Archive for June, 2010

Meditation – ‘It all slowly fades’

June 29, 2010 3 comments

It’s just two years since I had a serious accident. During a sunny summer’s day out, I slipped into a lock from a canal boat on the River Wey near Guildford and broke my arm. More drastically, I had badly damaged the radial nerve which left me with no left hand or finger movement for a good while. It took a lot of skill and knowledge on the part of the medics and particularly the physios to restore things back to some kind of normality.   

'Little did we know that this was the spot where it would all end in tears'?


I rarely think about using my arm and fingers now – mostly it all works OK – and I’ve begun to take it a bit for granted. Sometimes when the air is damp I know it’s still not quite back to rights – not just yet anyway. I can vividly remember the time when I seriously wondered if I’d ever be able to use my arm again properly. It didn’t seem to me that it would be possible and yet my surgeon almost called it to the day in terms of the time that would be required for the healing!   

I had a lot of faith in him and, I think, even more in God. I knew that in some way or other, something good would come from this. That something for me may have been to develop a better perspective on life. I was/am guilty of rushing on, always onto the next thing – having a full diary etc. This ‘shock’ taught me to treasure each moment and to reflect with ‘awe’ on the wonder of each minute that we are each given.   

This morning, as I thought about the events of two years ago, I picked up Brennan Manning’s ‘Reflection for Ragamuffins’ (SPCK) and read this;   

Following surgery for prostate cancer, I walked (catheterized) every morning for an hour through our Old Algiers neighbourhood in New Orleans with a new pair of glasses. One vital aspect of the post-mortem life, it seems, is that everything gets piercingly important. You get stabbed by things, by flowers and babies, by the mighty Mississippi and the inner beauty of your wife, by the loveliness of a plethora of things. And, of course, it all slowly fades …… (p163)   

I was captivated by this passage and I experienced those same feelings all over again. I don’t want the joy of living and of being alive, of being able to pick things up and move my arm around to ever ‘slowly fade away’. I remain truly grateful and impressed with the body’s ability to heal itself. It’s all so amazing – the miracle for me is that it seems incredible that any of it works at all! We are truly ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’.   

And I thank God.


Travel; Nice, Cote d’Azur – 10 things you should know

June 26, 2010 2 comments

1. Nice is the 5th largest city in France which owing to its earlier history exhibits more than just a few shades of its near-neighbour, Italy.  Situated in Provence on the Cote d’Azur, Nice is on the Mediterranean coast of France next door to Monaco and close to the Italian border.

2. If you can, it’s ideal to stay in the Old City which is also near to the Quartier du Port. That way, you’ll do far less walking – Nice is a big city and is fairly spread out. The old city (Vieille Ville) of Nice is a network of narrow alleys and tall buildings, often with Italian façades and beautiful wrought iron balconies. The city has a true café culture with bars and restaurants literally on every corner. It also felt a really safe place to walk in the evenings.

3. We can recommend the accommodation website which offers good value, modern, self-catering accommodation and run by an English couple living in Nice.  It was a ‘nice’ touch to be met by Simon, the owner, right outside our apartment in the old city, having just got in from the train station via taxi (about 15mins to the old city).

4. Best travel guide? Try AA Citypack Guide to Nice with Foldout Map; ISBN 978-0-7495-5701-0

5. Here’s a suggestion for spending three days or a long week-end in Nice; First day – explore the Old City and the Port Area as there’s plenty to see and do.  Second day – take the local Bus (No. 112 from Gare Routiere) up to the spectacular ‘perched’ mountain village of Eze with stunning coastal views. (See If you set out early, there is still time to catch the same bus on to spend time in Monaco Ville and Monte Carlo with its famous Casino (and unbelievably expensive cars), the Port area with its beautiful yachts’, the Palais Princier and some quite gorgeous public gardens! On your third day in Nice, why not walk the entire 4-mile length of the curving beachfront Promenade des Anglais and back again? – ideal for people-watching too! HereYou’ll see some superb architecture including the world-famous Hotel Negresco and the art deco styled Palais de la Mediterranee.

6. Make sure you find time during your stay to walk to the top of the Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill). This is a public park with marvellous views over the City, across to the airport and away to the Alps in the distance. It’s a good place to take a picnic as it also has high level views over the picturesque Port area with lots of boats and ferries coming and going.

7. When we visited (Spring 2010) France was no longer cheap for UK visitors as the GBP had seriously deteriorated against the Euro. Nice tends to be dearer than the rest of France anyway and the fruit and vegetable markets in particular seemed expensive.

8. How to save money? Eat from fixed price menus or choose ‘Plat du Jour’. Travel by bus along the Moyenne Corniche; particularly good value at 1-euro each way.  The new one-line tram system in Nice is also inexpensive at 1-euro per journey. These trams are quiet, look really sleek and are a quick way to get from the station into the old town. The best stop for the Old City is either Opera or Cathedrale.

9. Eating out in the Old City? If so, try Bar du Coin on Rue Droite for wonderful pizzas albeit in rather cramped conditions during their busy times; worth it for the food though! For an evening meal, how about Chez Juliette in Place Rossetti? – lots of atmosphere and very French’. The produce market in Cours Saleya is packed away in the evening and the Place becomes a great place to eat al fresco.

10. For details of overland rail travel to Nice from the UK, see my earlier blog entry;

Review – Grace Notes; Philip Yancey

I must first declare an interest; I’m a total Philip Yancey fan (there – I’ve said it!). ‘Grace Notes’ is drawn from the best of 30 years’ writing by the award-winning author and acts as something of a ‘Yancey Taster’; it’s therefore both good and bad.  Good, as it acts as a superb introduction to Yancey’s writings, and bad, in that inevitably it cannot do complete justice to the depth and quality of those writings. For that you have to read the actual books themselves.

Even if you do own all of Yancey’s books, this one is still worth buying just for the Preface alone. If you love books and you love good writing, you’ll very much appreciate the intro; it’s his personal synopsis of what led Yancey to write, along with many of the events along the way, as well as how he deals with the considerable impact he has made on other people through his writings – wonderful, moving, powerful ‘stuff’.

The structure of this book is 366 short daily readings drawn from the three decades of Yancey’s work – from books, magazine articles and miscellaneous jottings. The real bonus is the Comprehensive Index both of the subjects covered and the source of each reading, thus enabling the reader to ‘dip in’ at random (ignoring the daily plan!) and to come across so many beautiful instances of spiritual serendipity.  If you know Yancey well, this acts as great ‘memory-jogger’, but if not, it’s just a wonderful introduction to a truly inspirational and gifted Christian writer. The Descriptive Bibliography is also a delight; a short pen-portrait by the author of each of his books describing something of their genesis and background.

Philip Yancey started out as a journalist and has been writing articles for Christianity Today since 1983.  Four of his books have each sold over a million copies worldwide; he is probably best known for ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace?’ He moved to Colorado from Chicago in 1992 but, unlike the often questionable certainties of many other American writers, I particularly like Yancey for his honest and down-to-earth qualities. He too finds Christianity just a little perplexing and whilst, always insightful, never seeks to bring facile answers to what are so often the major mysteries of faith. 

As I get older, I have concluded that I could live with just the writings of Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, David Adam, Brennan Manning and, of course Philip Yancey.  My life is made ever so much richer by being in their company as a result of reading their books.  My favourite Yancey book is probably ‘Soul Survivor’ but now I’m torn by just having read his soon-to-be-published book and another certain best-seller, ‘What good is God’ which could be a strong contender for that particular spot – it is very Yancey and very good but that must be the subject of another review!

Grace Notes – Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim

Philip Yancey

2009     432pp


ISBN 978-0-310-51968-3

Note – This book was provided FOC by Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace magazine for the purpose of writing this review. Further details can be found at You can download a free copy of the digital version of the magazine from the website.

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