Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Failing the feminism test?

Now, I consider myself a feminist inasmuch as I believe that men and women deserve equal rights, respect and legal protection (not to mention paypackets for doing the same job).

But I still want to look good from time to time. One day, I'd like to lose a few pounds, get a hairstyle that actually works and learn to dress to suit my shape. Being an ugly duck teenager didn't really do me any favours. I'd quite like to be a swan now, please.

But am I undermining my feminist values in the pursuit of a more conventionally attractive me?

Well, browsing through the daily papers this morning, I came across this....

'You can be beautiful and still be a feminist'

Here's an extract:

Jill Berry, president of the Girls' School Association, which represents nearly 200 independent schools, told its annual conference in Harrogate: "Girls can be highly intelligent and interested in being seen to be attractive – the two aren't mutually exclusive. Caring about physical appearance and fashion and wanting to feel good about how you look doesn't have to be a betrayal of some feminist ideal. I love new shoes but it doesn't make me shallow. Girls can have fun and be taken seriously at the same time."

My first response was, "Well, duh!". But this does highlight an important issue for me. In my experience, female friends will espouse exactly the same views that I feel define me as a feminist, but preface them with 'I'm not a feminist but...', as if being a feminist is THE most unattractive trait possible in a woman. How can we challenge that myth of hairy, unwashed, (manly?) feminism without being accused of selling-out? (I realise there are many male feminists too, and that they're probably perfectly happy to be manly...this is really about the female face of feminism).

I am not solely defined by my looks, nor should anyone be. But I do have a body of which I am not entirely ashamed. A body I would like to improve, for fitness as well as appearance. The way I physically appear is one way I present myself to the world and, feminist or not, I want that world to view me favourably. This is partly from insecurity, no doubt, and the desire to 'measure up' to societal norms.

But there can be a more positive side to this - about owning my physical presence as much as my spiritual and intellectual presence. About being comfortable in my own skin and honouring what God's given me by looking after it.

This shouldn't be an excuse for self-obsessive preening, for damaging and unachievable goal-setting, for judging people solely on appearance. And no one should EVER be made to feel that they are not good enough because of the way they look. Thin should not be king. Self respect, confidence and an ease with who and what you are is the goal.

Ummm.... did I just fail my GCSE in feminism?


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Modern parables for a church tucked up in bed

I love elvis from KORE uk on Vimeo.

As a youth worker, I'm always looking for something a bit different - cool resources that might connect with our youth group on certain issues, inspiring them or encouraging them to think more deeply about something. So, I was chuffed to bits when I received the Kore press release last week.

This is what the Kore crew say about themselves:

In 2006, KORE was founded with a passion for the core of the gospel and the core of who Jesus calls us to be. The vision is to explore the heart and roots of our faith and to discover what the Kingdom of God looks like in our world.

KORE is a place for fresh ideas, new ways to engage and opportunities to join the discussion. Our website provides you with resources to download and use, inviting you to be challenged and inspired. We provide consultation to provoke thought and discussion, helping others to form and develop their own ideas.

KORE is an ever-growing community of people whose conversation and collaborative creativity shape and form what you see here. At our heart you will find a desire to engage with the world around us and a confession to not having all the answers. The journey of KORE is packed full of partnerships with others, both inside and outside the church.

I especially love their video content, which comes from a range of different filmakers around the world. Take some time to check out their Flicks section.

I Love Elvis is produced by the Kore team and can be found in the Shibboleth section - modern parables for a church tucked up in bed.

I'm also excited about what might come out of their new Voices concept. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, November 02, 2009

My kinda atheist

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Michael Ruse, professor of philosophy and zoology at Florida State University, for his excellent piece on new atheism on Comment is Free, entitled Dawkins et al bring us into disrepute.

Here's a little taster:

"I don't have faith. I really don't. Rowan Williams does as do many of my fellow philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (a Protestant) and Ernan McMullin (a Catholic). I think they are wrong; they think I am wrong. But they are not stupid or bad or whatever. If I needed advice about everyday matters, I would turn without hesitation to these men."

I am so grateful for such an insightful piece, that challenges this ridiculous (and false) polarisation of atheist and religious world-views. Such a deliberately divisive world-view as that espoused by Dawkins et al can never be a route to better understanding and human growth.

So, more please, Professor Ruse!


Thursday, October 08, 2009

It's National Poetry Day!

Hurrah for poetry! Check out the National Poetry Day website here.

Here's a poem from my favourite poet (and good buddy) Paul Barrett.

During dinner break at work
I took a quiet and pleasant stroll
Into Sixteen sixty-eight.

The smell of timber still in air
I walked around an antiques fair
Along Westminster Bridge.

And shuffling in among the crowd
I bought a few old bits and things
From the Fifteenth Century.

I walked back to work,
And sold them (promptly)
By auction (of course)
For a good few thousand pounds.

How very strange! (I now reflect)
That people don’t do things
Like this more often.


Paul is an expert in Microsoft SharePoint, daddy to Zac, Luca & Lily-Rose and hubby to the fabulously gorgeous Katie. He is also author of the awesome and highly recommended book Time Ninety-Seven.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

nap tyme wiv jeesus

In tribute to Cookie, who had an operation on Friday and is feeling totally sorry for herself...

see more Lolcats and funny pictures


Friday, September 25, 2009

The Friday Feelgood Playlist

Well, it's Friday, it's sunny, I've done a buttload of work this week and I'm feeling good! Bring on the weekend!

So here's my feelgood playlist - for the last 2 1/2 years, popping this on the iPod and pressing 'Shuffle' has been guaranteed to lift my day...

Dragostea Din Tei

Safety Dance
Men Without Hats

5 Minutes of Fame

Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)
Benny Goodman

Loosing Grip
Avril Lavigne

Goo Goo Dolls

Under Construction
Drew Copeland

Here it Goes Again

Buck Rogers

Opening Night
The Producers Soundtrack

Golden Touch

Hey Ya - a fine polemic on the breakdown of modern relationships and family values ;o)

Hindi Sad Diamonds
Moulin Rouge Soundtrack

Hips Don't Lie

Mandolin Mood
Sister Hazel

Too Many Miles
The Waiting

I Wanna Be a Producer
The Producers Soundtrack

Good Riddance
Green Day

Michael Buble

Interestingly, it's more the music and sing-a-bility that makes these tracks uplifting than the actual lyrics. hmmm....


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Greenbelt 2009 - highs and lows

Okay, so I'm a little behind the rest of the world in getting my thoughts on this year's Greenbelt into words, and for my official review of the festival you'll have to read this week's Methodist Recorder.

So I thought instead I'd just offer my highlights and lowlights and let my hubby's pictures tell the story.

* Lounging in the sunshine

* Visiting the smiling faces on the Methodist Church stand in G-Source

* Maggie Dawn's challenge to give up our false impressions of God
* My big bro Jon waxing lyrical about comic books and Dr Who (below)

* Beer n hymns

* Sixpence None the Richer performing their new material

Sixpence None the Richer lead singer Leigh Nash

* The launch of TheMediaNet - a network for Christians working in the media (check it out!)

* Spending time with lovely hubby Jim Drew (who took all these photos)


* Sunday morning worship (politically charged and positively dire - check out the Greenbelt blog for the criticisms)

* Freezing my butt off in the tent on Friday night

* Missing all the cool stuff scheduled for Monday (especially awesome fantasy author Jasper Fford)

* Sixpence None the Richer performing their old material. Some things are best left in the past.


All in all, though, I had a ruddy good time.

PS. Apologies to all for being a terribly sporadic blogger.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The $64 million dollar question

Following my post last week, readers probably wouldn't think twice about firmly placing me in the 'Liberal Anglican' camp, and indeed that's the way I have often defined my religious leanings. But Ruth Gledhill's article in Tuesday's Times has given me food for thought...

The article states that groups of liberal anglicans are planning some kind of takeover of General Synod at the quinquennial elections next year, in order to the steer the church into some kind of bright new liberal future...hmmm....

The statement from the groups is worth a read, and rather than focusing on liberal dominance at General Synod, it speaks of seeking to forge links between local churches that that are like minded. But for me it raises that enduring Christian problem ... the question of unity between people of radically different perspectives (and I'm certain it's not exclusively an Anglican issue).

So, here comes the $64 million dollar question - how do we - as a people of different theologies, beliefs and concerns - live, worship learn and grow together? Can we?

And a supplementary question for the bonus prize...

If we prize unity as highly as we seem to be claiming in the hallowed CofE, why does no one really seem to know what Anglican unity might look like?

Answers on a postcard please...

These are really difficult questions for me, especially in light of last week's Blackburn Cathedral story. It is painful to me that there are members of the Church who do not share my joy over the recognition of women's ministry (among other theological, scriptural and moral issues). I feel that I have a duty to actively seek out common ground with such people, even though I may sometimes find their views personally offensive, and I would hope they feel some duty to seek common ground with me. And it strikes me that the motivation for such pursuits must never primarily be so that I can 'win them over' to my perspective or vice versa.

Croatian theologian Mirsolav Volf has some very important things to say about identity and engagement with the 'other' that I feel are relevant here, but rather than try to do him justice I shall simply recommend his excellent book Exclusion & Embrace. One of his key points is that in engaging with the 'other', the move to shape them in your own likeness (rather than in the shared pursuit of learning from one another) is essentially an act of violence. It violates the integrity of the human person. How can I constructively communicate with those with whom I disagree in that kind of context?

Another question on this imaginary dialogue... how (for example) might I recognise their pain over the ordination of women, whilst remaining true to my own interpretation of the gospel? How can we balance our own integrity on key issues against the call to recognise, affirm and rejoice in others?

Many, many questions...

I might claim to value unity, but more often than not I feel that it would be great if everyone agreed with me... no arguments, no discussions, just perfect harmony.... or perhaps not. My theology says 'yes' to unity, but so often my heart says 'no'.

It is abundantly clear that in the formulation of Church law, policy and practice we will never be able to please everyone. In fact, in a sense it's not about pleasing anyone at all - it is about pursuing holiness and scriptural integrity whilst also seeking to honour our corporate identity as the body of Christ.

And it's not just Rowan Williams' job to hold the Anglican church together. We all have responsibilities in whatever capacity we hold - worshipper, priest, dissenting voice.

This will certainly be playing on my mind in the coming weeks...


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Plinth Priest Cometh!

Yesterday I was privileged enough to be present in Trafalgar Square for Revd Ken Chalmers' star turn on the fourth plinth.

Strangely, Ken was sandwiched between a dancing cow ("Meat is Murder!") and a stripping transvestite (HIV awareness, apparently).

Ken led a worship service that reflected on the sharing of meals in three parts. From the base of the plinth we heard Bible readings telling three different stories of Jesus sharing food with friends and followers:

The feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-14)
The last supper (Matthew 26:26-30), and
Breakfast on the beach (John 21:9-14).

The last of these was read by the fabulous Angela Shier-Jones.

Ken reflected on these readings and after each reflection visitors and passers-by were invited to share in Holy Communion, presided over by Revd Martin Turner, of Westminster Central Hall fame.

For me it was about challenging perceptions of what church, what worship is and who worship is for. For thousands of years, art has been central to much of how Christians express and explore our faith and, in my opinion, Ken's appearance on the fourth plinth should be counted among such works of art.

It was a wonderful act of worship and I'm grateful to Ken for all his hard work in getting it off the ground (literally). But he was also supported by a fantastic crew from his own church and around Methodism.


PS. As a strange side-story, whilst waiting for the action to begin, I was chatted-up by a chap who appeared to be a Romanian gigolo....a most strange experience...

All photos are taken by me, copyright Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The coolest arts project ever!

My friend and colleague Dave Webster has alerted me to the most fantastic community arts project ever.

You may know Dave from such hits as the Methodist Church website, the President and Vice President's Blog and the online Methodist art collection gallery. But on top of all the spectacular webby things he does for the Methodist Church, he really is a very creative soul. He was telling me the other day about Make a Scene, a project he and his partner Kate are running at the Camberwell Arts festival all this week.

From 20 - 28 June, Kate & Dave are inviting people to come and make a scene somewhere in Camberwell using nothing but items purchased from pound shops. And if you really can't spare the pound, they're giving stuff away free. People are encouraged to photograph their creations and email the pics to info@camberwellarts.org.uk with a story or caption, to be featured on the website.

The pics here are their own creations, but there are already some others online. I'm hoping Dave will do a little guest post here after the festival, telling us more about it.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

A lovely long weekend in Guernsey

A couple of weeks ago myself, hubby and some mates skived off work early and flew over to the beautiful Island of Guernsey for the wedding of Claire and Jim (below). It was fab to be with my uni mates again to do a spot of reminiscing and catch up on the latest.

The day before the wedding Brad & Jim decided that it was absolutely essential to do a spot of sand-castle building. Armed with a bucket and spade from the hotel reception (brilliant hotel) they constructed a rather impressive fort, complete with moat, some kind of rope reclaimed from the sea and some scabby bits of crab (boys!). And when that one was washed away? Well, they just started again!

The next day started with kayaking in the bay - a special activity arranged by the bride and groom for the wedding guests. On the way there, one of the blokes remarked that it was a rather cunning ruse to get all the men down to the pub without the women....then he spotted me and I apparently became an honorary man. It was fab. We were told that 'you really shouldn't get wet' and 'it's quite difficult to fall out of a kayak'. Clearly not that difficult. Mind you, it might have had something to do with the man standing on my kayak, trying to get back to his own one.

The wedding in the afternoon was lovely. It was in a beautiful church, the hymns were familiar to many and the message given by the vicar was accessible and touching. Claire and Jim are a wonderful couple and wonderful friends and it was great to share their day.

The evening celebrations were completely fab, with good food, nice wine and cheesy music galore. We danced our socks off and met some really cool people. But none could rival Alice for dancing! A gorgeous girl with some funky moves!

All in all, a very happy weekend!


Playing catch up

The last few weeks have been rather busy to say the least, so over the next day or so I'll be playing blogger catch-up... watch this space!


Friday, May 29, 2009

Euro elections frenzy!

Well, that might be over-egging it a bit, but it seems that everywhere I turn someone is talking about the upcoming European elections and the threat of the BNP gaining votes. Quite often it's a Christian spokesperson, but perhaps that's just symptomatic of the world I move in. Here's a quick run-down of some of the statements and comments I've noticed (admittedly some of them I helped to issue)...

Church dismisses BNP election posters

Churches urged to take action ahead of European elections

Church leaders in Lincolnshire speak out against the BNP

Church leaders in East Anglia have also made a statement, commenting that 'Christ calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves and in this forthcoming election we believe it is right to be vigilant about any party or individual candidate seeking to use people’s fears for their own well-being to stir racial or religious hatred'. (no weblink available)

Statement from Church leaders: vote next week, vote positively

The BNP cannot pick and choose the laws it will obey

Now for a confession. I have never been very enthused by voting at election time. Yes, I'm aware that women fought and died for my right to vote and am thus very ashamed to admit that I forgot to vote in the last general election. May shame be heaped upon me. BUT I have firmly resolved to give a damn in future and to commit to use my votes wisely. My friends and colleagues have suitably shamed and encouraged me to start taking democracy seriously.

So, in the words of Methodist, URC and Baptist Church leaders: vote next week, use your vote positively for the values and interests you believe in.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

A priest might not know how to dance...

A different take on the iPod ad. Thanks to Chris Aldous for the Facebook link on this one!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Church leaders in Lincs speak out against BNP

Should have blogged about this last week, but with European elections looming and mainstream political parties losing public support, it's more important than ever.

Church leaders in Lincolnshire published this joint statement asserting that the policies and __ of the BNP are completely inconsistent with the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.

The leaders represent more than 50,000 Christians in Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire across the Salvation Army, Methodist, Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Independent and United Reformed Churches.

They said; "We cannot stand by when groups and individuals are maligned, misrepresented and singled out for verbal or even physical abuse.

"In a democracy it is even more alarming when prejudices founded upon country of origin, race or religion become part of a political platform, and are offered to the electorate for endorsement."



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Today I am silent. I do not want to speak

My close friend Katie has entered the world of blogging! But her blog is different from any I have seen.

Zachary's Zoo is a window into an autistic brain. Katie's son Zac is nearly 8 years old and severely autistic. This blog is her attempt to get inside Zac's amazing brain and share what he is seeing, thinking, feeling. Zac has very little language of his own, so Katie is mostly saying what she thinks he might say, if he could.

Katie & her husband Ale are two of my closest friends and, at the risk of being gushy, I don't think Zac could ever want for more persistent, patient and loving parents. Because of their strength and commitment they have recently managed to get him a place in a school for children with severe learning difficulties - a major breakthrough in an underfunded and restricted education system.

Check out the blog and take a step into Zac's world....


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Katie and Peter: the end of plastic fantastic?

I don't know why, but I'm really sad about the news that Peter Andre and Katie Price (aka Jordan) are splitting up. I have no specific reason to be - I am more guilty than most of mocking their crazy media presence. I did once attempt to watch their chat show Jordan and Peter, but it was so appallingly ridiculous I just couldn't stomach it.

I commented yesterday to my friend Ale that it seemed to be the end of a marriage of convenience, but thinking about it now I've changed my mind.

It seems to me that their coupling, rather being a media stunt to revive tired careers, had something really quite genuine about it. Now, you can't deny that it's done wonders for their media profiles - the music, book deals, TV shows, magazine profiles - but I think that's more to do with their completely shameless openness about every element of their lives, than anything else. In fact, there has been so little left to the imagination, that you could hardly accuse them of hidden agendas. They are a voyeur's dream. On one hand they seem too flawless, too plastic, too perfectly built, but on the other they have exposed themselves (quite literally), sparing no gory detail. Most celebrity marriages leave at least something to the imagination!

You can't deny that they've financially profited from their relationship, but the romantic in me says that's about the nature of their relationship, less than the drive to make money. They have lived their lives so openly that you can't help but be fascinated. But perhaps I'm being too naive! One way or another, it seems to be the end of a very short but intense celebrity era.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Madonna foreswears celebrity religion; converts to Methodism


‘That Kabbalah sect kept droning on about how life was one big mysterious journey into the unknowable. I’m a single mother of three; I haven’t got time for all that ‘unknowable’ s**t. To be frank, I’ve had it up to here with those premium rate mystics; give me a decent Wesley hymn and a good solid working party report any day.’

She should be so lucky. Oh no, wait that's Kylie...we'll get her too. All in good time...

Brought to you by the good people at NewsBiscuit: The news before it happens.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Great Methodist story from East Anglia

Methodist church in drive to relate to modern world

Okay, I know it's a week old, but I'm still trying to catch up on emails from when I was away and found this little gem.


Silly cat videos never fail to amuse me

This one nearly had me crying with laughter.

Yes I am silly.


Most interesting articles of the day....

Well, to me anyway. If I waited 'til I had time to blog about them each individually it would never happen (hence why my blog is so sporadic).

So these are what most caught my attention in the daily newspaper trawl...

Archbishop calls for Anglican unity

Rumours of God's return are greatly exaggerated

Birth control for men in one injection

Note to self

'I didn't know when I married him that my husband had a mental illness'

Will try to make time for some proper blogging soon...


Monday, April 20, 2009

My first sermon

Thanks to all those who prayed for me when I preached my first sermon at our All Age servie at the end of March.

The theme was the Word of God and what it means to speak of Jesus as 'The Word'.

So, here it is. All feedback welcome....

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We're in the Telegraph!!


Tomorrow the House of Lords will be debating Government proposals to double stakes and prizes on Category C and D gaming machines.

An alliance of 9 UK Christian organizations (including the Church of England and the Salvation Army) are calling on the Government to reject these proposals. If the proposals are accepted the prize limit on pub fruit machines will be higher than weekly benefit levels, at a time when many families will be struggling to make ends meet.

The campaign’s website is www.fruitless.org.uk and our recent press releases are here: http://methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.newsDetail&newsid=333 and here: http://methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.newsDetail&newsid=338.

Let's hope the Lords see sense on this one....


Churches urged to take action ahead of European elections

Churches urged to take action ahead of European elections

• Election pack highlights BNP threat

On 4 June 2009 every adult in the UK will have the opportunity to vote in the European Parliament Elections. There will also be some English County Council elections.

A briefing from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church explains the importance of citizenship and participating in democratic processes.

Check it out & get involved here.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The sound of happiness

Just trying out a fantastic audio blogging service hosted by podbean.com. Allows me to embed an audioplayer in my blog, but also means I have a dedicated audioblog here.

Shouldn't be so excited about such a geeky thing, but this really is cool.

Now all I have to do is produce some audio worth listening to....

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Disabled presenter ‘scares children’

From today's Independent:

Disparaging comments by adults about a children’s presenter have led to an angry backlash in support of Cerrie Burnell, the 29-year-old CBeebies host who was born missing the lower section of her right arm. One man said that he would stop his daughter from watching the BBC children’s channel because Burnell would give his child nightmares.

(See hyperlink for full story.)

This story makes me really sad. It's parents, not children who are making complaints about this presenter being given air time. Never mind the fact that she's a fantastic role model for disabled kids, she's also a bloody good children's TV presenter.

My 5-year-old friend Luca is completely comfortable watching Cerrie Burnell on CBeebies, and it's good for him to see that she's just as much a human being as anyone else and is a skilled presenter for children on one of the few channels to still offer decent children's TV.

Parents like the one who commented “I didn’t want to let my children watch the filler bits on The Bedtime Hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter’s mind and possibly caused sleep problems,” are symptomatic of society's rejection of anything that can be perceived as 'other' or 'different'.

Why can't they just simply explain to their children the nature of Ms Burnell's disability and that it is not something frightening? These children are being poisoned by their parent's prejudices.

Some days I wish people would just wake up and live in the real world.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Cindy McCain Claims She’s ‘Just Like Any Other Female Human’

Very funny

Cindy McCain Claims She�s �Just Like Any Other Female Human�

Some Christians make me think decidedly unChristian thoughts...

Atheist adverts reported to industry watchdog

Stephen Green and Christian voice are an embarrassment to Christianity - they don't represent me by any stretch of the imagination. What a wonderfully, tolerant, engaging and loving image they must be seeking to project...


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

It could be an atheist bus, but we're not quite sure

Slightly harsh take on the story in today's Evening Standard, but perhaps a fair one...

It could be an atheist bus, but we're not quite sure


Atheist buses to hit London streets today

British comedy writer Ariane Sherine is the brains behind the Atheist Bus Campaign, hitting London today.

I met up with Ariane just before Christmas to find out more. You can find my interview on the Methodist Web Radio page.

We spent a lot of time chatting and she's very cool. We agree on many issues and I can't help thinking she'd be an excellent Methodist spokesperson if it wasn't for that whole God thing...

Also check out the News Stories page for the Methodist response when the Campaign was announced back in October.



Monday, January 05, 2009

And now we're in the Daily Mail!!

Fears that gambling addiction will soar as ministers relax rules and double prizes of pub slot machines

Awesome first day back.

Maybe I'm just tired, but it's nice to be saying something important about issues that really matter.

I will now go to bed and stop all this silly web surfing. Have started purchasing random things online. We will soon be the proud owners of a 5ft bean bag. That's when you know you should have gone to bed half and hour ago...


Never thought I'd be a page 3 girl....

...but I don't mind when it's today's Times.

Jackpots and stakes doubled as gaming industry given boost by ministers

A great comment piece by an expert follows the story here...

Fruit machines could start a life-long addiction

Tonight, the wonderful David Bradwell made his first TV appearance, speaking on precisely this issue. It was on the BBC News channel and I nearly cried with pride.

Not a bad first day back at work for the New Year, considering I expected it to be rather less exciting.