Friday, June 29, 2007

Weather and Politics: Has anything really changed?

They say that things go in circles but at times I am quite sure that the circles become a little irregular over time.

The weather has been tempestuous in the last week but, as my Mother always says, the weather has had moments like this in the past. The floods in Sheffield were a little surprising and I sat there I remember walking down the roads we have been seeing on the news. The area that featured heavily on the news (the lower Don valley), though, had been raised as an area that was at risk from flooding. I know this as it was one of the concerns of the developers I spoke to when researching my MA dissertation on the area. What goes around, comes around but in a far more disastrous way than anyone could have imagined.

Likewise, you remember that the weather on May 2nd 1997, some ten years ago, that the weather was a glorious, sunny day. It was a remarkable day and felt more like mid-July than early May. It felt like things were changing as we excitedly welcomed a new regime and the cycle of the weather just seemed to represent that.

So, in completing that cycle, it seems logical that we have unusual weather at the end of that regime and the start of a new one. It is one of the wettest Junes in history which could be seen as a metaphor for what is happening in UK politics. However, the picture is more complex than that.

Ten years of Blair could be seen as marred by one word: Iraq but that misses out on some of the other problems. No clearer position on Europe than when he came to power, higher taxation, tuition fees and continuing funding problems for the NHS, transport and education are all part of the negative legacy. Life is, though, rarely as simple as that. We’ve also seen a vast collection of positive change including increased funding in public services, the environment at the heart of the political agenda, tackling (though not resolving) world poverty, Northern Ireland, a stable economy, Civil Partnerships and a far more equal, just and liberal society.

So, in a way, it seems appropriate that the weather was neither the glorious sunshine of 2nd May 1997 nor the downpours of 26th June 2007. Instead, 27th June was a mixture of sunshine and showers. A far more fitting, British and balanced response by the weather to the changes in Downing Street.


Friday, June 22, 2007


I have finished Andrews Marr's 'History of Modern Britain.' A gripping and intriguing programme, allowing some reflection on our Country since the war. Though there was no shocking revelations or new historical perspective, it analysed the country's situation well. Though Britain has changed in the last 50 years, he concluded that things were not better nor worse but simply different. As Marr concludes:

'It's been a strange journey, our long march out of post-war austerity towards today's swarming, material profusion.

For the last sixty years Britain has been on the from line of change:
From the Cold war to Thatcher's Revolution.
From de-industrialisation to online culture.

Britain has been transformed from the planet's most sprawling empire to an island that is now home to people from all over the world, the many-coloured heart of the global economy.

The History of Modern Britain, for all our increased wealth has been surprisingly turbulent; plenty of tight spots and loose living, political mistakes and embarrassments of all kinds.

Looking ahead, we world's islanders, as we have become, are more open and perhaps more vulnerable than ever before.

And yet, to be born British remains a fantastic stroke of luck.'

I could not agree more,

Sunday, June 17, 2007

So this is Prague…

Welcome to the airport in the middle of Prague where the world seem to be racing past as I wait for my plane to check-in and have chance to type up the minutes from the last few days.

Prague has changed since I was last here. The centre is a lot more tourist-friendly, all clean paint and clear directions to popular bars. The outside, though, is poor and, indeed, looking poorer. The money that is coming into the Czech Republic is being focussed on a very small areas. There are more Western Shops (Subway, M&S, Mothercare etc.) but there are all the deals for currency. There are more signs marking prices in Euros (to start a bid for the single currency) but everyone works in small amounts of change. There are some changes but only for a few people.

I suppose, I have changed, too. I have gone from Youth Hostel to an Apartment Hotel. From bus/tram transfers to taxi transfer. I have gone from T-shirt and shorts to suit and ties. That said, it was still enjoyable and the beer was just as good as I remembered!

It has to be said that the last few days in that I have had to breathe, live and almost sleep Erasmus Mundus. There is a feeling that the world is shrinking and courses like this seem to prove it. Students from 23 countries being taught in three countries. The reality of the course is becoming clear. The way that different countries work is incredible; from how you have coffee in meetings to how you make a point (Czechs = short and lacking in detail, Dutch = talk around the issue and are lacking in detail).

At the same time as working, I have a variety of meetings with tutors including some in an informal way. I have talked to several lecturers about doing doctorates and what surprised me I the way that they link to the real world. Furthermore, there is a real need for the research I do to have an impact on the world around me. At this stage, University is less about education and more about looking at the world around us.

I was talking to a tutor as I travelled in to the meetings and we were discussing various students and she asked me when I had finished. She went on to say that this was exactly the way that they would have talked about me. I was suddenly struck by the fact that I had changed sides of the table and how much my life had changed since graduating, a matter of months a go.

So I am sitting in an airport, having worked on a series of meetings and the reality of my situation is suddenly clear.

This is not a game and when I do not know quite what to do it sometimes feel like I am playing at being a University administrator. This is real. With money. And it needs to be done well.

Such is the reality of needing and enjoying employment,


This is an 'update' e-mail I sent to my friends on 25th May 2007 which summarises the sort of thing I have been up to recently.

Dear All,

It is 5pm on Friday, the boss has been on holiday for three hours and it is the bank holiday weekend so I feel no guilt at sitting at my desk and typing up a quick note to you.

3 months into my first job and I imagined myself working in a local news room, starting on my way to being Director General of the BBC. Instead, I find myself looking after a collection of courses, bids and tenders for a University. My job splits into two halves: firstly helping organise and write bids for funds from Europe, the British Council, business etc to run courses or consultancy via Roehampton University. This brings in huge amounts of dosh. The other half of the job is actually running these courses and, particularly, the Erasmus Mundus courses. So I have weird days ... so far today I have spoken to the British Council in Ethiopia, the UK Embassy in Uganda, the UN in Turkmenistan, students in 23 countries and partner Universities in four different countries. It is quite mind blowing but enjoyable. I am even keeping up my media skills as I re-write the website, write press releases, produce new marketing material and I am about to fly out to Prague to attend some meetings as well as film some of out promotional DVD. It's not journalism but it is all good fun and decidedly better paid.

Life wise, I am busy. I live in Wimbledon just half a mile from the tennis (pop in if you're going!). I am singing with the Church choir when I can which is good fun and uses the old grey matter a bit. Also, I have now attended the first meeting of the Church in Wales Governing Body (the ruling body, like the Synod in the C of E). I made my maiden speech in favour of female bishops and found the event both fascinating and shattering. On top of this, I may be about to embark on a PhD part time.

The family are well ... Bro is now a stock manager at Sainsbury's Thetford and is in the processes of finalising his first house. It has only taken 18 months since putting in an offer...

I'm off to the Proms in the Park on September 8th and it would be great if some of us could get together and show the rest of the world how to sing... do get in touch.

For now though, it is 5.18pm and I am struggling to decide if I should finish the paperwork, do the washing or enjoy a nice cool G&T ... I think you can guess which will win,

Love and Best Wishes to all,

Women in The Church in Wales

Below is a copy of the speech I made to the Governing Body (the 'synod') of the Church in Wales on Female Bishops on 12th April 2007.

Church in Wales Governing Body: 11 – 12 April 2007

Item 18 - Women in the Episcopate Discussion

Your Grace, Chair, Fellow Members of the Governing Body

Christopher Grinbergs, Co-Opted, St. Asaph

Last Summer … as a trainee journalist … I was privileged to attend the sessions of the Church of England General Synod when they discussed this specific issue.

As part of my report and masters dissertation on the subject, I interviewed not only bishops and vicars but also a variety of young people both within and without the church. I want to emphasise some of the points made earlier but from a young person’s point of view.

Now I know I cannot speak for ALL young people … I have a twin brother who is as opposed to female ordination as I am in favour … which has lead to some … interesting … dinner discussions. That said, amongst some of my contemporaries there is a problem of perception.

There is a perception that women are not viewed as full members of the church … as second class citizens … as though they are not allowed to lead within the church.

There is a perception that the church is out of touch and simply going over old ground. Indeed, as I prepared for these sessions, a friend of mine was astonished this debate had arisen YET again.

There is a perception that the church is an institution that is irrelevant due to the lack of female bishops. And this is not helped by my inability to justify why we do NOT have women bishops.

To people of my generation:
· Equal Opportunity legislation is an expected right not a novelty.
· Female vicars are the norm not an exception.
· Women have accessed the top levels of business, education and politics. I vaguely remember a female Prime Minister … but I’m NOT sure she is the best example of what female leadership would do for the church.

These facts create a feeling that the church is separate to society rather than being at the heart of it. There is no single answer to changing the situation but women in the episcopate would act as a step along the way.

So, in the forthcoming discussions, debate and legislations, I urge people to challenge these views and find a way forward so that more young people can more easily relate to the church and perceive … instead of division over women … unity through Christ’s love and an acknowledgement of everyone’s gifts.