Here’s what happened when I emailed all the churches in Wrexham telling them I was gay & wanted to join their church.

One day I won’t have to write about faith and sexuality. I don’t see that day coming any time soon but I can hope.

This post isn’t going to investigate the theological in/out, shake it all about around the interpretation of whether being a gay Christian is a fundamental dichotomy, whether I’m going to hell in a handcart or if I’m up a particular creek I’m up without a particular paddle.

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Whoops

I appear to have lost myself down the sofa for a bit but I’ve wrestled control back of my blog and I’m here again.

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Chippenham Comedy Festival, June 2013

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Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins

In the interest of Full Disclosure I was sent a free copy of Wolfhound Century by the publisher to read and, if I really wanted to, review. If you’d like me to read a book [and maybe even review it] feel free to get in touch. Can’t promise I’ll fall in love with your book. (I’ve only ever not reviewed one book because it was totally the wrong fit for me; to review it would have been unfair as it would have been short sentences of me trying my best to be polite)

So, Wolfhound Century. I’ve read a couple of books recently (and sorry Mum for using a swear) that fall into the category in my head of “Batshit Crazy”- books so audacious in their conceit that when you describe even just the slightest amount of plot to someone they look at you with a quizzical “Have you gone batshit crazy?” look.
(cf. The Milkweed Trilogy by Ian Tregillis and/or The Many Coloured Land by Julian May.) The former could be described thus: Alt-history, Nazis super soldiers against magicians and the latter follows a group of time travellers to the distant past where they think they’re setting up a utopian society but all is not what it seems.

Here’s what I tweeted the Slate Culture Gabfest when asked to choose an endorsement this week:

https://www.twitter.com/benjiw/status/322717190065369088

Those exclamation points are important. Obviously the 140 chars summation isn’t enough to encompass just how good the noir is or how detailed the world building feels or how strong the characters are. Obviously this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but fire up the samovar, kick back and immerse yourself in some great writing. Yes, there are elements of the fantastical (The “Stone Angel!” I mentioned above) but don’t let the geeks hoard all the best stories, at heart this is a police procedural, a who/what/why-dunnit.

Working where I work means I appreciated some of the descriptions of bureaucracy and bureaucratic machinery. It won’t topple Kafka or Burgess writings about bureaucracy but there’s something hauntingly beautiful about a really well realised, well written bureaucratic nightmare. I’ve a feeling there are more books to come after Wolfhound Century and I’m poised with my finger over the “add to shopping basket” button when they appear.

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In praise of reading aloud (and some tips for the fearful)

I absolutely support the call by James Patterson and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall for more parents to read to their children. My Dad read to me when I was a kid and it didn’t harm me at all. I vividly remember him reading Peace At Last by Jill Murphy and he did all the sound effects. Loudly. When my siblings kids were just old enough to have the story read to them we bought Dad a fresh copy of Peace At Last and set him going with it. The kids loved it, my brother and sister and I loved hearing a familiar story being retold in the way we loved it.

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Makers make the world

I’ve already listened once through to the BBC Radio 4 Podcast Series a history of the world in 100 objects.

I love the series for it’s incompleteness, it’s bias and the lengths that Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, goes to enable the listener to “see” the object without actually seeing it.

A few of the objects provoked me to wonder why they were in the British Museum rather in the place that originated it. A few of the episodes directly address that.

My adoration of the podcasts is the hymn of love for the makers, crafters and artisans through the ages. Makers made the world, they enabled concepts to be marked, language to develop and stories to be shared. Over and over again the progression of humanity is nudged a little bit further forward by someone crafting something. Clay pots, papyrus, clay tablets, credit cards, jade swords… The podcast are a wonderful thing. I may not see myself as a maker/crafter but I know people that are and always seek to encourage their work.

(I know I’m late to the party listening to these podcasts and relistening now seems a bit strange but these are available indefinitely)

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What on earth are you doing here?

I read lovely Jon Hickman’s post on Paradise Circus about how he ended up in Birmingham. It’s a lovely bit of writing. I like Jon. I like how he writes. I’d like him to write more but, you know, he’s got a job teaching a degree to twitter to students (I hope he appreciates how hard I worked at that joke), a family and his genius has to work in several ways rather than just getting words on a page for me to enjoy.

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Lower those expectations, Benji

I’ve been wondering what it would take to trigger a slightly gloaty “I’ve moved house” post. I didn’t think it would be a grumble about how my new local council “does social media”.

The #wmgrit hashtag is a great amalgamation of tweets from around the region regarding gritters, gritting routes and combating some of the lazy “I’ve not seen a gritter therefore my council aren’t doing anything about grit anywhere” tweets that sometimes pop up.

Here’s a lovely Socitim Report on the twitter gritters and a report from the BBC on the twitter gritters.

I’m used to seeing tweets like this (Birmingham, West Midlands, Telford and Shropshire tweeters have spoiled me):

I’ve been gently adding Wrexham based twitter accounts and cheekily tweeted this on Monday night (I even invented my own hashtag, look at me world, I get social media. If you can’t spot the sarcasm in that statement….)

I was even polite and thanked the local council for doing what they do.

I then thought about asking Wrexham council to start using the #wrxgrit tag and tweeting when the gritters go out.

I want the information tweeted because it’s useful information, I like knowing what my council tax pays for, I like knowing what my local council, councillors, MP are up to on my behalf. I like that personal connection to a (sometimes) huge and impersonal organisation. When I lived in Birmingham some of the first people I followed on twitter were from the Birmingham Bloggers group (We were on twitter BO- before Oprah) . They modeled good twitter etiquette, good citizenship, good community leadership, creativity, rallying around people that needed it, banal activism, serious activism, they were (and remain) good people to show me the ways twitter could be great/silly/banal/creative. (The Great Snow C*ck Hunt of Edgbaston remains one of my favourite things. Getting ready to sleep and seeing a small band of tweeters were heading into Cannon Hill Park to hunt for a snow c*ck, joining them and meeting lovely people, having a snowball fight and romping in the snow)

Shropshire was an equally formative experience for me. My local council “got twitter” and was using it in interesting ways. It wasn’t just pushing info to the website, it was engaged with the #wmgrit efforts.

I guess I’m used to things being different and have been struck by the phrase “resources don’t allow us to commit”. It makes me sad that they can’t tweet when gritters go out. Naturally I cheekily offered to go and run their social media accounts, I’m not as expensive to employ as you might think. (If anyone has a job they want to offer locally to Wrexham or Chester, get in touch)

Seriously too: Any suggestions on how to better engage my local council rather than just telling them “You’re doing it wrong, give me a job”?

 

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Benjitales Chapter 7: Judges

The Process required a new monarch on the throne in the Tall Tower at the middle of the city. Each time a monarch was selected a slightly different method had been employed- one year residents had to draw pieces of paper from a wooden box; another year residents had to elect one person from their street and then those people were assessed against one another and The Twelve selected.
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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Looking back at the Advent challenge

The Advent Challenge was one of those well thought out not really very well thought out ideas.

I had an idea I’d quite like to do five days about commuting & then five days that were book reviews. I didn’t fancy reviewing the whole year so wanted to pick five significant dates. Those ideas meant I was well on the way to the magic 25.

Jon Hickman came along, shook things up a bit & got me thinking about stuff I think about all the time but without noticing it. The posts about what I wanted from the new Archbishop of Canterbury were genius & ended up being deeply topical. I hit schedule on the post about marriage equality in the morning on my way to work & the government only went & announced their response to the consultation about marriage equality. Then Stella Duffy wrote her post (& that went deeper & wider than I had, it was the sort of post I wished I’d written but I wanted to ask the question about detoxifying the conversation) & I ended up rewriting the post three times in one day.

It’s been a useful discipline writing every day although a couple of times I’ve ended the day feeling like I’d run out of words to write and speak.

Some posts were frighteningly easy to write (My letter to Santa flowed from me very quickly & could have been reputation destroying) & others (Lightmoor History) have been more difficult to write, hitting schedule in the morning with a sigh. Morning writing is easier. (although this post is being written just before 11pm)

A year ago I took on a challenge from Nick to write a children’s book one chapter at a time published each month. That didn’t quite happen the way it was planned (restarting after you’ve stopped is difficult, doubly difficult when people keep telling you how much they’re looking forward to it. Plus I’ve discovered that prose dialogue is complicated to write. I hear it in my head but struggle to translate to the page) but I’m hoping that honouring that challenge before 2013 arrives will be ok.

Despite everything pro-bloggers will tell you publishing content every day doesn’t suddenly drive new visitors to your blog, actually, I’m quite happy not being a superstar blogger. My blog is a great place to try out ideas, answer challenges & crystallise an idea, grasp the shape of it & turn it over. I’m one of those extroverts that will often grasp what they think about an issue as they’re talking about it. That’s what I see this blog as.

There are some who think it’s disgusting to see a gay man be so open, unapologetic & settled in who he is & if that scares them I must give them nightmares & they must keep coming back to the blog for another hit of pure disgust. If you do, drop me an email, I’d love to meet you!

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Advent 25: The Day Itself

Happy Christmas.

Here marks the end of my advent adventure/challenge but stick around as something exciting (well, I think it’s exciting) will be happening from tomorrow until New Year’s Eve.

Thank you for reading, following along and chipping in over the last 12 months.

I’d like to wish you a happy Christmas and a great new year. I hope you spend the holidays surrounded by love.

I’d like to thank Jon Hickman for encouraging me to take my Advent Challenge in a slightly different direction. (Hope you enjoyed what I’ve written, Jon)

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