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GroomNews Christmas 2015 December 14, 2015

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Life, News.
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May the Wisdom of the Magi and the Light of Christ’s Advent Star guide you and illuminate your way this Christmas and throughout the coming year

The Visit of the Magi, from one of many Crib Sets featured in the St Mary’s Henlow Family Crib Festival this year. Click through the picture to find out more…

WELCOME to GroomNews Christmas 2015! Another year almost over as we wonder where the time went as we prepare to celebrate the wonder of God With Us as we prepare to move home and boat as we — phew: got all that? Exciting times here on Planet Groomsville!

Introducing the Next Archdeacon of Wilts
If you saw the announcements in November, you can skip this; but for those who missed it, we’re delighted to announce that Sue has been appointed as the next Archdeacon of Wilts in the Diocese of Salisbury.

So what, you may wonder, is an Archdeacon? Think of it as the Church of England’s equivalent of an Area Manager: instead of looking after her own parish, Sue will be working with lots of parishes, supporting their mission and ministry and helping clergy and PCCs as they deal with various administrative, legal and other issues. Want to know more? See the press release on the Salisbury diocesan website: A New Archdeacon for Wilts

What about Phil?
Good question! He’s handing in his notice at Sainsbury’s with a transfer request to Devizes, where we’ll be based (our new home is only 100 yards or so from the Kennet & Avon Canal) but there are no vacancies there right now so we’re looking at a period (hopefully brief) where he’ll be Archdeacon’s Estate Manager. In other words, baking cakes and looking after house & garden until he finds paid work. Baking cakes? Yes indeed: his new hobby — here’s his latest, this year’s Christmas cake:

This year's Christmas Cake (recipe adapted from Mary Berry; mixed, baked, iced and decorated by Phil)

This year’s Christmas Cake (recipe adapted from Mary Berry; mixed, baked, iced and decorated by Phil)

His other creations (or concoctions, depending on your point of view) this year have included cheese scones, apple cinnamon cakes, apple & apricot cakes and a cherry-lemon loaf.

In the meantime, he’s as busy as ever with various other projects including 5 Quid for Life, the UK Christian Bookshops Directory and a miscellany of church and community websites: paid work or otherwise, he’s not about to run out of things to do!

Research News: almost there!
The end is in sight for Sue’s research as she works on her final chapter (the conclusion, of course) and pulls everything together before submission next year—gulp!

Almost waiting for a lock on the Northampton Arm (July 2015)

Almost waiting for a lock on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union (July 2015)

Almost Update
No edition of GroomNews would be complete without an Almost update, so here it is: our fridge died. Sob! After 25 years loyal service, no less, on the first night of this year’s holiday! Boat fridges don’t come cheap, alas: a replacement would have cost at least £600; but after much asking around, we found someone who could fix it and it’s back in action, cool as ever, for only £60.

And finally…
Finally, a HUGE thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported us along the way, with special thanks to the people of Henlow and Langford. It’s been wonderful to see the two churches grow in confidence, faith and love: long may that continue! If you’d like to know more about either or both churches, visit their websites or facebook pages — or even better, visit in person: you can be sure of a warm welcome!

With our love, prayers and very best wishes,

Phil & Sue

PS: Want to keep up with us in between issues of GroomNews? Connect with Phil on facebook and twitter:

GroomNews Christmas 2014 December 20, 2014

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Family, Life.
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GroomNews Christmas 2014: Printer friendly version (fold in 4 to make a Christmas card)

GroomNews Christmas 2014: Printer friendly version – fold in 4 to make a Christmas card (pdf, 3.1mb)

WELCOME to another edition of our infamous annual newsletter, in which we shall attempt to entertain, inform and perhaps even enlighten you rather than bore you too much with the minutiae of our lives…

Don’t Shoot: Sue made a Canon!
That, beloved reader, is Canon spelt with a single ‘n’ in the middle and it’s essentially the Church of England’s equivalent of a New Year’s Honour, which Sue received from the Bishop of St Albans in March this year. Read the churchwardens’ announcement here: Revd Sue to become an Honorary Canon

Research Update: Paper delivered in Durham
Sue’s write-up of her research is proceeding in fits and starts as she struggles to balance it with the demands of her work as a parish priest and DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands). In June, however, she was able to give a paper at a research conference in Durham outlining some of her findings. It’s all about the use of the language of formation in ordination training: feel free to ask her if you want the details!

Almost passes Hull Survey
Last year it was the cabin sides and roof that received lots of TLC; this year it was the hull — and we’re delighted to report that after 25 years the deepest pitting in Almost’s 6mm steel plate proved to be only 0.6mm, so at this rate she should easily outlast us. Here she is in dry dock:

Almost in Dry Dock 2014

The weather was much kinder to us this year for yet another cruise along the Nene to Peterborough and back — and we even managed to fit in a day-trip on the Nene Valley Steam Railway: whoooo-whooooooooooo! Here’s Phil’s video:

Groom Family Weddings
It’s been another year of wedding bells ringing amongst our nephews and nieces: congratulations to Ben & Laura, Catherine & Pete and Andrew & Cheryl.

Online and Interactive
In between stacking the supermarket shelves, Phil’s been as busy as ever with his various online projects, including revamping our own church website (links below) and keeping the UK Christian Bookshops Directory updated, christianbookshops.org.uk. Find him on twitter @notbovvered or on facebook at facebook.com/philgroom if you’re incurably curious.

With our love, best wishes for Christmas and prayers for peace in the coming year,

Phil & Sue

www.langfordchurch.org.uk | www.henlowchurch.org.uk


GroomNews Christmas 2013: The Year of Everyone Getting Older December 19, 2013

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Family, Life.
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2013: The Year of Everyone Getting Older

GroomNews Christmas 2013: Printer-friendly version (pdf, 201kb)

GroomNews Christmas 2013: Printer-friendly version (pdf, 201kb)

… or, to be more precise, of us becoming more aware that everyone’s getting older! Let’s start in March, when we celebrated Sue’s 50th birthday with a stay in a Bath hotel: a wonderful few days that included sightseeing, meals out and a boat trip on the river as our hotel was conveniently situated alongside the river upstream from the city centre. Highly recommended!

Now fast forward to December, when Phil’s Dad took a tumble down the stairs and ended up in hospital: not recommended, even when you’re young. Thankfully no bones broken but plenty of bruises. The good news is Phil’s parents have agreed to have a stairlift fitted.

At the other end of the generational gap, we’ve heard wedding bells ringing and possibly angels singing as nephews & nieces have been busy announcing weddings, getting married and/or having babies, making us Great Uncle Phil & Great Aunty Sue all over again — or should that be Grand? But whether it’s great or grand, it’s making us feel older as we realise our nephews & nieces are no longer the little children they were: wholehearted congratulations to them all!

Health & Fitness
In the latter half of the year Sue’s hip became increasingly painful so in December we took a trip to Oxford’s Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital for a checkup. Conclusion: there’s been some deterioration but probably not enough to warrant a replacement just yet. She should keep up the swimming and pilates/physio exercises and return for another check next year.

As for Phil, in the middle of the year  he was diagnosed with suspected glaucoma. Initial tests were inconclusive so he returns for further tests in January 2014: watch this space. Otherwise fine and still cycling to and from work.

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life
Remember 5 Quid for Life? It’s a project launched by Phil and a group of his friends back in 2011 to provide emergency financial support for people with mental health problems who have lost (or are in danger of losing) their benefits as a result of the government’s welfare reforms; and it’s kept Phil quite busy this year responding to enquiries and requests for help. Want to know more? Visit 5quidforlife.org.uk. Donations always welcome, but there are plenty of other ways to help too, such as sharing via facebook and twitter or by putting up a poster in your local community hall or doctor’s waiting room.

Church & Diocese
Running two churches alongside her diocesan role isn’t quite running Sue ragged, but she’s always busy meeting people, preparing to meet people or preparing and running church services and meetings. We’re grateful for all the opportunities her work brings, and we’re just as grateful when we get some breathing space; which brings us neatly to…

Almost Repainted: Peterborough, Sept 2013 (Click to zoom in)

Almost Repainted: Peterborough, Sept 2013 (Click to zoom in)

Almost Repainted
The job is done! Colin & Kevin at Spiderworx worked their magic and Almost looked most resplendent in her new livery for our late summer holiday, another trip along the Nene to sunny Peterborough — or not so sunny, as things turned out in September this year.

Sue’s Studies
are still ongoing: it’s proving to be a long slog, longer than originally anticipated, but she hasn’t given up. She’s now in the final phase, writing up her thesis: the challenge, of course, is finding time…

Thank you…
for all the Christmas cards that so many of you have sent. We’re sending out a few to close family but otherwise, as in previous years, will be making a donation to WaterAid instead.

As always, this comes with our love, best wishes for Christmas and prayers for peace in the coming year,

Phil & Sue


Bethlehemian Rhapsody December 30, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas.
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Best Christmas Video ever; enjoy:

GroomNews Christmas 2012: A Year Like No Other December 15, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Family, Life.
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GroomNews Christmas 2012: Printer-friendly version (pdf, 168kb)

GroomNews Christmas 2012: Printer-friendly version (pdf, 168kb)

Thank you…
to everyone who has already sent us Christmas cards: we’re sending out a few to close family but otherwise we’re making another donation to WaterAid in lieu of cards; please accept this news roundup instead.

Phil’s Ankle
The beginning of the year seemed to slip by quietly and uneventfully until a dramatic turn of events landed Phil off work for three months with his left ankle strapped up in a “Beckham Boot”. You can read all about it here: The car didn’t get me, but the cardboard did… — to cut a longer story short, he skidded on a piece of cardboard at work and broke his ankle. The three months weren’t wasted, however, as Phil used the time to carry out some long overdue updates to UKCBD, the UK Christian Bookshops Directory: christianbookshops.org.uk

Sue’s Sabbatical
Not to be outdone by Phil taking three months off work, Sue did likewise in the autumn: from September to November she was on sabbatical. Unlike Phil’s time out, though, Sue’s was planned and we take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in making it possible, from those in the diocese who took on DDO responsibilities to those in the parishes who kept the respective shows on the road. She spent most of the time in Durham, working on her DThM thesis on the language of formation in ordination training. Staying with religious communities and worshipping at the Cathedral provided her with wonderful spiritual refreshment.

Silver Wedding Card and Flowers

Silver Wedding Cards and Flowers

Silver Wedding
At the end of October — two thirds of the way through Sue’s sabbatical — we celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary by booking into a hotel in Durham, from where we proceeded to sample the city’s cuisine with visits to different restaurants each evening, interspersed during the day by various outings. Another vote of thanks, this time to everyone who sent us cards, gifts and greetings on the day as well as for your friendship and support down the years.

Repaint for Almost
And how better to celebrate that anniversary than to commission a repaint for Almost? If you’ve seen us out & about on the waterways in recent years, you’ll have noticed that her paintwork leaves much to be desired. It was easy to keep on top of it when we lived afloat: whenever the sun was shining, one of us would be out there with a paintbrush; but since she’s been a holiday home rather than our main residence, it’s been more of a challenge, so we’ve at last called in the professionals: as we write, she’s with Colin & Kevin at Spiderworx (www.spiderworx.co.uk) undergoing a complete repaint and getting new signwriting.

Christmas TreeFamily News
Last year we reported the birth of our great-nephew, Oliver. This year it was wedding bells as niece Ruth married Ashley; and more wedding bells are planned for 2013: niece Claire to marry Simon, and nephew DJ to marry Nat: congratulations to one and all; only another 10 to go … not sure how we’ll ever keep up with them all! That’s all on Phil’s side of the family: over on Sue’s side, Alison, her sister, has left her job as a chaplaincy assistant in Plymouth to set up on her own as a counsellor, Cuthbert Counselling — if you’re in the south west and looking for counselling (or know someone else who is), do give her a shout: www.cuthbertcounselling.co.uk

Health & Fitness
Sue has added Aquafit and Pilates to her  regular exercise routine alongside all the swimming, and the routines are paying off, keeping her supple and, on the whole, free from aches & pains in her joints: doing very well, in fact, for someone who hits the big 50 in 2013! Phil has resumed cycling to and from work, and since his work itself is a matter of constant physical activity, he too is pretty much as fit as ever.

Taking Time…
Christmas: it’s all about God taking time out from eternity to be God with us. This year we’ve realised how important that is, and in the year ahead we’re determined to take more time out to reconnect with our friends. We look forward to seeing you! For now, however, as always, this comes with our love, best wishes for Christmas and prayers for peace in 2013,

Phil & Sue

O West Bank Town of Bethlehem December 9, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas.
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THANK YOU to Kevin Mayhew Ltd for publishing the full text of Martin Leckebusch’s version of the popular Christmas Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem — offered, they say, “as a more realistic description of Bethlehem today” than the traditional words. I couldn’t agree more:

O West Bank town of Bethlehem,
how still thy victims lie;
the grieving weep, deprived of sleep;
militiamen roam by;
for through thy dark streets rageth
the never-ending fight:
such hopes and fears, such bitter tears
are met in thee tonight.

O morning news, O papers,
report the dreadful dearth
of saints who sing to praise the King,
of peace across the earth;
where Christ was born of Mary
‘midst wondering angels’ love,
in anguish deep, sad mortals keep
few thoughts of things above.

How violently, how violently
the hope of peace is riven;
can God imparts to these torn hearts
the blessings of his heaven?
Who now recalls his coming
to this dark world of sin?
Where harsh words still promote ill-will,
can Christ now enter in?

O Child once born in Bethlehem,
draw near again, we pray;
you died to win this world from sin –
yet sin persists today.
May we, like Christmas angels,
annouce Immanuel,
till all are given a glimpse of heaven
and not a taste of hell.

– Martin Leckebusch
Copyright 2010 Kevin Mayhew Ltd

Reproduced, complete with typos, in accordance with Kevin Mayhew Ltd’s fair use copyright policy.

And the winner is: WaterAid December 28, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Death, Life.
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THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote in our poll to choose a charity to receive this year’s Christmas card money. Here’s how the votes panned out:

Poll Results 2010

Poll Results 2010

As you can see, the winner is WaterAid, who will be receiving our donation within the next couple of days. Watch this video to find out more about WaterAid’s work:

If you didn’t vote, never mind: we’ll probably do it again next year. Feel free to take this as an opportunity to nominate another charity to add to next year’s poll: just leave details in a comment.

Our very best wishes to one and all for the coming year.

Mum, I’ve got a problem… December 15, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Short Story, Theological Reflection.
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“Mum, I’ve got a problem…”
“Oh no, what’s Joe done this time?”
“It’s not Joe, that’s the problem.”
“What’s not Joe? Whatever are you twittering on about this time? Just give me a hand with these sheets, will you?”
“But Mum —”
“I’m listening, dear. Hold on tight to your end whilst I give it a shake.”
“Mum —”
“Whatever’s the matter, dear? Why are you crying?”
“Mum, I’m pregnant.”
“I always thought Joe was a bit keen, dear, but —”
“Mum, it’s not Joe’s baby.”
“Do you remember that film with Hugh Grant in it, dear?”
“Mum, Hugh Grant hasn’t been born yet. They haven’t invented films yet.”
“Mother of God, child, will you just listen to your mother??”
“Mum, that’s blasphemy!”
“This is a more immediate problem, my girl, so just you let your old mother think about it…”
“OK, but what about the film?”
“Oh yes, the one about the weddings and the funeral: do you remember the opening line?”
“Err…”
“Well that’s us, girl. Does Joe know yet?”
“I’m scared, Mum. I don’t want to lose him.”
“You won’t lose him, girl: he’s totally besotted with you. So — who’s the father?”
“It’s hard to explain…”
“No, dear, these things are very simple. It’s biology: 1 + 1 = 3.”
“I’ve got an idea, Mum.”
“That’s my girl: come on, out with it.”
“If 1 + 1 = 3, that might explain something about God that’s been puzzling me…”
“I thought you were worried about Joe?”
“Joe can wait: I think we’re about to solve one of the most puzzling mysteries about the nature of God that’s haunted humanity since the dawn of time.”
“Time’s the problem, girl. Thank God you came to me now and didn’t wait until it started to show. Now finish folding that sheet and let me think some more.”
“Mum, what you said a minute ago, ‘Mother of God’…”
“A figure of speech, girl. What about it?”
“Well it’s not a figure of speech anymore.”
“You’re talking riddles, girl. I asked you who the father is.”
“Well there was, like, this angel —”
“Angel??”
” — and he said, well, OK, I forget his exact words, but it was, like, don’t be afraid —”
“Standard opening line. These angels have got no imagination.”
“You believe me?”
“Haven’t lied to me before, girl, have you?”
“Err, there was that fib about —”
“Water under the bridge, girl. I think you’d better go stay with your Aunty Liz for a bit.”
“But Mum, she’s pregnant.”
“She’s a bit brighter than you, girl. At least she got married first. Now go pack your things and I’ll sort your father out.”

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