Archive for August, 2010

Photography – Winter on Goat Fell; the Isle of Arran, Scotland

August 31, 2010 1 comment



Opinion – The national embarrasment that is LHR Terminal 3

August 30, 2010 1 comment

I had the misfortune to arrive back in the UK at LHR Terminal 3 on the Friday preceding this Bank Holiday weekend. Not good! I came in on a Singapore Airlines A380 with over 400 people onboard. The first problem we encountered was that only one airbridge was working or available – we never were told the reason. 

So 400 people duly waited until they could vacate the aircraft via the one available exit. Can you imagine just how long that took? 

Then came the grim experience of Heathrow’s Terminal 3; 

  • A long, long walk taking many, many minutes
  • Badly lit, even dim in places
  • Ceiling tiles missing exposing the service ducting
  • Worn, discoloured carpets
  • Long queues at immigration
  • Then – to cap it all – a 40 minute wait for bags (having already waited on the aircraft for a similar length of time!)

I was surrounded by various nationalities from the flight, some clearly on their first visit to Britain. What a welcome! 

BAA’s Terminal 3 really is a terrible advertisment for the UK. I was embarrassed by both the service levels and the surroundings which are overtly second-rate. Overall, T3 looks grubby and tired. 

Surely, BAA can do better than this? Yes, I know Heathrow now has Terminal 5 but unless you opt for the highly priced and often subject-to-industrial-action British Airways, you will not see the inside of LHR’s newest terminal. 

Visitors arriving on major world airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and others all come into the UK via T3. What they must think of their ‘welcome to Britain’ is anyone’s guess! 

By contrast, you only have to travel via Singapore’s bright, airy and efficient Changi airport to see how it can be done. After only 20 mins from touchdown, I’d cleared immigration, collected my bags and was in a cab en route into the city! 

My verdict on LHR Terminal 3? Truly a national embarassment. 

For my post on travelling with Singapore Airlines on the A380, see here: 

Travel – The Infinity Pool; 57th Floor, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

August 28, 2010 4 comments

Just such a cool view – the Singapore city skyline from the Infinity Pool on the 57th floor of the Marina Sands Bay hotel – and no, I didn’t stay here – honest!

Swim at the very top of the world but don’t look down. 🙂  If you look closely (at the far right of the pool edge) you’ll see four black shapes; these are swimmers literally on the edge!

Travel – Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games; Closing Ceremony in Marina Bay

August 26, 2010 2 comments

Travel – Boat Quay at dusk, Singapore

August 25, 2010 2 comments

Photography – Beach huts; Carteret-Barneville, Normandy, France

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Photography – Butchart Gardens, Canada

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Today marks the start of posting – hopefully on a fairly regular basis – of a series of my favourite photographs.

Here’s the first; taken in August 2004 in the glorious surroundings of Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island in British Columbia, Canada. This very beautiful garden – planted in 1904 – comprises over 20 hectares of ‘elaborate and manicured’ gardens. All well worth visiting!

The Butchart web link is:

Travel – Eze Village, Cote d’Azur, France

August 18, 2010 1 comment

More photos of the spectacular ‘perched’ mountain village of Eze with its stunning coastal views on the Cote d’Azur, south of France. For details of how to get there, click here:




Review – The Circle of Love; Ann Persson (The Holy Trinity by Andre Rublev)

August 11, 2010 4 comments

I can think of at least two paintings that have impacted me spiritually over the years. The first is The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt; wonderfully explored by Henri Nouwen in his well-known book of the same name. The second is a 14th century icon – The Holy Trinity – painted by Russian Monk Andre Rublev, a superb copy of which hangs in my office at work. The original is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

I was given this beautifully haunting image of the Trinity a number of years ago by Kevin Mayhew on a visit to his offices in Suffolk. I happened to admire the icon hanging behind Kevin’s desk and commented on it during the meeting. Kevin stood up, took it down and handed it to me – an act of great generosity – one which resulted in not a little embarrassment on my part! 

However, I’m so glad that he did as it’s become an important part of my professional life, displayed as it is in my office.  When I moved jobs, it has moved with me. I think I’ve learnt to ‘read’ it. I understand its beauty and what the iconographer attempts to communicate about the Godhead in this vibrant, visual image containing so much Christian faith and truth.  I am constantly surprised by how many people comment on it – it has a capacity to arrest – and I never tire of it.

There are so many articles on the internet about this icon but I’d always hoped that someone would do for Andre Rublev in a book what Henri Nouwen had done for Rembrandt.  However, I’ve concluded sadly that this book by Ann Persson is not it – that book is still to be written.  

Circle of Love is not a patch on Nouwen’s treatment of his famous subject. The book, in places, is positively lightweight and would benefit from much tighter editing. However, it’s not all bad and I ended up enjoying it, if only for two excellent chapters; No’s 3 and 5.   Overall, it’s a helpful piece of devotional reading which can most certainly lead to a deeper understanding of Christian icons in general and Andre Rublev’s The Holy Trinity in particular.

One point is worth making. If this book can lead to a greater acceptance and understanding of icons by the evangelical community then it will truly have done the wider church a great service. I was delighted to find – and buy – Circle of Love in a CLC Bookshop (of all places). Why do I say that? Well, for many evangelical Christians; Icons = Idolatry. In fact, I mentioned I was writing this review to Christian friends recently and they raised their eyebrows and their concerns!  

One thing the book makes very clear is that ‘worship belongs to God alone, so icons are not to be worshipped, only venerated’.  There is a big difference.

The book starts well and chapters 1-5 are well worth reading. I regard the rest of the book as optional as, after this, the book tends to peter out.

Here is my star rating of each chapter with a quick content resume:

Chapter 1 – The long look – a personal intro – how the author came to study the subject **

Whatever we gaze at for a long time, we remember’

Chapter 2 – History and ‘writing’ of icons – from the early church to Russian Orthodoxy ****

‘The space and silence of an icon invite contemplative prayer’

Chapter 3 – To Russia – a visit to Tretyakov and the St Sergius Monastery *****

‘Contemplation of the unity that exists between the Trinity destroys all discord’

Chapter 4 – A look at Genesis 18 – The Hospitality of Abraham; the subject of the icon ***

‘Do not neglect to show hospitality … as some have entertained angels unawares’

Chapter 5 – Rublev’s Holy Trinity – contemplates this magnificent icon in detail *****

‘Let the icon serve as a bridge into prayer and the worship of God’

Chapter 6 – Exploring the Trinity – this is not a theological treatise – more of a homily *

‘The magnificent vision of God that transcends our capacity to understand’

Chapter 7 – The Divine Dance: Prayer – God’s world – Called to care – Church community **

‘Perichoresis – the Dance of Relationship taking place at the centre of God’

Chapter 8 – Now and forever – I’m afraid I gave up at this point – sorry! *

However, after reading this, I too feel the urge to make the trip to Russia. First I’d go to St Petersburg to view the Rembrant in the State Hermitage Museum, and secondly to Moscow to see the Rublev at the State Tretyakov Gallery.

Anyone want to join me?

The Circle of Love – Praying with Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity

Ann Persson

2010  96pp  BRF

ISBN 978-1-84101-750-1

Opinion – Bank lending; the basic unfairness

August 2, 2010 4 comments

Media reports today of a number of UK Banks getting back to financial health largely fail to convey the sheer misery meted out to so many people in recent months who’ve lost their businesses and sometimes their homes as well.           

At one level we should be pleased that balance sheets are being rebuilt but at another level, this can seem as having been done in a rather heartless fashion. One worries that any social conscience banks might have had has been swallowed up in the rush to rebuild equity. Banks – generally speaking – are still NOT lending; and when they do, these loans come with stringent strings attached.           

Where is the justice in one section of the community prospering so hugely at the expense of another?  Knowing that some people are being paid massive bonuses poses very real issues when at the same time, business people dependent on bank credit are unable to move forward and in some cases are plunged into bankruptcy, often through no fault of their own.     

This is wrong.           

I know that this subject raises all kinds of hoary and difficult questions – questions concerning justice and fairness which, whilst although having been posed down through the centuries, still fail to find adequate answers in my view.  But I am reminded in these verses from Jeremiah 12 – often called Jeremiah’s complaint – that such questions have always been asked and probably will continue to be asked. However, that does not make it either right or fair to act in this way.           

 1 You are always righteous, O LORD,
       when I bring a case before you.
       Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
       Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
       Why do all the faithless live at ease?

2 You have planted them, and they have taken root;
       they grow and bear fruit.
       You are always on their lips
       but far from their hearts. (NIV)

I’m sure that there are many fine theological responses to Jeremiah’s questions. I’m just not sure that these explanations make today’s reality any more palatable?  I can remember telling my kids when they complained of unfairness, ‘well, life’s not fair’!  Maybe we should heed these words? Is this little phrase actually the only correct answer? Do we simply have to accept that a basic unfairness is written into the very laws of the universe?           

A quick look at so many other unjust situations around the world leads me to that conclusion; not that that’s any excuse to do nothing in terms of social justice. There’s still an awful lot we can learn from the likes of the Quakers, the Co-operative movement and the Amish community.           

The Micah Challenge - Halve poverty by 2015


The themes of ‘Justice’ and ‘Fairness’ are on many people’s lips these days, not least from within the new UK coalition government. I pray that this Government will right a few basic wrongs and sort out the Banks in one way or another before too many more personal disasters unfold in our country.         

Tonight the BBC stated that lending to businesses in the past year by the banks has actually remained static!  Those increased profits just announced by the banks have been generated by higher fees and charges from the fewer loans that have been granted.           

What a topsy, turvy world!     

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