Rock & Roll with extra cheese (and some rather spicy sauce!)

When it comes to music, films, TV etc (entertainment in general I guess) I’m a rather odd specimen of a man – enjoying an eclectic mix of styles, genres, eras and volumes! I can watch everything from sci-fi blasts to detective dramas, comedies to quizzes, debates to debacles. I listen to music from so many eras covering pop, rock, dance, jazz, classical, electronic, metal, worship, atmospheric and more. In fact the only music I can’t appreciate is manufactured plastic rubbish that you know doesn’t mean anything to the person singing it.

One era and style I do particularly love is 80s Rock. I grew up listening to Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Meatloaf and more and still love ramping up the volume to scream out the lyrics to some of the classic anthems from that time.

So when we saw an interview with Justin Lee Collins and Shane Ward on BBC breakfast talking about the West End musical “Rock of Ages” I immediately knew that this was something I *have* to go and see.

We’ve not made it to London (yet – it’s planned for sometime in the future though!) but when a film version was released my curiosity was definitely piqued.

Last weekend my wonderful wife, who has impeccable taste it must be said, chose for us to see the film when we had a chance to escape the kids for a day and grab a couple of hours in the midst of all the house hassles.

All I can say is WHAT A BLAST!

Now I’ll get the potentially offensive stuff out of the way first – although everything in this film is done to maximise the cheese factor and it’s all done in a humorous manner. The film definitely isn’t one for the kids, despite the 12A rating. There is a bit of bad language but there is a lot of suggestive and sexual innuendo in the film. Part of it is set in a “Gentlemans” club and features pole-dancers, there is a scene that involves strongly implied sex and there are other bits. BUT – none of it made me feel uncomfortable and it is all played for laughs.

That aside (and, as I say, it didn’t bother me at all) the film is a great romp from beginning to end. The storyline is a cheesy cliche wrapped up in a fairytale sugary syrup – girl meets boy and all the typical journey that tends to follow in those storylines. Think Grease or Dirty Dancing, set in the 80s scene with blue denim or black leather trousers and black T-shirts. You’re not getting a story that will change your life forever and that will bring about world peace to sound of whale song. You are getting a joy-filled, hugely funny, musically superb couple of hours that entertain and leave you with a huge smile on your face for days to come.

The music in the film, as with the storyline, differs slightly (and also significantly in parts) to the stage show but contains so many classics from that time including everything from Journey to Poison, Def Leppard to Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar to Styx and so many others and some of the mash-ups in the film are pure genius! By the end of the film there wasn’t a foot that wasn’t tapping, a head that wasn’t nodding and there weren’t many people who weren’t singing along.

The casting was probably the biggest surprise. Tom Cruises involvement had me a bit concerned, and the Mrs and I both raised eyebrows when the opening credits rolled and we saw Russell Brands name (not the biggest fans, but his involvement was a no-brainer really), however the whole cast are brilliant totally embracing the ham-it-up nature of the film and throwing themselves into their roles completely. The two stars of the show are newcomers and manage to stand their own ground surrounded by Cruise, Brand, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones and others. What has been a huge surprise is the discovery that the actors all sing their own parts (they obviously did this seperate to the filming as you can tell they are miming at points, but they did record the vocals they are miming to!) and that includes Tom Cruise who manages to do a great version of “Paradise City” and “Wanted Dead or Alive”.

The film has so many highlights in it that I can’t do it justice to just pick a few. The funniest moment of all though has to be the scene between Brand and Baldwin – I am never going to be able to listen to the song they sing again without thinking of the film (I’ll say no more as I really do not want to spoil it for anyone!)

If you have a decent sense of humour, and don’t get easily offended, and you love the 80s then you really have GOT to see this film. It’s only made me even more desperate to see the stage show, and we’ve already said that we’ll be getting the Blu-Ray when it comes out!

And if you want to enjoy the original versions of the songs used in the film and the stage versions you can subscribe to my Spotify playlist – to which I may well add a few additional Eighties classics that didn’t quite make it into the show but definitely deserve a place there. Saying that, if all the classics were to be included in the film and the stage show you would be there for days!

The Spotify playlist can be found here:

Love, Life and Communion

What a weekend! One couple committing to a new future together, another celebrating a major milestone and a big reminder of the ultimate expression of love.

You may have noticed it’s been a few weeks since my last blog post. You may also have noticed the little counter that is on the right of my homepage has now gone from counting DOWN to my borthers wedding and is now counting the days SINCE the wedding!

Yup, at long last my cute ickle baby bruvver (can’t resist I’m afraid bro!) has gotten married and boy has he managed to punch above his weight finding someone charming, witty, patient and who looked gorgeous in her wedding dress (OK – I promise I’ll stop picking on you now Roo :-D)

With our daughter as a bridesmaid, me as an usher, and plenty of other things happening it was always going to be a huge build up to the big day. What also added to the weekend was the fact that my Mum & Dad celebrated 40 years of marriage! I was priveleged to be asked to do a cake for the event (which Mrs H baked and I decorated, with an additional surprise of some chocolate and some jammy cupcakes for good measure). I was also honoured to be asked to lead communion following my parents renewing their wedding vows.

I guess this would be a good point to Congratulate Mr & Mrs Hartley Jr and also to offer huge respect and congrats to the patriarch and matriarch of the Hartley Clan!

It was really rather odd in some ways as on the one hand Mrs H and I were watching two people embark on a journey that we’ve been travelling for the past 12 years, and then we were looking ahead at an inspirational and great example of what love and marriage should be like after so many years. Reflection and Vision in the space of two days, not a bad thing really (tiredness and hectic arrangements aside!)

Being asked to lead the communion on the Sunday was a great blessing for me, and I found myself being given a clear direction straight away. As much for my own memory as anything (although I do hope that you will be blessed by it) I thought I’d share my communion notes below. They’re not polished or honed particularly but represent the outpouring of what I felt God wanted to convey through the act of sharing the bread and wine.

Communion. The most intimate act we can ever know

Communion in the dictionary is defined as: com·mun·ion [kuh-myoon-yuhn]
association; fellowship.
interchange or sharing of thoughts or emotions; intimate communication
They act of sharing, or holding in common; participation.

If there is one overriding theme this weekend, it’s Love.

With my baby brother getting married yesterday, and my parents celebrating 40 years of marriage today, it’s also a weekend of commitment, of promise, of covenant and relationship. It’s a time of intimacy and the wonder and mystery of two becoming one.

Our relationship with God takes all of this, and far exceeds what we can fully understand. He is our Father. The Holy Spirit is our companion and guide. Christ is our brother, saviour, Lord and lover of our souls. There’s an intimacy between us and Jesus that exceeds that which those of us who are married share with our other halves.

It goes beyond that though as there is even more to our relationship with Him because, as a church, we are to be the bride of Christ.

The relationship that God the Father, Spirit and Son wants to have with us is so close, so intimate, so complete that it encompasses, and is the ultimate version of, every type of positive relationship that we can have on earth.

Communion is one more expression of that complete devotion towards us. Just as a Bride and Groom give to each other fully, so Jesus is giving fully to us through a piece of bread and a sip of wine. It is a symbol of Jesus, the groom, giving himself completely over to his bride.

Through this simple act the all-embracing relationship with the trinity is demonstrated to us.

1 John 4:10 – THIS IS LOVE: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took some bread. He gave thanks and then he broke it, giving it to the disciples as an act of remembrance. Likewise He took a cup of wine, gave thanks again and passed it to the disciples. The bread to remind us that His body was sacrificed for us, the wine for the blood that was shed as He suffered and died for us all.

That’s love. That’s commitment. That’s intimacy.

As the bread and the cup are brought to you, I pray that you will feel that ultimate and perfect Love coming from heaven. If you don’t feel able to take communion then please let them pass you by – but know that this Love isn’t passing you by and is there for you as much as for anyone.


A New Dawn

A New Dawn

A New Dawn

October the Third Two Thousand and Eleven.

Even spelling it out it doesn’t look much on a page. It’s quite remarkable how the small things can be the biggest. Remarkable yet also logical, scientific and biblical. Scientific as know we’re all made of cells and more, and if you’ve not seen the Laminin clip then head over to my post here. Biblical – remember “faith as small as a mustard seed”?. Logical – well, we’ve all experience it haven’t we? That one moment that changes the course of our lives, or even those lots of moments that form the road map for our lives.

03/10/11 is one of those moments. A breaking dawn on a new day.

In some ways it’s the beginning of the culmination of a 3 year faith journey. Not over yet, and quite how long this new day will be is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly the beginning of what we’ve been praying about and looking for.

On the 3rd October I start my new job. It’s exciting and scary, nerve-wracking and at the same time peaceful, happy and sad. I guess that’s what a lot of new chapters are like, what new days are about really – the ending of one day, the start of another.

I’m genuinely excited about what I’m heading into – there’s potential in this job, and it has the appearance of being a career instead of merely another rung on the ladder. There’s challenges, progression, a chance to play a part in something bigger and a feeling that the only limitation to what lies ahead would be me.

The job isn’t the whole story though just as that first bit of light, following that dark of night, isn’t the full day but merely heralding the commencement. This new role is the first step along a new road for us.

Continue reading “A New Dawn”

Sore throats, Soaring Spirits and SeeSaw Weather – BCDO Part 2

As the God channel are broadcasting the event this weekend, it seems a fairly good time to finish off my two part Big Church Day Out Diary! The first part was on last night and the 2nd part is on tonight at 9pm. Sky+ it, record it, wheel out the old VHS if you have to – and if you don’t get the God channel quickly get to know someone who does and get them to record it for you – you will not regret it. Anyway, on with the blog…

Heavily laden with chairs, food, drink and more, we set out from our tent on each of the two days to go and pick a decent spot and enjoy what was on offer at the Big Church Day Out 2011. The walk from the campsite to the main stage was not particularly far, but it was across some pretty funky terrain (the campsite had 2″ wide troughs in parallel lines every 6 feet which someone always managed to trip in) and the hill was deceptively steep. The weather didn’t know what it wanted to do, and the winds were especially unkind – with many people ending up with damaged tents, and even one of the main stage banners having come down.

With our territory claimed and marked, we settled in – with each of us wandering off every now and then with the kids, or on our own, just to explore the marketplace and the other activities on offer. Whilst people were still turning up the organisers showcased some of the acts who would be on the UCB Stage or the Tea Tent, with each act getting to perform a song and introduce themselves a bit. This was a great way to drum up interest in the smaller venues and I’ve no doubt that it will have been an effective tool in introducing people to some of the less mainstream artists.

Continue reading “Sore throats, Soaring Spirits and SeeSaw Weather – BCDO Part 2”

We’re going on a Big Day Out… Part 1

For those who were there, either this year or last, the above title will probably have you humming an annoyingly catchy little ditty written by the one-and-only Graham Kendrick as the “un”official theme song for the Big Church Day Out.

Yes I know it’s been a few weeks but life has been really crazy since we got back from our exodus down sarf and I’ve only really started to catch up on all my thoughts – but sit back and let me tell you of miracles, divine intervention, mini-reunions and some of the best Christian music that is out there right now.

For those that don’t know, the Big Church Day Out has just had it’s 2nd annual event in the grounds of Wiston Hall. It’s a family orientated affair featuring a main stage full of the biggest names on the music scene, a second stage featuring lesser known (but not lesser talented!) artists and then a load of activities, stalls, charities and more to ensure that there is no way you can possibly get bored (unless you’re a tired 9 year old boy but that’s a different matter really)

We’d decided, after going to the midlands event last year, that we would take advantage of the free camping offer (due to there NOT being a midlands event this year) and head down for the two day event – figuring that it would be fun camping for the first time as a family and that doing both days would allow us all to enjoy the main artists at least once, making it less of a stress if the kids didn’t want to sit through your favourite artist. My brother was immediately up for it, and we made a last-minute decision to invite one of our daughters best friends (2 teenage girls – was that *really* wise??? read on…)

Continue reading “We’re going on a Big Day Out… Part 1”