Alison and I have four ducks living with us; well, truth to tell they live in our bathroom as the picture shows. Yellow, Orange, Blue and a black and white Newcastle duck. Of course, apart from the last one they belong to our grandchildren, but I’m proud to own the Newcastle duck

Whats the point of me sharing this with you ? Well, have you ever watched rubber ducks in the bath or even taking part in a duck race down a river ? They tend to remain upright for a while and then the movement of the water unsettles them and in many cases over they go !

Lifes a bit like that as well. We float along quite happily for a while and then circumstances around us (like the movement of the water) upend us and we wonder if we’ll ever get back to normal. The circumstances might be family troubles, health issues, worries, concerns and so on; often they’re just little things but they still manage to throw us off lifespan’s stride.

As many who are on my facebook page will know my hearing has gone under at the moment. My right ear is almost non-existent and my left ear has had a build up of wax/ At the same time the audiology department have recognised that I’m due new hearing aids. My hearing devices are also refusing to communicate with the aids, but until we et new aids we dont know if that the devices or the aids. All in all its conspired to create a day of silence today. I give thanks for Alison and my circuit administrator, Caroline, who’ve dealt with phone calls for me, relaying messages either by text or plain old fashioned shouting. At times its been farcical.

This has been mental health awareness week and I’m aware of how many of my friends are suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and worse. We need to be aware that even the slightest knocks can affect the equilibrium of some people, possibly even those reading this blog.

However, to return to the ducks; when they overturn many will right themselves again and they never sink to the bottom but remain afloat. With determinations possible to come through any storm in life, head down and bear against the wind attitude.

BUT, what about those for whom thats just too much energy needed,; those for whom the will has gone, sapped and there seems to be no hope ? What are they to do ? probably not a lot, but a lot depends on those around them. Its the time for friends, family, church to step up and surround them not with unhelpful advice, or with well-meaning gestures but simply to be alongside, listening, holding and giving time. The community to which we belong are the ones who should be there for folk struggling in life. In effect we are the ones who help others to return to a good life.

And ultimately, as a Christian I would want to say that its God working through us who brings folk the support and love that they need. In the Gospel of Mark (chapter 4 verse 35-41) the disciples are pictured terrified in the boat as its battered by the storm around them. Dont forget these are probably hardened fishermen used to the storms on the lake where they fished, but on this occasion they were convinced their boat would overturn and they would go under. Wheres Jesus in this story ? fast asleep on a cushion !! So they wake him up and he sees their fear, recognises their need and immediately commands the storm to desist. The wind dies down and the rain stops and all is well again. God wants folk to live full lives and so he desires to help.

Today, lets not be the judgemental ones but the supportive ones who carry the love of God for all people.

Mark 4:35-41


A conversation between Alison and I has sparked memories for me of a wonderful childhood, and I haven’t been able to shake myself out of this frame of mind. To put it into context, the conversation revolved around Dads house. It’s now 2.00 am and I’m struggling to sleep as I keep reliving years past. There are no photos and no profound message but……………………

I’m hoping this might get some things out of my system.

I grew up in a small town in County Durham; in one of its suburbs, called Moorside. Mum and Dad were great parents, and since Mum passed away Dad has been great for my brother and I.

The house is full of memories; I lived for over 20 years in that house, right up till the day I got married to Alison. It was there that I used to play tennis against the wall of Mr and Mrs Chiltern never appreciating how the constant ‘thwack’ of the ball would annoy them. It was there that I successfully broke the dining room window, again with a tennis ball where I missed the part of the wall I was aiming at.

It was in that same garden where I camped for the first time and it was the house and more specifically that I returned to after having all my teeth removed at the age of 10 as they’d never developed beyond baby teeth. On that settee I was to drink soup for several weeks ! Indeed, it was to that settee that I returned on several occasions after some sort of surgery on teeth, ears, nose and eyes. There it was where, in order to cure my ‘lazy’ eye (now recognised as blind because I was born with an undiagnosed cataract) that they covered my good eye with a patch. The intention was to force what they assumed was a lazy eye into working but no-one could understand wy I kept walking into things.

The house was the scene of many birthday parties and other occasions including the one where I held a fancy dress party for my friends. I turned up as Mark Spitz, the olympic swimmer in nothing but my speedos and seven supposedly gold medals. I still have the embarrassing photo which was taken at an inappropriate angle making it look as though I was naked.

It was at the foot of the stairs where I opened the fateful envelope on my ‘o’ levels (GCSEs these days) and discovered I hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped and it was precisely on that bottom step that Mum hugged me and told me to believe in myself.

I brought home two girlfriends to meet Mum and Dad, but the great delight was bringing Alison home, where Mum and Dad took to her immediately. I can still remember Mum standing at the kitchen sink telling me how beautiful Alison was; Alison still refuses to believe it, but to me it’s true. I don’t think Alison was ever formally invited into the family as Mum and Dad took it for granted, even offering her a house key when we first started courting, much to her amazement.

I remember the time Mum and Dad went away and Mum left strict instructions that Alison and I weren’t to get up to anything. Alison came to visit on the first day I was left on my own and as we watched telly the light bulb went. I went to retrieve a new one and promptly proceeded to change the bulbs, forgetting to turn the light switch off. Of course the new bulb suddenly came on, I got a shock and dropped it, whereby it smashed off the side of the dining room chair I was standing on and shattered all over Mu and Dads deep pile carpet. I hoovered every day for that week to ensure no glass was left, and when they got home they were seriously impressed by how tidy the house was. I think Alison came down every day after work to help me do it.

Or the time my mate Guiness and I were left on our own and we tried to recreate a scene from Batman. I leapt over the sofa and landed on Mum and Dads plastic coffee table (they were all the rage those days) and shattered it into I don’t know how many pieces.

Thinking back to the kitchen I can still remember the excitement when my brother, Andrew, brought home a microwave oven. Alison, her brother Stuart and I stood and watched a potato revolve inside and we were amazed at the miracle cooking before us. Even though we couldn’t see anything but the potato it still seemed a wonderful moment.

Much of Dads house still contains items of real nostalgia for me, and I’m still determined to find the bottle green platform boots I ‘borrowed’ off my brother and never quite got round to returning !

It was from my bedroom that I planned out the Chapel plays we used to perform, jotting down ideas and thoughts. Again Dad was a great support as we stored many scene flats in his garage for a few years. That same bedroom saw me dressing up as David Bowie and ‘performing’ in front of the mirror as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Jean Genie, moving on later to Freddie Mercury knowing that I had the rest of Queen hidden around the bedroom. Yes, I even used the mythical hairbrush as my microphone. Dad still has the same mirror but I’m resisting the temptation now.

The last time I was to leave my home was on the day of my marriage to Alison, and I left to the wise words of my Mum “as you leave this house you’re my son but you’ll return as Alisons husband”. In her way she was handing me over to the woman I loved and the woman she loved and trusted entirely.

These are only a few of my memories, and believe me there are many many more; some good and some bad but thanks to the love of the people around me that house was the scene where I put down the roots, foundations for the rest of my life. One day the house will be sold but I will always look back fondly on it.

If you’ve got to this end of the entry, thanks for putting up with my nostalgia, and I hope and pray that your childhood was as good as mine.



Wedding fun ?

Parts of this were pasted on Facebook yesterday, but I’m still reflecting on it today.

Yesterday was one of the most bizarre wedding blessing I’ve ever had: in a colleagues church and led by a smashing Pentecostal Pastor, Barry. As my colleague was away she asked me to supervise and keep an eye on proceedings.

What my colleague didn’t know was that they’d invited almost 400 people into a building which holds 150. We got them all in to the church and hall ensuring aisles and escape routes were kept clear.

The couple concerned had already been married in a civil ceremony elsewhere and this was to be a blessing of the marriage, but coming from the Pentecostal tradition they wanted to treat it like a marriage ceremony without the legalities, so we had a full blown affair of a bride, a groom, bridesmaids, pageboys, best men etc. We had wonderful

coloured hats and creations, magnificent African designs, a white floor carpet with the names of the couple on it, 3 video operators, a choir and a soloist !!!!

Due to start st 12.00 the brides entrance after the 8 bridesmaids,  pageboys and 6 best men began at 12.34

Whooping and hollering whenever anything significant happened such as the entrance of each bridesmaid, the reading from Corinthians and the close of Communion.

The Pastor who led the service, Barry, was a lovely man and took it all in his stride, but the guests didn’t acknowledge in any way the hard graft that the steward and his wife put into meeting their every need and demand; the couple concerned never said thank you or anything and indeed one of the bridesmaids only spoke to me as if I was the bouncer telling me “don’t let any more in through this door !”

Having had that whinge I recognise it was a special occasion for the couple, their family and their friends, but at the end of the day they were just using the Church as a building conveniently situated half way between all the travelling guests (London, Gloucester, Scotland and Guiana).

And to top it all the £12.50 I’d put in the collection plate to encourage the guests was increased (out of 400 people) by the magnificent sum of £15 making £27.50 ……… and when we turned round even that had been nicked !!!!! (That may not have been the wedding guests but maybe an opportunist from the street.)

All in all one for the memoirs.


So what am I to take from it all ? None of these folk will ever come back to that Church, and as the couple (and presumably others) already belong to the Christian faith in their various areas, then it could be argued that there was no benefit to the local Chapel whatsoever; that would be true but Scripture reminds us that we don’t do things for our benefit but for His glory. I truly believe that God was glorified in the noise, chaos, and the nature of the worship; these were people who wanted to come before God in His house and give their marriage to Him.

Secondly, we modelled true Christian hospitality and generosity to ‘strangers’ as the Bible urges us to do.

Maybe God is teaching us all a lesson in this, firstly to glorify Him and secondly to honour His people that He created by showing graciousness and hospitality.

YMCA sleep out

Further to my last blog ( a few minutes ago) one of the small ways in which I try to help others is through the annual YMCA sleep out; some years I simply pay a sum myself and other years I seek sponsorship. This year will be my 7th sleep out and I’m on the search for sponsorship at

I understand that folk can’t give to every charity that makes an appeal and so I’m not offended if you read this and don’t give, but please pray for me as I sleep this year neither in the graveyard nor on the concourse at Pirelli but as part of the YMCA village, with my pop-up tent outside the main stand.

The photographs are of previous years: What will this years look like ?

Make my night even more comfortable (!) by helping out and/or praying.



“So what’s the story ……?

Ive just finished re-reading the Connexion magazine from the Methodist Church and have found it to be truly inspiring in many places. Not only are copies delivered to every Methodist Minister,  for Church use, but it can also be found online at

From the article written by our President of Conference, Revd Dr Barbara Glasson to articles on Church planting, our Methodist heritage, racial justice and much more, I have found this edition to be one of the best that the Methodist Church has produced and Im so thankful for it. I would encourage readers of this blog to pick up a copy from Church or look at it online. I’m thinking seriously about using it for a study group in either Trent and Dove or South Derbyshire Circuits (or both together !)

I’m particularly encouraged by the article from Barbara Glasson entitled “Embodying God’s grace” and the way she reminds us that ‘doing small practical things graciously is at the heart of who we are as Methodists”

I’m particularly reminded of the time when Alison was expecting our first child; because of high blood pressure she was frequently in hospital. The lady who took me ‘on note’ as a young Local Preacher (she knows who she is) took it on herself to frequently land at my back door with a casserole or a simple meal, so that when I returned home from work I didn’t have to cook and therefore could get to the hospital to visit Alison. For me that was a life-saver. As she reads this I hope she grasps something of my enormous gratitude for her generosity, even though she probably didn’t think she was doing much at the time. She gave me more than just a love of preaching, she shared with me the generosity and Grace of Christ.

Sometimes we think we can’t do much to improve the world; we feel helpless in the face of natural disasters, racial hatred, discrimination, , illness and so on but there is so much that we can do I our own area. I once heard a story of a man walking along a beach in which hundreds of starfish had been washed ashore. As he looked at the number of dying creatures in the baking hot sun, he saw a small boy throwing one back into the water. ‘What are you doing ?” he said, “you can’t possibly throw them all back. it’ll make no difference” The boy pointed at the sea and simply replied “Its made a difference to that one !”

Within Methodism we have been challenged to have a year of testimony and I want to begin by asking “what’s our story …..?” Is it a story of conversion, of opportunity, of helping someone, of making a difference ? We all have a story to tell, whether it be a small generous gift like the one I received or the opportunity to work overseas for charity. It may be a story of how we received a call to preach or to the Ministry, or it may be a story of starting a new venture amongst the homeless, but whatever it is I ask you to “tell that story of what God has challenged you to” and allow others to hear and be challenged as well.


p.s. Three times over the last couple of weeks I’ve been asked to put my story (ies) into a book. I don’t think it will be of interest and I also think that just about every Minister in the land has stories to tell so why should I be any different ? However, I’m praying it through to see if God is challenging me towards my next sabbatical.


Methodism and Brexit and how to handle it all !

Its hard to imagine but I’ve been running this blog since May 2007 when I was first challenged to keep an account of how I was spending my sabbatical (looking at sports chaplaincy). 12 years later I’m surprised that there are still folk who look out for my ramblings; many thanks for the encouragement.

Ive used this picture before but tonight Im thinking in a different direction. Im very aware that we’re living in a very divided world; Over and above all the potential for world conflict that is around us (sabre rattling between countries) our own country and my own denomination is caught up in conflict.

The nation continues to argue over Brexit, prorogation of Parliament, political parties and in general the whole atmosphere is quite toxic. the Brexiteers accuse the Remainers of thwarting the will of the people and the Remainers accuse the Brexiteers of being reckless with our future.

In a similar way a dispute is simmering within the Methodist Church; our Conference agreed that this year we’d explore a report entitled “Marriage and Relationships” especially looking at the meaning and understanding of marriage. Into this mix comes the subject of same-sex marriage and quite quickly has become the red hot potato of Methodism. One group arguing that the traditional view of marriage (one man, one woman) is the norm and is Biblical; the other side saying that there is room within Biblical understanding for homosexuality and therefore for same sex marriage.

I have my views on both of these subjects but I’m not airing them here; however my bigger concern is how the issues are being dealt with for I fear that both are creating an atmosphere of intolerance, misunderstanding, bullying and in some cases downright prejudice. Each bin represents a viewpoint and once in one bin it cant jump up and declare it wishes it was in the other. Recycling rubbish cant be put into landfill rubbish and so on. Brexiteers and Remainers are in separate bins, and in a similar way lies the various camps within Methodism.

The picture below is of a broken vase (result of an accident in one of my churches 5 years ago) and all that the vase became good for was the filling of the local land-fill site, sadly.

I fear that our society and our Church is running the risk of being broken by peoples attitudes and intolerance. It doesn’t matter one iota about who I disagree with or who disagrees with me, but what is very important is that I still continue to treat them as God created, for to fail to do that is to fail to honour God.

Although the preacher, George Whitefield disagreed with John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel. When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.” 

Whitefield had the right idea: we can disagree but still admire, discuss, debate, recognise the good in others. Sadly, many disputes these days seem to mean that sides and stances are quickly taken from which there can be no shifting. On Facebook (and presumably other social media sites) abuse is hurled at any who people disagree with over Brexit (to the point of Retainers being told to “*****, to Europe if you disagree” or Brexiteers being assumed to be ignorant. In the Church some of those in favour of same-sex marriage have been told that they are not Christian and hell awaits. Similarly those who earnestly and honestly seek the traditional view of marriage are told that they need to “get modern” and are holding the Church back.

The truth is that in neither the Brexit nor issues regarding marriage are the problem; the problem is the culture of intolerance within both. Notice that Whitefield could disagree but still recognise God within Wesley. Oh, that we could do the same with those we disagree with.

Wesley famously said “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike ? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion ? Without all doubt, we may; Herein all the children of God may unite, not withstanding these smaller differences


“If we cannot think alike, at least we may love alike; and can anything but love beget love?”

The trouble is that none of us think we have any bigotry, any homophobia, any racial prejudice and in that way it sneaks into our lives; we really do need to cultivate a spirit of love between us and others, so that the Kingdom of God may blossom in the lives of other people. Hatred begets hatred, but love also begets love. I know which I’d rather have. I return to the original picture of the two bins and I note the cross in between them. The only way to cultivate such a spirit is to see others through the eyes of the God who created each person and the God who dies on the cross to draw the world back to him. Reconciliation can only come through the sort of love that took Jesus to the cross. We have a choice ………………………


Which way will you and I follow ?



Rotary Presidential letter


As most of my readers know I have now served my year of office for Burton Rotary Club, and here I repeat the letter I posted in the club bulletin as I thought it might be of interest elsewhere.

Ive now been a member of Rotary for 15 years (2 different areas) and it really is a special organisation, that Im proud to belong to………


Dear friends

As my year of office as President draws to its close, my attention turns towards memories of a very special year and my thankfulness for the privilege of having served you all. A few ramblings……………….

Thinking of that word “privilege” it can grammatically be used in a variety of ways. As a countable noun it means it is a special gift or right afforded to a person or a group. For me this year has felt like a special gift: it has been tiring, difficult and because of my work and family commitments has not been easy but I have seen it as a role whereby the members of the club have set me aside to carry out a particular task. To represent someone or something you believe in passionately is a great privilege.

Secondly, it can be used as an uncountable noun which speaks of power, but this has not applied in this year. In the PePs training they constantly told me that “it is your Presidential year, you can do what you like”; I soon found that I couldn’t and rightly so for in Rotary the President only carries whatever power is given by virtue of agreement, which is why its representative not dictatorial or tyrannical.

Thirdly, it can be a verb, expressing that to privilege someone is to treat them differently or better, rather than to treat them equally. Yes, I got my dinner marginally sooner than others but that’s for practical reasons of the activity of the top table. I hope I wasn’t treat any differently than any other Rotarian, for we’re all in the organisation together, with different skills and gifts to be used; however everything we bring to the club is for the benefit of others not ourselves.

Fourthly, it is as a singular noun that I use it. Here it means that it has been a privilege to have been your President. It has enhanced my view, not only of Rotary, but of you all as friends and special people. I offer you my heartfelt thanks.



BUT, what will I remember from this past year ?

1) The Trafalgar night, being piped on board SS Rotary with Admiral Sir Trevor Hoar, and the chance to speak to some of the youngsters of SS Modwena, the towns sea cadets.

2). The special entertainment at our Christmas dinner, by a local school showing us their pantomime

3). Charter night with entertainment by Hilary and Andy. Special friends

4). Presenting the Burton Hero of Heroes award to Jyoti Shah, alongside Carol Moralees from our Bretby club.

5) Speaking at Bretby Rotary Club Christmas celebration

6). Travelling to Retford to collect our District award, but not knowing what we had won it for; fun part was it seemed that no one in the District knew either.

7). Last years garden party at John Jacksons house

8). The Presidents hand over last week to Bryan. I loved it, good food, good venue, good company. What more could you ask for ?

Sadly because of work commitments I missed the Pirelli parade, the young chef competition and several other events such as the Marquee event at Repton. However I feel that you have supported me through difficulties this year, with my Father and currently with my Mother-in-Law. Thankyou.

Finally, a thank you for the magnificent support you have given through the Presidential appeal towards a Hearing Dog for the Deaf. (currently standing at £1005 I believe). My deafness is now almost complete and without my hearing aids I hear nothing. I have been accepted onto the waiting list for a dog and I hope word gets through soon, but it can take up to 4 years for this to happen. However hopefully I’ll have one before I move on from Burton. If you’re still not sure about the organisation please look up its website                         (

I ‘m delighted to have had the year past and I’ve been proud to serve the Rotary Club of Burton, even in my moments of inadequacy. As I close this article I wish Bryan a good year as he takes on the reins of office (like me for the second time). We have a lot to be proud of in Burton Rotary Club; its a great organisation, a great club and some great people.

Yours in Rotary

Mike, Immediate Past President (or back bench whinger !)

Handover to President Bryan Pickering June 2019

P.S.  As a bit of fun I wore a different waistcoat every time I turned up anywhere for Rotary; now Im receiving complaints that Ive attended two meetings without a waistcoat !!!!!  lol