Dangerous dog walking

I have decided that dog walking is dangerous!

Nikki and I went for a walk last Sunday afternoon and thought we should take the legendary Darcey * out for walk to Ashton Court.

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I was walking along the pathway on the Suspension Bridge whilst walking Darcey and I moved to one side to let someone pass. I was right next to the lowest point of the cables which have the big frikking bolts on them. As I moved to one side, I hit my head on one of them…

…that will teach me to be tall won’t it?!

I felt quite sick, dizzy and as is the case with head wounds, had lot of blood come out of my head despite such a small cut.

I went to the toll booth operator who told me that lots of people hit their heads on the bridge on an average week.

It sort of made me feel better…

I did point out that if it does happen that much then maybe they should put a sign up? That didn’t really seem to register  with the bridge staff…

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I did mange to enjoy the rest of my walk round Ashton Court despite the free flowing head wound, copious mud and abject weather.

Anyways I did feel quite sick on Sunday night and most of Monday morning so I left work on Monday lunchtime. I am feeling better now although the side of my head is still quite tender.

Dog owners never tell you just how dangerous it can be taking man’s best friend out for a walk do they? 

(* Darcey is a border collie who belong to the wonderful Hopkins family)

A great night for AB

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Last night was Andrew Blowers’ testimonial dinner here in Bristol ,as at the end of this season he not only retires from professional rugby but also returns to NZ.

AB has not only been a great player for Bristol but he has also been a fantastic ambassador for the game of rugby as a whole. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know him through being at Vineyard with him. He truly is a humble, talented man who makes time for everyone around him, no matter who they are.

As well as the majority of the Bristol squad being present last night we had some very special ex-All Black guests as you can see below:

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Tana Umaga (Toulon Head Coach)

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Filo Tiatia (Neath-Swansea Ospreys)

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Xavier Rush (Cardiff Blues)

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Kees Meeuws (Llanelli Scarlets)

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Sam Tuitupou (Worcester Warriors)

Being the avid rugby fan that I am, you will of course imagine that I was in my element!

I had the pleasure of being able to chat to most of the guys and found them all very likable and down to earth (Kees and Tana especially).

It was a wonderful evening to not only pay tribute to AB, but also to raise lots of money for the Children’s Hospice South West, which we did. I estimate that at least £10,000 was raised last night.

The evening started with a haka led by Scott Linklater and comprising of AB, Neil Brew, Sam T, Tana, Kees, Filo and Dan Ward-Smith. Standing in front of a haka is something I won’t forget in a hurry and it gave me goosebumps!

The rest of the evening then saw a video and pictorial tribute to AB’s career and an auction of skills for Mark Regan, Shaun Perry and Matt Salter to perform for the winner (cooking for 4, golf caddy for the day and car washing respectively!).

We also had a fantastic dinner (lamb and pavlova!) and everyone had to hongi everyone else on their table. It was fine for me as i knew what to expect but it was quite an icebreaker for some people!!

We also had a auction of some wonderful rugby items such as AB’s last shirt worn in NZ rugby, a signed pair of Dan Carter’s boxer shorts (£500!), an All Blacks shirt signed by the current touring squad, Luke McAllister’s boots and shirt, Carl Haymans kit, Kevin Mealamu’s boots and Richie McCaw’s signed scrum hat!

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The highest bid of the night was £1,600 for the last shirt ever worn on a rugby field by the legendary “Iceman”: Michael Jones –arguably the greatest ever rugby union player.

As Meeuws, Tiatia, Rush and Umaga had known AB since playing each other at school, it made for an evening of great stories about his tidiness, fierce tackling and his inability to turn up to meetings on time!

It was also clear to see the huge impact he has had on the Bristol team in the two years he has been here. Salts, Pezza and captain Joe EL-Abd spoke with great feeling about the positive impact AB has had on them as both a rugby player and friend.

Clearly AB‘s career as a player has attracted the plaudits and respect of his peers but more than anything, it is clear that his qualities as a Christian man have made the biggest impact on those around him.

Here’s to you AB.

Processing

In the last few weeks I have seen several great friends of mine get engaged. As well as this making me feel very happy for them, it has also got me thinking…

…thinking about what it must be like to reach that point on your life where you think, you know, that you have found that one person that you want to marry.

I’ve been trying to get my head round what that concept is like; to have found a person so beguiling, so captivating, so beautiful, so fascinating, and so interesting…that you want to spend the rest of your life with them.

I mean, when you think about it, its quite a radical concept isn’t it? To choose one person from all the others in the world and plan a marriage, a home, a family and a life with them. It’s a huge undertaking and I guess that is why God places so much value on the sanctity of marriage.

The biggest decision I have made in my life so far was to give my life to Christ. I am guessing that the second biggest will be asking a woman to be my wife.

What must it be like to get to that point in your life where you are so vulnerable, that the other person not only accepts you for all your frailty, flaws, gifts and good points, but loves you for all of them too?

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever meet someone who I will find fascinating enough for me to imagine not being without them. Moreover, I wonder how anyone could find me so interesting enough to consider me being their husband? I mean I think I am a reasonably good bloke with a few redeeming qualities but I wonder if I am too set in my ways to an extent that someone would find it hard to share in my life?

Recently, I was talking to a good friend and saying that I hadn’t expected my life to look like it does right now. I once had a vague notion that I would be married by the age of 30, but I didn’t know what else it would entail.

As it is, I am 34 and still single and feeling that, aside from relationships, there is so much stuff I want to happen in my life that has yet to occur (its stuff I discuss daily with God).

I do have moments where I worry that I will stay single for the rest of my life, but I know that God has given me a heart and a desire for marriage and I believe that God will bring this about in my life. And so I need to be confident and hopeful that God will be faithful to me and in His timing, bring the right person along. Until then He has to continue to shape me to be the right person for my wife.

I mean I have made some poor decisions in past relationships and I accept that is all part of the learning process, but I wonder if I have enough confidence in my judgment to make “the right choice”?

So I guess what I am trying to say (and probably not conveying it very well) is what does it mean to fully give yourself to just one person?

It’s quite a lot for my brain to comprehend, but as it’s something that God is clearly bringing up, I guess I need to keep processing it…

Motorways, muddy bikes and match day

And so it was that last Friday afternoon, Gav, Jamie and I found ourselves stowing/attaching 3 mountain bikes, bike gear and bags into Gav’s Volkswagen Golf.

Well armed with an ample supply of water, Boost bars and Haribo and some kicking tunes we headed north. Ahead of us lay the M5, M6 and about 7 hours of driving to Scotland.

As is often the case, we hit the large snarl of traffic around Birmingham; although why so many people would want to go to Birmingham is quite beyond me. The redeeming part of this was the fact that we had quite an awesome sunset as we sat in the queue.

We managed to survive the food in the service station in Manchester and then as we hit the Scottish border, it started to rain heavily. This was to be a key feature of the weekend.

Gav’s parents Ken and Jean (and their wonderful but strangely silent retriever Molly) were kind enough to put us up for the weekend. It helped that they were mad rugby fans…

Saturday morning rolled around and by 8.30 we were in the car heading for Glentress Forest and some serious mountain bike action. Gav had already managed to injure himself by slipping on the deck outside the house and leaving himself with a nasty but quite manly gash on his chin. Fortunately this was to to be the only injury of the day!

The weather was cold, foggy and drizzly but despite this, riding in Glentress was frankly, awesome. The main highlight of our nearly 3 hour ride was Spooky Wood.

This is a stunning 1.5km-long singletrack descent that started with three steep, rocky drop-offs and then flows and flows, thanks to its twelve 180-degree bermed bends, 18 jumps and 17 tabletops. It was so flaming good, we did it twice.

It was brilliant to ride and I definitely felt that the techniques that Eddy and Johanna taught me in Canada helped me massively. I was certainly riding quicker and with more confidence than I had before.

I can now add Scotland to the list of countries I have mountain biked in (England, Wales, Canada and New Zealand). Hmm, I wonder where I will be going next?

We were utterly shattered and filthy after the ride but it was all worth it. After a very big clean up, we headed back to Edinburgh to enjoy a well earned fry up, watch the Wales v South Africa match and restore some energy for the evening.

Country colours were donned and the three of us headed down to Murrayfield for the Scotland v All Blacks match!

The atmosphere at the stadium was amazing and despite the All Blacks running out 32-6 winners, it was a fantastic match. Equally fantastic, was the opportunity to walk straight into the centre of Edinburgh along with 50,000 other supporters after the match finished. It’s not something you get at every rugby stadium I can tell you. Did I mention it was raining a lot while this was all happening?

After a great Chinese, we enjoyed much beer and whisky and it was good fun seeing the good natured sights and sounds of various watering holes until the small hours. I had the pleasure of being chatted up by a very pretty American girl in Edinburgh who looked a lot like Scarlett Johansson. Mind you she was only about 19/20. Still it was quite flattering; I guess being sober and being able to have a conversation is quite a novelty in some pubs on a Saturday night!!

On Sunday morning, Gav headed off to see his nephews and Jamie headed into town to meet up with his brother. I decided I would go to to Edinburgh Vineyard. They were a great bunch and very welcoming. The first person I saw was Ross who went to Capital Vineyard with me in Wellington and now lives in Scotland! Also the Pastors David and Liz were on staff at SW London Vineyard with Andrew and Ros Wallis. Man, the Christian world is very small; in fact I would say there are only about 2.14 degrees of separation in it! Randomly, despite the fact that I was visiting and only briefly met a few people, one of the guys at the service had a strong prophetic word for me which was hugely encouraging.

So, after lunch, yet again we packed the car with bikes and gear, and headed back home to Bristol after a brilliant weekend.

And just as we crossed the border into England, it started to rain heavily again…