Archive for September, 2009

For ten years now we have been told that the Tithebarn project would be the best thing since sliced bread for Preston, with a complete redesign of the City Centre.  First it was going to be a show piece for the 2012 Preston Guild – then there was going to be a delay and we would be in the middle of a building site for the Guild.  Then further delays and it would not be likely to start until after the Guild.  We had an exhibition showing a large model of what the new City Centre would look like and numerous articles in the local paper.  Now it has to go to a public enquiry, which will cost £800,000 and there are fears that the developers will pull out and the whole project will collapse.  One letter to the editor of the Lancashire Evening Post said that the writer had a scrapbook full of cuttings from the paper, with countless different versions of the design for the revamp, now its on, now its off – and dire warnings about the chaos which would result once the builders started.

I have yet to meet anyone who believed that it would ever get off the ground so none of this comes as any surprise – just disgust at the amount of money being wasted talking about it.

Then, as if this wasn’t enough – let’s redevelop the historic Winkley Square, with fountains, flashing lights and all sorts of futuristic nonsense.  This has been met with a great deal of opposition but still simmers on.

Once the planners get on a roll there is no stopping them so the next idea was to tart up the Flag Market.  The best thing they could do with that would be to demolish the ugly Crystal House but no – lets have seven 17 meter high electronic banners !!!   Todays paper has the headlines “Flag Market Revamp Blow”  The revamp of Preston’s historic Flag Market was on the brink of collapse today.  The City Council is in danger of missing out on vital cash to fund the £4.5 million project.

I’m quite sure that most people would consider that spending £4.5 million on the flag market is hardly VITAL and the money could be much better spent.

The good news, after all this doom and gloom, is that approval has been given to build a huge pumping station on green belt land just outside Preston with five miles of tunnels, up to 100ft deep, below the streets of Preston.  There are fears that it could cause severe disruption to motorists while it is being built.  I guess that they might be right on that one.  They say that it could be up and running by late 2012.  Well, like all these other schemes, I’ll believe it when I see it but one thing seems certain – they are determined to find some way of bringing chaos to Preston during  Guild year.   If all goes well they may just get all four schemes well under way by 2012 and then we might have to cancel Preston Guild.  We could always ask Blackpool Council if we could hold Preston Guild there.


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What sex is Pebbles?

This is certainly going to be a big issue over the coming weeks.  Pebbles is wearing what looks like Brownie uniform but no trousers!  If Pebbles is really a Brownie then why has it not been told to wear the correct uniform at all times.  On the other hand, as I believe, Pebbles is not a Brownie then he must be a unit helper, in which case he should be wearing a blue top, not a yellow one.  I suspect that he is being subjected to forced feminization by Brown Owl which, were it to be the case would be a most serious state of affairs.  However, in Brown Owls defence all the parents who have had Pebbles residing in their homes are complicit in this abuse, unless Pebbles is allowed to wear trousers when in a Brownie’s home.  This is something which might require further investigation. 

There is one other possibility which might avoid all this unpleasant and disagreeable discussion. That is  that there is an official status of “Mascot” which may, under the sex discrimination act,  not compel bears to disclose their gender. 


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This old Church Mouse hasn’t had much to say about the view from the pew recently.  Some exciting things are happening, or at least they will be exciting if they happen.  Rather like the Tithebarn Project in Preston we are in danger of getting all our kicks from talking about what we could do but never actually doing anything.  I do, on this occasion, think that there is a real moving of the Spirit.  Of necessity, there will be changes in the year 2010 because some of our clergy are moving away.  This and other factors, like the ever expanding Buckshaw Village between us and Chorley have made us consider how we need to change to meet the challenges which are before us.  Various people in both South Ribble and Preston are having a similar vision of new forms of outreach to the communities which we serve.  Already, at New Longton we are launching new ventures such as the mother and toddler group which has made a very encouraging start.  “Sticky Weeds”, the coffee and gift shop which has opened next door has started a knit and natter morning on a Monday which attracts more than was expected.  The days when the Church was the centre of Village life have gone but the various problems which people face  and the help and resources which the people who make up the Church can offer are still there.  We just need to find ways of linking up the two.  God is moving in South Ribble – watch out – He might be coming to get you.

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I may have mentioned this before but when I went away on holiday to North Berwick, which is close to Edinburgh, I was given Pebbles to look after.  Who or what is Pebbles? you might ask.  Well this takes us back to the Brownies again.  Pebbles is a little well behaved bear which is given to a little well behaved brownie each week to take home and bring it back the following week having written up Pebbles diary explaining what Pebbles has done during the week.  This is done with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  Sometimes one can imagine that poor Pebbles might just have sat on a shelf for the week.  Anyway – off we went with Pebbles in tow.  Naturally we wanted to make sure that Pebbles had plenty to talk about on his return.  I say “his” although it is by no means certain whether Pebbles is male or female.  Perhaps I should rephrase that – I am uncertain whether Pebbles is male or female –  I am quite sure that everyone else knows.

I spent the week prancing around with Pebbles perched on my camera case or on my shoulder and got about as many funny looks as I did when I was wearing my Brownie uniform with the frilly bits.  At least it allowed me to do some daft things and get away with it, like perching Pebbles on the front seat of someones precious motorbike, without asking permission.  I could see these big hairy bikers looking through the window in amazement so I didn’t hang about too long.  Then we walked into a nice tea shop and plonked Pebbles on top of a nice cake which was on the counter.  The cake had a cover on it, of course!  Tawny Owl drew the line at taking Pebbles on a speed boat.  The thought of what would happen if we had to come back and report to the Brownies that Pebbles had been lost at sea doesn’t ‘bear’ thinking about.   When we arrived home Tawny Owl put together a lovely booklet with a story and pictures of Pebbles and printed a copy for each Brownie.



Talking to a pigeon.



Sitting on the landing gear of Concord.



Riding on a tortoise.

This is just a small selection of the utterly improbably things which I found myself involved in.  Secretly though, I quite enjoyed it and I have since had some feedback from one of the parents who has really enjoyed the diary on the pretence of reading it to her daughter.

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It is hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner.  I am definitely one of those people who think that having Christmas cards in shops in September is far too early.  Having said that though I am currently working on the Christmas card which is delivered to all the houses in our village.  The aim is that they are all posted by the first weekend in December which gives me just about 2 months to get everything ready. 

We usually send a Christmas card which contains information about all the Christmas activities and services, a letter from the Minister, and then last year we included an invitation to the lunch club.  This year we are also hoping to advertise the holiday bible club for 2010 and possibly our new parent and toddler group, our youth club and adult youth club.  This means there is still a  lot to do and prepare hence the early start.  Then of course there are posters to do.

This year we also hoping to do an advent calendar outside church which will begin by looking like the Christmas card.  We haven’t quite decided whether to go with the usual 24 doors/25 doors or whether to have 1 every couple of days.  Then we also need to think about what could go in the windows.

Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome!

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What next ?

Went to Brownies last night.  We had a teddy bear’s picnic outside then we went back inside and proceeded to smash up a Pinata.  The girls wielded a large stick with considerable venom and destroyed the pinata fairly comprehensively.   The contents were then shared out amongst the Brownies.  At this point the Brownies showed an unreasonable amount of discontent when they were each given what had probably been a very nice  ball point pen but which had been reduced to an assortment of very colourful bits of plastic.  Perhaps it might have been obvious that having smashed up the Pinata the contents would also be smashed but anyway – you live and learn.

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We arrived at Myerscough College International Arena in good time and were directed into a large parking area.  We got our girls off and into the entrance where we were quickly directed through the correct door into the arena.  Inside was a sea of pink Centenary tops and musical entertainment to keep everyone happy. 

We were shown to our seats and I then went to unpack and sort out our props.  Quite soon the show started but some adult leaders with nearby groups insisted on continuing their conversations and totally ignored what was happening at the front, which seemed very rude and not a good example.  One person near to us looked like a bloke in drag but perhaps she was a Brownie Leader. More like a Vulture than a Brown Owl. When it was our turn we moved to the front and did our bit and it all went very smoothly.  The  projector and screen was intended to show a close up view of what was going on at the front but a screen about 8 times as big and a projector with a lamp like a search light would have been needed to allow those near the back to have any idea of what was happening.  Gradually the background noise of children and adults rose to such a point that it became difficult to even tell what the commentary was about but when “The Simpson’s” and “The Teletubbies”  came in the whole arena erupted.   

At one point, when four girls were singing they decided to try out what must be the latest in visual effects. It was four columns of smoke which lasted about 2 seconds once in the air but it was accompanied by a sound similar to a jet taking off which was quite effective in drowning the sound of the four girls. 

All told, the event was a great success and credit is due to those who managed to make it all happen so smoothly.  I was fully expecting to have some delay in getting everyone out of the arena and loaded onto the coaches and away on their journeys home but we left ahead of schedule.

There must have been a great deal of work left to do in moving the chairs, clearing up rubbish and dismantling the lighting, sound, staging, screen, etc etc. 

Fortunately I was spared the duty of wearing the pink Centenary top because the official top for a Unit helper is light blue but the badge tab is pink and I had a frilly bit round my neck so I still looked slighty odd.  I needed to be very careful how I walked in case anyone got the wrong idea but I didn’t notice any funny looks.  I suppose I would have been fairly conspicuous amongst 4000 girls whatever I wore but it was a most enjoyable day and I am glad to have been part of it.

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