WAKE UP & Speak, Brother

Wake Up and Speak, Brother

Since moving to Rugby, one of the (many) things that has struck me is just how there seems to be a huge hub of creativity in the town and the surrounding areas. There are artists, writers aplenty and an absolute orchestral overload of talented musicians, songwriters, singers and more. You can’t turn around without discovering more new music, or hearing a new song or few.

What’s even more surprising is the QUALITY of the material – we’re not talking about stuff you listen to, politely nod and then issue that “well, that was…nice” comment. I’m talking about genuinely great music. Lyrics that have depth and meaning. Singers who are passionate about the music and the art, not compromising to become “The Next <insert name here>”

And that leads me onto two connected, but very different, artists. The first one is a worship leader at our church and a genuinely great guy (no, I’m not creeping!) – Jonny Shepherd. I came across Jonnys music a few years ago, before we’d ever even contemplated moving to Rugby, through somewhere like the NoiseTrade website. I picked up a free copy of his “New Day” album and really liked what I heard, so signed up for the mailing list and kept a distant eye on the music he was producing.

When we started to look at Rugby as our new home I got one of his email newsletters through and, much to my utter disbelief, saw that he was not only based in Rugby but also at the very church we were looking into.

Jump forward to now and I’ve gotten to know Jonny a bit and we’ve started to build up a cracking friendship.

Well, that’s all “nice” but what about the music. Well, those on facebook will have seen me push his last EP (Crown of Praise) rather a bit, and that contained some really good music on there – including an instrumental piece that is so good to lean back with eyes closed and listen to. And he has a new EP coming out at the end of this month!

It’s a simple task to nip on over to bandcamp and pre-order the EP, for which you get the title track “Wake Up” as an immediate download and WOW – this is such a different track. Electronic beats and pumping bass coupled with some really strong lyrics. I’m a little biased as it is clearly influenced by Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones that is in the old testament – and that is one of my favourite passages!

Watch the teaser video for the EP below, and then pop to bandcamp and place a pre-order to make sure you get hold of, what promises to be, a great set of new songs!


And here’s the seamless segway across to the second part of this post. When I signed up to join the worship team at New Life, Jonny and I got together at Costa Coffee in Rugby so that we could get to know each other a bit more and in the process he introduced me to a band who were, at that time, called the “James Herring Band”. With hints of Jars of Clay, Mumford & Sons etc I was immediately hooked by their music. During the performance James announced that they were renaming the band and were relaunching as “Speak, Brother”

At a local “Worship Hub” event, I went along to a guitar workshop with James and got chatting to him about music, life and various other things and found him to be such a down to earth, humble guy who is passionate about God and about crafting music that is original and personal.

On May 19th the band launch their debut single, “Dry Bones” – hmmm, ring any bells?, and on the 18th their is a launch gig at a local pub which the Mrs and I will be attending. Keep an eye on their website, follow them on facebook, and take a look at the below video recorded at one of their performances. Then, on the 19th, pick up a copy of “Dry Bones” – it’ll get your feet stomping, your head bobbing and you’ll be singing the chorus for days!


Boxes and Brushes

boxes & brushes

It’s finally happened! On the 12th of July we actually moved from Stamford to Rugby – and the process that was kicked off 5 years ago reached its culmination. With delays occurring even up to the day of the move it proved to be a stressful and nerve-wracking time and not an experience I plan on tackling again anytime soon.

Before I go any further I have got to give a huge shout out of THANKS to everyone who helped us in getting the house in Stamford sorted, packing done, vans loaded, moving in, unloading, unpacking, cleaning, tidying, sorting out DIY etc and anything and everything else. We have managed to achieve a huge amount in the last month and a bit and it couldn’t have been done without the help of family and friends.

Since we moved in we’ve done a lot of work in getting things done – particularly focussing on the kids bedrooms which are now both decorated, unpacked and looking remarkably good. Of course, we did all the sorting out and now the rooms are looking very typical of a boys room and a teenagers room (no visible floor space and you wouldn’t believe that we’d done any tidying up or sorting out!)

Being a techie I have, of course, got some priorities right in sorting out the networking, tv’s, sky, internet and general connectivity 😀 A key focus of all my latest tech setups has been working to try and improve overall functionality whilst reducing the overall impact on our electricity bills – not always the easiest thing to balance out but I’ve at least now started a process that will hopefully allow me to meet the demands of a modern household without fattening the wallets of the power companies too much (boy do I wish there were more eco grants available for solar and wind generation as I’d willingly pop some panels on our roof and a couple of micro turbines)

I had a chat with Mrs H just before we moved and explained that it wasn’t the house I was going to miss in Stamford as it was, put bluntly, an ex-council mid-terrace house with 4 walls and an a-frame roof – what I was going to miss was the people and the places. That’s proven to be true – I really miss some of the people there even though it’s only been a month and a bit. Thankfully we’ve managed to catch up with some folks and even had the weather for a barbeque.

The new house, in contrast to our old one, is one I can see me falling in love with. The house is quirky and full of character, we’ve never seen another house like it. There’s room galore in it so that we can each have our own space and don’t get under each others feet. Everyone who’s seen it has been shocked when they see just how much room it does have as, from the front, it doesn’t look like it’s a big house at all. Quite the opposite in fact as it looks really small from the front aspect. I find myself regularly looking at different areas of the house, garden or workshop (yes, there’s a man cave at the bottom of the garden) and smiling when I realise just how good the house is – and always sending another “thank you” upstairs as there’s no way we’d have got this house without some divine nudging along the way.

The other big thing about the move has been the whole process of trying to get settled in to the area and making new friends. Thankfully God has been ahead of us all the way and there’s a family in the church who live just at the bottom of the hill and we’ve clicked quite well with them. Everyone has been really welcoming and friendly and things will get a bit easier once the kids start at school/college and make more friends and get settled in to a routine a bit more. It’s not the easiest of things for me as I’m not particularly comfortable in new groups and can easily shy away from people – once I get to know folks and get settled it, well that’s a different story… but getting to that stage is a major challenge for me and is something I’m having to try and face head on.

So now it’s time to put down some roots, get settled in, and get ready for whatever we’re called to do. Rugby – you’ve been warned, the Hartleys have arrived! 🙂

A Frantic Serenity

Frantically Serene

(Sadly I’m not talking about a rush to make more episodes of the total excellent and criminally cancelled Joss Whedon series!)

Swimming gracefully on the still waters of a Lake floats the swan – looking serene and peaceful as it loftily looks down on the activity going on around it. As we know though, this is an image that belies the true level of activity going on and is merely an illusion hiding the churning waters underneath. The swan is in fact paddling like mad.

Four days after all the surface chaos that was taking place to secure our new home (pending all surveys etc…) things would appear to be like the swan. We’re waiting for solicitors, surveys, mortgages etc with the whole process taking anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks.

Any rumours of being able to take a few days to relax, breathe, and catch up are greatly exaggerated as we have found that we are unbelivably frantic – sorting out schools (primary, secondary and 6th form), trying to collate a list of all the services etc that we’ll need to contact, filling in forms and paperwork a-plenty. Then there’s trying to enjoy the experience by planning how we can layout rooms, what decorating we can do and in what colours, and trying to fully engage and excite the kids so that they can make the most of this and can create fond memories of this time.

Tomorrow we’re taking them all to see the new house, the first time they will have seen their new rooms other than via pictures on rightmove. It should hopefully prove to be fun for them and will provide us with more of a chance to map out more of the house – all the essentials such as power sockets, tv points, telephone sockets (all important things for a geek like me :-D)

Soon, thoughts will turn to packing up what we have at home (having done a load of packing last year in order to de-clutter the house) and making plans for the logistics etc…

This swan is going to keep on swimming 🙂

On the move…

On The Move

Back in July 2008 I posted on these very pages that we were being called to leave Stamford and move. It’s been nearly 5 years in the making (crazy I know) but it looks like we are now definitely on our way – we’ve sold our house and had an offer accepted on a house in Rugby. So, barring any unforeseen bumps in the road, we’re now getting set for a major step in the life of our family.

When I first announced the move we believed it was to Peterborough, but that proved to be part of a process where God was gently lifting our roots up and shaking away the excess before preparing to plant us where He wants us. There has been a lot of heart-work done over the intervening years – getting us used to the idea of moving, of leaving the area (Mrs H and the Kids have always lived in/around Stamford), of moving away from friends and family, and coming to a point where we could genuinely say “Here I am Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:8)

There’s also been the odd false start, where we felt God was saying “GO” and then it didn’t happen. I’d be lying if I said that I knew why and that it wasn’t frustrating – we don’t fully understand the delays (maybe we never will) and it was frustrating, especially as we’d been telling the kids we were going to move and I really don’t like messing them around.

But that is hopefully all in the past now. We’ve got a buyer for our house, and they are good buyers so there shouldn’t be any problems there (hopefully). We’ve found a great house in Rugby and there’s no chain involved there so hopefully that shouldn’t be complicated. We just need to pray for all the final pieces to fall into place; mortgages, solicitors, surveys and timescales. We also need to pray for schooling and the right provision for the kids. A winning lottery ticket wouldn’t go amiss either 😉

The house we’ve found is a big surprise to us as it’s not something we would ever have normally considered. It needs some work to freshen it up a bit and modernise some of the decor, but it’s a house with character galore and with so much space you could almost lose yourself in it. The garden is a great size and there’s a huge (and I mean *huge*) workshop/shed/man-cave at the bottom of the garden with workbenches and all sorts (even a dust-extraction system that I thought was a hamster run!) so all those DIY projects and ideas will have a home to be started and then gather dust (only joking dear – I *will* try to get projects finished!)

It was a tense day yesterday, waiting to see if our offer was going to be accepted and then finding out that we were up against another family and having to go to a “sealed bid” situation. In the end though we won out and things seem to be clicking into place.

I keep joking with Mrs H about “Does it feel real yet” as there’s been so many hiccups and delays it’s almost a case of “I’ll believe it when I see it”. It also feels really surreal in a strange way, at points it has felt as though we’re just passengers and at other points it’s just been so much work and craziness that I almost gave up on the whole idea.

We’re not there yet. Until those contracts are exchanged, and the money wings its way through the ether to the relvant parties, there’s still scope for challenges – but this has the real sense of Gods timing to it. Our house sold in an amazingly quick time and our “new house” has come at the right time and offers so much more space than we had expected. There is a compromise in the number of bedrooms (3 rather than 4) but as the smallest bedroom is larger than our current largest bedroom we aren’t going to be short of space or storage room!

At the end of the day, all we can do now is provide the info that the solicitors etc request and pray that God smooths the rest of this journey so that we can move without any headaches (but probably with a few tears) and with a sense of excitement about the road that lies ahead. So please pray for us – as I said above we need prayer that solicitors, surveys, mortgages, deadlines, schools etc all fall into place nicely and that’s something that definitely needs a divine touch (as anyone who has ever moved house will no doubt agree!)

By the way – when we get a date we’ll probably come grovelling for help in moving… you’ve been duly warned 😀

2012 – Prayer, Pride and Pauses

Hard to believe it, but we’re already half way through February 2013. It seems crazy that over 6 weeks have past since we bade a fond farewell to, quite probably, one of the most memorable and brilliant years in modern British history.

It was also a year that featured some major decisions as a family, and a frustrating delay.

With such an eventful year the only way to go about summarising it is to start at the very beginning (apparently it’s a very good place to start) – and probably jump about a bit along the way as well.

We went into 2012 knowing that we needed to look at moving house. With my job being over my comfortable commute time, it meant I was getting very tired during the week and not able to do much in the way of socialising in the evenings and the weekends were pretty much spent catching up on rest ahead of the next week of driving. The big question for us was “Where to?”

We’d prayed lots and looked at Google Maps plenty, before narrowing our search down to the west of Northampton – and specifically either Daventry or Rugby. As regular readers here will know we then proceeded to have some fun family weekends away to explore the area and the towns and to test-drive some local churches. Very quickly it became apparent to us that Rugby was where our next stop would be – there’s just something about it that felt right and it’s amazing how it feels like we’re going home when we visit. In fact, it feels so right that it genuinely hurts if we ever drive by there at the moment as we KNOW we should be living there.

So the house went on the market, following some hasty de-cluttering and re-decorating in some parts, and we started to explore houses on the market in Rugby. We even fell in love with a great house that was on the market for an amazing price and was perfect for us.

But it wasn’t meant to be, at least not straight away – we got to September and had to take the decision (due to schooling and exams etc) to pull off the market temporarily. We don’t know why we’ve had to hit “Pause” but we know there’s a reason and a purpose for it.

With the new year here it’s time to dust off the boxes, review “The Plan” and hit play again – let’s get the house on the Market and get moved!

A massively busy and intense, but wonderful and joyful, weekend in April featured not only my parents celebrating 40 years together but also my cute ickle baby bruvver tying the knot (at long last). It was a crazy hectic weekend but one that will definitely go down in the annals of Hartley history… just wish I’d had the courage to play the Hallelujah Chorus when the vicar announced “I now pronounce you man and wife”

2012 also featured London. A lot!!!

Beginning right in January with a trip to see “The Lion King” with the kids – an absolute joy and one that can be strongly recommended as it really is amazing.

With the uncertainty over house moves etc, we didn’t get any tickets for the Olympics – but we were glued to our TV set from first thing in the morning until well into the night, along with most of the country. We did manage to secure some amazing tickets to the Paralympics though – including a session in the stadium and a Park pass for the Olympic Park.

I said it numerous times on Facebook and Twitter during summer last year, but I have never felt so proud to be British in my life. I’ve always been patriotic, and unashamedly so, but last year we rose to the challenges of economic woes, of previous olympic games, and of previous successes – we rose and soared above and beyond. We didn’t try and pretend we weren’t who we are but we embraced our heritage, we grasped hold of our achievements and we then said “THIS is who we are!”

The Olympic tagline was “Inspire a generation” and there’s been much focus on wether or not there’s been an increase in sports take up since the games, but to my mind that is a very narrow minded view. Did the games inspire people to be proud of who we are? did the athletes inspire people to achieve goals and never give up? did the gamesmakers show that we can have a community spirit and that it’s a positive thing?

To top off our London festival, me and Mrs H had a nice weekend getaway which saw us taking our time around Stratford Westfield (and boy was it odd seeing the Olympic Park in a quiet state and with some bits being dismantled), wandering around London itself and taking in some gorgeous sights and sounds, and then going to see Rock of Ages at the theatre. With unbelievably wonderful company I can honestly say it was a brilliant weekend. The show was beyond excellent – getting the audience involved, ad-libbing and improvising (at one point to the intense blushes of the lead actor), and rocking out to some seriously classic ’80s rock anthems.

There was loads of other bits’n’pieces going on – but a lot of stuff got put on hold whilst we waited to see what the house situation was going to look like.

And that, in a nutshell, was 2012. A year that taught us frustration and patience in equal measure, and had us seeking God more than ever for direction, wisdom, and guidance. There were (and still are) challenges and trials, but there was a lot of joy and celebration. Looking back I think it’s safe to say that we all grew during the year, as we faced the imapct of our decisions and the subsequent delays – and I firmly believe we’re all the better for it. I don’t know why we didn’t move last year, we may never know, but we still came through it with resolve and conviction.

A pretty good year when all is said and done!