Posted by: Matthew Crawford | June 17, 2010

Our Summer Plans

Yes, as that video suggests, we are headed to Jackson. In the past few weeks circumstances have come together for us to take a trip back to the states. We’ll spend most of the time in Jackson with a couple of trips to Alabama and Mississippi, among other things. We’re very excited to be heading back home for a few weeks! Thanks to all for your support and encouragement!

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | May 22, 2010

Church Weekend Away in the Lake District

Last weekend our church had a weekend away. It was a wonderful time of hearing good teaching on the book of Job and getting to know people in the congregation better. Many churches that I know of in the states do similar things, but only for individual groups in the church (i.e., women, children, youth, etc.). This, however, was a time for all of the families in the church to go away to be together. The weekend was hosted at Blaithwaite House, which is an old farm house set in the midst of grassy fields on the edge of the Lake District. It’s basically on the western edge of the country of England, while we live on the eastern edge, but it still only took about 2 hours to get there by car (we road with a friend since we don’t have a car). The Lake District is a very popular destination for holidays (=vacations), and is often packed with people on warm summer days. After visiting there, I can see why. A group of us went on a nice hike up Dodd peak from which you could see the town of Keswick in the valley below with the mountains of the Lake District behind it, and in the other direction, you could see Scotland far off in the distance. I got several pictures of the view, but they hardly do it justice. Here are some pictures of the weekend:

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | May 14, 2010

A Trip to Eastbourne, East Sussex

A couple of weekend ago, I had to go to a conference called Bible by the Beach in Eastbourne, East Sussex which is on the southeast coast of England. The nicest part of the trip was that Brandy and the girls were able to come along with me. We rented a car and made the drive down, about 350 miles. The unfortunate thing about our trip down is that we hit the M25 (the big loop around London) right at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon, and so were stuck in stop and go traffic for two hours. Once we got there the town was lovely. It seems to be the quintessential, picturesque, Victorian beach town. We had nice weather on Saturday, but it rained all day on Sunday. Still, we had a good time. There was also a classic car show in town, and we were surprised to see lots of American made cars, and even a rebel flag flying while Sweet Home Alabama and Creedence Clearwater Revival were being played by a live band in the background! For a moment you could almost think you were in the southern US. The water was very cold, and so we certainly did not swim, but we did see one couple brave enough to enter the waters. They only stayed in for a few minutes before returning to the beach. On the way back home to Durham we stopped and had lunch with friends in London who live close to Buckingham Palace. While we were there we also saw the house that Margaret Thatcher lives in, as well as one that Mary Shelley formerly lived in.

Here are all of the pictures from our trip:

Today we leave for a weekend at the lake district, which is only about an hour and a half from where we live. Our church is having a weekend away, in which everyone in the church goes off to a retreat for the weekend. It should be fun. We’ll post pictures when we return.

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | May 7, 2010

A Hung Parliament

If you haven’t already heard, it looks like the UK is going to have a Hung Parliament in which no party has an outright majority to form a government. At this point it’s unclear what the outcome will be, but it might involve two parties forming a coalition government. One of the interesting things about this election is that for the first time ever, the party leaders have had three televised debates. An unexpected outcome of those debates was the sudden rise in popularity of Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats. On the day before the election, Clegg was in Durham, holding a Q&A session with students here. Earlier in the day there was a major Labour politician in Durham, highlighting that the race in Durham was perceived as being a close one between Labour and the Lib Dems. I happened to be on Palace Green when Clegg pulled up in his bus. Here’s a video of his arrival. Unfortunately, I turned off the camera right before Clegg actually stepped off the bus. When he did there was an outcry from the crowd that was equal part cheering and equal part booing. Also, I wish I had been able to get some of the protesters on camera. One of them was a grown woman wearing a rabbit suit, who was quite upset about hunting laws.

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | April 18, 2010

A Trip to Cambridge

Last weekend we rented a car and drove down to Cambridge. It’s only just over 200 miles south, and we were able to make good time driving down there and back. On the way down we stopped at Peterborough Cathedral, one of three significant 12th century buildings that has remained largely intact (Durham’s cathedral is also in the three). Even more importantly, we stopped at McDonald’s on the way down, which was a special treat for Violet and Camille since we don’t have one in Durham. I have a friend who is studying at Cambridge and who lives in Tyndale House, a sort of evangelical study center and library there. They were kind enough to host us for the weekend and show us around the city a bit. On Saturday we spent the morning at Angsley Abbey, a garden estate just a few miles out of the city. We had gorgeous weather to enjoy the gardens, and the flowers were blooming out, which the girls loved. That afternoon we got back out and saw some of the colleges, including King’s College Chapel which was stunning. Here’s a link to see pictures from our trip:

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | April 14, 2010

Politics and Finances

We went to Cambridge last weekend for a quick trip, and I hope to post some pictures of our time there soon. For the moment I simply wanted to note one thing that we realized over the weekend. We rented a car to drive to Cambridge and back, a round trip of about 450 miles or so – not too bad. As I understand it, gas prices have been going up in the states. They have also been going up here, and just jumped up over $9 a gallon. I don’t know of anywhere in the states where it is that expensive to fill up your car! We don’t usually have a car and so we don’t typically notice the ebbs and flows of gas prices, but we certainly noticed it last weekend.

Also, Gordon Brown, the prime minister, announced last week that the next elections would be held on May 6. We’ll be watching it closely, not simply in order to be aware of what’s going on around us, but also because every political event has an impact on the exchange rate (which I track daily!). There is talk that the election might result in a hung Parliament in which no party has a majority and a coalition government must be formed. That hasn’t happened in nearly 40 years. So it’s quite an exciting time to be watching the political process over here up close.

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | April 6, 2010

On Accents

When we moved over here, we of course expected to hear accents different than what we are used to in America. What we weren’t expecting and found our rather quickly is the great diversity of accents that exist in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The UK is something like the size of the state of Oregon, but has a wide range of accents that are distinguishable from one another. The part of Northeast England that we are living in is home to a specific kind of accent known as Geordie (pronounced ‘jordy’). It is strikingly different than what you hear in the southern part of England. Here’s a youtube video of a guy speaking with a Geordie accent. The crazy thing is, I watched this video before we moved over here and I couldn’t understand a word the guy is saying. I can watch it now and pick up almost every word. Enjoy!

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | March 31, 2010

Why Easter Occurs in the Spring

As had the great Athanasius before him, Cyril of Alexandria sent out an annual Festal Letter to all the churches in Egypt, announcing the date for Easter. In the letter excerpt below, taken from Cyril’s letter in 415, he considers the significance of Easter occurring in the spring time. As creation experiences rebirth in the springtime, so also Christ has brought about a new creation on Easter. As those who are a part of this new creation, Christians should ‘rival the earth’ in producing good fruits.

Since Moses thus says, “Keep the month of the new growth, and perform the Passover for the Lord, your God” (Deut. 16:1), it is evident that we must announce the time of the feast, which is already here. For the sullen threat of winter is gone, the unwholesome air and darkness have been driven off, and the rains and blasts of wild winds have finally been banished from us. Springtime has come again, releasing the planter from idleness and inaction, and almost crying our to tillers that it is time to set to work. The meadows are bursting with a variety of flowers. The vegetation on the mountains and in gardens is budding forth the offspring it has been carrying, as through disgorging the energy from the loins of its own nature. The fields have already turned green (Wis. 19:7), a reminder of God’s beneficence, “making grass spring up for the cattle” (Ps. 104:14)

Now we have not spoken thus to no purpose, nor should it be thought that we have discoursed about these things pointlessly; the point was to show how useful the commandment is. It was not in vain that the Law has bidden us to observe the month of the new growth.¬†For it was necessary, quite necessary, that the human race should rival the earth in bearing fresh growth, and should, if I may say so, run riot with fresh blooms of piety. . . . [For] the month of the new growth [is] the time of the arrival of our Savior Jesus Christ, when all should hold festival. For that demon who is the author of evil, who fell upon the souls of everyone like winter, and drenched us with foul desires like heavy rain, is already heading for perdition. The power of unclean spirits has been driven away, and the sullen cloud of sin has been dispelled by grace. A light as of springtime has spread over us; and now the first-fruits of the Spirit which are given blow around the souls of all like a zephyr or light breeze, giving those in whom they dwell, in different ways, a scent no less pleasing than those of flowers. “For we are the aroma of Christ to God” (2 Cor. 2:15), as Paul says, and we have put off the oldness of our past life like a leaf, and are being renewed for another way of life which has just budded and sprung forth. Thus the blessed Paul says, “Therefore anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17) . . .

Hence we are already dismissing the passions of the flesh, directed as we are towards salvation, and, in settling within ourselves the pure grace of the Spirit, we are being refashioned into a better way of life. We remember what Paul said: “Our old self has been crucified, so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For they who have died are freed from sin. But if we have died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom. 6:6-8). For we will truly live with him, and will reign with him, rejecting the defilement that comes from the body; “hating,” as one of the saints says, “the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23); honoring the continence which is dear to God; and rendering a life lived in virtue as a gift in return to Christ, who died for us. For thus indeed the Psalmist says, “All those around him will bring gifts” (Ps. 76:11). It is, then, worthwhie inquiring about, and learning from holy Scripture, what kind of gift we will give to the Lord, in what way it will be presented, and further how it will be acceptable.

Taken from St. Cyril of Alexandria, Festal Letters, trans. Philip R. Amidon (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2009), 54-56.

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | March 11, 2010

A Trip to Newcastle

It’s been a cold,wet, and dark winter, so last weekend we decided we simply had to get out and take a trip. The nearest big city to us is Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle is a significant city, the center of the sixth most populous metro area in the UK, and was a major center for ship building in years past. So as a large city, it has everything that you could want, including many things that Durham doesn’t have (e.g., Starbucks). We took the train to Newcastle, only about a 15 minute ride, and then walked from the train station to everywhere else we wanted to go. Here’s some pictures from our trip.

Durham’s train station. Not very big!

Riding on the train. We took the stroller with us which was a real help. But the train was so packed that we couldn’t find a place to sit down on the way there!

Just outside the train station in Newcastle

We had to stop at the new Apple store in Newcastle so that I could have them look at some minor issues I was having with my iPhone. As usual, their customer service was excellent.

It was a drizzly day, but we still enjoyed it!

The Discovery Museum is a free museum in Newcastle that has lots of interesting exhibits for children. Violet and Camille enjoyed it.

Playing at the Discovery Museum. Camille was thrilled to discover that there were six of her to play with!

The Newcastle rail station. Much larger than Durham!

Home again

Posted by: Matthew Crawford | February 28, 2010

Did We Move to the Arctic?

We have had quite a cold and snowy winter this year, and we have heard from many people that it’s been decades since Durham has seen this much snow. Beginning in mid-December there was snow covering the ground for at least a month. Some of our neighbors took the opportunity to build an igloo in the parking lot across the street from us. We have no idea how they knew how to build an igloo (is it possible to find that on Google?), but they sure looked like they knew what they were doing – creating blocks and putting them together. The igloo lasted for a week or two and we got some shots of the girls in it before it collapsed. Here’s they are:

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