Count your blessings – Week 7

Monday 30
Concentration of CO2 has increased by 40% since pre- industrial times. Car emissions and gas and electricity usage all contribute to this.
Give 40p for each car journey and 20p for each journey on public transport you make.

Tuesday 31
If we don’t act fast, climate change could cause a global temperature rise of up to 4.5°C.
Count the number of radiators you have in your home. Give 30p for each one.

Wednesday 1
Today, thousands of people all over the world will go without food as part of the Fast for the Climate movement.
Join in and find out more at christianaid.org.uk/fastfortheclimate

Thursday 2
Maundy Thursday
Galgalo has to find water for his cattle, but it is getting harder because the rains are more erratic.
Give £1 if you have checked the weather forecast today.

Friday 3
Good Friday
Our partners are teaching alternative farming techniques to help farmers cope with changing climate conditions.
Praise God for innovative techniques that allow people to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Weekend 4 & 5
Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday
When Elema was growing up she remembers that the cattle were fat, the children always had milk to drink and it rained regularly so it was good for the area. But now this isn’t the case. ‘We are facing poverty, we are facing hunger because of the ever-changing climate in this area,’ she says.
Pray that more people understand the effects of climate change and demand a stop to it.

Count your blessings – Week 6

Monday 23
Emergencies often leave women alone and vulnerable, having lost men who were either at work or stayed behind to protect their property.
Pray for those trying to rebuild their lives.

Tuesday 24
Long periods of drought plague Zimbabwe. We’re helping communities to build dams to survive.
Give 30p for each way you use water today.

Wednesday 25
In the Philippines, natural disasters happen regularly. Communities are learning to recognise the warning signs so they have time to evacuate.
Give 60p for every smoke alarm you have.

Thursday 26
Emergencies destroy a community’s way of earning a living. We help people to develop sustainable ways to earn money.
Give 40p for each job you’ve had.

Friday 27
Climate change hits the poorest people hardest, yet they did the least to cause it. For the love of your global neighbours, join the movement for climate action.
Act now: christianaid. org.uk/climate-summer

Weekend 28 & 29
In Ethiopia, HUNDEE gives goats and cows to poor women so they can have milk for
their children and a way of earning money. Galgalo says this is how the community used to help each other, but poverty forced them to stop. Our partners work hard to get to know communities and meet their needs. This also helps them to know their way around and reach communities quickly in emergency situations.
Give £1 if you know the route to hospital. Would you know an alternative way if that route was blocked?

Count your blessings – Week 5

Monday 16
Often we take our own voice for granted. Make sure yours gets heard by joining our network of local lobbyists who regularly contact their MPs to demand a fairer world for all.
Visit christianaid.org. uk/locallobbyist

Wednesday 18
Saudi Arabia and Vatican City are the only two states in the world where women are denied the right to vote.
Thank God for all those who have fought for years in order to achieve universal suffrage.

Tuesday 17
Since women have been given a voice at community meetings, Elema has noticed changes that are improving the lives of women.
Give 30p for each group you are part of where your opinion counts.

Thursday 19
We have so many ways to share our thoughts with the world, but for many this freedom of speech is denied.
Give 50p for each method of sharing your opinion you use today.

Friday 20
In 36 countries, women now hold more than 30% of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
Give 50p for each female head of state you can name.

Weekend 21 & 22
It is custom in many societies for a woman not to speak in public meetings, but to tell a man what she wants to say and they may say it for her. HUNDEE has worked with Galgalo and his community to change this. Now women attend and speak at these meetings too. Galgalo says: ‘It is a useful thing to do; it helped us to see that women are valuable and they bring a lot.’
Thank God for all the women’s opinions that you are able to hear.

Count your blessings – Week 4

Monday 9
If you take farming out of the equation, only 20% of paid jobs in northern Africa are held by women.
Pray for equality for women in northern Africa, and around the world.

Tuesday 10
In 2013, almost 300,000 women died globally from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Give 50p for each woman you know who has received specialist care during or after her pregnancy.

Wednesday 11
Through our partners, women like Elema have found support networks to turn
to in difficult times.
Give 40p for every woman who supports you in times of trouble.

Thursday 12
In many societies, women can’t leave home without a chaperone. Our partners support income-generating projects to do at home, such as cultivating silk worms in Afghanistan.
Give 30p for each place you go to on your own today.

Friday 13
Thanks to HUNDEE, Galgalo recognises that there shouldn’t be any supremacy between men and women. He shares the household tasks he previously considered ‘women’s work’.
Give 20p for each chore you think is a job for the opposite sex.

Weekend 14 & 15
Mothering Sunday
Elema followed tradition and was proud
when her daughter got married aged 12. Shortly afterwards, Elema watched her die
in labour. With the help of HUNDEE, Elema now campaigns against child marriage and protects girls like Bokiya who flee from it.
‘Not only will my daughters be over 18 when they marry, but I will protect other girls too,’ Elema says. Thanks to her, the community has prevented many child marriages.

Count your blessings 2015 – Week 3

This week’s Count your Blessings focuses on Education.

Monday 02 March
Education opens up opportunities. Bokiya wants to be a doctor when she finished school.
Give 30p for the number of professions you wanted to be as a child. Give 50p more if it became true.

Tuesday 03 March
Elema’s father wouldn’t let her go to school now she’s in her 50s, she feels it is too late.
Give 30p for each qualification you’ve taken as an adult.

Wednesday 04 March
Every year, 14 million girls get married before the age of 18. At school, girls like Bokiya learn about their rights and the dangers of child marriage.
Pray that girls will be courageous and able to stand up for their rights.

Thursday 05 March
World Book Day
Today we celebrate being able to read. But 781 million adults around the world lack basic literacy skills.
Give 5p for the number of books on your bookshelf that you haven’t read.

Friday 06 March
More than one in four children in developing regions are likely to drop out of primary school for reasons beyond their control.
Give 50p for every educational institution you have attended.

Weekend 07 & 08 March
Through community education, HUNDEE helps parents to understand that girls should go to school as well as boys. Bokiya says: ‘I like education because I can be a self-helper, a strong woman who can help herself.’
Visit christianaid.org.uk/reflect and use the weekly reflection to consider the gift of education.

Count Your Blessings 2015 – Week 2

We are a week into Lent and Christian Aid are running their Count your Blessings cause to give us something to think about, while also giving money for a good cause. Beth and I are both raising money again, however, I want to share the resources so that others can raise money alongside us.

The resources are available here:
http://www.christianaid.org.uk/getinvolved/lent/count-your-blessings/

Monday 23 February
It’s Fairtrade Fortnight! Fairly traded products offer better prices to the hard-working producers, and ensure decent working conditions and fair terms of trade.
Give 20p for each fairtrade product you can name.

Tuesday 24 February
In parts of Ethiopia, women don’t traditionally have the right to inherit any of their husband’s or parents’ assets.
Pray for our partners who challenge the structures that keep people poor.

Wednesday 25 February
Where our money goes shapes the world. Ask your pension fund whether your money is invested in risky fossil fuel projects or is funding a fairer future.
Visit christianaid.org.uk/greenlight to take action.

Thursday 26 February
Savings and loans groups provide communities with opportunities to borrow money. When they pay it back, others can then borrow money.
Give 50p for each bank account that you have access to.

Friday 27 February
Our UK state pension helps to maintain a decent standard of living when we retire. For many around the world, if they can’t work or grow their own food then no one will provide for them.
Give 40p for every year that you have paid in to a pension scheme.

Weekend 28 February – 01 March
Galgalo used to make all the financial decisions in his household. He says:
‘If I wanted to sell a cow, I would sell it. Then I would spend the money however I wanted, I might give my wife a bit to spend on the children, or I might not.’ Thanks to the work of HUNDEE, Galgalo sees the importance of involving his wife. Now they go to market together so there is no secrecy in how much money is made and spent.
Give 50p for each time you use a credit or debit card this weekend.

Remembering 2013

5. Taking my mother to Silverstone and Brands Hatch
The last time I went to Silverstone to watch F1 was 2010 and our rear windscreen got smashed, so while memorable it was not a great experience. This time I took my mother along for the first time and we greatly enjoyed qualifying day as our man Lewis Hamilton took pole position. After my trip to the States it was also great to be able to head to Brands Hatch in the autumn to watch another fantastic title showdown (even if the weather was wet and horrible).

4. Thanksgiving
After our first Thanksgiving in America it was nice to be back in England again with all of our friends round for turkey. A lot of them we had not seen since our barbeque the previous summer and so we had lots of catching up to do.

3. Getting very cold at an NFL playoff game and going to Wembley
I was not going to pass up the opportunity of seeing Denver play a home playoff game while I was in the city. I therefore stumped up the cash and got myself all kitted up to see them take on Baltimore. Unfortunately the game itself ended in an embarrassing loss, the temperature was a long way below 0, and I nearly got frostbite in my foot… but the experience was something I will not forget. Added to that, I got to go to both NFL games at Wembley and although the games were not brilliant it is wonderful being able to watch the sport on home turf.

2. Getting an awesome job
I began job hunting about two months before I was scheduled to leave America, it took me a month to find the perfect job and I ended up leaving the country a fortnight early for it. I am greatly enjoying working for Tempered Vision in Basingstoke, I’ve got a great boss and we have been working on some interesting projects.

1. Buying a house
The biggest thing that happened in 2013 was our getting on the property ladder, in fact since returning from America most things in our lives have changed. The house is the icing on the cake though and we are now very happily living in Billingshurst, just 8 miles down the road from where I grew up.

 

Film of the year 2013

2013 was one of those years where the report card of films released would say “could do better”. Sure there were plenty of decent movies in cinemas but few will be defined as greats. That didn’t stop Beth and I from watching around 20 new releases each though. Once again… we don’t agree very much.

Beth’s list:

10. The Wolverine
9. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
8. The Great Gatsby
7. Rush
6. About Time
5. Despicable Me 2
4. Star Trek: Into Darkness
3. The Lone Ranger
2. 42
1. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

It’s more interesting to me to remember when and where  and with whom I saw each of these films than actually ranking them 1-10. Hobbit is my top choice because it’s the one I looked forward to the most throughout the year. Not expecting it to stick closely to the book, I wasn’t disappointed but rather enjoyed the parts where it veered into back stories and material from Tolkien’s other writings.  42 was a powerful and insightful film about prejudice and sportsmanship and doing justice. I also enjoyed it because we had such fun seeing it with friends on a snowy night last spring! After these op choices the rankings get a bit fuzzy: 3 could be 4 or 5, 5 could be 6 or 7 etc. I enjoyed The Lone Ranger for Johnny Depp’s performance and the way it brought an old TV show to a new generation. I enjoyed  Star Trek as much as the first one and look forward to more. I enjoyed Despicable Me for the minions, of course! I’d like to see About Time again and notice more details I missed the first time around. Rush was exhilarating and emotional. The Great Gatsby was glamorous and brought to life an old book I was forced to read at school. Hunger Games and Wolverine both made for fun evenings out with friends and family and made the top 10 list easily, beating out a few others I saw this year like The Harry Hill Movie, Man of Steel, Oz the Great and Powerful, Identity Thief, and A Good Day to Die Hard.

Image from the Hobbit film site

Jonathan’s list:
10. The Wolverine
9. Now You See Me
8. About Time
7. Iron Man 3
6. 42
5. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
4. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
3. Rush
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
1. Gravity

Gravity is the first film that I have seen in 3d that wowed me. Even then, the act of watching it on the biggest screen I could find added more to the experience. The effects made this movie, the storyline itself was strong but this film lived through its effects, and those had to be seen on a large screen. A DVD is not going to give the same experience but I do not think that is a reason to hold anything against this masterpiece. Again Abrams did a good job with Star Trek, Benedict Cumberbatch made the film and for the longest time I expected it to take the top spot. Rush was easily one of the best racing films of all time and handled the subject matter expertly. I will be coming back to that film many times through the years. But Gravity offered something different and new, it, for me, deserves its top spot.

Image from the gravity film website courtesy of warner bros.

Previous winners:

Beth

2012 – Trade of Innocents
2011 – King’s Speech
2010 – Toy Story 3
2009 – Beth was indecisive and picked 5 films
2008 – Juno

Jonathan

2012 – Django Unchained
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
2010 – Inception
2009 – The Wrestler
2008 – The Dark Knight
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Game of the year 2013

A Slight change to the format this year. Previously, this category only involved games that were released in the calendar year in question, instead I am changing it to games I was introduced to during the past year as some of the games played over the last year should get recognition.

It was also helped by my only playing seven games that came out in 2013, this was the year that I finally got a PS3 and so I have a whole juicy library to catch up on.

5. Far Cry 3 – PC – 2012
Far Cry 3 was the game that I sunk the most time into this year. I loved the exploration of the island and while the story didn’t really hold my attention, the gameplay was great and made for a fantastic experience. I had less fun on the PS3 version due to annoying controller glitches that reared their ugly heads during combat and often led to my demise.

4. Bioshock Infinite – PC – 2013
The most beautiful game I have ever played and I really enjoyed the storyline, the combat just felt tagged on and ruined the experience for me.

3. Xcom Enemy Unknown – PS3 – 2012
This is second only to Far Cry in the number of hours I have sunk into it and I suspect it will eventually eclipse the Ubisoft game over time. The ability to create my friends as an alien killing super team and then have them wiped out just after the point in the storyline I got to in the previous playthrough always  gets me reloading and beginning again. The turn based controls work wonderfully with a controller and the experience is superbly put together.

2. Splinter Cell Blacklist – Xbox 360 – 2013
Purists can keep bleating about how this and the preceding Conviction are not real Splinter Cell games. While that may be true, I don’t care, this is much more fun. I love being able to sneak through levels unseen but at the same time, I love that the game allows you options if you do get spotted. Or if you are in a bad mood, you have the chance just to go in guns blazing without dying immediately.

1. Grand Theft Auto V – PS3 – 2013
Considering the size of the game space it is impressive how good GTA5 looks. The gameplay is tight and the driving controls are sooo much better than GTA4. The story may be poor and often trying too hard to be controversial, but I have such a good time just driving around exploring the island that I can ignore it. Rockstar have taken great elements from their other games of the past few years and created a masterpiece. They have created my game of the year for the second year in a row.

 

Past winners:

2012 – Max Payne
2011 – Portal 2
2010 – Mass Effect 2
2009 – Colin McRae: Dirt 2
2008 – Mass Effect
2007 – Super Mario Galaxy

Count Your Blessings – Final 2013

So another Lent has passed. Our easter week saw us away on holiday visiting various places around Colorado. Good Friday we returned back to Denver in the evening but that is all for another post.

On Easter Sunday we woke up at 4:30am to go to Red Rocks which is an amphtheatre built into the foothills to the west of Denver. There we enjoyed a service where the sun broke the plains ahead of us halfway through the service. It was an impressive (if blinding) sight and one worth experiencing. We then headed home, napped for a couple of hours and then hung out with Sarah and Ethan the rest of the day. Playing lots of Settlers of Catan, watching British Touring Cars and eating roast lamb. A good day.

This year Beth and I both once again completed our Count Your Blessings challenge. It was another though provoking activity and it allowed us to raise money for a good cause. Over the last seven weeks the thoughts for the day led me to raise £30.05 for Christian Aid which we will send to them by cheque. It was a worthwhile thing for us to do as it is a chance to take stock.