I'm yet to find a way of uploading photos fast enough to put several on at once, but here, at last, is a photo! The building is the Indiana Tea Rooms, a very expensive tea rooms (we've not been in!); the water is the Indian Ocean; the beach curving round behind the Indiana is Cottesloe Beach, with North Cottesloe Beach running off to the right-hand-side of the picture.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Then we headed back north, past where we are living, up to Kings Park. Kings Park is a massive area right on the edge of the Central Business District, which incorporates the Botanical Gardens, open space, play areas, bush - burtsting with wildflowers - and more memorials to Historic Persons Of Note and those who fell fighting for their country than I've ever seen in any one place anywhere else. The park is an amazing asset to the city - like Central Park to Manhattan Island - and I'm sure we'll be back to explore it at more leisure on several occasions.
- Plants of note: there is a local species of flower known as Kangaroo Paw, which looks - unsurprisingly - like kangaroo paws on long stems; we've seen red-and-green, dark red, and black-and-lime-green varieties, and all three are very striking.
- Memorial of note: roads run through Kings Park, and these are lined with native trees; each tree is named for someone from the State who fell in battle or died as a result of wounds sustained in war, on a little plaque infront of the tree; and whenever one of the trees dies, it is replaced with a new one, so that there always remains a tree for each person remembered. I think that is a really nice touch.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The idea is that this sort of approach, as an alternative to what we have become used to, might be a draw for customers. We've no idea how they compare with the other banks out here financially at all, but walking out we agreed that if we come back we'd be inclined to open our account there simply on the basis of such an enjoyable experience. (In fact, the teller had informed us that they charged for cashing travellers cheques and that one of the other banks would do it for us for free; but we thought the charge - very small, as it turned out - was well worth the service, and didn't begrudge it in the slightest.)
One of the guys I'm getting to know out here wants to learn to play, and is plannng on putting together a group of four or five who might persuade someone to teach us as a group. So I thought I might learn at last - and get to meet some new people in the process.
Monday, September 26, 2005
On this evening's news, two stories back to back:
- some Aussie guy celebrating his 21st birthday by going surfing with his mates off a seal beach in southern Australia gets attacked by a 4-metre-long white shark; both legs and both hands get chewed a bit - not as bad as the surfboard, mind - but the footage shows him laughing and joking with the paramedics helicoptered-in to patch him up; followed by an interview with him later, telling how he cheated certain death...
- some middle-aged British guy snorkling (alone?) off northern Australia got killed by what is thought - prior to the post mortem - to be a 4-metre-long crocodile...
Different nationalities, ages, water-sports, compass-point coasts, predators; seems like the common factor would be 4-metres. Clearly a dangerous length, to be avoided if at all possible!
Georgia's wardrobe is covered in posters of Orlando Bloom.
How we did laugh!
The Town Hall was originally a private home on a grand scale, with terraced lawns, and stone walks and staircases joining them up, whose owner gave it over to the community; the place obviously hasn't been maintained for several years, though the new mayor has instigated a timely restoration programme, and the grounds have a real air of faded grandeur to them. Within the grounds is a lovely little playground, shaded almost throughout the day by surrounding (very) tall trees; and we had this gem all to ourselves for a good half-hour before heading home.
The homes around here are a real mix. There are well-cared-for old homes in a colonial style, with verandahs and picket fences and roses growing in the front garden; there are run-down old houses that are, essentially, of no value whatsoever themselves, but sit on prime real-estate; and there are the new homes, many of them a collection of boxes that look more like a public building - a library, perhaps, or a small university department - than a home, houses where the owners bought the land and tore down the old house to replace it with something new; and then there are the (mostly low-level) appartment blocks along the edge of the ocean. And all these things are jumbled together beneath the Norfolk Pines.
The original pines were planted by two residents when Cottesloe was first mapped-out for development, but before most of it had been built. They watered each plant every day for the first two or three years, from buckets of water drawn from their own wells, in order to give them the best possible start. More pines have been planted in the years since - not always cared for so lovingly, and with mixed success. But long after the two neighbours are gone, the towering pines stand as testimony to their vision, and the sacrificial way they nurtured that vision into a reality that others would benefit from for generations to come.
I think a lot of Australians would prefer to live in a Republic; but when they have been presented with referenda, so far they have rejected the particular structure of Republic offered them. After all, why replace an unelected figurehead who never asked for the job and who simply has to make the best of it they can, with a power- and/or prestige-hungry politician? They don't have such a great reputation...Maybe Australians would vote to remain under a monarchy, but transfer over to the royal house of Denmark, whose Crown Princess Mary is an Aussie and, if the glossy magazines are anything to go by, pretty popular out here. Problem solved.
For the first time ever, my own birthday is going to be in the spring this year. Pretty weird. Worse - in her opinion - if we return here in the northern-hemisphere spring of next year, Jo's next birthday will be a winter one. It is strange to see Winter 2005 on Quarterly publications that came out in July or August, and to be entering into Spring 2005 for the second time. Who needs a TARDIS to travel through time? We are, at one and the same time, living six months in the past and seven hours in the future...
We had planned to go to the Wildflower Festival, which ends today in Kings Park, this afternoon; but Noah is a bit under the weather today, finding it hard to breathe with a congested chest, so I think that is that scuppered. Our days are starting to be filled, with regular activities or meeting up with folk. The schools here are on vacation for the next fortnight, and our hosts went off on holiday yesterday morning; so, we have a bit more space to ourselves. Hopefully we'll be able to sort out a place of our own for the rest of these next three months while they are away. So far there have been a few possibilities, but nothing concrete has come of them. Oh well. So long as we have somewhere we can unpack all of our suitcases soon, we'll be alright...
Sunday, September 25, 2005
...Sure enough, on Saturday evening's news, there was an interview with a guy who survived a shark attack - apparently unscathed, but a bit rattled by the experience - on Friday, surfing off a beach about 10 k's north of here. He thought it was a seal.
[I realise that might not be the kind of post my mother wants to read, so I'll hasten to add that it was the first time he'd seen a shark in twenty years of surfing - plus, as "fore-warned is fore-armed" we're not going in the water on Shark Days anyway.]
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Both sides have interesting histories. Aussie Rules was invented in Melbourne, and there were 12 teams in inner-Melbourne alone at the point where teams eventually cost so much to run that 12 in one city was no longer sustainable. [Despite die-hard un-reconcilable fans, Sheffield struggles with two football teams...] So two got shipped-out interstate, to Sydney and Brisbane, and a third team is currently trying to transition to Canberra. Before 1982, the Sydney Swans was South Melbourne Football Club. Not surprisingly, such pick-up-and-put-down-elsewhere moves upset a lot of fans at the time; but apparently most stay loyal, and a new - additional - fan base builds up in the new location. Links with fans are carefully loosened by rebranding a specific neighbourhood name with a generic bird or animal (etc.); and at the same time carefully maintained by retaining the initials of the original name - in the Swans' case, SMFC - on the back of the players' jerseys. The West Coast Eagles, on the other hand, have no historic tie to their neighbourhood, but are the fairly recent creation of a syndicate of sponsors who believed that the game was worth importing - and who have been successful in persuading the population of Perth to take the game, and the team, into their hearts.
I guess we're doing something vaguely similar with The Order of Mission - taking 'game rules' (principles, values) and (some) 'players' developed in one context - St Thomas' in Sheffield - and seeing what might come of them in another; with both divergence and continuity between TOM and St Tom's. As yet, it is too early to know how things might take off...
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Andrew works out of a cafe on the edge of the city centre a couple of days a week, where we met up this afternoon - two trains there and two trains back, but the local network is great here (the trains are carpeted!) (albeit a hard-wearing carpet). It was a real encouragement to see the way he has been building relationships with the cafe staff, and to hear about one of his latest plans for discipling people who work locally, equiping them to engage in mission within their workplaces.
One of the things I'm most excited about is the potential for fruitful cross-fertilisation of ideas and experience with, and between, the various people we get to know here...
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
We set out to find the Swan River this afternoon, but were frustrated in this most modest of goals by tired children and heavy downpours. Perth is built on the Swan, which runs more-or-less south-west (give or take the twists and tuns) into the Indian Ocean. Like the Mersey, the river narrows again at its mouth, creating a series of 'pools' just inland; and this narrowing results in a north-south peninsula bound by the ocean to the west and the river to the east. The peninsula is divided by the railway, running north to Perth and south to Fremantle (Freo), with Cottesloe west of the track, and Peppermint Grove and Mosman Park on the east (Mosman Park is slightly more affordable, and probably has more young families as a result); and an adult can probably walk from ocean to river inside of half-an-hour at a leisurely pace. Right in the middle, just east of Cottesloe Station, is a village of specialist shops, and it was here that we found shelter from the downpour, having turned back towards home.
One of the most noticeable things here is how genuine and friendly staff are in shops. When we stepped out of the rain into the cafe, sorting the kids out at a table, the manager approached and said, just sit yourselves down; I'll bring you a menu over...when he brought me my latte and I thanked him he replied, it's a pleasure. It is a pleasure to serve you a coffee! And said in such a way that suggested that he actually found it a pleasure to serve a customer coffee, that he was getting real job-satisfaction in this. And, I thought, I want to bless this man; and I'll come back again. And at one level it is obvious that if customers get good service - especially in a competitive market (and there are a lot of coffee shops round here) - you'll get more trade and make more profit; but it seems to go beyond good service, and certainly beyond cliched phrases of customer recognition, in a lot of the shops around here. The guy in the bicycle shop the other day would be another example; or the guy in the surf shop the day before that. Anyway, it made me think about the satisfacion that can be had in serving someone else, even in small ways, if you choose to find satisfaction in it. (It also started me thinking about starting cafe church, but that's another story...)
In the morning, we had all gone along to the playgroup at St Philips. A different group come along on Tuesdays from Thursdays - though there is some overlap - including several Japanese mothers (a bit like home-from-home, given all the international student involvement we had over many years in Sheffield!), and some other new arrivals (though from eastern Australia, rather than as far afield as us). Susannah and Noah are settling in well - we've been here exactly a week, and Jo commented today that already a high proportion of Susie's sentences are rising at the end, in Australian inflection (back home sentences fall at the end - I honestly think that difference is, at least in part, to do with the very different weathers).
Sunday, September 18, 2005
- We're starting to get our bearings, locally at least. Cottesloe is a fairly compact place, the streets laid out in a grid of streets that roll up and down hill both west-east and north-south; mostly wide, many lined by tall pine trees. (I'll upload some photos when I get the chance to get online with the lap-top.)
- There seems to be quite a mix of folk out-and-about. I went for a walk along the ocean and a coffee mid-morning, mid-week, and found a wide age-range sitting outside the cafes, as well as the more-active surfers.
- It gets pretty cold here in the evenings - well, we're only just out of winter, I suppose...
- The local supermarket - Woolworths (a brand that seems to have lost its focus back home) - is very good. Jo is probably going to join the gym upstairs in the same centre, which has a good creche facility; I almost certainly won't...Its a short walk, across the train-tracks and past a village of speciality shops to get there.
- Friday night there was an impressive storm (magnified by sleeping in a caravan!), and it turned out that two tornados hit Perth - in fact, hit a community just a little north of us, where we'd been visiting earlier in the evening (plenty of damage, but no fatalities)...Exciting stuff!
- We took the train into Perth yesterday - it takes around 15 minutes, with stops every couple of minutes down the line; the carriage seats face each other along both sides, like on the London tube, but the track is (essentially) above ground. The city-centre is very compact: on one side of Perth station is the Art Gallery/Museum; on the other, shopping streets/malls. We bought two car booster seats, and two mobile phones, and had our hands full on the way home...
- There's this strange game called Australian Rules Football [unlike British and American games, the Aussies haven't persuaded anyone else (except a few Irish Gaelic Footballers) it is worth playing; but then, I guess having an Empire - whether geographical or economic - probably helps in "persuading" others that your games are worth playing...]. This weekend has been the semi-finals in the Aussie Rules equivalent of the FA Cup back home, with the final taking place next weekend at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the equivalent of Wembley Stadium). Local team the West Coast Eagles were in the second semi-final, played yesterday. I'd been told that the team was pretty good, but that, for some strange reason, their fans generally expected them to lose. Anyway, we were coming home on the train through Subiaco as the fans, all dressed in blue-and-yellow, had got to the platform after the match. From the look on all of their faces, things had not gone well; and, being unusually tactful for me, I didn't ask. When we got home, we found out they'd won. Who'd have known? My source wasn't wrong about Eagles fans!
- We went to church for the first time this morning. Services are at 7:30 am (we didn't even attempt it) and 9:30 am - because it gets hot by the middle of the day, people get up early around here (Australia). We were moved by such a warm welcome from so many people - a number of whom we'd met over the past few days - and we're looking forward to getting to know people better over the weeks to come.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
...after which I was more-or-less awake by 4:30 am, lying in the dark thinking thoughts. In particular, about a question I was asked the other day in Glasgow - one of those great questions asked at just the wrong time and place to be able to answer it - and which I imagine I'll get asked on more than one occasion here in Perth: "Why should churches change how they do church anyway?" [as an aside, I imagine extravert thought processes get a break whenever there aren't other people around; but does the introvert thought process ever shut down?!] Anyway, here are two reasons, for a start:
- most churches revolve around Sunday services, or maybe Sunday services plus midweek meetings; these services are expressions of Christian sub-cultures that are 'simply obvious' to those who have grown up within it, and totally alien to the majority of the population in Western nations (does Western make any sort of sense in Australia?) who have no church background. Indeed, the sub-culture is so obvious, we don't even realise it is alien to others. These expressions are cultural, not inherently required - even those practices we can provide biblical precedent for, such as singing or teaching, are singing or teaching etc in a very particular and not inherent-to-Christian-faith cultural form. And these alien things that we do have created a huge barrier to anyone who might be considering following Jesus, that we require them to negotiate before they can do so along with us. Some simply won't; those who do tend to get cut-off from their previous relationships, rather than draw them in. It is essentially the same barrier that Paul kept coming up against, where Gentile converts to Christianity were pressurised into taking onboard Jewish cultural practices in order to be Christian. The early church faced the issue, and decided that Gentile converts did not need to Judaise. Neither should we require post-Christian converts to take on Christendom practices...
- a wide range of polls by a wide range of bodies has highlighted the sad reality that the average regular church attender cannot claim to have received any input - and in particular, any teaching input - relevant to their experience in the workplace (on average, 70% of our waking hours). There is a false but very real dichotomy between church involvement and the rest of life. And if involvement in the life of the church community does not resource and equip for every part of life, relevance is not created or nurtured between them. This has huge implications for those within the church community - why should they stay? (and the reality is, more and more are leaving, for precisely this reason of perceived relevance) - and for those on the fringes of, or beyond, the church community - why would they want to join?
So, that's a starter on why churches should change (we could be more blunt, and summarise the situation as "change or die" - though those whose experience of church has been within relatively large and active congregations won't immediately see that). Who knows? I might get round to sharing some thoughts on how they might change...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Our hosts are Malcolm and Cheryl Potts, and their daughters Elle (16), Georgia (14) and Clare (12), and their Corgi/Jack Russell-cross Cooter. We're sleeping in their caravan initially - which is much more comfortable than that might sound. We stayed up until the evening last night, to get into the time-zone, but headed to bed relatively early and didn't surface until about 10:00 am. Jet-lag is supposed to be worse travelling west-to-east: I think we're all feeling fine right now, but we'll see how the kid's sleeping pattern pans out over the next few nights...
This afternoon we've been for a wander, to start finding our bearings. First, the local shops, a five-minute walk in one direction; then the beach, a five-minute walk in the other direction. The tide was just heading out, and the surf was looking pretty good (from my totally uneducated perspective); it's a pretty beach (though the promotional photos we'd come across on the internet are taken from angles carefully chosen so as to avoid the back-drop of cranes in the distance, and the freighters sailing in and out of Freemantle). Susie didn't want to go to the beach...but when it was time to go, she didn't want to leave...
So far, so good! It seems a pleasant place to be based, and we're enjoying the brightly-coloured plants and birds; simple things like going to the shops count for an adventure; and our hosts are lovely. But it feels like we've been in limbo for a while now, so our plan is to get into a rhythm straight away - we'll take some time-out while we're here, but not right at the start - so the week has some structure to it. There's a playgroup at the church (right next door) on Tuesdays and Thursdays; so, the first piece of structure starts tomorrow!
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Two motifs stood out in particular for me:
- The first is the omniprescence of noise - the roar of a waterfall; the cracking of a fire; birdsong; human, and human-made, noises; noises inside-our-heads - and how oppressive this can become, under certain circumstances...
- The second was changing clothes - the central character almost constantly taking off or putting on clothes - a stained T-shirt; loose pants; a black dress; heavy coat and hat - changing his mind almost as soon as he had made the last change, in a desperate attempt to find a comfortable identity...
I was also deeply struck by the different ways in which characters related to each other. The other members of the band relate to the central character only in as much as a means to meet their own needs - travel-money; heating; help with lyrics - with no concern for his obviously troubled state. Only a Yellow Pages salesman, who meets him by chance in the course of his business (played by a real Yellow Pages salesman who happened to turn up during filming...) shows any concern, though even he is unable to reach out to him. Which suggests that our passing relationships have value beyong what we might normally recognise. And then there was the squirm-making door-to-door Mormon missionary brothers, so awkward in the environment they find themselves in, with the ideological commitment - and relational lack of commitment - to carry on in their mission without being de-railed by those they meet, having no "plan B." A salutory tale for those of us who, just like them, believe we have something worth sharing, something that "few young people are being attracted to"...
And this, it seems to me, is highly telling. Why should young people be attracted to church at all? The strategy - and underlying attitude - of, "Here we are in the community (whether that is the parish church or even the youth facility); come to us" is highly problematic. By which I'm not opposing high-quality recreational facilities for teenagers built and run by Christian charities in areas where there are no other amenities for the local youth to own; but, as the general strategic thrust, we need to be prepared to abandon our "come to us/our groups, activities" in favour for going to "them," getting involved in what is already taking place in our communities, playing a part in them - as befits disciples of an incarnational Saviour. As such, I'm looking forward to finding out what is going on in and around Cottesloe as much as what is going on in and around St Philip's, Cottesloe.
Friday, September 02, 2005
As we were driving up to Glasgow last week, Jo suggested that we ought to come up with a more personalised family mission statement ahead of our sabbatical (and possible move to) Perth. "Idiot in search of a village" would seem to sum my situation up pretty sucinctly. Indeed, it has precedent: back when I was a postgrad, I found myself waiting for the lift with my Old Testament professor and a visiting professor there to cunduct a PhD viva together, only to be introduced by Philip to his guest as, "This is Andrew Dowsett. He's the village idiot." To this day, I choose to believe that it was meant as a compliment (one village idiot acknowledging another). Later, on the staff team at St Tom's, my then-team-leader described me, similarly, as the clown - the jack-of-all-trades brought on by the ring-master to save the day when all else goes wrong...
So there it is. I am an idiot in search of a village with a vacancy in the position. An itinerant idiot, so to speak. And Jo's mission statement? Back at the Pottery today, she suggested, "Pity Me!" Don't believe her for one moment.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I found this little fellow in mum and dad's back garden...
I thought it was a brilliant illustration of net-working - literally, making a net of connected relationships. The internet is an obvious example of a structure for networking, and it has been great to be able to use it to begin making a face-to-face network of folk in Perth before we arrive. But now we're at the point where we're just ready to get there and meet up. Conversely, the face-to-face relationships we had in sheffield are now a virtual network...
The spider's web is:
- both functional and beautiful, with neither element appearing to compromise the other;
- seemingly fragile, but having a flexibility that gives it great strength (say, when blown by the wind);
- sustainable, allowing continual running-repairs and/or alterations, necessitated by damage to the web itself or changes - whether caused by growth or by damage - to the vegetation the web is anchored to;
- highly structured in design, but in a completely organic way;
- a rapid-response communication system, with vibrations travelling along (all of) the threads in such a way that the spider can instantly detect the exact location, and size, of any fly that is caught in it.
All these things are worth reflecting on when it comes to reviewing our own structures, or creating new ones...