Tuesday, November 29, 2016

congratulations

So here sit Harry & I, wondering what happened.

50.

How could it possibly be?

It's been a lovely day. Sunshine and frost and crisp, early winter's air. Our morning walk was a delight. No deer in sight today, but a gentle haze softening the edges of the fields as they meet the sky, and barely a note of cloud to be found anywhere in the sky.

Glorious.

I don't recall the weather ten years ago. I do recall the party, in the Gelliwastad Club in Pontypridd. MGQ playing, lots of friends and family and parishioners all around.

This year's party was in September. In the garden. Tonight it was just a few friends here at home.

Twenty years ago I had just moved to Aberystwyth. Though I moved in September, the house wasn't ready till the day before my birthday so I threw a housewarming-cum-birthday bash, and my tiny terraced cottage was filled with noise and joy.

Twenty-five years ago I was flying home from Israel. I'd been there with a team from St Aldate's, working with the two Anglican churches in Jerusalem and then having a chance to sightsee in Galilee. During the second half of that trip, I'd had the most amazing experience. Taking an afternoon by myself (because I was fed up and cross) I had ended up genuinely meeting with God by the lakeside in Galilee, and still have the pebble I picked up as I prayed there. The dusk came in fast, and though I found a bus stop back to Tiberias, it was in Hebrew and I had no idea what it said so I started to walk back. A car stopped, and the older gent who offered a lift (I guess he was probably the age I am now) was a University lecturer - a philologist. He spoke six languages. Sadly, English was number six, and so we conversed in a mixture of broken French and English, and I told him that I was training to be a priest.

He said:
If you want God's want, you are (how you say) congratulations.

Twenty-nine years ago this night happened in the University Church in Oxford, as I conducted the OICCU Carol Service on my 21st Birthday. I got my first CD player that day too. Goodness.

The year before, I don't exactly recall what I was doing, but I do recall walking with friends in Oxford at night and being terribly depressed that I was no longer a teenager. The move from 19 to 20 seemed enormous.

That I have friends from those far off days around me this evening, friends who have known me through the years, and messages from around the world pinging on my phone all day, is all the gift anyone could ask for.

The memories are selective; the blessings beyond number.

Friday, November 25, 2016

running with the 'graine

So let's finish the migraine post.

Last time I wrote of the autumn mists of the migraine I was suffering. It's all over now, but it took its time, and one of the things that really helped was being able to find occasional past posts here and compare current experience with them... So to help my future self, here's how it ended.

Well, the problem was it really struggled to end. The migraine itself was severe for two weeks. At fifteen days it had more or less burned itself out -the nausea, the vertigo, the severest of the headaches had all gone. But it just wouldn't die. It was like there was a room in my head I couldn't get into: I remained fuzzy, unable to function fully, to think clearly or to respond with the kind of mental acuity I regard as normal. Someone reminded me of something that had happened a week before - and I had no memory of it. All the sorts of things that go on during a migraine for me. And this low-grade murkiness, this tail-end fog just wouldn't clear. There was, in the end, another month of it before it dispersed.

One Saturday, three parishioners prayed with me, and as they prayed I felt the clouds part and for an afternoon I had a wonderfully clear day. Really, that's just how it felt. The following morning was back to the usual tightrope between clarity and confusion. The closed door in my head. The frustration.

I've been avoiding conflict - because any kind of conflict makes the general confusion much worse, and that internal room I can't get into gets bigger. I'm also aware I have been liable to being grumpier than usual, and dealing with conflict without the ability to bring in the kind of self-aware choosing of grace I would like to hope I sometimes have - well, that's not the way I like to deal with conflict. I have had to send one or two apology emails.

I now have reading glasses.

I saw the doctor who suggested I swapped between paracetamol and aspirin in order to take the edge off the thing. A cheap solution, and (with the addition of  slightly upset stomach) a reasonably effective one.

And then... it just faded. Finally. Six weeks after starting.

I'm left feeling a bit exhausted, a bit empty, and more than a bit relieved. Here's to it being nine years or more before the next one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

autumn mists

It's been about nine years since I wrote on this site about the migraines I used to suffer from. As I read back, I wrote of attacks that lasted eleven or fifteen or twenty-two days, and referred to times three or four years prior to that when they lasted for months.

It's funny how you forget.

Well, actually, it's not funny, it's part of the deal. For me, a migraine isn't all about the screaming headache (which can happen); it's just as likely to be about nausea, about vertigo and about my head turning to custard so I can't think or remember or cope with two people speaking at once... I had Bach partitas playing in the car the other day, and had to turn them off because they were far too complicated for my brain to take in while I was driving.

Yes, that's the thing, I'm having another migraine. Day nine today. In the ten years I have been on topirimate as a migraine preventative, I've hardly suffered at all. In the first few months, as I grew acclimatised, there were one or two shortish bouts - and then nothing. Just occasionally, one will start, but if I take even a paracetamol at that point the topirimate does its stuff and the migraine stops. It has been - and pretty much continues to be - a wonder drug for me.

The problem was that last Tuesday I woke up with a migraine in full flow. My eyesight had almost fully pixellated, my head was in a mess, and I pretty much fell downstairs in my rush to get some painkillers down my throat. That's never happened before. I have no idea how I could have slept to that point. And, as a result, though the painkillers have taken the edge off the experience, it's all still going on.

Of course, as one of the things that used to happen was that I'd lose memory - I really can't remember what I used to do when I had a migraine! Reading back through the few words I wrote ten years ago here has helped. It all feels very familiar. I had forgotten (though several friends have been reminding me) how I used to use Coca Cola to help. It still works - as does coffee, which I didn't really drink back then. So caffeine is a definite positive. But chocolate is a negative - that makes me much worse. Sadly, the days of topirimate helping me loose weight have long gone; my metabolism adjusted. And when I don't feel great, I do tend to eat more - even if I feel nauseous. Which right now I do most of the time.

I had forgotten that as a migraine progressed I stop sleeping. That's a comfort; sleep is a bit hit and miss at the moment, so reading about it in the past is helpful. It takes the worry away.

And if I stop and do nothing for a while, I can then sometimes store up some energy for something I want to be able to do - but this energy store can be completely dissipated by unexpected demands crashing in on me.

It's just a migraine. It's not the end of the world. But I'd forgotten how powerless I feel when my head is turned to cotton wool and I am unable to engage with others. If you've tried to talk to me over the last week and I suddenly seem to have switched off - I did. But it was nothing to do with you. Or me, really. We'll try again soon.

We're in the season of autumn mists; for now, they've invaded my head as well as the fields around me. The other night, driving home on the main road, a young stag ambled across the road in front of my car as I was speeding along at 60 miles an hour. My headlamps picked out its ghostly form in the soft fog as it gently strolled in front of me. A big beast, with no regard to anything I was doing, it came from nowhere and (mercifully) disappeared again without causing a (what seemed inevitable) crash.

These days feel a little like that.

autumn mists

It's been about nine years since I wrote on this site about the migraines I used to suffer from. As I read back, I wrote of attacks that lasted eleven or fifteen or twenty-two days, and referred to times three or four years prior to that when they lasted for months.

It's funny how you forget.

Well, actually, it's not funny, it's part of the deal. For me, a migraine isn't all about the screaming headache (which can happen); it's just as likely to be about nausea and my head turning to custard so I can't think or remember or cope with two people speaking at once... I had Bach partitas playing in the car the other day, and had to turn them off because they were far too complicated for my brain to take in while I was driving.

Yes, that's the thing, I'm having another migraine. Day nine today. In the ten years I have been on topirimate as a migraine preventative, I've hardly suffered at all. In the first few months, as I grew acclimatised, there were one or two shortish bouts - and then nothing. Just occasionally, one will start, but if I take even a paracetamol at that point the topirimate does its stuff and the migraine stops. It has been - and pretty much continues to be - a wonder drug for me.

The problem was that last Tuesday I woke up with a migraine in full flow. My eyesight had almost fully pixellated, my head was in a mess, and I pretty much fell downstairs in my rush to get some painkillers down my throat. That's never happened before. I have no idea how I could have slept to that point. And, as a result, though the painkillers have taken the edge off the experience, it's all still going on.

Of course, as one of the things that used to happen was that I'd lose memory - I really can't remember what I used to do when I had a migraine! Reading back through the few words I wrote ten years ago here has helped. It all feels very familiar. I had forgotten (though several friends have been reminding me) how I used to use Coca Cola to help. It still works - as does coffee, which I didn't really drink back then. So caffeine is a definite positive. But chocolate is a negative - that makes me much worse. Sadly, the days of topirimate helping me loose weight have long gone; my metabolism adjusted. And when I don't feel great, I do tend to eat more - even if I feel nauseous. Which right now I do most of the time.

I had forgotten that as a migraine progressed I stop sleeping. That's a comfort; sleep is a bit hit and miss at the moment, so reading about it in the past is helpful. It takes the worry away.

And if I stop and do nothing for a while, I can then sometimes store up some energy for something I want to be able to do - but this energy store can be completely dissipated by unexpected demands crashing in on me.

It's just a migraine. It's not the end of the world. But I'd forgotten how powerless I feel when my head is turned to cotton wool and I am unable to engage with others. If you've tried to talk to me over the last week and I suddenly seem to have switched off - I did. But it was nothing to do with you. Or me, really. We'll try again soon.

We're in the season of autumn mists; for now, they've invaded my head as well as the fields around me. The other night, driving home on the main road, a young stag ambled across the road in front of my car as I was speeding along at 60 miles an hour. My headlamps picked out its ghostly form in the soft fog as it gently strolled in front of me. A big beast, with no regard to anything I was doing, it came from nowhere and (mercifully) disappeared again without causing a (what seemed inevitable) crash.

These days feel a little like that.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

a very merry unbirthday

I'm not sure how long it has taken me to get over last Saturday.

I certainly didn't sleep the  night after; I was too overwhelmed - by the kindness of so many friends, by the generosity of so many folk from the parishes here.

It's easy to think about putting on a birthday party. An un-birthday party. I'm not fifty till the end of November, and it seemed like a good idea to do a garden party sometime in the summer. The weather would be better. Folk could get here more easily. Everyone could come and I wouldn't have to worry about finding an indoor venue. My garden can fit any number.

Of course, there is the English summer to reckon with...

Thinking about it is one thing. Doing it is quite another. And I was helped beyond measure by several folk in the parishes, who rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. It's slightly invidious to mention names, but B. & A. were stars in organising the Tea Tent, sorting cups and drinks and cakes and sandwiches and asking lots of folk to help. Then there was a surprise Birthday cake and Prosecco...  and a terribly kind speech from J; Then M. and his team from North Aston, plus a good little group from Steeple helped put up the two marquees - we were going with one, but the forecast made us do two; wisely, as it turned out! There are more folk I should thank. I am very grateful. Several friends from away asked - who did the catering? I replied - the amazing people of the parishes here. And people were indeed amazed.

The marquees made the garden look like a scene from the Great British Bake Off. The tables inside heightened that effect. Perfect cakes, scones, sandwiches, and a magnificent centre piece.

With around a hundred and fifty guests either packed into the tents or milling around on the lawn, depending on the state of the rain...

I thought there might be about a hundred, but people kept coming. I'd look, and there was someone else arriving. Folk from here - wonderful people I am getting to know, and some of them, as they'd arrive, I'd be thinking of their stories and what is going on in their lives. Family events, weddings, concerns and joys.

And then there were family members. And friends from school days, from student days, from St Aldates, from early days in Wales, from Aberystwyth, from Ridley, from Pontypridd. The only frustration for me was that with so many wonderful people, I could only stand and watch them talk to each other as I managed but a few words here and there.

A few words from a full heart.

I have said before that if a person's true wealth can be judged by the number of his friends, I am rich beyond counting. I think it is this which has stayed with me all week since last Saturday. God in his kindness has given me many gifts, but without doubt the greatest of them are the people who have touched and shaped my life. I looked around and saw some folk with whom I have known success and failure, some folk I've worked well with and some I've struggled with, some folk I was young and immature with and some in whom and from whom I have found deep, deep wisdom, some folk who should have given up on me years ago and I on them - and yet here we all were. What a wonderful thing. What a gift. What a rich thing is life that we get to live and grow and know and become, and become more and more, and we get to do it all together.

Life is not perfect; this is earth, not heaven. But this earth has heavenly moments. And my unbirthday party was one of them.

Monday, August 29, 2016

degrees of truth

As the Reformation was kicking off in Germany just shy of four hundred years ago, a series of debates was proposed. On one side, Luther & his supporters, Karlstadt and Melanchthon. On the other, Eck, who would humbly announce his arrival by walking through town surrounded by a bodyguard of seventy six men, fifes and drums playing.

As is the way of all debates, before the arguments over the core issues began, they argued over how they would argue. The format. Should there be books to refer to? Who should the judges be? And (early on) should there be stenographers present to record the debates verbatim?

Eck argued against. They might reduce the white hot passion of the verbal exchanges. Philipp Melanchthon wryly replied -

"The truth might fare better at a lower temperature."

I've been watching various conversations this weekend, in the church (locally and nationally), in the world (nationally and internationally), and been reminded of Melanchthon's dry wit and remarkable wisdom.

And hoped I might remember it myself when it matters.  


Sunday, August 21, 2016

the new normal

It was in the summer of 2016 that the new sporting normal finally asserted itself.

The old Soviet nations were struggling under the double whammy of large-scale drug suspicion and the collapse of any kind of state-sponsored support; China couldn't turn 1.4 billion citizens into more than a handful of medallists; and it was the supposedly traumatised British who came to the fore.

The reason? It was the brainchild of one of Britain's greatest Prime-Ministers, Sir John Major. History has been kinder to Sir John than his contemporaries often were. It was his introduction of a national lottery (with its emphasis on cultural and sporting projects as chief spending priorities) that in only twenty years transformed Team GB from failures at the bottom of the medal table in Atlanta to heroes in second place at Rio.

At a time when the nation was struggling with its identity, its place in Europe and the world, and indeed questions of whether it could even hold together, this global sporting success proved fundamental.

Nationalist politicians were ultimately powerless against the strength of repeated broadcasts of athletes wrapped in Union flags, tunelessly belting out God Save the Queen several times a day. And when Team GB finally beat Team USA to the head of the Olympic standings only eight years later, US Secretary of State Ryan Lochte described it 'like being held up and robbed at gun point'. President of the British Olympic Association, Lord Murray, replied with his characteristic dry wit, 'Well, he'd know'.

Of course, there were bumps on the road. There remain some faint memories of embarrassment that knighthoods used to be doled out to athletes who gained as few as four or five gold medals, and not necessarily at the same Olympiad. But those were different days, and we mustn't judge the past by the standards of today. After all, though it seems scarce possible now, at the time of the Sydney Millennium games even Australia was viewed as quite the sporting nation.

The most remarkable change took far longer. But eventually the old national football associations realised they were never going to win anything ever again and watched the Olympians with such envy that, five Olympiads after London 2012 the Great Britain Football Association was finally created.

And football (and with it the World Cup) duly came home.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

compromised

I have a confession to make.

The integrity of this blog has been seriously compromised.

I've always been proud of the fact that I have no party allegiance (apart, clearly and sensibly, from being strongly anti-Ukip) and have critiqued anyone and everyone from Jeremy Corbyn to Donald Trump. Even before politics got silly, Gordon Brown and George W Bush both received the tough side of my love.

And now I fear I have to declare an interest. The days of guaranteed impartiality on these pages may be nearing their end.

To be fair, anyone who has any knowledge of my voting record knows that it is remarkably colourblind. I've been privileged to be able to vote for friends in most of the places where I have lived. That means I have put policy and party and wider matters aside when I have stepped into the voting booth and voted largely for the person.

But now a man who used to be my next door neighbour, a man I first met as he cut out the roots of a tree in his garden next to my kitchen, a man who has cooked for me and poured me more glasses of wine than either of us could count, a man who has helped me in my darker hours and celebrated with me in all kinds of joy, a man who has walked with my dogs and whose kids have learned to play on my piano - in other words, a man I trust completely: a friend - this man is on the ballot for leader of the Labour Party.

So I am compromised. I have no impartiality. I am not qualified to speak to his politics, but about his character I will say:
Owen Smith is a good man, with a good heart, a heart and voice that says now for all to hear what I have heard in his home and mine for years.
I am a friend, and therefore biased, and my bias is based on this:
God has blessed me with many gifts, but the richest of them are my friends. I love Owen and Liz dearly, and am blessed indeed to have such friends as these.

So my blog may well be compromised.
But bring it on!

PS - if you don't yet know Owen well, perhaps this might help...

Friday, July 08, 2016

we rise again trying

There's been so much news recently that people have even been buying newspapers. Though as the news has been changing every hour, they've been more for a historical record than for keeping up to date.

The sliver lining, for now, is that That Man Farage seems to have gone. But as one can never believe anything he says, who knows whether he will stay away. Hopefully someone will make him illegal. There's one piece of censorship we can all agree on.

Except we can't.

An unelected bigot with a megaphone spooked the Prime Minister and forced us out of the European Union. Hopefully TMF will soon be confined to the pages that wrap chips, but his poison remains with us a while yet. We have work to do to get it out of our system.

The Tories are electing a woman leader and Prime Minister. If they have any sense they will follow this with a quick General Election; Gordon Brown learned what happens to Prime Ministers who don't ask the people to condone a political coronation. And the Labour Party is in such disarray that no-one has a clue what would happen if an election happened.

The Lib-Dems might gain seats.

The truth of the Referendum is that families can't speak without pain. Half of us are now "bad losers"; the other half of us are "ignorant racists" who had no idea what they were voting for. And I have no idea if those who are spoken of as taking over the two main parties have any kind of vision of unity for the country; some of their words I read demonstrate very party-based thinking, and in a world where we are already stuck in the trench-mud of polarisation and hatred, I'm kind of praying for more than this.

I'm getting the opportunity to practice the principles I'm praying about too.

In the Shire, we have some projects going on in the various churches, and one or two strong voices are speaking against them. I regularly talk about how it's fine to disagree - openly, kindly, with grace - so I can't complain when folk take me up on this and voice their differences. And indeed, I welcome it. A good project needs a lot of discussion happening, so difficult questions help. Though there are days...

And I have to be Rector for everyone. For those who think the projects are the best thing since sliced bread (wisely), and for those who can't understand why everyone isn't still cutting their own bread. With an axe...

Ronald Reagan said: The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally - not a 20% traitor. I'm not a Ronald Reagan fan, but I do like common sense, and this certainly qualifies as that. It certainly passes as essential wisdom in days when everyone rushes to pick sides and then shouts abuse at the other with a megaphone, or fails to speak at all.

In the Shire, what unites us is everything. What divides us is pifflingly small.

In the nation we need leaders who grasp that sense and walk us down that road. I don't really care what colour they wear on their political badges (I never have done).

And in the Church of England's General Synod, this is the weekend when those gathered will take time to talk and listen and think and pray about human sexuality again.

The book, Journeys in Grace and Truth, to which I contributed a chapter, has gained quite a lot of coverage around this. One conservative commentator, Ian Paul, does not like it (do read his review for yourself). I should count myself lucky; he calls my chapter "fascinating, moving and...highly engaging" - before picking holes. A lot of the time I feel he just doesn't quite get what the book is doing - and this makes me pause. For I realise that in these church discussions I am sure there are times when those who disagree with me stare at me like I'm stupid whilst thinking, "he just doesn't get it, does he?"

80%.

Friends and allies.

We need a vision for unity and leaders who can communicate this vision compellingly so that we are raised up from the polarising sickness of these days, the stinking trenches of our minds that mirror the warfare of a century ago and risk destroying millions more lives. It is not enough to be right. Those who come after us will have no idea what we thought was right or why. They will judge us by the way we divided the world friend from friend, family from family, son from mother, father from daughter, and they will have no comprehension how or for what tiny-minded reason we did it.

Unless, of course, we don't.

So I am pledging to love those folk who disagree with me in the Shire. To listen again to those who didn't like my chapter and see them as people with beating hearts and not mere producers of words on screens. For we do not end hatred with hatred but we overcome oppression with love.

And if it doesn't work, well, we rise again trying.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

grace and truth

Jayne Ozanne contacted me a few months back, asking if I would contribute to a resource she was preparing for the CofE General Synod.

The Synod will be discussing human sexuality in July, and Jayne wanted to offer a book for all members that came from Evangelicals who (through their encounter with Scripture) held different views than those who normally hold the airwaves with what is called the 'traditionalist' standpoint. Evangelicals who support gay people. Evangelicals who support gay relationships. Evangelicals who can find a place for gay people in the Church of God and the heart of God without having to use the word 'sin' somewhere in that place, and without having to throw their Bibles away either.

Well count me in.

I find myself in exalted company - the press around the book launch has focussed on the bishops involved (the Bishop of Liverpool and my own area bishop in this diocese, the Bishop of Dorchester), as well as other very public church figures.

I have been delighted to receive emails, texts and messages from folk who have read the book already, and I'm pleased to say they have been very positive about my few words. I must add that as I read it, I especially enjoyed Gavin Collins' chapter - he very much uses Scripture in a way that I appreciate - though the breadth of the book is excellent, and I do think it helps give a depth to the debate by re-framing the Evangelical perspective away from the one-dimensional 'traditionalist' stance.

Judge for yourself. You can find it on Amazon, or direct from Jayne.

And here's the Bishop of Liverpool talking about his take on it all:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

old friends and family


There's a piece I wrote on here, years ago, which finishes with the story of the passing of Gladys Gregory. A saint of God.

Her son was Stuart, warden & treasurer alongside John Murphy of fame and memory when I first arrived at Pontypridd. The photo here has them both at a picnic lunch we had in the vicarage garden there to celebrate the re-opening of church after the interior renovations in 2005. Alongside them, Gwyneth Williams, and behind her, Anne, Stuart's wife.

If ever I have to explain what keeping the fifth command looks like I need only describe Stuart and his mother. She cared for him beyond measure as he grew up; he repaid this love every day as she grew older. He watched over her decline, and (with heartbreak) the passing of Anne as well.

A quiet Anglican, he never really shouted about his faith. But worshipping with his fellow Christians was the bedrock of his life. He sang in the choir at St Catherine's from boyhood days till the choir morphed into music group in my time, and then he sang in the music group. He knew all the hymns; he had no idea on many of the worship songs, yet he stood at the front and worshipped any way.

He would tell a story of his grandmother's funeral - a time when the presence of Jesus was so thick in the room, that he expected to open his eyes and see him.

On Friday I drove to Pontypridd and attended Stuart's funeral. All the folk in that top photo are gone now. Like Gwyneth, St Catherine's was Stuart's home from home. Like Gwyneth, I expect he is overwhelmed by the wonders of Glory, and the joy of hearing those words - "Well done, good and faithful servant." At last, he's not outshone by John; at last, with his devoted Anne, he is now opening his eyes and seeing the great Love of his life.

I spoke a few words at the service in church and finished by saying: Stuart, we will miss you; thank you for being one of us; see you again one day.

Gill Tuck took the service, and she went on with the family to Glyntaff; I got waylaid. I hope Stuart wouldn't mind. I see the folk at St Catherine's so rarely, and one of the joys of remembering those old friends who go before us is that we do so with old friends still around.

So I took a little time with those who lingered in the church.

I'm often dumbfounded by those who say - "I don't need a church to worship God." I guess they actually mean "a church building", and if so, I completely agree. But a church is not a building, it is a people. It is relationships. It is - as Stuart and Gladys both knew so well - a family. Families have their moments; but we are bound together by something stronger.

I do need a church. I am not built to worship alone, though I do pray and worship and live with God daily in my own walk. But I belong to Jesus within his family. The process of leaving Pontypridd was  enormously hard because this was my family; I regularly get asked if I miss Wales, and the honest answer about the place is - no. But the people? Ah...

Here are Derek and Pauline, and Joyce and Gill and Stewart and Jason, and Jane and Teg. Ken and Trish and Julie and Alan and Andy and Enid and all sorts of others had already left by the time we thought to take the photo. I debated with a group of curates here recently about how close you get to folk in your parish; friends, or just friendly?

As I chatted over coffee and watched and listened and looked and saw, I thought of those who I saw through Ponty to Glory: Stuart and his mother, of John Murphy and his best mate Ken, of Gwyneth, of Cynthia; I thought of those I saw through Ponty to ordination: of Martin and Chris, of Wayne, of Miles, of Karsten; I thought of those I saw through Ponty to places far and wide, and of those who shared the journey for a while: of Dan and Kirsty, of Richard and Naomi, of Matt, Matthew & Sion. I looked at the people around me and thought of the folk back in the Shire.

Friends, just friendly, or...

Another question occurred: when folk meet me, I am often asked - Do you have a family? They mean are you married, and my usual answer is - No, it's just me and a Springer. But seriously, next time I get asked "Do you have a family", I really must reply -

O yes. So many of them. You wouldn't believe it.