Wonder of wonders

Something out of the ordinary happened today - I was running my standard 4.25 mile course and on the uphill to Cavanagh's farm when I became aware of a cyclist keeping pace alongside me. Conversation ensued and I found that he was a barefoot runner! The very first person I have met who runs barefoot! Or should I say ran, because he admitted he gave it up a while ago for fear of finding broken glass or worse in his native area of Phoenix Park. Seeing me gave him resolve to start running barefoot again.


Thou shalt not tempt update 4

I did not hear any results of the blood tests so I suppose they did not indicate complete healing as we had hoped. I have now subscribed to the family's email feed so no longer have to rely on a friend giving me updates. Their latest update starts "T's chemotherapy medicines started dripping into his central line at Noon on Tuesday. And I'm not sure what more to write." I am hurting inside when I read this. I had thought that the "burden" I had felt to pray for complete healing, so as to avoid him having to go through chemo, was from God and therefore that it would happen. Not for any good in me but because God keeps his word. Of course it is possible to rationalise - perhaps it was my own silly emotions and no burden from God. Perhaps there is no God and the whole thing is an illusion. I've already made the point whether he is healed or not is not my business - it is God who will do it or not do it. But I still feel like I have failed in some way. Of course I suppose there have been many others praying for healing - I wonder how they feel? Most of all I wonder how the boy himself feels, who had said "it gives God more time to do the big miracle of healing!". And it must be so trying for his siblings and parents.

And this is not the only time I have been pretty convinced that God was telling me to pray in a particular way but not yet seeing what I regarded as a full answer. Maybe I have to wait longer. Those guys in in the roll-call of faith, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise in their lifetime. Tough! And not only that but I have contracted a cold which itself makes a chap feel in the mulligrubs; not only that but my business has (hopefully temporarily) ground to a halt, and I have to wear glasses and now it looks like I might have to wear a hearing aid. And because I am supposed to be one of the leaders in the church here but I feel like that is largely a joke. And, I could go on... I predict that any people who live here reading this will say the equivalent of "Everybody needs a Michael" which roughly translated means Michael will mend the broken this or that, and doubtless Michael will for I like mending things, but is that my sole purpose in life? Maybe it is.

Of course I know the words: Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been a shelter for me and a strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. And have taken, and will continue to take some comfort in them. But still...

And these words: And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth? The Greek word translated "speedily" means just that, however God's idea of speed does not generally tally with my own and the final "shall he find faith?" suggests that many will not go on believing in the face of apparent denial, rather as seems to be happening to me. At least I can take comfort in dear old Thomas who admitted "Except I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Nevertheless I will (try to) doggedly continue to ask God to heal this boy, plain contrary to what I am told is happening to him, and in the meantime may God give strength and perseverance to him and his family throughout whatever ordeal he has to go through.


The sea, the sea

I have just finished reading the sea, the sea by Iris Murdoch and have found its portrayal of "the jumble of motivations that drive (the narrator) Arrowby - the human vanity, jealousy, and lack of compassion behind the disguises they present to the world" a disturbingly accurate caricature of what goes on in my own consciousness. I persisted through its sometimes banal and boring, but sometimes beautiful narrative because I wanted to see if Arrowby's experiences and conclusions would draw any light on my own. They didn't, of course, except to make me more curious.

The subject matter reminds me of Till we have faces which centres around the narrator Orual's possessive and jealous love for her sister. Only in this case Lewis is able to present to the reader at least a suggestion of the resolution to the problem echoed in the title of the book.

I cringe when I consider what face I present to God, who made me, or to my fellow man.



Castletown House

I was let out today so I cycled to Castletown House. Yesterday the weather was balmy; today it was overcast and the wind was cold and the only time I felt remotely warm was on the way back, whilst eating a CDM and drinking Club Orange, courtesy of Swans on the Green (a shop), and on a bench in the said green, when the sun deigned to shine somewhat feebly between incessant clouds.

Swans on the Green

Time for a smackeral - spot the CDM!

The route

I doubt if William Conolly was ever caught eating a Creme Egg on a bench outside his palatial residence.

Castletown House grounds were humming with walkers, dogs, joggers and, surprising, bicycles.  I found a back way in, close to Western aerodrome. Which latter was of course where it all started, "it" being my youngest's passion for flying.

Stats: 59.0 miles, average speed moving 12.6 mph, maximum speed 33 mph.

Detail by Western aerodrome and Castletown House


A brief visit to the Wicklow Gap

A busy weekend - removing carpet in hall stairs and landings and repairing floorboards ready for a new carpet to be laid later this week - but a gorgeous day so after doing my bit I got away for a couple of hours, enough to make the Wicklow Gap and back again. With a cold hot cross bun.

The outward journey took just over an hour, then 5 minutes of bliss atop a large rock enjoying the scenery and enjoying my bun sluiced down with water, and then hastening back again (we have company for dinner).

Total distance 21 miles, maximum speed 40 mph (the downhill behind Knockalt), average speed moving 12.3 mph, maximum elevation 480m.

The outward journey follows part of St Kevin's Way - but I only saw one walker and he wasn't on the official Way. Whilst I condone the increasing number of way-marked paths here in Ireland (I can't think of any when we first moved down from the North 35 years ago) it is still a long way behind the UK. When last in Devon I was reminded of just how many public footpaths there are. This site notes that Devon County Council is responsible for maintaining 3.200 miles of public rights of way, and there are similar sites for other UK counties, like here for my county of birth. Here even the way-marked paths often cross private property with permission but without right of way.

At least there is growing pressure here in Ireland for change.


Thou shalt not tempt update 3

It's been a while since I last posted. The reason being that I hadn't heard any more news until today, and today's is not yet the "wow" I had been hoping for. There are apparently no indications of healing as yet and thus the family is preparing for the medical profession's solution. But they are still hopeful in saying "We're praying for a smooth journey through it but we're still praying for the spontaneous miracle!" And I am too. He will have his bone marrow tested on Friday and I guess the results will be the acid test of whether or not there has been healing so - watch this space.

Is this faith? Even if like "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar"?  I am not sure that I am up for that kind.

My hope is that by my sharing all this publicly, anonymously though it must be, my reader will be, like I was, roused to stand with this boy and his family. A sort of crowdfunding.

Prayer meetings

Does anyone else out there have my problem with prayer meetings?

We evangelicals venerate prayer meetings.  They are, perhaps, the evangelical's equivalent of penance. Like medicine, the nastier it tastes very obviously the better it must be for you.

Here in the community in which I live, after our evening meal sometimes one or another will share the needs of a friend, relative or local neighbour and, being convicted, folk will spontaneously pray out loud for the situation.  To me that is good and wholesome and different from the sort of organised prayer meetings I am talking about.

After most everyone else has prayed out loud at least once one feels a certain pressure to follow suit. And this makes me up-tight and even less likely to think of anything to say. As if prayer should consist of trying to drum something to say!

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Mat 6:5-8

...and then follows what we call "the Lord's prayer". Which, apart from its familiarity, is about as far from any "normal" prayer I hear said here as you can get.

The account in the gospel of Luke tells us this was in response to the disciples asking the Lord how they should pray. Of course as Jews they knew about prayer so they were asking something deeper, perhaps after seeing the results of Jesus' praying. Like "teach us how to pray, the sort of prayer that has effect". Which are my sentiments also.

That "your Father knows" gives insight that the purpose of prayer is not telling God stuff as if He didn't know. Or, when folk wax eloquent in a prayer meeting, are they doing so to inform the others present rather than to inform God? In which case can it really be called prayer?


Spring is my favourite colour

Saturday bike ride to Rathdrum and back, the purpose being to suss out a possible route for a kid's camp later in the year. About 50 miles round trip and I got cramp several times. Argh! I must be out of condition.

Looking west from Wicklow Gap - it's mist not the sea!

The beautiful Avonmore River

Spring time Ballygannon tree tops

My Sunday run (just 5 miles) somewhat affected by yesterday's bike ride. So many flowers are yellow at this time of the year!


My favourite


My lake

Dunno what these are but they're cute

Specially when out of focus





Google tells me it was Holi Festival a few days back. It looks like fun though what all those chemicals do to one's body when inhaled or ingested I dread to think. But, given my love of colour, perhaps I ought to be Hindu?


The lake (again)

Combining yesterday and today I ran (barefoot of course) 17.7 miles which sounds impressive but it doesn't count so much when summed over two days. I may have said before how much I love our lake but, because I do and there were some cool light effects with a storm around, I have to inflict some more photos on you. Sorry, but that's just the way it goes. It is, after all, my blog.


The bell

I've started reading The bell by Iris Murdoch. I admit I haven't yet got very far but already I am impressed by the telling detail of her description of unbelieving Dora returning, after a period of separation, to her alienated husband Paul who is now part of an Anglican lay community. His life is conditioned by the community. Hers by her shallowness of character and previous dispensing with religion. And yet of the two she is the more likely to give time to stand and stare...

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
William Henry Davies

I do allow myself a little time to stand and stare, well at least to run barefoot and stare. I try to get out four times a week although two of those are early morning when I am only half awake. These are good times for private prayer, and for dusting cobwebs from the mind and I like to think they also keep me fitter than I would otherwise be given my office job. The other great escape is my bed: how I love that feeling of laying my head on my pillow, relaxing every muscle and at last surrendering myself to sleep. Oh, and breakfast. Because I generally retire at a sensible time I also start the day earlier than most others here. This means I can take my breakfast in solitude, a practise that I firmly recommend.

But at other times I too, like Paul, am conditioned and imprisoned by my supposed beliefs. I say "supposed" because so much I find myself wrestling on the horns of the dilemma: is what we say we believe true or are we Christians fools?

I'm rather of the opinion that the truth is somewhere else. I am reminded of

But amidst all these rejoicings Aslan himself quietly slipped away. And when the Kings and Queens noticed that he wasn't there they said nothing about it. For Mr Beaver had warned them, "He'll be coming and going," he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild,' you know. Not like a tame lion."  Lewis

When I was younger I had a problem with Lewis' theology as expressed here. We evangelicals are taught that God is omnipresent. But I find it to be true in my life that it at least seems like He comes and goes. And my fervour or lack of it doesn't appear to make any difference, again contrary to what we are taught. I don't want to exchange standing and staring at the beauty of this year's daffodils (my fav flower) for busyness and religious activity.

Then I wonder how I can have the gall to even contemplate such agnosticism when at the same time we are warned that over a million children might starve to death in Africa this year, and hear of atrocities in Syria, inhumanity in N. Korea, and so the list goes on. Not that either my being busy or standing and staring has yet, I regret, made any difference to the third world.


Cold, wet and dismal

Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. No, I'm not that far gone yet but sometimes in the winter I can kind of identify with "he gat no heat". Today it was cold and drizzling and misty and dismal and I ran my usual course plus a bit along the lake-side, 6.6 miles in all, followed by a long hot bath and then a book, an arm-chair, a large mug of hot tea and Cherry Bakewell for recovery.

Blessington lake in the mist


Thou shall not tempt update 2

These are his parents' bold words a day or so ago: I believe that God wants ... to "be made whole by the power of the Holy Spirit" so this is what we pray and this is what we ask you to pray.

And I pray that the God who "made all the delicate inner parts" of ...'s body will re-knit them, that he will replace a missing chromosome, that he will renew faulty cells.

They don't strike me as "religious" people and they know the impossibility of what is being asked for. They have even wondered how to tell if there had been healing whilst waiting for the procedure - it seems the only indicator being the blood count levels which they will be watching.

I don't often get involved with this sort of thing: asking for the impossible, when frankly I do not think I have ever witnessed an obvious miracle - I like to steer clear and keep in the safe zone. But somehow this case touched me and made me cry out beyond the normal, something rose from deep within me, and I can only suppose this was God's doing. If not, if I was just reacting to emotion, then it makes me question if know God. If this boy is healed it won't me my doing. And if this boy isn't healed it won't be my doing either. Either God acts on his word, or not.  As that centurion remarked so long ago, you only have to say the word, Lord, and the boy will be healed. So be it.

See also last update.


Tiverton town leat

marks the termination
of the town leat
given to Tiverton
by Countess Isabella
in the thirteenth century

I was idly perambulating the streets of Tiverton, as one does, whilst Ali was shopping interminably when I came across this curious construction. After a little internet research I discovered that, if I were to return here during September, I could participate in an ancient custom rehearsed once every seven years.  I quote:

Perambulation of the Leat—9th September 2017

The Perambulation of the Town Leat also known as water-bailing is an ancient custom that takes place in the town of Tiverton, Devon, England, once every seven years. The event commemorates and claims the gift of the town's water supply in the 13th century by Isabella, Countess of Devon and involves walking the length of the watercourse to its source six miles away at Norwood Common.

The procession starts at the Town Hall and is led by the four individuals known as "pioneers" armed with pickaxes and sledgehammers whose job it is to demolish any obstruction found in the stream. Behind the pioneers is the Bailiff of the Hundred, who carries an ancient staff of office, behind him are the "Withy-boys" drawn from Blundell's School and Tiverton High School whose job it is to whip the stream with sticks – or withy-wands. Then come the police, the town beadle, the Mayor of Tiverton, his fellow councillors and lastly the general public.

The procession's first stop is Coggan's Well in Fore Street, the traditional  centre of the town where the stream emerges from underneath the road. Placing his staff in the water, the Bailiff of the Hundred claims the stream "for ever, for the sole use and benefit and as the right of the inhabitants of the town of Tiverton". Further proclamations are made at Castle Street, Townsend, Brickhouse Hill, Chettiscombe, the waterworks at Allers and finally at Norwood Common, where a plaque marks the actual source. The ancient route now involves negotiating walls, private gardens and making use of many paths that are not public rights of way, some of which must be cleared on each perambulation.

My perambulations had also taken me along Castle Street where a steam flows, somewhat incongruously, down the centre of the the road. It emerges from a culvert at one end and later disappears into another, presumably to reappear at Coggan's Well - as I now realise this is none other than the town leat in another guise.

Castle Stree

For those of you as ignorant as I was, a "leat" is the name, common in the south and west of England and in Wales (Lade in Scotland), for an artificial watercourse or aqueduct dug into the ground. See here for a fuller description or here for a video of the 2010 perambulation. And I found this photograph of the plaque:

Source of the town leat

Map showing the leat - the source is by the legend "Van Post"

The course of the leat is well marked on various maps (see above, or type "Tiverton town leat" into google maps or go here) where it looks like a natural stream. The source is at the top of my map just below the legend "Van Post". Maybe Countess Isabella aka Isabel de Forz or her cronies just diverted an existing stream. In any event she was quite a benefactor having her hand in many projects to improve the life of her subjects. And to be still remembered 750 years on must say something.

Isabella's paternal arms

One supposes that, having created the leat, she instigated a wholly practical system of maintenance to ensure that clean water would continue to benefit the town inhabitants of which the present day custom of perambulation is a caricature. You can find some interesting history here (search for "peramb") but regrettably it does not reveal details of the original practice.

Looking at what emanates from Coggan's well now, and empties somewhat unhelpfully into the drains either side, I am not sure I would want to drink it.

As for the withy-boys and their thrashing the leat with withy-wands, it is clearly a bit of fun as this next stock photograph shows, but the significance avoids me! A "withy" is a tough, flexible branch of an osier or other willow, used for tying, binding, or basketry.

Chettiscombe : Withy Boys & Girls

Knighthayes Court, which the leat circumnavigates, is a large house and grounds now owned by the National Trust - during this visit and at her request we drove Ali's mum around this estate and liked the novel use of a couple of fallen trees so I took some photos.

So, why all this fuss about a bit of history?  Because it tickled me. Because it is evidently important enough to the folk who live in Tiverton for them to perpetuate the tradition. And because it echoes thoughts I am currently struggling with, namely a realisation of how little of my so called "Christian" lifestyle is reality. Consider how the present day perambulation has morphed from what must have been the original maintenance to ensure flow of clean water. Doubtless if any major blockage was discovered it would still be dealt with but, otherwise, it is now little more than a game to be enjoyed for the craic, like so many other traditions now-a-days. As such it is harmless enough provided no-one imagines it is the real thing - and there's the rub. We "Christians" do imagine our liturgy is the real thing. If I were to empty my lifestyle of all the stuff I am now thinking is just a let's pretend game, I wonder if I would be left with anything real?



Visiting Ali's mum again in Willand, Devon and fighting a man-cold. The sort that creates possibly literally litres of phlegm which still lingers a week on. With that and dreary weather I did less barefoot running than other times. My first included part of my favourite water meadows - one can hardly go to Willand and miss this, winter or man-cold or not.

First run 6.95 miles

The second included a bit of detective work to prepare for possible future runs should I return in warmer weather.

Second run 8.1 miles

Sampford Peverell footpaths

There are some interesting looking cross-country foot paths north of Sampford Peverell (a quaint name) which I want to explore. The A361 "North Devon link road" forms a barrier too dangerous to cross on foot, so I wondered how the marked footpaths managed it. Because it was drizzling and cold the whole time, and my body was not 100% either, I missed the possible crossing (a tunnel?) at the green arrow, but made it along the Grand Western Canal tow-path to the red arrow where I was pleased to see they had included a footpath by the side of the A361 as it crosses the canal.

I took a few photos which I relegate to the end of this post.

The third run took me across the Irish Sea with my S5 smart. With former GPS devices I have owned I have found it difficult to maintain a GPS fix without putting the device as close to the window as possible. With the S5 I was pleased to see it kept tracking even when I had the device on my lap from which position I could read an e-book. A rather satisfying short story Second Variety by Philip Dick. And strictly (or "properly" if you are a Swallow and Amazon addict) I was not running barefoot this time.

Tracking all the way

Maximum speed 381.64 mph, maximum altitude 7105m, total distance 225 miles. Rather better than my usual runs.

Grand Western Canal

First light (as far as my cameras was concerned) on the Grand Western Canal tow-path. I'm running on the verge because the path itself it too gritty. But the verge must have included some stinging nettles if my feet told me correctly later in the day. Note the dog walker in the distance. The walker is brandishing a flash-light, no surprise - strange that most folk can't see in the half light! But the dog has a harness with lights on it! An excellent idea.

Sampford Peverell

more canal

more Sampford

I like these lighting effects...

First bus (I guess) leaving Sampford

Goods train through Tiverton Parkway station

Path of former Culm Valley light railway

My last photo comes with a question should P or J be reading this. Doubtless they will recognise the location, close as it is to where they live. From the main road the former railway route is nicely paved with that solid white line down the middle until you get here. The path continues through brambles but soon becomes impassable to bare feet, and yet street lamps continue along it. My question is - does it now lead anywhere, or just come to a full stop at the boundary of this housing estate?


Most treasured possession

When I say that this is my most treasured possession, like saying yellow is my favourite colour, it is somewhat tongue in cheek. But some truth as well. Some might say it should be my wife but I am not at all sure that one "possesses" a wife. Semantics aside, for the purposes of this post I will maintain my ground.

Most treasured possession

What is it? It is a Rank-Strand Cinemoid swatch book, which I have kept all these years in a box that once contained a "2 MEG LIN L/S" potentiometer. Samples of what are known in the trade as "gels" and used to colour stage lights. The price "2/6" dates it before UK decimalisation in 1971. Back then my older sister had a friend who was involved in theatrical lighting and, besotted as I was with all things colour, I begged him to save me some Cinemoid off-cuts. He went beyond all I could have dreamed and acquired this book for me.  Cinemoid was introduced in 1960 - before that theatre lights were coloured by sheets of dyed gelatin hence "gels", but these could easily melt so had a very short lifetime. Cinemoid was made of acetate and was self extinguishing and came in a glorious range of colours. I saved pocket money to buy some sheets, and later was given a pile of off-cuts the remains of which I still have, closely guarded against the perils of community living. Of which, during one notable period, we could own only that which we could fit into our bedroom, and bedrooms back then were quite small and it was not unusual to return from a trip to find that the contents had been moved lock, stock and barrel to another location. And the movers were more interested in getting the job over and done with than with caring for one's possessions. 

with a colour wheel I made

In spite of this restriction I still have my Cinemoid swatch book and still, I am pleased to say, have my wife.

The Cinemoid brand now seems to have been superseded by Rosco and Lee and, I suppose, with RGB LED lamps there is less call for filters. In spite of this Cinemoid swatch books like mine are not so very uncommon and may be got on eBay for about 20 GBP.

I sacrificed parts of some of my swatches to made for example the colour wheel above. When spun this gave a reasonable approximation to "white".

I still love it.

Dated much earlier in Bailey history is the colour wheel in my next picture. My father made this, I suppose, when he was a boy - it is hand-painted with water colours on a card disk about 6" diameter made to fit a Meccano circular plate and the idea was to spin it to demonstrate that white light is composed of a spectrum of colours. From previous experience I know its "white" was not very, in fact more beige. But to prove the point I have mounted the wheel on a small d.c. motor and here you have the results.

My father's colour wheel attempt

Here it is spinning at speed

Slowing down

And finally stationary

For completeness I repeated this experiment using my own colour wheel with somewhat better results. This probably reflects on the better colour purity of Cinemoid filters compared with war time children's water colours!  You'll note also that my father has the traditional seven rainbow colours whereas I have the three primary and three secondary colours. Perhaps this says something about tradition.

My colour wheel attached to d.c. motor

Spinning slowly

Spinning fast the colours mix to a plausible white

Which brings me to my father's secret cupboard and another treasured possession. We children all knew about his cupboard in my parent's bedroom under the steps that led to the attic, attic of model railway fame on one side and my older sister's boudoir on the other. But to open the cupboard - this was strictly out of bounds. Although when suitably sure of not being discovered, I did occasionally peep in. I cannot of course divulge what was in that cupboard apart from to say that he kept his Meccano there. Which Pandora's box I am pleased to have inherited and is shown below.  It was at one time in its more distant past a canteen for cutlery, hence the blue lining inside.

My father's Pandora's box

Treasure inside the box

Smaller parts in the tray

I may have mentioned before the colours on a 56K-ohm resistor which was contributory to my choice of career, colour light signals confirming my love of railways, or the visible spectrum drawing me to loving optics, and so on. And yet if you ask people in the community here I think they would agree that I would be the last person to comment on or contribute to the choice of colour for walls, carpet or curtains. And this is not because I do not have opinions.

As a final reminder that this writer loves colour, I woke this morning to open the curtains (there's another potential blog post hidden in this action) and saw a blue dawn with the yellow moon setting behind the tree line. I did not think my camera would do it justice but the results are not too far from what I actually saw.

A study in blue and yellow