February 16, 2005

Once upon a time on a ferry….

Not having time/energy/enthusiam to blog, I'm cheating. This is an extract of an email I sent to a mate of mine a while back, explaining something that happened to me during the easter holiday of my first year. Enjoy.

The other thing is the story of my travels to France, while on a orch. tour to Lyon. Almost amusingly disorganized, which didn't help. As an example of this, we played three concerts while we were there, and the total publicity that I could see consisted of 3 posters – one in the youth hostel (not bad but waiters dodgy), one on the church door and one on the inside of the equipment van. The tour committee, bless their sweet (Graduated) souls, were ripped off. Anyway, I digress. The story goes like this…....

We traveled by ferry. Having been up all night until seven am that day, (incidentally writing a 5.5 thousand word report on cement production – an engineering degree is a true joy) I was tired. The coach left the uni at about 1am, so by the time we got to the ferry
it was time for Matt to be in bed. So I went to sleep. The location of this action is important and will therefore be emphasized – I was on a sofa, in the forward lounge. This concludes any active role on my behalf in this narrative for the next few hours.

The ferry arrived at Calais. Everyone got on to the coach. After some presumably frantic discussions between the ferry crew and the aforementioned tour committee, the coach rolled off. It then sat on Calais docks for an hour while the ferry was searched thoroughly, that last statement being the only part of this tale that contains any element of untruthfulness, and Oh how I wish it didn't! The reason for this oddly energetic activity on the part of the crew is that I, star of the tour that I was, remained asleep. Snoring. On a sofa which an hours worth of searching by the French ferry crew failed to locate. At some point during this time, my parents were called. They, unsurprisingly, panicked. General theories as to the cause of my absence were as follows:

  • I was too drunk to find the Coach deck.
  • I wasn't too drunk to find the Coach deck, but was too drunk to get on the right coach. (This particular option actually had them phoning round for coach companies to check. I am not (quite) that moronic.)
  • I was mentally unstable and jumped overboard. ()
  • I was drunk and fell overboard.

The suggestion that I was asleep was proposed but was dismissed as being unrealistic.

Having heard the news, my parents phoned the police. They favored the suicidal option and suggested the coast guard. They also appear to have a policy of widespread movement but total lack of communication – I now have to dodge the music librarian at Warwick for the simple reason she wants to shoot me. She was woken up at 8.00 in the morning on a Saturday, after the last Friday of term, to get a contact number so that Warwick police could feel like they were doing something, not thinking that the Dover police already had it. I don't think hearing that she was woken up because I was asleep helped her mood….

Having stopped for an hour, the ferry had to move off. With nothing better to do, the coach continued to Lyon. As far as I can tell, roughly an hour later, I arose and stumbled around for a while wondering where everyone was. I then looked out of a window and saw Dover which caused some mental comment. On me I had my wallet and my coat – my phone, passport and foreign money were in my bag on the coach. Luckily I had in my coat pocket a tour plan, including a contact number for a member of the Choir.

I went to the information desk and said Hi, after which they gave me a free breakfast, and a phone, which I used to inform the world that I breathed. I didn't realise my parents had been told until a couple of dover PC's came on board to check I was actually there, and said 'you might want to think about phoning your dad'. Slight relief on the part of mon famille!!

It got kinda simple after that, not that the first part took much effort on my part! They took me back across to Calais (not charging me for the extra two crossings) gave me a ride to the station and booked my ticket for me – I got the train down to Lyon, and arrived 15 min before the coaches which had left a few hours earlier.

I thought at this point I had better call to say I'd arrived. I wandered round Lyon station for half an hour pointing at phones that only took cards, waving a euro and looking British for half an hour. I finally found the stations information desk and was told… er… there might be one in the Irish pub round the corner. If you are ever in this position, don't bother; I went to the pub, where one of them spoke English, and wasted another half hour and about 5–10 euros trying to use a phone. Having got through to the fire department twice, I gave up and got the tube. Finally achieved my aim, got there, done, and was laughed at continuously for a week. Felt just like home…..

That’s the end of the story, hope it was worth the effort of writing it. I was actually lucky, in a way – I avoided a many hour coach ride (with two drunken cellists – ugly. They got to the ferry, saw that if you drank 5 pints of Guinness you got a hat and we kinda lost them from there), had a nice view of France from the train, and had a conversation starter with every single one of the one hundred people on tour. On the down side, I am now known to an entire French ferry crew as 'Sleeping beauty'. Please feel free to share this story with any depressed person you may meet, as it is a good demonstration of the fact that life really can get worse!

Hopefully that brightened your day somewhat, whoever you are! Please feel free to blog your own embarassing stories and link to them from here for me so I don't have to search. You know you want to!


January 30, 2005

God. Suffering. Why?

Slightly more thoughtful second entry... Quite busy at the mo still, and haven't yet got into the habit of posting.. Will at some point

There is an inconsistency. Put simply, it is this:

I’m Christian. The basic ‘rules of engagement’ with the world for me go something along the lines of ‘Love EVERYONE. Do all you can to help people – no holding back. Don’t worry about yourself – I’ll take care of making sure you’re ok – just make sure you’re doing Everything you can do for the others.’

And this command isn’t in any way optional. God basically says ‘I care a lot, and you should too’. If there was only one Christian in the entire world, that one man would basically have to fight a one man war to show love to everyone. I’m glad I’m not that one bloke.

(Note that I’m talking about what God wants Christians to do, not what they actually have managed and manage to achieve and ‘achieve’.)

But here’s the thing. This ‘no holds barred’ approach of love to the world that we are commanded to show isn’t followed by God. Cos if it was, there would have been no Tsunami. There would have been no Pompeii. Natural disasters just wouldn’t happen – no one would die of anything but old age or human inflicted causes. (We can hurt each other. God’s given us free will, etc. We use it. It’s not good, but I can accept it without problems with faith – the ‘would you like to be a God-controlled robot’ argument is quite strong, as far as I’m concerned.)

God, who commands me to alleviate any and all human pain and suffering however, wherever and whenever I can, doesn’t live by that rule himself. Which, if I’m honest, looks at first like it’s not particularly fair, and the words ‘divine hypocrisy’ are kinda floating in there. There is a rather large ‘Why’. I’d really, really, really like an answer. But I don’t have one.

So does God lack the power or the will to prevent these things? Can’t take either of those on board and still be a Christian, at least as I understand it. I could do what someone I know did the other day, and walk out, basically saying ‘oi, no, this doesn’t work at all, must have made a mistake’. Hopefully the above makes it clear I can appreciate his point.

But here’s the thing. I’m not taking that route; abandoning my faith and attempting to live a ‘good’ life without any attached ‘superstition’. I can see that path, but I’m not gonna go down it. The second half of this is me figuring out why.

There are logical ideas about why God allows ‘natural’ suffering. I need to read up on them, cos I don’t remember them that well, and to be honest, while my faith isn’t giving up and wandering off because of the recent events, the vague points I have stored in a few brain cells somewhere isn’t the reason.

What it comes down to is faith, and the fact that faith in God, though widely misrepresented, isn’t ‘believing something without proof’. Faith more or less equates to trust on a larger scale – knowing God well enough to know he’s not gonna let you down.

The ‘inconsistency’, under closer examination, comes down to this. I know God loves me, and I know he loves everyone else as well. (That’s my experience talking– while I would love to be able to pass it on to everyone else, I’m talking about My life and faith, etc – if you feel I’m trying to pressure you into believing what I do, I’m not.. sorry if I give the wrong impression.) And this isn’t only ‘because the bible tells me so’ – I can tell stories of how God has shown his love for me in a variety of situations and ways, and I could get a large load more from people I know if I ever needed to. Some are simple, small stuff. Some aren’t so small.

But as well as all the good things I’ve seen him do, there is an extraordinary amount of times when he doesn’t step in and sort it all out. This doesn’t seem to fit with the idea of an almighty and loving Lord, and so there is a conflict between what I see now and what I’ve seen before.

That God cares enough about humans to go through more suffering for us than anyone else could ever have experienced is a cornerstone of my faith. He knows what it’s like to suffer as no one else could. That’s not an answer to ‘why’, but it’s one of the things that helps me deal with the fact I don’t have that answer. And that’s where faith comes in.

I’ve got to trust God to have a good answer, and part of that is accepting that it wouldn’t be trust if he bowed to my demands and told it to me. And that in the long run, me being to some extent forced into having that trust (having already told God in becoming a Christian that he can do with me what he likes) is better for me, and everyone else, than me having an answer.

And this is blind faith, if I understand it right. Not ignoring the suffering (God himself would object if I did that) or ignoring the ‘inconsistency’ I’ve rambled on about so ineloquently above. But to face up to and accept the fact that I don’t know the answer, and still believe that God, despite this, is all the bible says he is.


January 10, 2005

Er… Hello? Is this thing on?

Hello. I am, well, many things, otherwise known as Matt, and this appears, upon close examination, to be a blog. My blog. Odd that.

First entry. What on earth are you supposed to do with a first entry!? I guess some kind of indication/warning of what I intend to use this blog for might be handy. So..

Procrastination. This is not so much of an intent as an inevitability.

Talking about stuff I care about/have some vague interest in.

Letting my sense of humour go out on a long, long, leash. That's the warning bit.

Doing the crossword. My grandad sits all day doing the telegraph crossword, and pretty much does it every day with time for a snooze after lunch. He says it keeps his mind going. Ok. If I can't do the crossword now, when I'm probably about as near to an intelectual peak as I'm gonna get – what hope do I have when I'm 80!? So expect to see some of the metros finest.

Generally, I'll keep writing stuff if it turns out to be fun/good procrastination, and I won't if it don't (hopefully rhyme eliminates grammar related offence). So, to begin the blog. HEH hem. Quiet in the back.

"Miss Woodhouse take me back to mother".

4 letters, probably not starting with 'u'.


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