Silence on the south coast

It’s not often that I go silent for days at a time, but this week I’ve spent less than an hour at a computer and an awful lot of time in an airless, windowless, sauna-like assembly hall for week two of my conference fortnight. There are many things I could say, but its work and I don’t blog about its intricacies. However, there are a few highlights – some of which could’ve been entire posts in themselves, except I lacked the time and now lack the energy.

I nearly bumped into (literally, not metaphorically) the Archbishop of Canterbury. A warning of his imminent (early) arrival had me haring around the building trying sort things out – I just didn’t look where I was going whilst dashing round one particular corner.

Later that same day, I took on the role of bouncer for the Archbishop’s Finger Buffet. [I’m not entirely sure if that was its official title, but there was a finger buffet and an Archbishop, so it’ll do.] Fortunately, Christians are on the whole an easy bunch to patrol and don’t try to gatecrash select gatherings, so it wasn’t a particularly tricky job.

Portsmouth (Conference’s chosen location this year) turned out to be Gloucester-by-the-sea. We were resident in possibly its most impressive building (during the day) and unimpressive hotel (at night). However, should you ever be in the vicinity, we also discovered a fabulous restaurant which made a lot of money out of us over the week. The Kraken Wakes has exceedingly yummy fresh food, good music and a quirky ambience that in London would cost a fortune but down south costs a lot less. (Plus, they made my night last night thanks to the provision of Prosecco, lush hot chocolate with plenty of mini-marshmallows and a mug full of chocolate buttons.)

Other highlights included:

  • Someone asking me if I was “the girl whose Dad looks just like Gerry Adams?”. [In case you’re wondering, yes my Dad does, but I can’t for the life of me work out how the young person who asked me knew this.] 
  • A friend of the above person asking if I was Mim’s sister. I am, but of all the family members to be mentioned in this context, my sister’s at the bottom of the list. Haven’t quite worked out that connection yet. 
  • The presence of a large screen showing Wimbledon just outside the building and managing to catch the last game of Murray’s quarter-final after business adjourned just in time. 

Now, if I could just have a decent run of consecutive nights sleeping in my own bed, I’d be a very happy woman.

Worrying distractions

This time last year, I’d been consigned to Scarborough for 8 days to attend my employer’s annual conference. It was a memorable experience, so much so that I was a little sad not to get the chance to go again this year. Then I remembered it was being held in Wolverhampton and wasn’t sad anymore.

But, lest I feel totally excluded, there is the live audio feed of the debate online! Halleluia!
Thanks to this joyous invention I have been tethered to my laptop via my headphones all week. As time has passed, I’ve become increasingly concerned about my behaviour.
Initially, I was intending to listen to particular items – a hymn book debate, a report I’d written, the youth reps… Then I gave in and listened to pretty much all of it. I left for lunch when they broke for lunch, had cups of tea when they did, heck, I even had it on at home on Tuesday night! (In my defence, that was when my report was passed.)
Not only was I listening, I found myself talking aloud from time to time or nodding my head in agreement. My copies of the agenda came out and I took notes of particularly interesting issues. I joined the niche of people on Facebook making comments about it. I was officially a Conference junkie.
Last night I realised that when it finished at lunchtime today, I’d miss it. It’s been a comforting background noise, like a Test Match or Radio 4, but with odd appearances from friends and colleagues. I’m hoping it’s only become a crutch thanks to the office being virtually deserted.
But thing is, I need help. This is not normal – this is not me!! I shouldn’t be a Conference junkie! I don’t belong to this denomination any more. I have a life – it’s quite exciting at times. I shouldn’t be able to recall the intricacies of Faith & Order debates…
Please could someone save me from this mire? (I’m thinking either some comedy distractions or perhaps a new job?)
If no one comes to my rescue, I may be forced to share with you the only joke to be found in CPD…

Done & dusted

Conference is over. But, despite blogging some of its eccentricities, I’ve clearly missed a trick. I’ve just looked at the Church Times blog’s article on Conference (in the midst of General Synod and GAFCON sagas) and they’ve highlighted the biggest eccentricity of all – the cakes.

As Dave Walker writes:

Saturday 5 July: No cake reported
Sunday 6 July: The Vice-President, an eccles cake
Monday 7 July: The Methodist Relief and Development Fund – apple and honey cake, then fruitcake provided by the Methodist Minister’s Housing Society
Tuesday 8 July: Iced sponge supplied by MHA

(The links are to the Methodist Church’s diary of Conference.)

Actually, I didn’t get to taste any of them, though the MRDF one looked particularly yummy. But it’s true, Methodists do like their cake – lots.

Incidentally, I’m a tad disappointed that Dave Walker hadn’t mentioned me in his list of bloggers blogging Conference. But that’s probably a good thing. After, it’s not that interesting really.

Things to do whilst conference is in closed session:

1. Go to the bar, as instructed by the General Secretary. It’s not often you’re directed to alcoholic establishments whilst at Methodist events – so make the most of it.
2. Trek around Scarborough trying to find a highly recommended fudge shop.
3. Locate fudge shop, have hot chocolate in lovely little cafe whilst waiting for fudge shop to open.
4. Buy 5 different varieties of truly amazing fudge from aforementioned fudge shop.

Honestly, it’s the most bizarre place. Think of a chocolate bar or other similarly yummy confectionary item and this shop has encased it in fudge. Talking to the girl behind the counter, she said that her boss comes up with new ideas every other day. The “heavenly” in its name isn’t a lie.

I bought (small quantities!) of: vanilla fudge with flake; chocolate fudge with after eight mints; vanilla fudge with curly wurly; Jack Daniels fudge and my personal favourite, vanilla fudge with toblerone – as shown below:

From the gallery

As I’m not a represenative at Conference, I get to sit up in the gallery (in rather narrow, but squishy, plush orange seats) with a great view of what’s going on below.

Over the last three days, I’ve been struck by the types of people that are sat up there. There’s the usual suspects – other members of staff and off-duty stewards – but then there appears to be a significant number of older people who just seem to be on a day trip.

My suspicions were confirmed when one of my colleagues mentioned that a couple from his church were staying in Scarborough for a few days specifically to go to Conference. They’d even bought copies of the agenda. Very, very odd!