Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 to 2006: Hopes and Fears

‘I noticed tonight that the world has been turning whilst I’ve been stuck here dithering around. […] But I can’t stop now, I’ve got troubles of my own. Because I’m short on time, I’m lonely and I’m too tired to talk’ (“Can’t stop now”, Keane)

Unfortunately for you, though, I’m not too tired to write. Keane issued this song in May 2004 but their album has, for me, summarised this year, with its examination of “Hopes and Fears.” As any year passes into a new one it’s a good opportunity to look back and assess as well as to look forward and predict. Whilst the major broadcasters can be left to do the day-by-day analysis, I will add in my own take on events.

This year started out with so many dreams. It was seen as year where Britain could truly mark itself on the world stage with the Presidency of the G8 and the EU. This was meant to be the year when Poverty was made History. This huge aim was almost guaranteed to fail simply due to the scale of change needed for it so succeed. However, history was made, on an international, national and personal level. I started 2005 with the aims of getting a 2:1, starting towards a career in Journalism, being confirmed and finding a partner. Just like the world’s aims on January 1st 2005, things had to change. However, I think of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians which talks of ‘Faith, hope and charity’ and, together with Keane’s lyrics, this provides a good framework for my reflections on 2005.


‘Everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same.’ (Everybody’s changing)

Faith seems to play an increasing part of our every day lives; not only faith in a religious sense but also in the sense of our common faith in ‘the establishment’ and ‘justice.’

In July we saw one of the most startling attacks on London in peacetime. The attacks were due to fanaticism and the Islamaphobia which resulted seems abhorrent to the vast majority of people, of all faiths. At the same time as a national growth in faith awareness, I have questioned and grown in faith. All individuals need to go through periods of questioning; just as we have to collectively assess who or what we have faith in, so must everyone of us re-assess our opinions on our own spiritual situation. The London bombings and the acts of natural disaster have given an increased sense of a greater being. Some argue that these events have made us feel Godless but I feel more that it proves to me that there must be a greater plan out there.

In a time and society where faith is deemed unimportant, I have been confirmed, Prince Charles and Camilla have felt it necessary for their marriage to be blessed and all faiths in the UK have united against terrorism. This is something that will continue into 2006 with the Islamic Fundamentalists in Iran increasingly challenged and the fear that Iraqi dissidents will attack Western targets. This is not a safe world but it is a faithful one. That faith exists despite the changes and leads me to have hope in tomorrow’s peace.


‘Is this the place we used to love, is this place I’ve been dreaming of. […]
I’m getting old and need something to rely on […] I’m getting tired and need somewhere to begin.’ (Somewhere only we know)

Britain has been through quite substantial changes and the events of the G8, Live 8, the regeneration to come with the advent of the London Olympics, dreams following a history-making third labour term and the changes within the Conservative party bring us hope for what is to come. For me personally, the change from Warwick to Sheffield has shown me that leaving university is possible and shows future changes will be, if not easy, manageable. My growing love of journalism beings me excitement and joy for what is to come. So whilst, as Keane point out, there are things (i.e. Love) which I look for, the events of 2005, for me, bring me hope for what will come.

Our individual fears over degree results (Bro and I were thrilled with our 2:1s) or common fears over the future of the Catholic Church following the loss of a much-loved Pope, share the themes of both sadness over the loss of an old way of life but optimism over what may come. We look for stability in our lives but Keane reminds us of the conundrum that faces us. We need something stable to rely on but also somewhere to begin, to move on from. The change from University to ‘real life’ is not an easy one but it is one step in a long journey.

Though there have been failures, even in disappointment hope can be found. The EU budget was not quite what we wanted, the G8 did not eradicate poverty, the General Election is yet to bring the change we want. However, the reaction of individual humans in crisis has been the greatest source of hope along with their ability to give and not need in return.


‘Something I wasn’t sure of but I was in the middle of, something I forget now but I’ve seen too little of. The last time you fall on me for anything you like.’ (This is the last time)

This quotation seems to prove that we cannot ask for anything more. The song actually, for me, highlights our errors in that we have not paid enough attention to one another. Yet, in the last twelve months, the reverse has been true.

Charity has been the greatest surprise of 2005. The way individuals have been able to react to the Tsunami, the South-East Asia Earthquake or Hurricane Katrina with generosity has been gobsmacking. As has people’s kindness and support of me. The year has been emotionally tough with change disturbing me. Yet the kindness of family and friends plus their generosity to give up their time to support me, fund me and, above all, love me has been remarkable. I thank them for that. Charity is not about giving money but time and love as well. In the next twelve moths, I hope to be able to repay these acts of kindness and love. Thus, as Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians reminds us, when examining ‘faith, hope and charity […] the greatest of these is charity.’ This has been so true in 2005. I hope it is true for the next year.

So, I pray you go forward into 2006 with many hopes and not too many fears. May your faith in life be strengthened, your hopes be fulfilled and your charity welcomed and reciprocated.

Happy New Year,

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Christmas is a strange event. It's seized on by some as the most significant part of the Christian year, as proof that anything can be commercialized for others and further proof of the death of religion on this country for still others. However, on further examination of all these theories, as well as looking at national and personal events of the last twelve months, it becomes clear to me that the situation is a little more complicated.

Christianity has two main celebrations every year; the first is to mark the arrival of the Son of God on Earth and the other to mark his departure. Total church attendances at Christmas are about 1.2 million on an average Sunday but on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day total nearly 3 million. On Easter Sunday it's about 2 million. It is clear that Christmas is the greatest attraction in the Christian Calendar. However, without the events of Easter and the resurrection of Christ, the birth of a baby two thousand years ago in Bethlehem would be insignificant. So, many churches become sniffy about the sudden growth of their congregations at Christmas, arguing that many are missing the point of the faith. Indeed for me, the wonder of Easter was highlighted this year when I was confirmed on Easter Eve. The Congregation at Coventry Cathedral moved from the old, dark, destroyed Cathedral to the new, light, resurrected one. It was a metaphor for our lives, our faith and, indeed, our God. I believe that Christmas should be seen in the same way. The light of this time of year shines amongst the darkness. It is optimistic and Christians must hope that this light will touch some of the seasonal visitors, welcoming rather than shunning them.

Despite this, the fact remains that only three million attend a Christian worship. The God of shopping and commercialisation seems to reign. My Brother (a trainee manager at Sainsbury's) informs me that they will have taken nearly two million pounds in his store in the last week. People seem to think they need to stock up for a nuclear war and not the shops being closed for a mere two days. However, the very fact that people are wanting to stop, spend time as a family and bring joy to those around them in the form of food or presents is very traditional, indeed very Christian. Britain is still a predominantly Christian society even if the number of active followers is decreasing. The values of the faith still dominate but have taken a more worldly view.

This has been a year here in Britain where we have become aware like never before of the multitude of faiths in this country. With the bombings in London, conflicts in the world and our own, personal faith struggles, it has become clear that religion often seems distant in our lives. That said, the strengthening of inter-faith relationships along with the stories of survival that come from all these events is remarkable. All faiths can learn from each other and perhaps this Christmas Christians should focus on being as inclusive as possible. This summer I was staying near the Taizé community in France. This community preached peace and welcomed Christians of all denominations. Peace, its founder Brother Roger argued, should spread from person to person. He, like the former pope, believed in the power of young people to break down barriers between faiths. Whilst I was there, Brother Roger was stabbed in an attack by a woman suffering from mental health problems. I attended the Sunday Communion Service there a few days later, just two days before the funeral. There was a feeling of hope in the future and, despite this tragedy, the life, work and dream of Brother Roger must continue. His successor, Brother Alois, will produce his first Christmas message and will call afresh for all people to unite in peace. A message that all people, Christian or otherwise, should be able to agree with.

In conclusion, every person should feel welcome, joyous and peaceful at this time of year. Whatever their church attendance record is, whichever religion they belong to, whatever their race, class or sexuality, each human should be welcome.

I therefore send to you, those you love and those who love you, every blessing and pray you have a joyful, peaceful and loving Christmas.

Merry Christmas, CJG x

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Oops I did it again!

OK, so once again it has been far too long between entries on my blog. Sincere apologies.

This is but a short entry as I have planned to make two major entries over the next few weeks. I plan to publish two more reflective entries one for Christmas (focusing on more spiritual things) and a second for New Year (looking both forward and back. Granted all of this could go out the window but that is the aim.

Currently I am at home following the completion of my first term at Sheffield. Loads of work, loads of journalism and loads of fun. I am so very lucky. The last week included four concerts, two portfolios of articles to sort, ethics research, law preparation and a TV news day. All of this went very well meant resulted in sleep deprivation!!

Since being at home I have helped Mother with Christmas Preparations as well as finally writing my own Christmas cards. I also went to a Civil Partnership Ceremony which was very moving. It was moving and I was very pleased for them both.

I do hope that you are well and that your preparations for Christmas are going swimmingly.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

My Rucksack and Beliefs

There’s a song by a Christian rock band called ‘Delirious’ that says that as Christians we stand for ‘peace, hope and justice.’ This little tricolon of ideals is not only true for the Christian but in many ways true for the whole of society and, in my case, true for the journalist. There is a feeling that the BBC is a little too liberal in its point of view and leans a little too far to the left. I think as Broadcast Journalists, who by law are not allowed to be partisan, this is somewhat inevitable as we look for the truth even in the smallest story and for speaking up for the minority. Thus, when clearing out my rucksack the other day, it occurred to me that this not only summarised my life but also my beliefs and, hopefully, those of my fellow hacks. I found the following items:

1. My Notebook
Well actually, I carry three notebooks at the moment. I have one for my Chesterfield patch, one for Sheffield news stories and a general rough one. The notebook is the most precious thing in the journalist’s possession. It is where they make the notes to ensure that we are honest and getting the full truth. It can be used in a court of law to defend what we say. Whilst as a broadcast Journalist you would think that the audio or camera tape would be more important, in reality the notebook is more important as it has the full record, as we saw in the Gilligan affair. His lack of use of a notebook called into question the justice and honesty of the media. So, wherever I go, I carry a notebook. You just never know when that big story will occur.

2. My Contacts Book
A trainee journalist with a contacts book? A little over the top? Well, no, actually. As I go around Chesterfield and Sheffield I meet people. They form useful contacts for news days. Indeed, when we were doing a news day last week, a big education story broke and I managed to track down the Sheffield Secretary of the NUT. I interviewed and his name went in the book. Just a week later, a group of Sheffield teachers voted to strike. I could instantly pass my contact onto the guy covering the story. Even at out level, the contacts book is essential. Returning to the Gilligan affair, he is often criticised by people for not naming his source. Amongst journalists, this is the one area where he can be defended as the naming of source breaks people’s confidence in journalists and makes future sources less likely to talk.

3. Pens and Pencils
I carry quite a few … you do not want to run out at the wrong moment!

4. A Diary
Time Management is at the heart of a journalist’s life. Ok, so I may be a little late for my Tuesday 9am law lectures but I have yet to be late to an interview. At the moment, trying to co-ordinate my life without one would be near impossible.

5. An Umbrella, hat and gloves
It’s cold and wet out there. Let’s be practical. There’s a famous clip of a journalist ending his report (and I forget his name) along the lines of ‘John Smith, BBC News, Cold Wet, 2 kids, mortgage and pissed off.’ So to at least to avoid some of these issues, a coat and umbrella means I can hang around in drafty halls or outside soggy council blocks so as to get the best and fairest story possible.

6. A lunch box
It’s said that an army marches on its stomach. Well, so does a journalist but often lacks the time to buy sandwiches (and money for that matter). The lunch box is essential.

7. Mini-Disks
Essential really. In the modern world we do not use tapes and are not up to MP3 so a large book like think which includes a minidisk recorder is our tool of choice. A bit heavy but quite good to use to push people out of the way to get to the front of a crowd. Does not cause too much damage. And also proves that we are just in our reporting.

8. Pen Knife, Tissues and Condoms
More useful than you would think. The penknife to put the camera back together as the tripod regularly falls a part. Tissues to clean the lens of the camera, the face of the journalist and dry of the wet mini-disk player. Condoms are the BBC standard issue so as to stop wind noise recording. I find turning my back to the wind helps more. The items have other uses. The Pen Knife is useful to cut sandwiches. The tissues can be used to wipe greasy finger from eating sandwich or blow nose. And I gather condoms have another use. Couldn’t possibly comment …

9. CD/Radio Player
Two reasons. Firstly, it can be very boring on a train … Secondly, at times you need to keep up to date with what else is happening.

10. A Book
Again, you can get bored. I’ve got Nick Hornby at the moment. Free with the Independent a month a go. Must get beyond page three.

11. Spare Batteries
For the CD player (train journeys are long) and for the mic.

12. Me?
Perhaps the journalist’s greatest asset is himself. Equipment is all well and good, training doubly so but the most important bit of reporting is me. The rucksack shows how I try to be prepared and my mentality towards the job in hand. However, just like any Christian, I have to fight for the peace, hope and justice. It’s a long battle.

Fighting the good fight, CJG x