Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Token blog post

Chatel, France

My predictions for the Olympics were about as wrong as they could be. Not only was there no disaster (pollution, protests, Tibet, terrorism etc.) but it all passed off very smoothly indeed. I suppose with the number of volunteers and soldiers around you'd expect nothing less, but it was an impressive spectacle nonetheless. GB's haul of 19 gold medals helped, of course, and may have masked any protests that did take place. The media are usually quick to jump on bad news, but maybe our gold-tinted specacles covered that up?

Anyway. On holiday in France at the moment, staying in the very beautiful and sunny Alps (pictured here with a very large fork in Vevey). I don't get back to England until the 4th September, then I start work on the 8th. A real job! How about that.
The day before, the 7th, I'm due to speak at All Souls' 8am service on the Passover from Exodus 12. As a lead-in to taking communion it's a perfect passage. I think I understand the thrust of the passage well enough, but one question is nagging me. Why was the passover lamb roasted, not boiled like other sacrifices once the Law had been given? I doubt this is the crux of the chapter somehow but it would be good to know. Answers on a postcard...

Monday, August 11, 2008


The war between Russia and Georgia is very worrying. It's tempting to write it off as a spat between two countries far away that have no bearing on us. But that would be wrong.

Georgia is one of the most pro-Western of the ex-Soviet states. It has a democratic government, has troops in Iraq, wants to join NATO and sees itself as European, rather than Russian. On the 8th, they moved troops into South Ossetia, a breakaway province that was autonomous under the Soviet Union but made part of Georgia in 1991. Presumably Georgia chose the 8th because they wanted to do it quietly while everyone was watching the Olympics. The South Ossetians want independence and reunification with their brothers in North Ossetia - part of Russia - but Georgia wants them to be part of Georgia.

Why does it matter? When it first kicked off over the weekend it would be easy to say "it doesn't". What's a couple of air-raids between friends? Since then, Russia has air-striked Georgian military facilities and civilian areas, sunk a ship in the Black Sea, landed troops on Georgian soil and reconquered South Ossetia. Obviously, the Georgian military doesn't stand a chance, which is why they've requested help from the West.

The Russians say they're defending Russian citizens in South Ossetia. The Georgians say they were fighting terrorism in South Ossetia. Who's right? Probably both of them, but at this stage that's immaterial.

Will any help come? It should. 1% of the world's oil passes through a pipeline in Georgia (the one featured in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, incidentally). More pressingly, our response to Georgia's request belies our attitude to the whole region. If Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan are thinking about realigning themselves to the west and away from Russia then they'll have to think long and hard about it, if they'll be fighting Russia alone. You shouldn't provoke a bear unless you have either a weapon or a getaway vehicle.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Olympic fun

Well, the Chinese certainly know how to put on a show don't they? 5 or 6 major performances, each with more than 1000 people in and perfectly choreographed. The opening ceremony was absolutely phenomenal. Watching the athletes parade in was fun... for a while. The vexillologist* in me enjoyed working out which country was which before they were announced. I can't imagine it was fun for the first countries to stand around for 2 hours while the rest came in!

The bar has certainly been set high for London in 2012. Somehow I don't think we'll be employing 10,000 people for 2 years just for the opening ceremony. The transformation of the city also seems very impressive: Beijing has spent £20bn on the Games; we're planning on £9bn with rather more modest redevelopment, but hopefully better legacy after the Games are over.

One piece of Olympic trivia for you: Great Britain is the only country to have won a gold medal at every Summer Olympic Games, since their reformation in 1896.

* Today's word of the day on iGoogle. It means a studier of flags!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Today's video

This song has been written and recorded by a couple of friends from my home church. It's packed with great doctrine and has a very singable melody.

Son of God, you left your royal throne,
Where angel voices named you Lord of all
In Bethlehem's bleak stable you were born,
The King of Kings, a baby frail and small.

Son of God rejected by the world
Derided as a madman or a fraud
By those who should have bowed the knee before
The King of Kings, the Sovereign Lord of Lords

Son of God, impaled upon a cross,
In agony I see my Saviour bleed,
Your arms outstretched, ironic thorns your crown,
The King of Kings, your last breath breathed for me

Son of God, within a borrowed tomb,
The slaughtered Prince of Peace in silence lies,
But night could never hold the Morning Star,
The King of Kings, in victory you arise.

Son of God, in splendour you'll return,
Angelic voice cries 'Jesus, Lord of all!'
The skies aflame with Heaven's glorious praise,
The King of Kings, before your throne I'll fall.

Pethick/Widgery 2008