It’s a bit late to say a happy new year now, but it’s just about the right time to say happy Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the pig. So all who were born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and obviously 2019, it’s your year! Don’t forget to wear red underwear, a red belt or red something according to Chinese tradition.
Since 2015, I have been printing photos out and putting them into physical photo albums every year. I did most of the 2018 photo album in January and it reminded of what a wonderful year it was. It also reminded me of all the good friends we had who left Newcastle in 2018. It is now Anna, not Jonathan, who makes sure mics work on Friday nights (but still with Jonathan’s aid via WhatsApp video call every now and then). It is now William, not Vano, who drags Henry (Jonathan: “that sucks”) around.
One of the highlights of January was our reading holiday in the brand new youth hostel, The Sill, in Northumberland. It was right next to Hadrian’s Wall. The building blended into the landscape discreetly with a steel grey structure and a green roof. It was bright and airy inside with a big open dining/lounge area. Our room was clean and modern with shower room, toilet and handwash basin, all in a separate area to where the beds were.
We hopped on a 6.30pm train from Newcastle after work on Thursday and arrived at Bardon Mill in pitch black darkness. After waving goodbye to the warm and comforting orange light from the train and the lonely station, we merged into the complete darkness of the countryside, excited and a bit scared. Our eyes adjusted to the night. Our feet walked without torches. Andy somehow managed to navigate, we turned left, we went straight on, we went through a friendly-looking village, TV and fire on in people’s living rooms, we crossed a small bridge with water rushing under. We made the occasional cars that drove past very nervous. We said good evening to an alarmed shepherd dog and a nice village lady. We wondered at the orange glow reflected in the cloudy sky. We chatted in hushed voices. Without falling over or going down a wrong path, we stepped into the glass door of The Sill, as bright as a beacon. An hour long night walk from Bardon Mill station.
We walked to Housesteads Roman Fort nearby (two hours in mud) the next day. The museum and the ground were fascinating. I’ve always loved seeing old buildings that are ruins more than those still standing. It’s like seeing a floor plan, which is way more comprehensible to me. I can’t comprehend buildings in 3D really.
Once my favourite Chinese student, now a talented budding young artist, Rachel was home for Christmas and we did a quick photoshoot at Jesmond Dene. It was lovely to hear about her study and work, as well as her involvement in CU down south. I look forward to stocking her products in our bookstall one day (maybe, if Ramzi lets me). I don’t usually put links to other websites in my blog posts but you have to see her beautiful artwork (click here).
On 21 January, a miracle happened – I got up in the morning at 6.30! That was the beginning of a new era in my life. I now do my studies and reading in the morning before I go to work and don’t feel as guilty or sluggish if I don’t read much in the evening. Have been loving it so far.
Wolf Hall is an enjoyable delight. I know this is not a new book at all. But it just doesn’t seem appeal to me to watch the most popular shows as everybody watches, to play the most hyped app game as everybody plays, or to read the most recent highly-regarded and awarded books as everybody else reads. About the book itself, it keeps reminding me of the Tyndale biography by Danielle. All the mentions of the little bit of Reformation history that I know are really exciting. I am really looking forward to reading the bit where Cromwell goes about rescuing Tyndale from a castle dungeon in Belgium, or maybe he doesn’t!
I finished Robinson’s Housekeeping, which is not one of those ‘how to keep your house tidy and organised’ or a Marie Kondo books at all. It’s also a novel. It’s my novel month. Most of the time I feel like reading Christian books only, one after another. But this month I feel like reading novels for a change! About the book itself, there are a LOT of words I don’t know but I did finish it somehow. It feels almost like a perfect textbook example of good writing – the descriptions of small details and subtle emotions are so truthful you forget it’s fiction.
We organised our second reading trip this month in Alnwick and Alnmouth. It was less satisfying for various reasons. But we found a lovely tea room slash art gallery in Alnmouth. I would love to take you there next time.
Getting up early continues, unbelievably, miraculously. Once or twice I got dopy so I played the piano instead (with earphones on obviously) and the music for this month was Mia and Seb’s theme in La La Land.
My colleagues have been commenting on my cult food lunch recently because of this (pictures below). I’m enjoying it at the moment. It makes the daily cooking a wee bit more exciting. Basically, you subscribe online, choose how many people and how many meals you’d like to cook for in a week (three meals for two people in my case). Then you can pick the dishes you like. On Tuesday, a big box arrives at your door with three brown paper bags in it. Inside them, there is a recipe with pictures, along with all the ingredients (prepared and chopped), including spices. Meat and dairy products are wrapped in a wool-jumper-like pouch for fresh-keeping until you get home from work. Amazing. Love it.
Lastly and quickly, there was a lot of teaching and training in the context of Christian ministry in January and February. And more to come in the month of March. I heard a podcast interviewing Don Carson at the beginning of the year and this quote struck me. Let it be my motto. If you pray, please pray that my heart is in the right place and my work is all for God’s kingdom and glory. Thank you.