Two of the best!

If I have a legitimate grievance over an issue of service with a company I am the first to complain. I have no qualms about picking up the phone and letting somebody know if I feel hard done-by. I am slower to give praise or encouragement which can only be described as a failing. To change this habit I thought I would share my experience of immaculate customer service from two companies that I have recently come into contact with.

One of the directors of Revolution PTS is a friend, so you may think this choice a little biased but I have been genuinely impressed with everything I have seen that this company offers it’s clients…

Revolution PTS Logo

 

I recently got in touch with my friend Rob at Revolution as I have been struggling with my weight for a long time. Very quickly I had a personalised exercise plan that I could fit into the amount of time I had, in addition (and what I have since learned is key) a personalised nutrition plan to help me acheive my weight loss goal. The key word here is personalised. Everything I have seen shows a dedicated team of personal trainers transforming the bodies and lives of everyone they come into contact with! The results of the 12-Week Transformation programme speak for themselves. I lost weight, gained muscle and my strength and fitness is much improved and I live 150 miles from the studio; I can only imagine the results if I lived nearer and could actually attend!

The second aspect that I think Revolution PTS have nailed is their social media presence – a great website, facebook, blog, you-tube clips and regular tweets (and replies) demonstrate their commitment to being involved in their client’s lives not only when they are physically present in the studio, but also when they are not. Motivational quotes, nutritional tips and workout reminders all contribute to an all round package which elevates Revolution PTS to the top of the fitness industry. I only hope that they open up a Nottingham branch soon!

Thirdly, these guys are smart! They know their stuff, from how muscles work to how the body processes food. The science behind every calorie and every movement is well understood and put to good use in their training plans – it is not often you see great scientists with six-packs!

If you are in London and you want to transform your body, get yourself to Revolution. If you are not in London use the Correspondence Personal Training programme – I cannot recommend these guys highly enough!

 

The second company may seem like a strange choice having just been discussing great personal training, but like everyone I have my vices…

CGARS

Seven years ago I finally managed to give up cigarettes for good but occasionally I enjoy a cigar. I wanted to get some Davidoff cigars that I used to smoke with my Dad, so I went online and quickly found C.Gars Ltd. After ordering some cigars I was immediately pleased with the website experience and ecstatic about the delivery speed – standard delivery miraculously appeared the very next day! Prices are good too and the price match possibility means they are never more expensive than another supplier!

Like Revolution PTS, C.Gars’ social media presence is key to their amazing customer service. I quickly found them on Twitter and Facebook and have e-mailed Sales Director Mitchell Orchant several times for advice and have always received rapid, knowledgable and courteous responses.

It will be clear to Mr. Orchant that I am no connoisseur, as I have mentioned my knowledge of cigars is very limited, fortunately Mr. Orchant is willing to share his expertise not only with tweets and Facebook posts, but also with personal advice specifically tailored to make sure that I enjoy every cigar I light. I only buy about 2 cigars a month so I am not a big customer, but whenever I order from C.Gars Ltd I always feel like a valued customer.

If like me you like a cigar,  go to C.Gars Ltd – you will not be disappointed! Happy Herfing

Herf: A gathering of cigar smokers.(n) To smoke a cigar.(v)

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Only one wok?

Wok

We recently had some friends over for dinner, we didn’t want a takeaway, but we fancied Chinese food, but how to provide a nice variety of dishes with only one wok? Our little boy keeps us busy,  so there would not be hours and hours to get ready either. It turned out to be reasonably simple, but preparation was the key! We settled on the following menu…

Starter

Duck rolls – with plum sauce

Pork and Prawn dumplings – with sweet chilli sauce

Prawn Crackers

Main Dishes

Chicken Fried Rice – with shallots, ginger, spring onion and peanuts

Sweet and Sour Pork – with onion, red pepper and pineapple

Satay Beef – with carrot, spring onion and mange tout

Egg Noodles – with sesame seeds and spring onion

Desserts

Lemon Posset

Chocolate Mousse

Banoffee Pie

One of the brilliant things about living where we do is the close proximity of not one but two oriental supermarkets – with a wide range of ingredients and sauces we really are spoilt for choice right on our doorstep. The starters were simplicity itself, needless to say we did not spend hours hand making dumplings and duck rolls, the duck rolls were Tesco and the dumplings frozen from the oriental supermarket. Served with sweet chilli and plum sauces the starters presented no issues!

After prepping all of the veg and meat for the main courses, the question arose how to cook it fresh with only one wok?!? We discovered this was easier than we thought…

The satay sauce and sweet and sour sauce were (I am afraid to say) purchased ready-made from the oriental supermarket, but they taste just like their takeaway versions! The chicken fried rice however was from a recipe with all the sauce and spices added by hand. So we settled on the following method; we fried the beef and accompanying veg in the wok with groundnut oil then once done transferred to a sauce pan on a low heat and added the sauce. We then did the exact same thing for the pork dish. This left us with a relatively clean wok (apart from groundnut oil residue) which we needed for the chicken fried rice dish anyway! By prepping in advance and using this ‘wok to pan’ method we managed to cook all three main courses whilst our guests were here in about 12 minutes – definitely not too long to wait between courses (especially with prawn crackers for nibbles)!

All of the desserts were made well in advance and we even cheated on the banoffee pie cases using ready-made pastry cases! We like to think we put a lot of effort into making the evening run smoothly by making sure there was little effort required to execute everything well!

Our guests seemed to enjoy it anyway…

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Happy New Year!

Happy 2013 readers! When I started this blog, it was just a way for me to make note of particular thoughts of interest to myself. Whilst I was aware that other people would be able to see it, I never really expected many to actually do so. I have just broken the 1000 views boundary and based on location, they are not all people I know! I am looking forward to more viewings and hopefully some comments as 2013 progresses…

World view statisticsIt seems like people from all over have been reading (and hopefully enjoying) my posts which is great! It also reminds me of the great responsibility to be careful about what I post. If James were writing today, he may well be warning us about what we tweet or what we blog….

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.- James 3:9-10

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Lucky Me!

Erika Eleniak

I would like to start this blog post by stating that I love my wife very much! Next year will be our 10 year wedding anniversary and so far it has been a fantastic decade! Rewinding 20 years though, a good few years before my wife and I got together, there was only one girl for me; Erika Eleniak…

Although probably most famous for her role in Baywatch, Erika starred in E.T. – IMDb lists Erika’s character as ‘Pretty Girl’ – this is somewhat of an understatement, Elliott was a lucky boy! Like many young teenage boys, Saturday tea time was always spent in front of the television watching Baywatch and the reason for watching Baywatch was Shauni McClain! With her long blonde hair and her red bathing suit that almost fitted, Shauni kept us glued to the screen. Many of my friends were fickle and easily made the transition to C.J. (Pamela Anderson’s character in Baywatch), but once Shauni was gone, my interest in Baywatch quickly waned. As an older teenager, like most teenage boys, once we had seen it; what we most wanted for our birthday was an Under Siege birthday cake!

I can remember my mother’s disapproving looks at the images cut from magazines (Not July 1989! I was only 12 when that came out) and newspapers plastered all over my bedroom wall, there was 1 or 2 of Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer occupied the back of my door, but at least 3 square metres were dedicated to Erika!

Let me say, that in general I am not really interested in the cult of celebrity, celebrity reality T.V. or any kind of celebrity gossip – it is just not my thing. I thought however that it would be ironic, if I could use Twitter, where so many ‘everyday’ people follow celebrities, to get a celebrity to follow me! I made it my New Year’s Resolution for 2013 to attract celebrity followers to see if they really would read my tweets in their busy, whirlwind celebrity lives. But who to ask first – I thought I would do an experiment and set my sights high – my teenage crush, Miss July 1989, Erika Eleniak! Imagine my surprise when…

Erika Eleniak

It seems that not only was she my teenage crush, but she is also a great sport and a thoroughly nice person! Funnily, this side of my teenage years and this side of marriage, my Mum thought this was fantastic when I showed her, strange how things change! My wife has also been as fantastic as ever – I can imagine a lot of wives becoming more than a little irate at their husband tweeting former Playboy models but not mine! It only goes to show how lucky I am, not only did the love of my teenage years stop and say hi, but the love of the rest of my years enjoyed it with me.

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Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Angels

At Christmas time Christmas music is everywhere. In shops refrains about snowmen, reindeer, presents, bells and sleighs are on a constant loop. Alongside the Christmas pop occasional carols are randomly interspersed breaking up the musical chintz reminding us of that first Christmas, the real Christmas. One of my favourite carols was written nearly 280 years ago by Charles Wesley. If you sing this carol, take time to look at the amazing words which echo the Gospel message so clearly…

God and sinners reconciled! – Jesus has come so that sinners can be reconciled to God!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; – Jesus, God the son, became a man;
Hail th’incarnate Deity, – Fully man and fully God,

Mild He lays His glory by, – Jesus set aside the glory he is due,
Born that man no more may die; – Jesus came so that man doesn’t have to die;
Born to raise the sons of earth, – Jesus came to lift man from the despair of sin,
Born to give them second birth. – Jesus came that we may be born again!

Whilst at Christmas we tend to only sing the first three verses of this carol to the magnificent tune that Mendelssohn wrote for it, there are actually two more verses; the last verse indicates the response we should have to the amazing news of the first three verses…

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, – Jesus please remove the stain of sin,
Stamp Thine image in its place: – Make us like you:
Second Adam from above, – How we should have been,
Reinstate us in Thy love. – Reconcile us to God.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain, – Let us once again know you,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:  – Live in us so we may live eternally:
Oh, to all Thyself impart, – Show yourself to everyone,
Formed in each believing heart. – So if they believe, they too can live forever.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful this Christmas if more people at last understood what the angels were Harking on about!!!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14

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The best films make you cry…

I have always loved watching films, when my sister and I were young, our parents took us to the cinema so I guess that is where it must have started. Although it makes me feel really old to admit it, I saw ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘E.T.’ at the cinema first time round! I can remember walking up West Street in Brighton on the way to get the no. 11 bus home, holding my mum’s hand, sobbing my heart out because Elliott would never get to see E.T. ever again!

After several years hiatus, where action movies became the genre favoured above all others, I have found that the films I enjoy the most are often the films that make me cry. I thought I would share some scenes that always have this effect…

Forrest Gump – Where Forrest asks if his son is smart…

Schindler’s List – Oscar Schindler is given a ring…

The Railway Children – Daddy My Daddy…

Looking at these scenes, they are all very different – for me what they have in common is that I can empathise with a small part of what each central character is feeling: meeting your son and wanting the best for them, wanting them not to experience any of the difficulties or pain you have, realising that you have done little good and lamenting the fact that you could have done so much more, missing your daddy…

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying… Revelation 21:4

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An answer to prayer…

I guess that the title of this post could literally relate to anything that I may have been hoping for, this phrase is often used when there has been no prayer at all!

Prayer is one of those things, like many Christians, that I have struggled and continue to struggle with. My mum got me a book on prayer recently that I am hoping to be able to read soon. So often we wonder if God is listening, and if he is listening and hearing why he isn’t doing! We are quick to complain when prayers appear unanswered, but slow to acknowledge when they are! In attempt to buck this trend, I thought I would share the following story…

 

Recently we had a hearing test for a little boy, we went to the hearing test centre and because of some additional needs that our son has, we used his blue badge to allow us to park in a disabled space. Imagine our annoyance when having had a wonderful hearing test with a ‘normal’ result – (rare for us with our son’s medical tests) , we got back to our car to see a fixed penalty notice for unauthorised use of a disabled space. What annoyed me even more was the parking warden would have been able to see our son’s beaming face on the disabled badge with his tracheostomy clearly visible!

We could see the warden in the distance, so I hurried and caught up with him and asked for an explanation – We hadn’t noticed, but the serial number and expiry date on our badge had faded in the sunlight and as he couldn’t verify the validity of the badge, he had to issue the fine.

When we got home, I e-mailed our circumstances in order to appeal, we are awaiting a decision. I also contacted the blue badge people to ask for a replacement – unfortunately in order to get a replacement, you have to reapply – as with anything like this, the paperwork is long and tedious!

This was all the more annoying as we have an MRI scan scheduled for our son at a hospital around one hours drive from us with notoriously bad parking, even with a blue badge. The new badge would take up to 8 weeks to issue and there was less than 2 weeks to the scan. I sent the form off with a quick prayer, that if possible we would get a replacement badge in time for the journey. Since then we had pondered on how early we would have to leave to find a suitable parking space and still make our 7:30am appointment.

Imagine our joy, when this morning, only 9 days after applying, we received our new blue badge in the post! Coincidence some might say, efficient council services less might say; we however are thanking God for a real answer to prayer!

 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:12

 

 

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Whose Church?

Conservative MP Sir Tony Baldry today commented in the House of Commons,

“If the Church of England wants to be a national church, then it has to reflect the values of the nation.”

Really, honestly? I am not sure I have read anything so utterly ridiculous in my entire life! Given that Christ is the head of the Church, is Sir Tony Baldry really saying that Jesus should be more English?  Maybe an all powerful stiff upper-lip kind of Saviour, maybe one that drinks more tea? Maybe if Jesus was a little more like Doctor Who, the Church might just be alright. Maybe a cigar smoking, victory speech giving, ‘Dad’s Army’ watching, always suspicious of the Germans, football fanatic, ‘fight them on the beaches’, tory kind of head of the Church would be preferable?

Fortunately it is not for Sir Tony Baldry or any other MP to build the Church and ensure its continuity…

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build MY church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18

 

 

 

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Men, Women, Bishops, The Church…

I am a little hesitant in writing this post, usually I write about controversial issues from a definite standpoint and usually do a reasonable job of arguing my case. However, on the issue of women bishops I am undecided. Why then am I writing this post? As a Christian I feel it is right for me to say something about an issue that so many secular people are commenting on; is this simply a matter of discrimination in the workplace, or is there possibly more to it?

In starting, as I have in other posts I would like to say that I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, nothing got in there by mistake, and nothing that God wanted to be written in it was omitted. I hope and pray that the Church believes this too, because if they don’t, as one person commented, they might as well have meerkats for bishops!

There are many verses of scripture that are quoted about silence and hats when discussing this issue, I would like to approach things slightly differently.

In the beginning…

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

In the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible, we see that God created mankind in his own image. We also see that he created male and female and that both male and female were created in the image of God. As Christians, we believe in the Holy Trinity, God is Triune. Not three gods, one God with three persons – all distinct, but all equal. As Christians we believe that this is something that makes God great, not only is he perfect, but he is the perfect picture of relationship – God is in relationship with himself! The different persons of the Trinity have different roles, this does not make them unequal, just different. Is it possible that something similar exists for the men and women that God made in his image? Could it be that God made men and women equal but better suited to different roles?

Jumping ahead…

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

Now I guess you may be thinking what has this to do with bishops? At first glance not a lot, what I am trying to demonstrate is the role being described. Paul is saying, that in a marriage, the husband is to exercise headship over his wife just as Christ is head of the church. Just as human relationships echo the perfect relationship of the trinity, so marriage is a reflection of the Church. I am guessing that a lot of feminists will be getting very anxious at this point, especially with the use of the word ‘submit’ and all the connotations that go with it however, Paul goes on…

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33

This submission is not a ‘down on your knees, grovel in the dirt’ slavery kind of submission, this is a respect from a position of safety knowing that you are being loved by someone willing to die for you kind of submission. The thing to extract from this is that husbands are instructed to love and wives are instructed to submit to that love.

Given that human relationships echo the perfect relationship of the trinity and the marriage relationship (which man is given headship of) reflects the Church, it becomes slightly easier to see where the traditional view that only men should be in positions of leadership within the Church comes from. When you start to look at the issue from this point of view, it is not about discrimination in the workplace, it is about a fulfilment of God-given roles.

The first thing I did when I read about the ‘No’ vote was to speak to my mum (which may give you an idea about how I view women teaching the Bible)! She made an interesting point about how the overall situation felt…

In the past over issues of slavery, poverty and education, the Church has always been a spearhead challenging the people to think differently and be more like the person of Christ regarding these matters. In this situation, it feels like the Church is jumping on the ‘equality’ bandwagon in an attempt to conform and appeal to more people. We know that it is not for Christians to conform…

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

So, women bishops, yay or nay? Paul describes man as ‘the head of the wife’ as Christ is ‘the head of the church’. Any earthly leaders of the Church are still only members of that Church under Christ which incidentally Paul describes as ‘she’. It would be no bad thing if the leaders of the Church exercised their ‘wifely’ duties and submitted fully to the authority of Christ over all matters; and as we have read it is the role of women to submit…

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Different Heroes…

I had meant to do this post for Remembrance Day, but didn’t quite get to it…

My mum tells a story about the first meeting between her parents and my dad’s parents; it sounds like one of those situations where you wouldn’t even want to be a fly on the wall. Once you have read through this post, you may understand that what was always going to be an uncomfortable meeting went to a new level of awkwardness when my mum’s dad asked my dad’s dad, ‘What did you do during the war?’…

At the age of 23 my mum’s dad Ronald Frederick Taylor went to war – although not a trained doctor he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. He delighted in telling us the story about the first time he was in attendance at an amputation; the surgeon removed and handed the leg to my grandad who promptly passed out. He awoke around half an hour later with the aforementioned leg still lying on his chest!

We only know a few of the details of what Grandad Taylor did during the war, just after the war, it wasn’t something he wanted to talk about and by the time I became old enough to be properly interested Alzheimer’s had taken much of the clarity away. What we do know is that it was certainly a busy war! Grandad spent time in the deserts of North Africa under Montgomery with 21 Army Group, fought hand-to-hand with the Japanese in the jungles of Burma and ended the war in Europe.

In Europe, my Grandad at the age of 28 was present at the liberation of Belsen concentration camp, I cannot imagine the horrors he would have had to deal with being part of the medical corps but the photographs below give you an idea of some the sights. Where there was text on the back of the photographs, I have added it as captions. They do not always make complete sense, but you will get the idea…

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My dad’s dad, Roy Wallington Dalton was a conscientious objector. He did not choose this because he was a coward, he had to endure a lot of stick because of his decision. He did not choose this because he was lazy, he did not sit out the war claiming the moral high ground, he dug the land in order to provide much-needed food for the country, so why did he do it? Both of my grandads were Christians, but as a member of the Brethren church, to Grandad Dalton, ‘Thou Shalt not Kill’ was absolute regardless of situation or circumstance. Grandad Dalton always spoke of his faith, not just to his family and friends, but to everyone! People who knocked on his door, people in the queue next to him in the supermarket his concern for the lost was extraordinary!  God did not want Grandad Dalton to fight during the war, so he did not – as simple as that.

I imagine that many reading this post will look at Grandad Taylor as the hero of the two, fighting the Germans, fighting the Japanese and helping to liberate those in the most desperate of circumstances. I consider both of my Grandads to be heroes, real heroes. One for having the courage to fight and provide the freedom that we live under, and the other for having the courage to wholeheartedly accept the gift of that freedom…

“Our heroes are men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes.”  – Mark Twain

Lest we forget…

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