#CORPUSMOOC Week 4 Notes

There are some things you can do whilst on the sofa with a fuzzy head and streaming nose right? A bit slower than usual, but still… 

Warm-Up Activity … appears to involve using Antconc … wonder if reaching the limits of this course on a theory only basis… let’s see…

Look at the files on your hard drive: How many documents do you have on there which have been written by you? What time period does that collection of documents cover? What types of genres do those documents represent?

Collection of documents from at least 3 years, with some older files back to the 1990s, largely writing, speaking (including video examples), press captures, poster images, with a few HTML files downloaded from the net.

How many words do you think are in your personal corpus if you saved approx. 12 documents in one genre as an example and run through AntConc?

100,000+, with lots of use of words such as is, for, the, etc I suspect – expect highly ranking would be digital media, children, internet, social media, propaganda, poster, history, food, body image.

VIDEO 1: Building your own Corpus

As teachers, look at a corpus of student writing (or speech?) – wouldn’t be as large as pre-existing “learner corpora”, but you’d have more control/be more familiar with the content of it.

Kennedy (1998, p70-85)

Design: Without a solid design, nothing else works. What is it going to be used to do? What research questions are we defining? And what are we comparing it to? Speech or writing? Time periods? How big does the corpus need to be? Depends on restrictiveness of language you’re analysing (e.g. adverts = very short, so small corpus allowed analysis across a range of adverts).

British National Corpus needs to be large (100million words) to represent the range of language.

Brown Corpora = only about 1 million words each seems to work, but covers only written text and not all forms of writing.

A rare feature (e.g. hereof) requires a larger corpus than common words (e.g. because). Sometimes you have to settle for what you can get (time//££ may limit).

What about the individual size of your files within corpus? Ensuring that one is not over-represented? E.g. 5 essays per class, 15 essays from another – still take all essays, but tag/annotate to double-check balance. What about length of writing? E.g. Take samples of 300 words per essay (grammatical interest)? But this loses analysis of the overall structure of the text. What about samples from different parts of the text as words associate with beginnings/middles/ends (skewed)? Think about size/representativeness with a pilot study, think about how you’d store articles on your computer (see image: age/ID No/Essay), how might stratify data in order to ask good questions of it.

VIDEO 2: Building a Corpus: The Basics

Keep a list of sources of information, by whom, when (if not obvious from the text), when accessed, gender, topic, language, etc… but only if relevant to research question, or to those who might use your data at a later date.

For under 18s = need parental permission, otherwise subject permission. (Letters re purpose of research, anonymity). If going to share data with others, then need to sign a copyright release form. Ensure anonymisation/ethics.

Sources? Word-process by hand (interesting but time-consuming, but necessary for spoken), scan-in (time consuming to error check), ask friends, etc for texts, buy, or use an existing corpus that’s in electronic form (care with copyright for materials directly from the internet – but are number of text archives available).


Note differences between ‘spoken language’ and ‘written to be spoken’ language – not a problem unless you claim that scripts are representative of spoken language. 

BBC Webpage: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8047410.stm given as example to collect data from, note the issue of underlying code – so save file in text-only format., although text as image may require typing in e.g. highlight boxes. Or strip e.g. menu text, or copy/paste text… or use e.g. http://www.httrack.com.


Consider using https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome to collect material.

VIDEO 3: Mark Up and Annotation

Add meta-data to help analysts … Header files = title, date, author, etc.

Annotation for stylistic interpretation… e.g. heading levels. But only if you’re interested in the features that help your question.

If sharing with others, you need to be clear about the system, so others can use it.

Grammatical annotation can be done fairly quickly with computers, but accuracy is not always great, especially if using rare-words/mis-spelling not recognised. May have to ‘error tag’ – has to be done manually.

VIDEO 4: American English

Corpora at Brigham Young University, from range of sources, includes historical data. OED dictionary of historical English…

COCA – ‘Must’ is most frequent in academic writing, and least frequent is spoken language – it’s a word in decline, especially after the 1990s.

BNC – only contains texts to 1993.

What is ‘Intellectual Cowardice’?


Always interesting to read from those who are public about their ‘fears’ – once fears have been named, they can be faced, right?

Anxiety about being a fraud does seem to be an occupational hazard in academia. Ruth Barcan has written in these pages about the reasons for its prevalence – the increasing demands and complexities of the job, the stratification of the university, the insecurities of teachers and of the institutions they work for, and indeed the insecurity of higher education itself. Surely Barcan is right that a “fractured, competitive system” makes people feel overwhelmed and undermined. It often seems as if neither we academics ourselves nor others think us worthy. How can anyone finish anything in such conditions?

Yet I came to think that the final word about feeling fraudulent rests with the person who consents to that feeling. Was I victim of “impostor syndrome” or was I responsible for my fate? If I refused to take responsibility, if I gave in to my fear of finishing, then wouldn’t I make a fine candidate to join Dante’s neutrals? It was only when I learned to confront – and exploit – the deep fear that was at the heart of the project, the fear of being cowardly, that I was able to finish.

Read the full article – and a couple of interesting comments – including blaming much on the compartmentalisation of departments.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership


I went on a course on emotional intelligence … so interested in this piece that came up in this weeks Times Higher Education:

It is about recognising your own emotional reactions to what happens under your leadership. For instance, one female head of department told me that she always checked her mood and emotional state before leaving the car park every time she arrived at work. If she didn’t, she feared that she could “begin the day screaming at a colleague because I have had a late night or agreeing to something ridiculous because I had just enjoyed giving a lecture”.

But you do also need to be able to manage the emotions of others. So when a colleague is faced with a personal tragedy or competence issue, the emotionally and socially intelligent leader will ensure that the person is supported to make their work realistic until their crisis is resolved. This may seem like common sense, but tell that to the senior manager who once told me: “I make the rules here and I think he should be taking on a full workload – even if his mother is dying.” That manager was gradually undermined because the staff saw that none of them would be supported if they themselves were to suffer a temporary personal setback.

Read full post.

#AdventBookClub: Day 16: Walking Step by Step

A little bit of history from Maggi today – understanding how Advent has changed. Previously very much like Lent … but the middle Sunday in Lent (Gaudete was a chance to add some colour and flavour to a time of fasting) … in my iTunes today a version of this came up, so I thought I’d share: 

An interesting passage from Maggi that makes me think – as we share more of ourselves on social media (or do we?) – if we’re looking for a striking/impressive leader, we’re rarely likely to pick someone from our own community:

Because it’s so much easier to believe in someone when all we see is their strengths, their good points, their potential. It’s much harder to believe in someone if we’ve seen them fall down in the playground, fail an exam or be dumped by a girlfriend or two. Once we’ve seen someone in all their humanity, it’s much harder to believe in them as a superhero.

Combined with Ron Glusenkamp’s call to be patient with people and their situations, we also need to be patient with each other, and as we each seek our callings (not necessarily ordination), require encouragement and input from others in our community, as Damascus moments are rare!

Oh look, and today Brian Draper encourages us that most steps of faith aren’t huge ‘ah-ha’ moments, but:

But often, the real step of faith is in taking the smallest, most ordinary decision: to trust the path, and to keep going. When you want to give up. When you just don’t understand. When the road seems rough and steep. As David wrote so powerfully in Psalm 23, ‘He guides me along the right paths… Even though I walk through the darkest valley…’

I went on a Labyrinth walk with Brian at Hilliers before I moved to Durham … and in walking back out again, I ran into some friends – a good reminder that in moving to Durham I haven’t left all my Winchester friends behind… and thankfully most of them are online!

NEW LOOK: http://drbexl.co.uk

Last night, as a bit of “light relief” from book writing, I was having a look at some of the latest WordPress themes. Having paid £45 to download one I thought I liked, I found it didn’t really work for me, but found this one instead – which does everything I want, and was a very simple changeover!  I last gave the content pages a full overhaul at Christmas, so a few tweaks required there I think, but we’re getting there:

Even works fully on mobile: Screenshot_2013-07-01-11-33-59 (1)



Bex’s Personal Pages

2012: I currently have a number of roles, and a have a number of websites. This particular website is my personal site. The type of content you can expect to find on here is:

  • Personal information, particularly related to life history and career.
  • Interests. As a polymath and an ENFP, these tend to be quite wide-ranging, but include exploring life & trying new things, reading, travelling, Christianity, HE/learning, cultural history – particularly WW2 posters, the digital world, coaching, and…
  • A digital scrapbook of things I’ve found interesting and/or want to keep a record of.

I started building these pages in 1997 as a means of experimenting with web design, and have continued to develop my skills in this way. In February 2010, the content was moved from www.bex-lewis.co.uk to www.drbexl.co.uk.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.As a definite extrovert, found sight of this book interesting:

Michael Mack, reader in the department of English studies, Durham University, is reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (Viking, 2012). “A fascinating book that counters our society’s obsession with groups. Cain does not take issue with extroverts as such, but with how being extrovert and gregarious has become a normative standard. An oppressive research climate now dictates that academic work must be done collaboratively, but Cain shows how lone researchers are more innovative and beneficial to society.”

Take from Times Higher Education.



Just trying to get my head clear….

These are workshop deadlines, etc… and other particularly LARGE deadlines – lots of smaller deadlines, tasks, emails, social media, experimenting, and and and within all my jobs…

*Also likely to remember other things…


  • 22nd: BigBible Interview for David Bunce
  • 24th: Circulate pilot material for web conferencing
  • 24th: 45 minute session on technology for assessment
  • 25th: Audio Feedback Training (attending)
  • 26th: Article for Transpositions on KCCO/Christianese
  • 30th: Baseline document for ODHE/JISC
  • 31st: Woman to Woman ‘Friendship in a Digital Age’
  • *Complete web structure/document, etc. for Big Bible
  • *Complete book proposal for KCCO


  • 3rd: Social Media for Job Hunting
  • 4th: Review Richard Littledale ‘Who Needs Words’
  • 9th: ODHE Session (Lake Windermere)
  • 17th – 20th: HOLIDAY: Berlin
  • 21st: Tom Wright Webinar (Lent starts following day)
  • 23rd: Video Presentation Training (attending)
  • 24th: JISC ODHE Event/ Teaching/Twitter Workshop (which one?!)
  • 25th: Essex Media Event
  • 27th: COFE Workshops: Social Media for the Scared/Blogging


  • 1st: Review of ‘Sticky Jesus’ for Tim Hutchings
  • 3rd: Digihants
  • 5th: YouTube Workshop
  • 5th: TEL Working Group
  • 7th: Methodist Church schools event?
  • 9th: MY BIRTHDAY
  • 11th: Review of ‘Whole Life Whole Bible’ for BigBible
  • 12th: Feedback on web conferencing pilot
  • 13th: COFE: Leicester
  • 14th: PGCLTHE: Week 1
  • 14th: Scanners Night: Talk about social media?
  • 15th: Social Media Training for Federation of Image Consultants
  • 19th: Workshop: Survey Monkey
  • 22nd: Workshop – E-tools for sharing, with Yaz
  • 22nd: Decision on which web conferencing software
  • 23rd-26th: FEBA Event // Dresden
  • 28th: Workshop: Wimba?
  • 28th: PGCLTHE: Week 2


  • 18th-20th: PELECon: Paper with Nicole
  • 24th: JISC Experts Meeting (talk about Manipulating Media)
  • 26th: COFE Workshops (Social Media for the Scared /Twittersphere)
  • 30th: ODHE Interim Reports
  • 30th: Blogging Workshop
  • *Marking Manipulating Media Blogs


  • 4th: Workshop: Presentations
  • 9th: Learning Lunch: iPadology?
  • 9th: PGCLTHE: Week 3
  • 19th: DigiGlasgow
  • 23rd: PGCLTHE: Week 4
  • 28th: Workshop: Twitter
  • 29th-1st: Thinking Digital (Newcastle)


  • 7th: Workshop: Facebook
  • 18th-22nd: MediaLit


  • HOLIDAY: Scillies: 15th-21st
  • 24th-27th: Greenbelt


  • (Paralympics)
  • 18th: COFE: Twitter, Social Media Scared


  • 30th: ODHE Interim Project Reports
  • * Great South Run


On The Big Bible Project this morning we ran a story about the hashtag we’re seeking to get going, #HD12, which stands for Hopes & Dreams for 2012.


2011 has been a difficult year. In February 2009 I qualified as a Life Coach, aspects of which have affected much of my practice within work, but also my life itself. Two quotes which stuck with me from the sessions:

  • “There’s no point painting the wall if it needs knocking down”.
  • “Sometimes you have to go through the shit, it’s just a case of finding a way of landing in 3ft, rather than 6ft of shit”.

Shortly afterwards I was put on antidepressants (yes, I know we’re not supposed to talk about that, but how are we supposed to support people in dealing with it if we don’t accept that it’s an illness that needs treatment), and started to meet with a counsellor to talk through how my life is the way it is…

Who gets depression?

It’s partly because I have been told so many times “you’re the last person I would have thought suffered from depression” that I thought I’d write this …

This Christmas I picked up Christopher Cantopher ‘The Curse of the Strong‘, a book that many others had identified as particularly helpful and this assessment of the ‘personality type’ that he identifies as most likely to struggle is striking (not the ‘should pull their socks up’ kinda person):

  • (moral) strength
  • reliability
  • diligence
  • strong conscience
  • strong sense of reliability
  • a tendency to focus on the needs of others before one’s own
  • sensitivity
  • vulnerability to criticism
  • self-esteem dependent on the evaluation of others (I’m not so sure about that one)
He identifies how depression, so often classified as a ‘mental disorder’ can actually be identified as a physical disorder, with the synaptic nerves in the limbic system under so much pressure that they snap … and need time to heal:


Things need to heal properly before putting too much pressure back on … otherwise relapse, potentially worse, will occur… Currently, I’m still on mine… it allows me to continue to be Bex…

Failing Well

A couple of great quotes from Cantopher’s book:

Now, what’s really hard but correspondingly rewarding is to fail well. This means taking on a range of tasks, experiences and challenges, understanding that you will win some and lost some, forgiving yourself your failures and learning from them. This way you develop a life that is rich in texture and free from fear.

followed up by:

While I had succeeded in avoiding failure, he had embraced it, with the result that he had a new skill, at which he was clearly having a great time. In order to achieve success that is worthwhile and wide-ranging, you must first learn to fail well. Every happy person I have met has achieved this. It doesn’t though, mean making your life a struggle to achieve the impossible.

Making Decisions

On my Christmas/New Year holiday in Egypt last year I knew I had to make a big decision… not as a New Year Resolution (I don’t make those, if life coaching has taught me anything else, it’s that we need to make changes when the time is right, not at some random time in the calendar, although time off in the New Year can help us take time to think) … but moving forward… I’ve made huge steps in 2011… but I’m not good at congratulating myself! In many ways, I should congratulate myself that I managed to have nearly 6 days doing ‘nothing’ over Christmas, but instead I’m looking at what I still haven’t finished for 2011, and stressing about 2012!

So, what ARE my hopes and dreams for 2012?

Anyway, this was the original plan for my post… so what do I know I have to look forward to in 2012:

I’ll probably remember more, but for now… let’s get some fresh air!!

Happy Christmas e-Card


Hurrah, I thought I wasn’t even going to get around to my e-card this year (it’s been so hectic… and just think this time last year I’d been scuba diving in the Red Sea, and then climbing Mount Sinai to watch the sun rise on Christmas Day), but I’ve had a couple of inspirational images sent this morning (don’t you just love this one above), so I wanted to say HAPPY CHRISTMAS to everyone…

This year I’m looking forward to staying in Winchester (I’ve realised in the past 5 years this will be my 2nd in Winchester, others have been in Australia, Egypt and Switerzerland!) with the Hitchens.. will be fun! Heading over there before too long, and looking forward to Midnight Communion at CCW.

If you haven’t already joined it, there’s an online ‘crowd-sourced’ carol service run today – find out more about it here: http://bigbible.org.uk/2011/12/are-you-joining-onlinecarols/ … currently live at http://onlinecarols.posterous.com/, but will remain online if you fancy joining later… just use hashtag #onlinecarols if you tweet about it.

There’s so much great stuff online this year – check out this post commissioned from Rev Joanne Cox on The Big Bible Project!

Now, of course I need to reference ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, and thanks to @goannatree for alerting me to this one:


Now, 2011 has been a tough year, but lots of things to be thankful for also! This is the year that you need to encourage me to get my PhD published, and #keepbexrunning for The Great South Run (10 miles) in October…

I’m signed up for the @Great_Run (South)

At this point, I’ve just signed up for the Great South Run, 28th October 2012.

In 2006, I was on a ski trip in January, and said that I would run the Manchester 10k (May) .. thinking it didn’t sound that far… but after 1 minute on the treadmill, I was slightly dying, so joined the running club. My aim was to get it done in 1 hour 30 minutes, but I did it in 1 hour 8 minutes 26 seconds…

Later that year, after sharing a bottle of wine with a friend, we signed up for the Winchester 10k, which was a WEEK later (and I was still running, but definitely not at the same level), but I completed that in 1 hour 6 minutes! I’m sure it’s more hilly also…

In the time since, I’ve been travelling around the world (where I got a chest infection), partaken in a number of computer based jobs, and I felt the need for something to inspire me to get my ‘get up and go back’ (I’ve been back at the gym for over a year, and love the classes there)… and know that running before, though I don’t particularly “enjoy” it, I really reap the benefits from it… and seeing @batty_towers talking about her runs, a friend running today in the Great South Run, and seeing the apps that show how far you’ve run (seen those Tweets about #runkeeper?). Also see:

I’ll be running on behalf of the NSPCC, so at some point there will be an appeal for sponsorship, but encouragement & support will be greatly appreciated!

What are my deadlines (take 2)?

Well, updating on my previous entry, alongside steadily working at the University of Winchester as Blended Learning Fellow, and regular teaching commitments, keeping The Big Bible Project going,  chipping into 12baskets, and here’s some big deadlines coming up:

  • Mid-May: Talk to David Bownes
  • 18th May: Innovation in IT Session 3 (almost complete)
  • May: Article for Richard Littledale, Book Review.
  • 23rd May: Twitter for Careers Workshop (written)
  • 24th May: Thinking Digital Conference (select sessions)
  • May/June: Marking ISM (9); Blogs (18); Essays (18)
  • 1st June: Innovation in IT Session 4 (started)
  • Early June: JISC bid
  • 6th June: Biblefresh Day (interviewed by Krish K)
  • 7th June: Meeting to discuss The Big Bible Project (Phase 2)
  • 9th June: Annual Appraisal (UoW)
  • 10th June: Open Source (10 minute paper)
  • 13th June: C&M Network Conference (Panel)
  • 20-24th June: MediaLit (tweak ‘Revolution’ presentation, and completely redo practical session + worksheets)
  • 29th June: Social Media for the Scared and Blogging for Beginners (CofE)
  • End-June: All SkillsNet programme level materials in base form, so can be built upon
  • 1st July: Loughborough BODGIT Event
  • Early July: Winchester CPD events on Social Media
  • 13th July: Cultural Memory Conference (paper on WW2 posters)
  • 14th July or October 19th : JISC Experts Group (present paper?)
  • 14th July: Winchester Women Graduates Talk on WW2 posters
  • Early July Social Media Strategy for Christian Connection
  • 16th July: Family wedding
  • [6-15 August: Malta]
  • ?: Twitter article with David Rush
  • ?: Article on Keep Calm and Carry On for The Poster Journal
  • ?: Book Proposal (talk to Jenny, IWM)
  • ?: DVD with Matt Buck
  • ?: Grove booklet with Mark Howe
  • 26-29 August: Greenbelt (paper, SMS, paper)
  • 6th September:  ALT-C Papers (BODGIT Workshop and Twitter paper)
  • [5 nights in 9-17 September: Portugal]
  • 20th September: Social Media for the Scared and Social Media Strategies (CofE)
  • (24-27?) October: South of France (social media sessions)

and knowing me, I’ll have forgotten something… This is mostly to help keep my head clear, so I may be back to clarify a few bits later!

Time for a few ‘Maltesars…’

Malta: An island of legends between Sicily and North Africa

Malta is a beautiful island nestling below Sicily and far away from the bustle and pollution of major cities. Malta enjoys a Mediterranean climate with many hours of summer sunshine making it ideal for enjoying the coast. Snorkelling is one of the most popular activities here. One event in Malta’s history is the shipwreck of the apostle Paul. Running aground at ‘a bay with a sandy beach’ Paul found that ‘the islanders showed us unusual kindness’ – a characteristic that still defines the Maltese

and I am going here in August with Oak Hall (and Karen T!)… first time on a summer trip as a non-leader… looking forward to completely chilling out with a bit of sightseeing… plus some spiritual refreshment – wonder who’s leading/speaking?!

What are my deadlines?

Well, alongside steadily working at the University of Winchester as Blended Learning Fellow, and regular teaching commitments (and marking… maybe I should put that into this timetable!), keeping The Big Bible Project going,  chipping into 12baskets, and here’s some big deadlines coming up:

  • [15th March: Night Photography]
  • [19th March: TEDX Event London]
  • 21st March: Pre-Advertise HEEG event with Lisa Harris et al
  • 22nd March: Event with Andrew
  • 23rd March: JISC Experts Group
  • [26th March: Street Photography]
  • 1st April: PGCLTHE Portfolio Assignment
  • [4th April: Guy Kawasaki Event]
  • 6th April: Plymouth Learning Conference paper with Marcus
  • 12th April: Edinburgh, Visual Story Network
  • Mid-April: Talk to David Bownes
  • 27th April: L&T Day, University of Winchester
  • 2nd May: Social Media History Lecture for 21st Century Media
  • 18th May: Innovation in IT Session 3
  • 23rd May: Twitter for Careers Workshop
  • [24th May: Thinking Digital Conference]
  • 1st June: Innovation in IT Session 4
  • 13th June: C&M Network Conference (Panel)
  • 20th June: MediaLit (tweak ‘Revolution’ presentation, and completely redo practical session + worksheets)
  • End-June: All SkillsNet programme level materials in base form, so can be built upon
  • 1st July: Loughborough BODGIT Event
  • July: CofE Workshops
  • 13th July: Cultural Memory Conference (paper on WW2 posters)
  • 14th July or October 19th : JISC Experts Group (present paper?)
  • 14th July: Winchester Women Graduates Talk on WW2 posters
  • ?: (July) Social Media Strategy for Christian Connection.
  • <edit>[6-15 August: Malta]
  • ?: Twitter article with David Rush
  • ?: Article on Keep Calm and Carry On for The Poster Journal
  • ?: Book Proposal (talk to Jenny, IWM)
  • ?: DVD with Matt Buck
  • 6th September:  ALT-C Papers (BODGIT Workshop and Twitter paper)

and knowing me, I’ll have forgotten something…

“Walk Like an Egyptian” … DOH, I wasn’t going to say that…

I could not get that song (or to be precise, that line from the song) out of my head for much of the trip!!!

18th December 2010

See earlier post re our first go at trying to fly to Egypt.

22nd December 2010

Starting the trip in style (Club Class)

We were super-early to the airport as I knew of others who’d had trouble getting into the Terminal yesterday, but it was all smooth sailing… Because of the chaos, although we’d been given Club Class tickets, which usually means bag drop any time after 5am, we had to wait til 3 hours before “or your bags WILL get lost”, but once we got into Club Class – sheer bliss. I’ve been upgraded twice before and never realised that there was a lounge that goes with it… surely that’s the best bit of it. Nice & quiet, comfy seats, reading material, as much food/drink as you like… lovely! The flight out was straightforward, left on time, landed on time… (saw Made in Dagenham and most of ‘Tamara Drewe’ on the way out).

Cairo International arrivals is very unprepossessing, and I wasn’t too impressed to have my passport taken, then pushed out onto a shelf without checking who it was given back to, but still, through easily enough, a bit of a panic that GoBus wasn’t there, but then they arrived, took us to the Domestic Terminal and left us there til 4am (whilst we tried to use our £LE200 notes, not popular!), when they came back to check us in (Business Class again!)…


23rd December 2010

A flight to Dahab, straightforward enough, and our bags eventually came out. Came out to meet another friendly rep from GoBus, who took us on the hour transfer to Dahab (which I particularly wanted to see, and definitely want to go back to!), pointing out various bits of Egyptian history! At the hotel, we were given one of many ‘Can you sit down for 5 minute?’ meetings?! I knew I wanted to scuba dive, and we both wanted to climb Mt Sinai, and the timetable (as St Catherine’s Monastry not open Friday or Sunday morning!) meant we needed to climb Friday night… so it was scuba diving 2 hours after arriving! I haven’t dived for 2.5 years, so a refresher dive was a must… After a paper test, and as Fiona was left to snorkel, I started underwater, panicked almost immediately, but excellent dive instructor (Bakr) was very calm, and eventually down I went (to 17 metres!)… I just love the underwater world!! Once Bakr was happy that I was all right underwater, he gave my camera back to me (I hadn’t managed to get a new housing for my current camera, but my Mum had posted me my old camera (broken catch/lens doesn’t open properly… give it a good bash, it opens!)…

I was so happy with my first dive that we went for a second at ‘The Canyon’ (one of the top 2 sites, the other being ‘Blue Hole’ which I’d like to go back and dive, probably need a bit more experience though!), and then, cold, and with a flooded camera, we headed back to the hotel. Quick shower, some junk food from the supermarket and time to pass out… Well, Fiona passed out.. I still couldn’t sleep so went for a walk through the shops – that’s HARD work, those Egyptians are famous hard-sellers. In one shop, I found my ‘sew on badges’ which is my souvenir of choice’, and he tried to charge me 400 Egyptian £ (LE) – that’s over £40 GBP! Got him down to 20LE (each), then he wouldn’t give change for a 50, so bought some postcards (following day, found same badges in another shop for 10 each!)…


24th December 2010

Sleep in… then a morning reading a book by the pool (think I’m 2 books down already! quick dip in the pool – ice!), before an afternoon of snorkelling (with a disposable camera). We went off to get the camera processed, but not til tomorrow – and the shop owner isn’t too promising about the expected quality! Meantime, we go for dinner – it’s a challenge getting past all those over-keen Egyptian restaurant owners, who seem to remember who you are (although a load of them are taking a chance I think!). We liked the look of Shark (we hadn’t particularly done our research beforehand, had been given a list of ‘recommended’ but had left it in the hotel!), and it was a GREAT choice… lovely food (best Mango Juice I had all trip… in fact I had 2), and great service!! Back to the hotel to chill out and try and get some sleep before 11pm pick up for climb up Mt Sinai


25th December 2010 (Christmas Day)

I knew this was a good ‘experience’ climb, but wasn’t expecting it to be quite such tough work! I thought with all my time in gym classes I was getting fitter & fitter but, Mt Sinai is a CHALLENGE! There was only Fiona & I in the group as GoBus arranged one specially (we had to pay for 4 people!), accompanied by a GoBus rep and our Bedouin guide Hemid… both good company and with lots to say… and it became a bit of a joke that I’ve only been in Egypt a couple of days and spent most of it holding hands with Egyptian men (my dive instructor, and both the guides helped me get up Mt Sinai)! Very good guides, left plenty of time to get to the top (I had warned them, I can keep going, but I might not be the fastest), and knew they had to go at the pace of the weakest link… so we stopped regularly! It was a brilliant moonlit night, so torches not really needed, and it was warm work. Our guide took us a ‘secret’ way (well, we only passed one other group) – from what I’ve heard there’s one ‘shallow’ way up which takes longer, or a steeper but quicker route… as nearly everyone else came up the other ‘popular/shallow’ route, I guess we went up the steep route – wasn’t that steep though…

Everyone, whichever route, has to do the last 700/750 steps created from pieces of stone, and those are quite high. Lots of swearing going on from people around… although I couldn’t believe the woman in heels! As we got towards the top (over 4000 metres above sea level), it definitely got pretty chilly! Ahmed got us a pretty good spot at the top of Mt Sinai (aside from the huffing & puffing American next to us – he wasn’t out of breath, he wanted lots of space to himself… tough luck mate!)… pretty chilly, but 7 layers about did it! So – what a way to see Christmas Day in – sunrise over Mt Sinai!

There was then, of course, the way down to encounter, but we awaited the crowds disappearing (and watched a huge Nigerian group hiking up and down the last few steps!), took more photos, then headed down. I again had my arm tucked into our Bedouin guide as I kept turning my ankle over on the rock! Way back down a lot faster, and we arrived just as St Catherine’s Monastry was opening (surrounded by rock caves where early Christians hid), and found ‘The Well’ and ‘The Burning Bush’.

Back to the hotel for a much needed wash, a chill out, and then off to face ‘the shops’, and a chance to watch the sun go down (we were too tired for more snorkelling), and then the choice of another restaurant, and settled for Ali Baba, recommended by our guides. Food was really nice, but thought the service was pretty poor (especially compared to Shark!). Final couple of drinks for the night were a wander down to ‘Dahab Divers‘ for a hot chocolate (highly highly recommended, tastes of cinnamon & coconut), and some white wine back at the hotel, after I’d picked up my snorkelling pics, and the shop had also managed to rescue my diving photos from the SD card (before it salted up). Bags all packed, ready for joining our tour tomorrow…


26th December 2010

8am start, nice and easy to the airport. Straightforward plane journey and remembered to put my flight mode on my phone, so took a few photos from the plane! Back to the airport to meet Mohammed again, who asked if we wanted to go to the ‘Sound and Light Show’ at the Sphinx. Didn’t know what that was, but thought I would! Meantime, to the hotel, chill out in the rooms for half hour, before meeting a few of our fellow travellers (thought it was a small group, was only about 10 of us out of nearly 60!)… and heading off to the cheesiest evening ever (definitely not going to one of those again… the worst type of history, no wonder people think history is boring!)… remember to head for seats towards the front/to the right! Think it was worth it for seeing the Pyramids/Sphinx lit up at night, but there wasn’t a lot else to it, and it could definitely have done with being shorter! Bit disappointing that the coach transport turned out to be 105LE, whilst the entrance was only 70LE… that’s a lot for Egypt!

Back towards the hotel, and went for dinner with Lana. Had heard that Lamb Fattah was a meal not to miss, and had that, super tasty!! No way I could finish it though….!!


27th December 2010

The day that we’ve all been waiting for… the Pyramids. We’re staying at Hotel Zayed… good night’s sleep but not the most amazing breakfast (but probably typical Egyptian style judging by what we got later in the trip!)… First it’s the Egyptian Museum, which is RATHER packed, and no cameras allowed! I decide not to go and see the Royal Mummies (seen loads in the Manchester Museum), but enjoy some stuff that’s a little different (once we’ve done our compulsory tour)… lots of super-decorated sarcophagi, and material that’s had interesting processes of restoration.Was following the tour guide out of the Museum when he disappeared, and then I couldn’t spot our bus… so was a bit late… as a previous tour leader myself I HATE that!!

Onto the Pyramids, and after a bit of information, time for climbing the bottom of the pyramids, and taking daft photos. We went around the other side of the first Pyramid, thought we were at the coach park, but it was the wrong coach park, so 10 minutes late back to that coach. Past the 2nd Pyramid, and onto a viewing platform for all 3! Time for a camel ride – surprisingly scary.. and a little uncomfortable about giving my camera to the camel boy, but he took great pics & I got my pictures back (unlike Fiona’s pictures, but that appears to be a computer virus rather than the fault of the photographer!). Then it’s INTO the smallest pyramid … rather claustrophobic & airless…

On round to the Sphinx and a few more pictures before we head to the Papyrus shop for a demonstration of how ‘genuine’ papyrus is made! I already have a lovely papyrus that Nicky brought me back years ago, so I don’t want one, but a few others purchase! (Apparently the ones sold for $1 are made of banana skin and will fall apart 2 weeks later…). Super speedy through the showers (2 showers for 27 people in a couple of hours…) before we head for the train station. Train is about 35 minutes late (due 10pm), so plenty of time to buy junk food if we wish on the station… then into our ‘First Class Accommodation’… really, has to be seen to be believed.


28th December 2010

14 hours later, rather stiff after not a lot of sleep, but a lot of dozing and shifting in the seats… and we arrive in Aswan! We head for the hotel (with a swimming pool, that wasn’t expected!) but our rooms aren’t ready… as soon as they are – dive in the pool – HOW COLD!!! Quickly out to catch the last of the sun, then chance to repack the bags and have a nap with a book before we head off for our ‘Nubian Dinner’, which was a fairly typical Egyptian dinner (Chicken Tagen!), before we made our way out to the courtyard for the promised dancing.. pretty impressive, a series of traditional dances, then a Whirling Dervish, then a chance to join in before the ‘Pantomime Horse’ comes on, and proceeds to ‘kiss’ all the women, and ‘whack’ the guys on the head. Back to the hotel in preparation for another super early start…


29th December 2010

We have a 5.30am start (or was it even earlier <edit>it was earlier, 2am wake up call</edit>), in order to join the convoy of coaches to Abu Simbel (apparently too close to Sudan, danger of tourist kidnappings or something). Abu Simbel was pretty impressive from the start, and once we realised that it had been MOVED in the 1960s I was absolutely gobstruck (and spent far too much on a book on it), as it looks like it’s been there for thousands of years! Inside the Temples (no photos) was a lot of detail, but the exhibition detailing how Abu Simbel had been moved was amazing! Very specialised work – but if they hadn’t done it, we’d have needed to scuba dive to see them.

Back to the hotel for another quick series of showers before we get on the coach down to the waterfront, to get on our Felucca (a traditional sailing type boat – no toilets!). Surprisingly comfortable and roomy, and I decide to try a beer, but only if watered down with Sprite! Nice food on the Felucca, we don’t sail that far before we stop at a local Nubian village (clearly benefiting from being an ‘Adventure Tour stop’), where there’s 2 real toilets/showers, and have a chance to ‘chat’ to the villagers (and a chance to buy some jewellery!). Back to the boat for dinner, then back up to the village with an option for henna (not for me thanks), and Sheesha (I tried it, 2 puffs, and I knew it definitely wasn’t for me!). By this point feeling incredibly sick, so took some meds and some liquid on board… which didn’t enjoy at midnight when I realised I needed to leave the boat, the Nile was high, and there’s 2 narrow planks between me and the bank/bushes! 1am, I decide I have no choice, and just about make it across the planks, then manage to fall asleep…


30th December 2010

Another day on the Felucca, we have breakfast (well, I don’t bother!), and then we set off. This is pretty terrifying as we keep tilting almost down into the water. A few minutes later we dock… and we all think that someone already wants the toilet, but no, the wind’s too dangerous, so we’re docked until the wind dies down… which it didn’t, until after the sunset (when all Feluccas have to be docked anyway), but to be honest it didn’t make that much difference, we just chilled (I read another book), with card games, sleeping, food, drink, etc.

In the evening it was time to go onto the bank where our boat crew entertained us with music (the more we danced, apparently, the longer they would go on for), before a chance to crash out on the Felucca, ready for an early start…


31st December 2010

A busy day this one… the Felucca has drifted to the other side of the Nile overnight, we pack up, have breakfast, pay our tips, and get onto the coach to head towards Edfu/Luxor.

First stop, the Temple of Kom Ombo, then onto the Temple of Edfu (with time for an ice cream afterwards). We’re all pretty desperate for toilets/showers by this point, so happy to arrive at the hotel in Luxor (which is apparently ‘5 star’, definitely full of ‘cruise types’ but really…?!). Does have an on site restaurant (nice burger!), and 2 pools (didn’t notice the second and the first was ice cold!)… Just enjoy chilling out there before we join up for another temple – Luxor Temple (one of the few open at night),which is pretty spectacular… and one place that would be cool to go back to see in about 10 years, when they are likely to have dug up the 3km of Sphinx between Luxor and Karnak Temples.

Then off to a ‘buffet restaurant’… not really great quality, would rather have paid more for somewhere a bit nicer. Was probably good value for what we paid… The Egyptian waiters obviously thinks that all foreign tourists drink madly, tried a Bloody Mary, but they’d ‘treated’ us to double alcohol – it was disgusting! Fortunately as I left it, they let me swap it for a glass of Egyptian red wine – very drinkable!! Also an opportunity to buy silver… quite like a bracelet but it’s “£100″!!!!!

We nip back to the hotel (a lot of people been feeling NOT good today, post-Felucca!) before heading out to Murphy’s Irish Bar for dancing (not really what I’d choose, but it was a group vote… the other option was too expensive unless everyone did it… and enjoyed it once there!)! Another glass of red, a chat upstairs until the dance floor opens downstairs – very heavy dance music. 2 minutes to midnight we hear 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. Happy New Year, and then the dance music continues.. (we all agreed it was early), so 12.01, headed back to the hotel as have a 4.30am start for the Hot Air Balloon!


1st January 2010 (New Year’s Day)

4.30am, wake up call… only takes me 3 minutes to get dressed, so reset alarm and doze off… Just before 5am, Fiona can hear the toilet cistern going and asks me to twist a tap… unfortunately a couple of twists and it comes off in my hand, with high pressure water behind it. This is bad timing for my 5am hot air balloon (to see the sunrise)… so Fiona still has to get out of bed, ring downstairs, and then I leave her holding the tap on to stop the bathroom flooding whilst I head downstairs. I talk to reception, no one’s done anything until I say it’s in danger of flooding, and then they’re pretty quick….

Off in the bus, then we hang around for ages before we cross the Nile (good sleeping time people!), then into a minibus to our launching site. Pretty chilly at this time in the morning, but beautiful seeing these domes emerging out of the darkness, and then as the flames start roaring, absolutely picturesque. There’s 6 balloons being inflated (much better than Australian Red Centre – one balloon, looking over extremely barren landscape!) – we’re the last up, and we think we’re heading away from the Valley of the Kings and straight towards Luxor, but we have a good pilot who goes low, catches another wind thing (someone turn that into technical terminology), and takes us back towards – and then pretty high! Sun comes up, and this is all pretty amazing. Just over 40 minutes later we land… and go to join the rest of the group.

We head for the Valley of the Kings. No cameras allowed here (officially it was no flash, but people kept using them, so it’s now, no cameras – bit annoying!)… huge fines if caught! So, I buy a book about Valley of the Kings, get it for 20LE (50LE starting price) – no one else could get it any lower so pretty pleased with that! Didn’t bother with Tutankhamen’s tomb (all the stuff is pretty much in the Egyptian Museum), as thought nothing much was going to equate with the first tomb (Rameses VI?!). 2 of the other tombs we wanted to see (can see 3) were closed…

Off to Queen Hatshepsut’s Mortuary complex before heading off to the Temple of Karnak after a brief interlude back at the hotel! That was all very impressive, but we’re all a bit ‘Templed’ out by this point… Back to the hotel for the afternoon. None of us seemed to know this is what we were doing, so didn’t have the right stuff out of our bags… but found my bathers, and the heated pool, then an opp to grab a sun lounger and read a bit more. Back to Murphy’s for dinner with Glen & Rebecca (sea bass and homemade chips – lovely)… but unfortunately here it becomes clear that I’ve picked up the bug… Once safely back at the hotel, more meds, and lie on the sofa reading a book whilst others disappear off for dinner, drinks, etc. Earlier in the day I had managed to buy some papyrus in the hotel, much cheaper than at the shop we were taken to (in fact a certain amount of miffed-ness that 350 was paid for one at the other shop, this guy was offering for 100LE). I only wanted postcard sized ones (which the other shop hadn’t done), and got 3 for 90LE (all of Egyptian women – one that looks like a piece of art that I did for GCSE art (I got a C!).

Then it was back onto the coach, off to the train station, for that ‘First Class’ train ride! The train was EARLY this time – murphy’s law, I was down the platform, on the hunt for salt & vinegar Pringles (didn’t get, just as well, didn’t need!)… so bit of a scramble to get on – carriages not as well sorted this time, but ended up with Sarah & Picky in a small carriage for 3! They were pretty much organised, but once I turned up, didn’t take long to get organised, feet up on the suitcase, inflatable pillow, eye mask (an essential – can’t do ear plugs or would have done those too), small bag up out of the way. Sarah fell straight asleep, Picky & I looked at each other “hmm, not tired”… and that’s the last thing either of us remembers for 9 hours!! Pretty good going!!


2nd January 2010

The train is 1 hour and 50 minutes late into Cairo… by Egyptian standards this isn’t late (2 hours is once it’s considered late!). Straight to the Hotel Zayed, where they let us check in straight away (brilliant!) and again we dive for the showers…

We then meet again in the lobby – a few of the group have gone off independently but the rest of us are paying 20LE to go to a Perfumery (oh yes, that’s just cos we have to…), and then onto the big market (which we understand is used by the locals so isn’t as hideously touristy as other markets…).

Perfumery – well, that’s an eye opener. We get given ‘Breakfast’ (it’s gone lunchtime by this point!) of 2 x Falafel (spicy but beautiful), and a soft drink before the owner, starts talking. He’s hilarious, this is worth 20LE (£2.20!) on it’s own. He has funny (yes, bit saucy) names for many of the perfumes, which are ‘extracted from flowers’, and form the base of most perfumes… you could name any perfume, he’d open a bottle, and there it was. This is the perfume base, can be used as is… Perfume bought in the UK is apparently 1 drop of base to 10 of alcohol, Eau de Toilette is 1 to 20. From a bunch of us not planning on buying anything, about 3/4 of us do, including me. Variety of bottle sizes, but we all go for the smallest (about £23 for 100ml) (also possible to buy the exotic looking perfume bottles). I get some Hugo Deep Red (£50 for 50ml perfume) and a bottle to decant into..

Onto the market… we get caught up in demonstrations on the street re the bombing of the Coptic Christians in Alexandria (I was deliberately avoiding the news, so had missed most of that), so have to take a big detour to the market. The market is still heaving, mostly with tourists – I wonder if, because it’s a Sunday, there’s a lot of closed shops, if a lot of the locals don’t bother at the weekend… which means it’s all the touristy shops… Wasn’t planning on a pashmina, but as Fiona and Katrina were looking, I decided I quite liked one – we got one each for about £16… apparently cashmere (who knows?), but I like it (purple with black flowers)… not into this “got to get it for the lowest possible price” if it seems a reasonable price – although I don’t want to be ripped off!! Then onto t-shirts for nieces/nephews – tried to buy for the same price as I’d bought one in Dahab… but couldn’t quite get the old guy down to that – probably would have round the corner. It’s definitely a case of when you’re not particularly interested you can get stuff for not a lot, but that I didn’t want to look again (we didn’t have much time!).

Back to the hotel, and decide to go to the same restaurant for Lamb Fattah again. Was as good as last time, but the service was TERRIBLE, our starters didn’t come out until AFTER the mains, and Fiona’s food was cold – which they then just bunged in the microwave. Time for a quick nip to the supermarket to try and find some sweets to take into work… lots of stuff from Saudi Arabia, takes a while to find anything from Egypt! To bed for the last night in a hotel… feels like we’ve largely wasted our hotels as we’ve had so many early starts…


3rd January 2010

A seriously early start, 4.30am Egyptian time (that’s 2.30am UK time!)… but we’d prepared well the night before and we were ready in lots of time… although of course everything else ran on ‘Egyptian time’… At Cairo airport we were dropped at the door of International Departures and left to fend for ourselves (something we really hadn’t had to do for 2 weeks!!), very straightforward, but a bit of a different experience from the way out as we were down in ‘World Traveller’ (not even ‘World Traveller Plus’… what’s the difference? 5 inches and first choice on the menu?)…

A straightforward flight backwards, and I finally got a chance to watch ‘The Social Network’ (thought it was well paced), plus a bit of dozing! We landed early, our bags came straight through and I said goodbye to Fiona by 12, strolled confidently over to National Express to get home with my open-return… to find it was a busy day and the first coach was 5.15pm. I thought about getting the train into London, etc. but that was an extra £40, plus yoiking my bag up and down the Tube, to save maybe 3 hours!! So, a bit of enforced rest… I found a couple of magazines, a seat in ‘Giraffe’, some lunch, and chilled out til the coach left (late!), then treated myself to a taxi home, forced myself to unpack… then fell asleep… (for 19 hours!).

@drbexl Featured in EA Culture Footprint

Read the full article on Culture Footprint, which “features disciples in The Arts, Media, Business, Education, Politics, Sport and other professions who bring the presence of Jesus in the culture.A colourful collection of artisans, entrepreneurs, media makers, teachers, actors, singer/songwriters, politicians, seeking the wellbeing of society – one story at the time.”

Keeping Calm and Carrying On (@HeathrowAirport, @British_Airways)

Well, there seems to be some good news coming out of the airport… but very much mixed with uncertainty, etc..  Flights are taking off, including throughout the night, but many of the planes are still iced in, or in the wrong place…

As you know, it’s been a pretty intense year, with acres of work (good in a recession, but I’m a bit lacking on the sleep), so was very much looking to flying to Egypt on Saturday for our  15 day ‘Pyramids & Beaches’ Tour. As you may have gathered from the news, nothing took off from Heathrow for most of Saturday and it’s pretty much been (partially-organised) chaos ever since!! Aside from my time as a Tour Leader with Oak Hall (which was pretty hard work!), I haven’t travelled anywhere for my own purposes since early 2008 so was very much looking forward to this – and interesting to see how the blend of online/offline information works/doesn’t work!!

Friday 17th December

If only we’d both known it, a day that we could have flown, but both of us thought we had to work.. in the event neither of us was (although I’d gone to bed at 6am finishing something for @bigbible!). As the poor weather reports came in though, in the afternoon, I decided to drop my evening plans and make my way into London, kip on Fiona’s floor, as it would be ‘easier’ to get to the airport via the Underground.. I just waiting until I’d had a chance to check in online before leaving…. Having decided that I was going ‘digital free’ on the holiday, I didn’t take my phone with me….

Saturday 18th December

We checked into British Airways ‘Manage My Booking’ several times on Saturday, and the following notice (which now, finally, relates to our new booking) appeared:

This indicated that the flight was still operating (we knew everything else up until that point had been cancelled), so we made the torturous journey into Heathrow Airport (the not well advertised strike on the Bakerloo line was not helpful, as we had to drag our cases for 20 minutes through the snow, then the Piccadilly line train kept stopping/starting). Throughout we were awaiting the promised Email/Text which British Airways indicates will be received should the flight be cancelled…. but this never arrived, so we were actually getting anxious as to whether we would be on time at the airport.

At the Airport

Surprisingly unbusy considering that we knew most flights hadn’t gone, but we assumed that most of those who had known that their flights weren’t going, hadn’t tried to get to the airport, and were grateful that our flights were later! I looked up at the boards and my heard dropped as I saw rows and rows of ‘cancelled’! Obviously, like many people, this is a new (and unwanted) experience, so we weren’t sure what to do. There was, however, a HUGE queue for the British Airways check in desk (and didn’t seem to be anyone else around to ask), so we joined this… 1.5 hours + later we’re nearly ready to be served, and one of the women behind the desk comes out and says she doesn’t know what we’re all queueing for, as they can only give information/not rebook us onto flights. She starts to give out letters to the people at the front of the queue, but as we ask why we’re only being told this now (and not whilst we’re in the queue), she moves immediately to the defensive saying that she’s stuck here, not doing her usual job, etc. (nothing like making us feel special, hey!) before disappearing when we ask for an announcement over the PA system. We’re not quite sure what to do, as the letter indicates compensation is available, but it’s not that clear what happens about rebooking (there’s an 0800 number, but this is very expensive from mobiles…). We’re so near the front we give it another 5 minutes, talk to another guy who said that as we were joining flights at Heathrow we weren’t entitled to any hotels, etc. (well, we’re still stuck there, or have costs to incur in getting home, etc.).  He was very rude, and not listening to us. When we said if they would go along the line & explain people would be less angry, he said ‘100s more in your position’ (yes, and they wouldn’t be if they would go along the line), and was not listening to a word I was saying (that the only thing that made us angry was waiting in a queue), just meaningless platitudes. Essentially if we’d known there was nothing we could do at the airport, we would have gone ‘home’ and started trying to rebook.

Getting Home

Well, this wasn’t looking likely either – National Express were unable to run. We, however, found another BA helpdesk area, and a spokeswoman from BAA, who gave us another letter and said of course we’re entitled to compensatory costs too, and advised us to grab some food, and get the Heathrow Express back to London… which was pretty straightforward! So, back to Fiona’s flat (and another night on the floor :-(), where we hooked into the net to try and work out what was going on. We were unable to rebook via ‘Manage My Booking’, so we hooked up to Skype and I sat with my finger on the redial button for 3 hours until we were finally put ‘on hold’ (I was so shocked, I had nearly automatically disconnected!)… It was then a further 2 hours on hold (thank goodness 0800 is free on Skype) until we spoke to a lovely guy in the States who was extremely pleasant, and has rebooked us onto a flight on Wednesday evening (Club Class was the only seats left… shame!).

Trip in Egypt

This, however, means that we have missed our 15 day tour (which left last night, although we could just about have caught it if we’d managed to fly last night… that flight of course didn’t go either so…). We were booked with GoBus, who have been very good at keeping us informed throughout the process. We spoke to their local representative in Egypt (before we’d got through to BA, and he asked us to ring back once we knew which flight we were on), and once we got back through, he said he’d see what he could do about booking us onto their Egypt Express, which at least covers part of the tour, which we’ve done (thank goodness for email and online bookings which made this fairly painless). The highlights for me, however, were to be Mount Sinai and diving in Dahab, so we’ve booked into Dahab for our first 3 days (rather than the 5 days we would have had), flying with Egyptair (hopefully insurance covers some of the extra expense?!). We were contacted by John, our contact at GoBus, on Sunday, despite the fact that he was on annual leave, and we’ve just had another phone call asking if we’re all set…

Getting Home

Sunday, I was able to check The Tube and South West Trains websites before travelling, so I knew I could get back to Winchester… so here I am. It’s incredibly travelling around/the uncertainty/the disappointment, but I am extremely grateful that I am tucked up in my nice warm bed, able to watch plenty of material on iPlayer/4oD, etc., and had cooked up all my spare food into ‘ready meals’ in the freezer! So now we just have to wait and see, and Keep Calm and Carry On (and try and ignore any work that’s within my eye range – holiday time has been booked, and whether I get to go anywhere or not, let’s have a holiday! I could just about cope so long as I don’t lose our financially and can book something else in the future, but really, the time is there, I want to seize it, and I need some time away!!

Keeping an Eye Out

  • We are able to keep a live check on British Airways departures/arrivals online (the flight to Cairo didn’t go today :-().
  • 10 day weather forecasts for nearby areas are available online (still showing light snow/low temperatures til after Christmas)
  • Twitter accounts for Heathrow Airport and BA are providing some of the most up to date information – well used, I’d say!

For now though, Wait and See, Keep Calm and Carry On (airlines haven’t yet put out the timetables for tomorrow, yet alone Wednesday…)

Happy Christmas [#Ecard] 2010

I wanted to wish a Happy Christmas to everyone (as you may know, I only send Christmas cards to older relatives!), and as per usual, have been looking out for bits and pieces online to brighten up people’s Christmas! Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year… I will be enjoying myself in Egypt (and yes, trying not to get eaten by sharks!)… having a ‘digital break’ for 2.5 weeks!! BTW, don’t you just love this shadow pic by 12baskets!!

The Birth of Jesus: Social Media Style

This year, it’s all about the Nativity, so here’s a great video (if you’re into social media, you’ll love it… if you speak Portuguese you’ll love it even more, but I think you’ll get it anyway edit: or we’ve now found an English version!)

Have you come across Natwivity yet?

Meet Joseph, he’s an ordinary guy with a pretty ordinary life. He’s in a relationship with Mary and works as a carpenter in Galilee. This young couple are about to receive some very un-ordinary news and begin an extraordinary journey – One that will change the world forever… (Join 1000s of others on Twitter, Facebook, Website)

Through the eyes of a child…

Cute kids acting out the story more your thing? This one’s very cute!!

Happy New Year and look forward to an excellent 2011…

2011 is the 400th anniversary since the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Biblefresh is a movement of hundreds of churches, agencies, organisations, colleges and festivals which has a vision to reignite and re-enthuse the church in its passion for the Bible. For many in our churches the Bible has  become tedious and toxic rather than treasured, trusted and true. The aim of the Biblefresh initiative is to encourage a greater confidence and passion for Scripture across the Church.

Biblefresh is asking churches to agree to raise the level of biblical understanding amongst their members by taking practical steps in four areas: Reading,  Training, Translation and Experience, providing resources through the Biblefresh website, book, leaders guide and e-letters which will provide you with ideas as to how to fulfil development in all four areas.

The Big Read 2011

Alongside other projects, I am working on The Big Bible Project, which includes “The #BigRead2011″, part of Biblefresh. The Big Read  involves meeting together in housegroups to read the Bible, making use of Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone: Matthew (December 2010) with opportunities to go much bigger and much more creative and join in online  (inter)nationally. From quiet sitting rooms with Bibles and books, to coffee shops and Internet chatrooms across the world…. Get involved!