDOW, and I have my own desk, AND a computer that works.  Also I like the new building we're based in, and the fact that my job will be less hours and slightly different to what it was before.  They might sound like small things, but they make a big difference to me.

AND it doesn't end there - I was just getting my head round the fact that I might be working a lot less for the next few months, and trying to be OK with that, when I landed myself a pub job!  This time, taken because I have NO bar experience -and therefore no bad habits, apparently.  I'll write about my new role another time.  Let's just say I think I've got a lot to learn there, which is no bad thing.

So in the space of weeks, we've gone from flip-we-have-no-idea-how-we're-gonna-pay-the-rent-next-month... to a new flat (with a bedroom that has space on BOTH SIDES OF THE BED - no more being squished by Mr Q as he attempts to 'delicately' roll over me to get out of bed) and the prospect of being unemployed to lady of three very different jobs!

Suffice to say, we feel blessed.  We've been encouraged lots to trust God for provision, but it's a whole lot easier said than done.  I think I mainly expect to always be poor and struggling for pennies.  And life may well be like that again in the future.  But for now we'll be thankful.  And hopefully be generous with it too. 

Thursday 9 August 2012

Change change change (or Goodbye City Gate Centre)

OK I know it's easy to say, and perhaps it's been going on for quite a while, but this really is a season of transition!  Besides the fact that we're moving house this weekend (don't panic, just down the road, we're not leaving Brighton just yet!), I've just started a new job at a pub, my parents are re-locating and my sisters are all currently in different continents...  a huge part of the change has been about a building found above what used to be Blockbusters, on London Road.

City Gate Centre - the building which was run by City Gate Church for the past 20 or so years - has now closed.  City Gate Centre has been a big part of my life in Brighton.  I first went there in my second week of living in Brighton, almost 7 years ago.  I went to a Sunday service in my search for a new church, but I have to say was put off my how 1980s everything felt, both the building and the style of worship!  So I didn't go back there for another year, when I was looking for a church again, this time accompanied by some friends, and despite very random services, God spoke, and I kept going.  And now I'm a part of this creative, food-loving, slightly crazy, very mixed bunch that has just moved its home from London Road to North Road.  From September we'll be meeting on a Sunday at Brighthelm Community Centre.  The new season is exciting, but I know everyone is thankful for the space we had to worship, to laugh, to dance, to party together, to pray and plan, and to discover freedom and acceptance.

City Gate Centre hasn't just been about church.  Six years ago I first worked as a cleaner there.  Since then I have both volunteered and worked in the office, and in Circus Pre-school, which was another treasure found in the building.  I've cleaned and buffed the hall floor more times than I can count.  I've opened up, locked up, washed up, made cups of tea, brought in older hirers up on the stairlift, read the meters, sorted the recycling, set up chairs and tables for tea dance, organised keys, answered phonecalls, dealt with interesting characters who wondered up the stairs, laughed with the Alternatives staff and volunteers, eaten biscuits, frozen in winter, boiled in the summer, nearly smashed temperamental computers against the wall, berated the lack of a window in the office, attempted to fix leaks up on the roof, seen lots of little children come up and down the stairs and play and learn and grow in confidence at the Pre-school, photocopied, scanned, faxed, laminated, emailed, cried, stressed, sang and laughed...

AND IT'S TOTALLY NOT JUST ABOUT ME!  There are many many others who could say the same.  Countless people have been a part of transforming City Gate Centre from a musty old Co-op Social Club to a busy community centre, and I really only caught the end of it.  As I've been clearing out the office (and throwing a whole lot beautifully filed documents away!), I realised how much time and effort was put in by previous administrators and office staff and church members and friends to lay down good foundations and keep the Centre running at a high standard.  I know there have been many tears and stresses along the way and I admire those who persevered at working with a sometimes-crumbling building, the inevitable long-winded phone calls with various companies, setting up contracts, financial struggles etc etc.  They deserve a big well done!  And the same goes for the wonderful staff at the Pre-School who created such a warm, welcoming and nurturing environment for a whole variety of children.  It will be missed.

I know it's been an emotional time for a lot of people.  I think after so much time planning and sorting and packing and going through endless inventories and contract lists, I was just pretty desperate to get out!  I don't think it's sunk in yet.  It's definitely been a bit of a love-hate relationship!  But I hand in my keys tomorrow... so perhaps it'll hit me then...

And finally, before I go, there's another big reason why City Gate Centre has been a pretty important part of my life so far.  In September 2008 I first met a dark haired, shy boy in a church service.  We both definitely noticed each other.  Three years later and we were getting married in that very same building - decorated more beautifully than we had ever hoped, with tasty food, wonderful people and lots of dancing.  Hooray.

Monday 6 August 2012


"You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most".
(The Barbarian Way', Erwin McManus, p.93)

Definitely relate to the first part, and hoping for the last part to become something people could say about me too...


Here's me, performing my poem 'Taken', at an iOpen poetry event a couple of weeks ago.  It's a great night with a wide range of spoken word, and supportive audience!  The next one's on September 5th at the Old Market Theatre, Brighton.  Come on down.

PS Ok i know the whole point about this poem is about not focussing on the way we look, but I have to say it is weird seeing myself on a video, especially up so close.  I swear I don't look at all like that in the mirror! (I know mirrors give you a back to front view, but still!!).

Sunday 5 August 2012


 Last weekend we (Hubby, Bro-in-law, Sister-in-law plus friends) went Wakeboarding.  What is that I hear you ask?  Well, think water-skiing but on a snowboard.  And, although you'd usually be pulled along by a boat, at the place where we went to, most people were using a lake that had a kind of wire pulley system with ropes hanging off it that you held onto and were then pulled around the edge of the water. 

We started off on 'knee-boards'- which were body-board sized and had a big strap to put over your lap.  You started off on a platform on the edge of the lake, were handed the end of one of the ropes, and a few moments later were whisked off onto the water.  Sounds like a piece of cake.  That's we thought...  But  let me rephrase.  'Whisked' is too gentle.  There was absolutely nothing gentle about it.  Think yanked, think arms almost out of sockets.  And when I say 'hold on' to the end of the rope, I mean cling on for dear life with every ounce of strength in your body!  It definitely was exhilarating, and I couldn't help wooping as the board smacked the water at what felt like 100mph!  Then came the corner, which I wasn't quite prepared for... the rope went slack, I though 'uh-oh', what's going on... and then sure enough there was a massive jerk as the rope continued along the tracking, and my arms couldn't hold on any longer.  We all came off at the first corner.  The second time we all made it to the next corner.  And eventually, all of us managed to go around the lake at least once.  I couldn't manage more than once because my skinny, weak arms couldn't handle any more than that!  Must get stronger.

We then moved onto the actual wakeboards.  I got to say I was feeling pretty confident.  But my confidence was short lived.  You can see in the photo below, my face is about to collide with the lake.  Ouch.  It was so difficult to keep upright, with arms tensed, when you were pulled off the side with such force.  Added to that, you start off at an angle, rather than going straight ahead.  Needless to say, none of us managed to wakeboard from that starting point.  It was so frustrating to not even be able to get up and on the water!

However, all was not lost.  There was another area with a straight bit of wire to practice on that just went back and forth instead of round in a big loop.  And after one or two tries, I got to stand up the whole way there and whole way back and it was brilliant!  Felt so good, and worth the many many bellyflops and aching arms.

When we hired the equipment for four hours, the staff member raised his eyebrows and wished us luck.  The next morning, we all knew why.  Every single muscle in my body ached.  I could barely move!  We were all hobbling about like old biddies.  It was pretty funny - for people watching!  It was partly that good kind of pain that tells you you really achieved something.  And partly just damn sore.  But a few hot baths and a few days later limbs had recovered.

It was great to get out and try something new.  It reminded me of times back when I lived in Zambia and we used to go out to some of the farmers' dams and swim, fish and water-ski.  Especially since this time I was with a bunch of South Africans and we had a bbq for lunch!  They were some of my best memories, so I was glad to update them.

I think I would try it again, but it really was painful!  I'd like to try doing it behind a boat next time, which some say is harder,  but others argue is easier - especially to get started.  So we'll see.  But if you get the chance, give it a go.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

"The Barbarian Way"

I've just started reading a book by Erwin McManus called, 'The Barbarian Way', bought for me by a friend.  It talks about how following Jesus was never intended to be safe, or conformist. I like!

 Here's a quote from it that resounded with me:

"If we learn anything about God through John (the Baptist), it is that God has no problem with spiritual eccentrics.  The point, of course, is not that God makes us mentally or emotionally imbalanced, but that He makes us passionately and spiritually unbalanced.  God steers us in the direction of His kingdom, His purpose, His passions.  His desire is not to conform us, but to transform us.  Not to make us compliant, but to make us creative.  His intent is never to domesticate us, but to liberate us" (p.64).