Make it cool to downgrade and support those who can’t afford to be connected.

Had a very interesting chat with many in his late 70s today. He wanted to use the web and social media but felt he was being sold technology that was over specified. He bought a phone from the supermarket for £15 which suited his needs and now wanted something to write emails and connecting with people on-line socially. A family member suggested an iPad but he said this did all sorts of things he didn’t see a need for and that £400 was too expensive.

I agree that there is a pressure to buy more technology than we actually need. The upgrade culture is perhaps rather manipulative and we can certainly get drawn into the adventure of technology. It’s fun to see what the latest upgrades can do but I feel we must be wise to the marketing strategies behind all this.

I believe it would be a good thing if consumers occasionally pushed back on the upgrade froth and embraced downgrading as a cool thing to do. I have an old iMac at home which I use for video editing. The machine started to slow down and become unreliable which I put down to its age. I upgraded to the operating system Maverick which killed it completely. What I did then was to restore (downgrade) all the software from a few years ago and ignore the Apple alerts telling me I “needed” to upgrade the software – the iMac now runs beautifully and I’m very pleased with it.

Next, I have an iPhone 3Gs which really doesn’t work on the current sofware and many apps won’t work with the old software so instead I’m using a £12 phone from Tescos. My laptop is a Chromebook which doesn’t crash, starts up in 7 seconds, is lightweight and you can get one for well under £200.  Neither of these items is insured and I take them everywhere.

It’s not that I don’t think iPads are superb or hanker after a top of the range MacBook but I think I need to embrace some technology as a utility and be more aware of what I need.

In the course of my work, I encounter many people who frankly can’t afford to spend much on technology – and even if they do probably shouldn’t. I have seen at least one person on benefits who doesn’t eat well and yet sports the latest iPhone, iPad, camera etc.

To be very serious here, technology is not just for fun, it’s a very, very important part of our lives if we are to participate fully in our communities, businesses and national affairs. Technology gives us a competitive edge particularly in communications. It’s essential that everyone regardless of wealth should be connected so I do hope that we can see more respect shown to those who don’t upgrade who can only afford the basic requirements.

Perhaps you also can downgrade as an act of solidarity?

James Foley – a will to find who these people really are.

James Foley’s death is so utterly distressing. In the BBC’s interview with him from a few years ago he said, “There’s extreme violence, but there’s a will to find who these people really are.” This was one of the things that really struck me together with his desire to tell untold stories. Just heartbreaking to read the reports.

It seems to me that finding out who these people really are is essential if we are to move forward in a proper manner. Thank God for journalists who are determined enough to get close to people and uncover truth and help us see the world from beyond our own limited perspective.

Finding out “who these people are” requires us to get close to people we would rather not and talking with them – actions which under the present circumstances seem abhorrent. We find it more convenient to relate to categories – terrorists, Americans, journalists, Isis – but when I read about James and see his agonised parents in the papers I don’t relate to a journalist or an American, but more appropriately someone’s son.

Seeing people as categories like “the poor”, for example, is perhaps adopted for expedient reasons. Marketeers create market segments to enable better focus for targeted campaigns and will encourage us to identify with lifestyle groups to dehumanising effect. Politicians also find the communication challenge much easier if we talk about “middle England” or “people on benefits”. Terrorists perhaps only know “the West” or “America”.

But communication and relationship can’t be separated and difficult as it is we must celebrate and respect those journalists who strive to get close to people whom we would really prefer to categorise.

We must hear their stories and get to know who they really are – even if we do decide to bomb them.

Hardcastle Crags

This has been a week of walks. Today we went to Hardcastle Crags not far from Hebden Bridge. We like challenging walks but this was not one of them. The walk was an idyllic woodland stroll alongside a stream, the well made path leading to an old mill with a teashop.

Posforth Gill in the Valley Of Desolation.

Another day another walk. This time the Valley of Desolation on the Bolton Abbey Estate. The name “desolation” came about because of the great storm in 1826 which left the valley desolate. At the turn of the millennium thousands of trees (Oak I think) were planted.

On an almost hidden pathway there is this secluded spot which I think many people will miss. So here is a video of the Posforth Gill waterfall.  Interestingly I’ve noticed many people taking video in portrait aspect, which of course doesn’t work on a TV set unless you are lying down to watch it! However I think it’s a great trend and works wonderfully well for waterfalls.

Timble Ings

A quick post about a walk we did the other day on the road to Blubberhouses from Otley. Timble Ings and Beecroft Woods is a lovely woodland with some great wildlife.  There are a number of routes through the woods and this is the one we took in red. There isn’t a car park as such but you can stop at the side of a track.  If you do the walk on a day when the Timble Inn is open it makes for an ideal circular walk. Click the map below for a bigger version.

Waiting to be found

I am trying to be less calculating and rational about taking photos. There is a sense in which it is important to be found by an image rather than to search for it. It was something Simon Armitage said about writing poetry – about not thinking too much but allowing the words to find you. Bishop Nick Baines of Leeds said something recently about discovering that we (all of us) have already been found by God. This inspired me in so many ways.

So here I am wondering what else is going to find me., words, images, ideas. There is something wonderful about not being so intent on searching but being still and listening, watching, waiting. The less we struggle to find something the more likely it is that we will be found by it. This seems to me to be an important element of creativity.

14585109686_08dbe7b2c1_zThis photo and the idea behind it found me. What struck me most was the way the gate post seemed isolated in the field. This field is near Swinsty reservoir.

In some of the reservoirs around here there are abandoned buildings beneath the waters which occasionally reappear when the water levels fall. This gatepost is in a field, a reservoir of grass and wild flowers, but it evokes the feeling of an abandoned place which is slowly, but not quite, being submerged by nature.

A film project with a bigger outcome.

A small reflection on the value of working together on projects which involve the wider community, and in particular people who haven’t worked together before.

This morning we met about a hundred excited primary school children at the Keighley Picture House. The children were all dressed up in their glam outfits for a red carpet premier of their film.

The film told two stories from the catholic community in Keighley – one was about the opening of the Pugin designed church of St. Anne’s, the other about a group of persecuted German butchers during the Great War. A central character was Fr. Russell a notable priest and champion of peace.

Built on Faith was a joint project between two schools, St Anne’s and Our Lady of Victories, which have come together as part of a new academy arrangement. The head teachers in their talk at the screening said they hoped many of the schools across Bradford could work together on projects. The film was shown as part of the Keighley Festival which itself is a community event and encourages organisations and groups within the town to work together.

Working together, finding points of connection and building relationships

The most important product of these projects is, of course, not the film but the communication it facilitates. The people working on the project learn about each other, share skills, tell stories, give of their time and celebrate success. These kinds of activities help form powerful bonds between people which in turn engender community.

Questions for reflection

  • Is what we do just an end in itself or is there a bigger benefit for our communities?
  • Can we involve people we don’t yet have a connection with in our projects?
  • Is what we do driven by a vision, does everyone involved understand what the vision is?




Buns and an old shower cap lead to new inspiration.

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This is a picture of some buns, but they are no ordinary buns. These buns have been made by my own fair hand.  Wow. The trick of baking, it seems to me, is persistency (if that’s a word) and consistency. Persistence is required because you need to keep on trying even though you fail often, and consistency because once you have discovered what works you have to stick precisely to the measurements you’ve worked out.

The big breakthrough with this particular batch was an unused shower cap, yes a shower cap – one of those clear plastic things with elastic round the edge. I used the shower cap to cover the bowl as the dough was rising, this kept the draughts from getting in. Brilliant.

So there we have it the inspiration for today – firstly, that failure is fine so long as you keep on going until you discover what works. Secondly that finding new purpose for old things can deliver joyful results.

Questions for reflection

  • What mistakes have we made that eventually led us to a new discovery?
  • What new purpose can we find for all the old stuff we have around us?

Why Yorkshire was the best place to bring the Tour de France.

I think Yorkshire was the best place to bring the Tour de France not just because it is spectacularly beautiful. Yorkshire is a county where the people share a powerful connection with each other. The identity of Yorkshire is not just shaped by breathtaking landscapes but about a pride of belonging which is hard to match anywhere else. It is the people who have made this event such a success.

For sure, in cities like Liverpool, Newcastle and others there are strong connections felt between people who belong to those cities, but there is something different about Yorkshire. Yorkshire, it seems to me, is as much about the county as any particular city. There is a very strong identity associated with Yorkshire as a whole. Perhaps for this reason Yorkshire was a good place to bring the Tour De France because the cities, towns and villages all have a natural connection with each other though the commonality of the Yorkshire identity. More than ant other county I believe Yorkshire was able to behave and act as one community.

For me personally the excitement of this weekend has a lot to do with my own identity. Any reflection or celebration of a landscape has an impact on me directly. To say that Yorkshire is a place of spectacular beauty and creativity is a joyous reflection on me because it is the place that has shaped who I am. If Yorkshire had been the most ugly and uninteresting place in the world I would still belong here and what people say about Yorkshire they say about me, inevitably. Yorkshire, indeed, has a mixed image with the label “grim” difficult to shake off, but thanks to the tour, grim I hope will be replaced more appropriately by the word grand, “the grand north” I hope.

It’s difficult to imagine a more exciting summer weekend with the Tour de France reinforcing the pride and pleasure that already exists in this county. So this is not just about cycling but a coming together of so many good instincts which exist here; Demonstrating the need to belong and community, the desire to give, the celebration of talent all come together in an amazing mix.

I belong to West Yorkshire and that’s why I live here. I was born in Bradford and even now I feel a strong emotional attachment to a city which was once grand and prosperous. I have explored practically every corner of the Yorkshire Dales and and it thrills me to see the cities, towns and villages looking so beautiful.

Like so many people here I have taken the Tour de France personally and feel much better for it.