Monday, 26 July 2010

Fun in France, the grace of God and an unusually quiet, reasonably uneventful week.

One unusually quiet and reasonably uneventful week on from Maplewell Hall camp, and perhaps I can just about say that I'm recovered from the crazy couple of weeks i'm about to recount.

First up, I had the enormous privilege to spend a week on holiday in France with fourteen friends. From Alison's house, we piled onto Jim's minibus at around 3am on the 9th July, heading for Newhaven ferry port. This routine has now somehow, amazingly become a normal procedure, this being our third holiday in lovely Tourville la Chapelle, a teeny weeny village found around ten miles from Dieppe. Still spoiled by a friend's parents allowing us to stay in their little holiday home and still as up for a good time as ever, we have mostly reached the grand old age of twenty, and have begun trying to appear a little bit classy with some formal dress,champagne, and cycling around the french countryside with loads of baguettes.

As holiday experiences go, I believe this to have been fairly unique. Arriving on Friday afternoon, on Saturday we headed off by bus back to Dieppe. Eventually, after several hours and much expenditure including pizza at the shops near to the bus stop, the bus arrived and we were able to go and pick up enough hired bikes for the tour de france 2010. We paid ten euros each for almost a week's worth of cycling - not bad at all! Sunday brought the football world cup final - between The Netherlands and Spain. In light of this, our holiday would not have been complete without a world cup fun day!

Mr Nick Loakes hosted the proceedings, whereby we were split into two teams, each taking up the challenge to sport adopted national colours for the day. This attracted some attention from locals who had the pleasure of spotting a small army of ridiculous looking 'spanish' and 'dutch' cyclists wearing red and orange respectively when we stopped for a picnic by the coast on a trip to the beach. There was fun in the sea, and I narrowly avoided lots of sunburn. High tides foiled the penalty shootout on the beach plan but this reconvened later on in the evening in Tourville la Chapelle's small park, following 'walking out of the tunnel', hand shaking, team photos and national anthems in the garden. The penalty shoot out was THE BEST and so much fun! I did not score a goal, but was so overjoyed to watch Lucie, who least expected it, bang one in. It was universally agreed that the world cup football match itself was a disappointment to watch, but we were kept entertained by a quiz comprised of both general knowledge and questions relating to Holland and Spain. Sample questions include 'how many bicycles are there in Holland?' and controversially 'name ten possible ingredients of Sangria'. See the team photos below.

You get the idea.

Monday brought another trip to Dieppe, and bidding farewell to Loakesy, who left us early to return to work. We had dinner (I had the 'fish that arrived' - quality translation skills) in a fishy french restaurant before heading home for a cheese and wine night. As usual, loads of cheese, plenty of wine. In short, the week was cycling, baguettes, sunshine, champagne and brilliant company. Nearing the end of the week, the girls decided to hold an awards ceremony for the boys, who generally treat us so well, and last year excelled themselves with a three course meal, champagne reception, table waiting and chauffer driven taxi services. So we held the first annual BAFTAS, that's a 'Bros Awards For Things And Stuff' ceremony, awarding medals (cardboard covered in tin foil), fanta citreon, and much coveted cigars for both good and bad behaviour throughout the week and general life. Awards, presented in the categories of 'best', 'worst' and 'most', included 'most wine consumed throughout the week' and 'best arrow-word knowledge' and unfortunately 'worst bladder control'. Let's not go there. Maxi dresses, jazz and group photos were the order of the evening, and when it got a little chilly, we ajourned inside to partake in a very small amount of ballroom dancing.

The weather was fine all week, and caused me to purchase some extra over priced suncream. In order to find this I unfortunately had to break my summer holiday rule of avoiding all pharmacies but such is life. It only rained as we cycled our bikes back to Dieppe for the final time (which was not a nice rainy experience) but overall not too obtrusive at all. We sheltered in a kebab shop with really poorly cooked chicken and bad decor. Je voudrais un kebab sil vous plait. I drank loads of tea and was reminded of how much I really appreciate the aesthetics of wind turbines. I am so thankful for such good, beautiful, lively friends with whom I've stayed close with over the past couple of years since finishing school. Without being all slushy, when spending so much time with them it isn't hard have a great love for each of them. I hope this will only increase and that I am continually challenged to show an unconditional love to them just I have been shown such great love by God.

Less than 48 hours after our return, having spent a couple of nights home alone (because my family were on holiday in Crete) and suffering severe friend withdrawl symptoms, Megan arrived at my door and we packed up her car with all sorts, ready for Maplewell Camp 2010! With tambourine, giant painted prayer clock, cyber man costume, a few bibles, a couple of heavy suitcases, several hymn books and a dispproportionate amount of christian literature we were the first to arrive at our destination, Maplewell Hall school. A residential school during term time the building is perfect for our 14-18s annual summer camp. The days are full of activities, ridiculous challenges, outrageous tribe dancing, but there is a strong focus on teaching in the form of bible studies and evening sessions. Being part of it all is an enormous privaledge and more fun than you can imagine. For evidence of this, see the below photograph of the female leaders on dress up night - which was themed 'Alphabet Soup'. ie. you dress up as something beginning with the same letter as your name.

Yes, Deb is wearing a duvet. And I am wearing another cardboard box covered in tin foil on my head. And Becca is dressed up as Big you do!

We went ice skating, to Playzone (an adult sized wacky- warehouse style play area - absolutely amazing.) in Lincoln, splashed around doing various activities at the national watersports centre in nottingham and took part in an excellent photo challenge treasure hunt around the unsuspecting village of Rothley. I particularly enjoyed Kayaking in the Trent, and surprisingly, being genuinely assaulted by an appropriately named assault course. Asides the activities, we did bible studies using the 'Noise' 'Dust' 'Rich' and 'Trees' Nooma DVDs produced by Rob Bell et al. and had four main evening sessions during which we looked at the book of Ephesians in four talks. Having never watched the Nooma DVDs prior to what little planning I'd managed before the week, I wondered what they would be like. Despite mixed reviews from various people I've spoken to, I watched with an open mind. Although not really my learning style, our bible study group on the whole seemed to like the format as a useful point for beginning discussions and the dvds were a valuble resource for us.

Broadly, the week's programme was 'faith in action' or as I looked at it 'what is our christian faith and how should it affect the way we live our lives?'. Ephesians, a book of the bible containing a letter written from a guy called Paul, a christian involved in the set up of the early church, to a group of christians in a place called Ephesus, is so great for this. There is no way we can start looking at how we as christians should live our lives without first looking at the foundations of what we believe. Without an understanding of why we are to live a certain way, our efforts become wasted on the pointless and impossible task of merely living according to a moral code. Ephesians first looks at what it means to have a new life in Christ, then what it means to be part of God's community, then how we are to live in light of all that has come before. I was privileged enough to give one of the evening talks, on Ephesians chapter 2 and 3, but focusing mostly on the first ten verses of chapter 2 which essentially explain what it is to be a Christian. Having never really done anything like this talky bit before I found this a very exciting place to start! I'll save the exciting details for another blog, because this one is getting fairly long!

I returned home exhausted last Saturday afternoon to an empty house (parents still on holiday) to sit down almost immeadiately on the sofa and not get up for several hours. At first I was slightly too zombified to really recognise the inevitable and well known severe camp/friend withdrawal but as the evening wore on I was glad that a few of my friends who had also been leaders during the week returned to join me for the evening. We watched the film 'UP' which is an amazing film, consumed a chinese takeaway, a glass of wine and lots of strawberry laces from the co-op.

Since Maplewell, I have been mostly in Groby, and although I love home sweet home, things have been a little quiet. This has apparently been my token week of the year where I remind myself I am actually, technically employed. I've been working in the library for a few hours here and there most days, and apart from that, overall justspending seemingly too much time sitting around not doing all that much.

My quiet week has had a few moments where dare I say it boredom has threatened, which got me doing some thinking. Obviously it's not possible as not all friends live just around the corner, but how much healthier would our friendships be if instead of having a browse through someone's photographs online, following them on twitter, or checking to see if they've updated their status recently, we actually called said person up and invited them round for a cup of tea, out for a drink, for a wander out somewhere if the weather is nice, or for dinner if times are a little bit easier. How much better would our spare time be spent investing in our relationships and really getting to know and love our friends better- there is no substitute for spending time with someone.

Similarly, from a Christian point of view, how much healthier would my relationship with God be if I were to invest those spare moments in prayer, communicating with my creator rather than letting quite literally the whole world know, using my admittedly amazing blackberry, that I'm on the 29A bus into town and it's quite busy. What if during the holidays I spent the same amount of time reading my bible as I do almost wasting time reading the status updates of people I haven't seen since primary school..

Thus, I've instigated not quite a facebook fast but more of a 'facebook diet', because I really want to try and make the best use of my time. I've been hanging out with friends here and there. My friend Becca passed her fourth year medical exams therefore celebratory drinks were in order, and pizza along with dancing games on the wii were on the cards as a post Maplewell early celebration of Megan's 20th. I've just begun re-reading Pete Greig's 'The vision and the vow' which is proving to be just a challenging the second time around, despite only being a small chunk of the way through so far. Like the good old days I sat with a friend in the park until the early hours of the morning, swinging on the swings and discussing the best way to sort out the world's problems. As usual, we came to no solid conclusion except perhaps this one unsaid.

'He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.'

This morning I was excited to go to church, where I particularly enjoyed playing the newly installed super-techno Clavinova recently purchased. I was the first to play it and even I, never a fan of a digital piano or a keyboard over an acoustic piano, have to say it's amazing! I went along with Mum, Dad and Alex to The Greyhound in Botcheston this afternoon for dinner, which was a great time. On our return I promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours and then with my mum watched more television than I probably have done for the whole year so far put together, including extreme makeover, snippets of '16 and pregnant', a biography of Daniel Craig, and an old David Tennant (love the guy) episode of Doctor Who followed by the current new drama of Sherlock Holmes, starring a guy who my mum kept banging on about also being in 'Amazing Grace' who also to look at reminds me lots of a friend of mine. All of these TV programmes were mildly entertaining to me and the cat, making good background noise for the writing of this blog, but really this is what I mean about making better use of my time!

Tomorrow will bring a few hours working at the lovely new all singing all dancing New Parks Library Centre, which provides quite a different environment to the building I was used to working in each Saturday during my time at sixth form. If the swimming pool is open I might jump in there, but if not i'll return to the mad house where we're getting a new kitchen floor in tomorrow and the poor cat will be dancing around trying to avoid getting his paws stuck in cement etc. etc. I hope to join some friends at the pub in the evening for a catch up too.

And, I think, this brings this blog right up to date!

Adios Amigos as they say in Ibiza
Au revoir, as they say in France.
See you in Glory, as they say at godcamp.

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