It’s not Rocket Science

Today was Museum day and the overwhelming vote was for the Science Museum.  A selection of eye candy is included below for those interested.

For me one of the highlights of the day was in the Space gallery.  They had a model of the Solar Heliospheric Observer – SOHO – a European Space Agency satellite I know well.

25b - SOHO

I have a cardboard model of it on my shelf as one of the earliest jobs I had during my years working for Space Innovations Limited in Newbury as a Space Systems Engineer was to test a computer for the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer.  CDS was an instrument designed to detect which elements were found in the Sun’s outer atmosphere (known at the corona).  The computer – known as the Command and Data Handling System had to be tested at a facility in Bristol, where it would be subjected to extreme heat and cold in a vacuum, to ensure its durability once in space.  I tested the unit that went into space (known as the flight model) and also a version for ground testing (known as the Engineering model).

So I took a closer look at the display and spotted a very familiar instrument – in fact the CDS Engineering Model.  So a little closer and I spotted a box I haven’t seen since 1993.  The CDHS I tested in Bristol.

25 - Soho CDS CDHS

You can see it more clearly from the other side but the photo is rubbish because of reflections on the perspex display case.

So why am I so chuffed?  Well, I never thought something I built would end up in the premier Science Museum in England.  But then again I doubt that Stephenson thought his steam engine would take pride of place in a future museum, nor any of the thousands of people who developed our understanding of science over the centuries.

The point is that you never know the outcome of what you do now.  The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes (an Old Testament book whose author desperately needed antidepressants) wrote these words…

Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come?

Ecclesiastes chapter 8 verse 7

Not being God we can’t see the end from the beginning.  As I sat through the night in 1993 waiting to run a diagnostic test at 2am I hadn’t got a clue that 23 years later I would be seeing that unit sat in the Science Museum.  The company I worked for no longer exists.  No human being has seen the flight model CDHS since it launched in 1995.  The spacecraft, instrument and computer I tested were designed to work for 2 years.  I have just checked the instrument data page and the CDHS is still working 20 years after launch.

And my point is….?

It is so easy in this life to spend vast amounts of time thinking about the future.  Career plans, the next gadget, the next boyfriend/girlfriend, a promotion, a pay rise, a change of government (!) but we cannot know what the future will hold – and often those who spend most time trying to bring about the future they want are the ones who fail to either enjoy the present, or achieve their future goals. (Just watch the Apprentice!!!)

Jesus said

25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 ‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6: 25-34

So why not spend some time today focussed on today, on the people around you, on the tasks today has for you to do, rather than thinking about your legacy and the future.  It is MUCH more satisfying to focus on today’s tasks and the current journey, and then to be wonderfully surprised when the future turns up a wonderful surprise.

“Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it’s called the Present”

It’s not Rocket Science – oh – wait!  Today it actually was!


Just a facade

Only a tiny bit of cruising today – off to the water point by the bridge – a nifty bit of reversing under the bridge, which proved to be unnecessary as there is a water point this side and the far side there was a queue.  So back under the bridge, one lap of Little Venice Island and onto the mooring.  Now waiting for the slowest tap in the world to completely fill a very large tank.

Today has been a pottering day after the incredibly strong winds of last night banging the boat around.  Joshua and I pottered off to a Warhammer shop but he was unsuccessful in finding a games partner and I headed off to potter along Charing Cross road and to the Forbidden Planet bookshop aka geek heaven!! I was VERY restrained and only bought a holder for my Oyster card (that we use to pay for underground and buses).  The holder I picked looked like a ticket for the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter.  Back to meet Jacquie and Joel for a partially successful Costa and now here we are filling (and emptying again) certain parts of the boat.

Whilst I was out I saw this building near the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road.

24b - The other side

It is called York Mansions and as you can see it is very poor state.  This view is from Google Street View.  The view I had was from the other side…

224a - Facade

It’s just a façade (pronounced “fass-ard”).  The front is there but the back has completely gone.  Like a film set there is nothing behind what you can immediately see.

Now in this case I’m guessing a new building will be built behind that facade, but its inside won’t match the outside.

So many people who call themselves Christian are like this.  They claim to be Christians, they claim to live a “Christian life” (which can usually be translated as not breaking the law, except the speed limit and a few other socially acceptable transgressions, and not deliberately hurting other people, except when they deserve it).

Even those who are regular Church goers can have the façade of a Christian – they look Christian to everyone else, but is there really something behind the façade.  Does the outside match the inside?  Or is there nothing behind the façade?

24c - Facade

This is a real challenge for us all, me included.  I know what people see of me on the outside doesn’t match what goes on inside.  My aim and plan (and I think God’s plan as he works on me) is that the difference should become less and less, as He makes me more like Jesus.  That what people see is who I really am.

But what about you?

It’s True!

23a - Risen

It’s true!  It’s all true!  The empty tomb is the final nail in Death’s coffin.

Despite all theories to the contrary almost every individual who has looked clearly at the evidence offered for Jesus’ resurrection has come to the conclusion that it is true.  Coroners, Judges, Lawyers and Theologians have all come to this tomb, and many have left convinced.

Death could not maintain it’s hold on this Jesus and a new hope was born – that those who follow Him might walk, like Him, through Death and out the other side.

We sang this today as we joined hundreds of other believers at Holy Trinity Brompton to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I couldn’t quite believe that we were there.  Finally, after months of planning and hours of travelling we were there.  And in the midst of the joy of having made it, there was an incredible joy to be celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

Those words – it’s true were ringing in my ears as the drama unfolded a the front of the Church, describing how Cleopas and his companion encountered Jesus that first Easter Day.

It’s perhaps a familiar story – you can read it here.  Two disciples walking despondently home after that dreadful weekend. And they encounter the risen Jesus.  They don’t recognise him until he breaks bread and is then gone.  The two rush back to Jerusalem and discover the other Disciples shouting the same news “It’s True”.

But something was mentioned this morning that made me ponder.  It can’t be verified, it’s only a theory, but it is VERY interesting.

Only one of the two disciples is mentioned by name in Luke’s account – Cleopas.  What I didn’t know is that from the earliest days of the Church (at least from 180AD and maybe before) Cleopas is thought the be the same person as Clopas, who gets a mention in John’s Gospel – or at least his wife does!!

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. – John 19:25

So, it is possible, that at least two Marys met Jesus that day.

Mary Magdelene, in the garden outside the tomb
Mary, the wife of Clopas, who stood as a witness to the Crucifixion.

Perhaps his mother Mary was a third witness, as it is possible she was with the disciples gathered in the upper room.

It’s only a theory – it doesn’t impact on the truth of today’s events – but it perhaps adds a little more colour to the picture.

Finally, back to the boat for lunch I bumped into this gentleman outside the station he was named from…

23b - Paddington

Just a gentle reminder that our best stories include us welcoming those who come seeking refuge and hope.  Just a thought on the day that defines Hope for millions of believers.

My favourite Easter poem is by Susan Lenzkes.

The Morning of Eternity

There are probably no clouds more threatening than those that gathered above Christ’s tortured cross. All of creation must have rushed to black mourning for the shame of it—that their Creator, the One whose hand formed the earth and heavens, should have those hands pierced with the nails of our sin!

But deep inside the cloud’s darkness, lightning glory gathered, waiting to burst forth in victory, waiting to split the dark veil of sin hung between God and His beloved mankind.

Has ever such a silver lining been spoken as, “It is finished”?

Perhaps only, “He is risen!”
Oh, world, trace with joy the silver lining that will never tarnish. Tell it everywhere—

He … is … RISEN!

I can’t believe we’re here

Day Total: 6 miles, 6 locks, 3 hrs 12 mins
Overall Total: 222.25 miles, 166 locks

Don’t worry we’re still in Little Venice – we just went there and back to see how far it was!

Actually we were joined by some of Jacquie’s family who live in London and whom we don’t see often enough.

After home boat-made Hot Cross buns and Simnel Cake we went for a potter along the canals.

22e - Hot Cross Buns and Simnel Cake


We went along the Regent’s Canal. Past London Zoo where we got to see a few animals, past a rather disturbing sign “Emergency Closure – do not moor here if the red flag is flying” (never knew London Zoo disliked the Labour Party!!!), and past some of the poshest houses we’ve ever seen.

22b - houses.jpg

Rather a contrast to Nuneaton!!!!

The wonderful smells from the food stalls in Camden Market were a little distracting as Joshua helped me down through the locks, assisted by Jacquie’s cousin and his little boy.  Also the crowds watching rather added to the pressure!!!!! Note: this picture isn’t from today – it was grey, cold and a bit bleak today.

22c - Camden Lock

Back to the mooring at Little Venice I had to go around the island to be the right way around on the mooring – I was very tempted to do a couple of laps first but I didn’t.

Guests left and the boys and I headed off for an explore.  We headed away from Paddington towards Notting Hill Gate and then back along the top edge of Hyde Park.  What I love about being in London is that we suddenly realised we were outside this building.

22d - Russian Embassy.JPGIt’s the embassy of the Russian Federation!!!

So back to the boat before the really bad weather hits – the wind is rocking the boat, but we are tucked up inside and securely moored.

But I can’t quite believe we are in London.  I’m sleeping in the same bed I slept in in Middlewich, Stoke, Milton Keynes and Uxbridge and yet when I look out of the window I am in London.  Unbelieveable.

And today is Holy Saturday – the odd day in the middle of the Easter weekend.

An aside for those of you who don’t understand how it can be three days from Friday at 3pm when Jesus died to “early in the morning on the first day of the week whilst it was still dark” when the women went to the tomb, it’s to do with the way Jews reckon days.  A day starts for them at sunset, not sunrise or midnight, and they count partial days as days. So…

Day 1: Friday 3pm (“the ninth hour” according to the Gospels) to Sunset (the start of the Passover sabbath)

Day 2: Sunset Friday to Sunset Saturday (the women couldn’t go and anoint the body as it was the Sabbath and work was forbidden)

Day 3: Sunset Saturday to the early hours of Sunday morning when the Angel’s went “Boo!”

But imagine that first Holy Saturday.

22a - Disciples

They have, most probably, forgotten all that Jesus said about three days.  Their response on Easter Day would seem to confirm this.  They don’t known that Sunday is coming.  They just know that everything went wrong.  They probably can’t believe that they are here… mourning the death of the One they believed to be God’s anointed Messiah.

It is hard to comprehend how they must have felt – hard to truly enter into this day the way we sometimes can with Good Friday or Easter Day.

And yet Holy Saturday is our day too!  A day for all those who wait without hope for a future they cannot see.  All those who grieve and mourn and can see no dawn to brighten the sky.  A day for all who long for the past to be different and cannot bear to look to the future.  A day for all those who cannot believe that they are here.

If that is you, then know that today is hallowed and blessed for YOU!

And know that the dawn will come.


Journey’s End

Day Total: 2 miles, 0 locks, 0 hrs 50 mins
Overall Total: 216.25 miles, 160 locks

He comes first today.

21a - Were you there

One of the shortest journeys Jesus made was from the Praetorium (Pilate’s Palace) to Golgotha, the place of Crucifixion.  Depending on where you  Golgotha it is between a 1/4 and 3/4 mile.  Jesus routinely travelled much further distances, 120 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem which he did more than once, and he did a lot of travelling around Capernaum and even further north.  This last journey though, was the hardest.  Beaten, whipped, abused and then made to carry a heavy beam it must have seemed endless, especially knowing what was to come.

The journey began with a baby’s cry in Bethlehem.  Or perhaps we can say it began “In the Beginning” when “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)  For all eternity Jesus had existed in relationship with the Father and the Spirit and all his journeys had been with them.  The journey of incarnation (being born as a human), the journey of childhood and manhood, the journey in the wilderness, the journeys around 1st Century Palestine, the journey on a donkey down from the Mount of Olives, the journey from the Upper Room to Gethsemane, and then being dragged before Pilate and Herod.  All these journeys lead to this one journey.  They are all one journey – from Heaven to the Cross.

21d - fall


And all that time Jesus knows the presence of the Father and Spirit.  Again and again he is reminded of their presence with him and through him.  He knows what will come…

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  Luke 9:22

And yet… Did he really comprehend what was to come?  Could he truly have known the awfulness of our sin bearing down on him?

As he cried “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” did he finally comprehend what separation from his Father would feel like.  Did he despair?  With the great cry “It is finished” we often hear that as a cry of triumph “Paid in Full”, or was it that he finally realised how bitter the cup of suffering was to finish.

Truly this was Journey’s End.

God died.

21b - Thorns


And yet… Just like the Psalmist Jesus moved from despair to faith – maybe, like us, faith even when all trace of God appears to have vanished from the universe, but faith nonetheless when with his last breath he commends his Spirit to the Father.  Even at the uttermost end he still will not deny His Father’s love.

And the curtain in the Temple, that veil between God and Humanity ripped from top to bottom.  The Temple was, in an instant, redundant.  The only sacrifice that would ever be necessary had been made, on a godforsaken hill outside the city walls.

At Christmas I often find myself celebrating Easter – the Incarnation – the birth of Jesus, and his death and resurrection are a single strand in the great story of our rescue.  And so as I sit here on Good Friday, my day started with this beautiful song that my cousin, Susan, posted on my Facebook wall.  This is how my day began…

After an excursion to Halfords to get some antifreeze to top up the boat’s heating system we were off in the glorious sunshine.  Past some peculiar Hi Rise living…

21e - Hi rise

And after a stop to top off the water tank and get rid of the rubbish we arrived at our destination – Little Venice – Journey’s End.  After our shortest journey of the whole trip to date.

21f - Little Venice

A 360° Panorama of our home for the next week

Off this afternoon to HTB Onslow Square (one of Holy Trinity Brompton’s group of Churches for a very moving service.

21j - HTB Onslow Square

Past this amazing building…

21i - Michelin Building

And then back to the boat.

21k - Paddington Arm Footbridge

Footbridge on the Paddington Arm

21l - Paddington Arm

The Paddington Arm and tha A40 Westway

21m - Little Venice Sunset

Little Venice at Dusk

So – Journey’s End – but not.  This, after a rest and a break, is the start of a new journey.  A journey back to the midlands and then south to Oxford and beyond.  This is not Journey’s End.

Neither was it for Jesus.  It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

21n - tomb

Good Friday – a bad day to bury Good News

Turn around

Day Total: 17 miles, 0 locks, 5 hrs 4 mins
Overall Total: 214.25 miles, 160 locks
Distance to London mooring: 2 miles, No locks

Well, we’re definitely in London.  In the 20 minutes before we stopped I caught sight of the Post Office Tower and the Shard, as well as passing close by Wembley Stadium.

The day started early as we had some housekeeping to do.  The toilet cassettes needed dealing with and the water tank was nearly empty, so rather than take up time when we get to Little Venice tomorrow we decided to deal with that this morning.  The only problem was that the most accessible (and nicest) marina was a left turn at the Cowley Peachey Junction and the way to Little Venice was right!!!

Well, we turned left and the job was done but we had to keep heading North again.  NB Essence is 58 feet long and the canal is rarely that wide.  What you need is somewhere where you can turn around.  They are called Winding Points, or Winding Holes.  They are few and far between on some stretches and very frequent on others. Thankfully the nearest winding point was just 10 minutes journey north of the marina, just below the (first and last) lock.  Turning around is not simple, but it was done without incident!

20 - Winding Hole.jpg

The next stop was the Bull’s Bridge junction, with some lovely moorings right by a big Tesco’s BUT the moorings were just the other side of the junction. Our route was left but the moorings were straight ahead.  So ANOTHER turn around was necessary (with a nifty bit of reversing onto the moorings if I do say so myself!)

The final stretch into Kensal Town was a strange experience.  Some really run down areas, some very posh, some industrial areas with  absolutely gorgeous food smells and then an aqueduct taking the canal OVER the North Circular Road.  We eventually moored by a Sainsbury’s and nipped in for some red wine for our family Passover/Maundy Thursday meal. The bread is actually a traditional Jewish Sabbath loaf called a Challah.  I know it should be unleaved!! (btw just seen a Bar Mitzvah card in the local Sainsburys so we are in the right part of town!)

20c - Maundy Thursday

The word which John the Baptist and Jesus would have used that we translate as Repent, is better rendered as “a change of mind”.  Some people render it as “turning around” or”heading the other way”.  That’s what the winding holes enable a boat to do.  We are constrained to travel along the canal until we can turn around.  Reversing in a narrowboat is VERY difficult!  But at a winding point we can repent, turn around, change our mind about the direction we are going.

Tomorrow we remember the greatest winding hole in the history of humankind.  At the cross we can turn around, and go the other way.  We can be free of the sin and shame that weighs us down on the journey of life and head off, with Jesus, in a new direction.

Do you need to turn around? The cross is the best place to do it!

20b - turn around

Keep Out!

Day Total: 0 miles, 0 locks (20 minutes via two trains to Windsor)
Overall Total: 197.25 miles, 160 locks
Distance to London mooring: 19 miles, NO locks!!!

Joshua was desperate to find Games Workshop and play Warhammer and Windsor is a lovely place to visit (compared with Slough) so we headed off on the train.  The station at Langley is less than 5 minutes walk from the boat.  Joel joined Joshua so Jacquie and I had a lovely few hours on our own – the first since I left Doncaster at the beginning of March!

It was also very strange to be back in Windsor. I stayed at St George’s House, inside Windsor Castle, over 5 years ago as part of a conference and it was for that conference that I started thinking about Visual Theology – thinking about God using images and stories, rather than long and complicated words and concepts.  Full circle brings me back to the task I have set myself for this sabbatical – finding ways to express and learn about our faith using the rich visual environment that we now live in.

19a - Crooked House.jpg
This wonderful crooked house is tucked into the main street between the castle and the Guildhall.

It is delightfully wonky and looks like it belongs on the set of Harry Potter.

Amidst the wonderful buildings of Windsor it is a lone survivor of a distant age when buildings were wonkier than our modern, precision building techniques would ever produce or building regulations allow.








Another wonderful reminder of bygone days was this collection of Pharmacy bottles in the window of a modern pharmacy, reminding Jacquie of her Grandfather’s profession and the time she spent in his shop in Rotherfield.

19b - Pharmacist.jpg

We set off tomorrow to get a little closer to our destination, so we can be on the mooring as close to midday on Good Friday as we can.

But today’s image…

19c - Windsor_Castle_from_the_Air_wideangle.jpg

Windsor Castle – we didn’t visit today, but when I stayed here I was in the red roofed buildings behind St George’s Chapel (the Chapel is the long building to the left) and I could go as far as the entrance to the Round Tower.  You could pay to go a little further to the buildings at the top of the right hand quadrangle, but the Royal apartments to the right and the bottom of that quadrangle were completely out of bounds to “normal” folks like us.

I found myself thinking about the picture of the temple I posted the other day.

16b - Temple

Gentiles (non-jews) were allowed in the large courtyard area but not into the central building.

Jewish Women were allowed into the front courtyard of the central buildings.

Jewish Men were allowed into the courtyard surrounding the sanctuary.

Priests were allowed closer to the Sanctuary and inside, but only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies (that was behind a curtain and is marked with an M on the plan below) and then only one day each year.

19d - Temple

Windsor Castle, and for that matter most castles, is built the same.  Ordinary folk are allowed around the outside, trusted people are allowed into the outer courts, carefully selected people can get close to the keep but only the Lord or King, and their court and servants, were allowed into the royal apartments.  Ordinary people weren’t allowed in.

I was confirmed at the age of 13.  I believed that God existed and I wanted to follow Jesus but to all intents and purposes God was like the Queen.  I knew they existed.  I had caught glimpses of them from afar (the Queen on the back of a Land Rover at Doncaster Racecourse in 1977). I knew there was a tiny possibility that we might meet one day but that in all likelihood it would never happen. And I believed that they didn’t know my name or who I was.  I was an outsider – relegated to the court of the Gentiles or the Outer Bailey.  My chances of ever entering the Royal Apartments or the Holy of Holies where God lived were effectively nil.

And yet, at the age of 16 I had an experience that transformed my understanding of Jesus.  He was suddenly present in a way I couldn’t explain and He cared about me – He knew what I was going through.  (I may tell you that story some other time)

Instead of being relegated to the outer courts, I was invited into the Royal Apartments.  More than that… He came out.  When the temple curtain tore on Good Friday the whole hierarchy of access to God was flattened.  I can speak to Him – I can hear from Him. No need for intermediaries or courtiers or secretaries.  Direct access.  Him present with me wherever I go.  Not in the inner courts but out in the wonky shop on the High Street – in the wonky heart that beats in my chest.

That is what was at stake this week all those years ago!



The first shall be last…

Day Total: 9.5 miles, 1 lock (6 ft 6 in downhill), 3 hrs  6 min
Overall Total: 197.25 miles, 160 locks
Distance to London mooring: 19 miles, NO locks!!!

So having made it to Uxbridge yesterday we made it to the last lock on the Grand Union Canal – Cowley Peachey Lock.  The photos below show just what a beautiful day it has been today.

The lock was the last of the 160 between Middlewich and Little Venice so was a real milestone.  It was nearly an impenetrable barrier!!!  It is very important that the gates on a lock don’t leak – or at least not much.  If the top gates leak then the lock will slowly fill with water and emptying it to go downhill gets harder.  If the bottom gates leak then filling it is really hard and you have to struggle to open the top gates when the lock is almost full – the rate at which water is entering the lock at the top is the same as the rate of water leaving the bottom, leaving a few inches of difference between the level in the pound and the level in the lock.  Opening the top gates was really hard, and this was why – this video is of the bottom gates when the lock was full.

As we were well ahead of schedule we then turned right (west) along the Slough Arm.  This used to be silted up and almost impassable but was a really lovely journey.  Out under the M25 again and eventually to the Slough Basin, where the canal just stops, with enough room to turn the boat around.  So we decided instead of stopping there we would head back to Langley, a couple of miles nearer the main line of the canal, as we’d seen some really lovely moorings just alongside a bridge close to Langley railway station,.  So we’re headed off on the train to Windsor tomorrow – only a short trip by train – for a day out.

After mooring we used the wonders of Skype to be part of a mentoring group Jacquie and I are part of and then we wandered into Langley – which, like Slough, is in Berkshire.  But as we came to the bridge across the canal we spotted this sign, and realised that we are actually moored in Buckinghamshire!!!

18e - Buckinghamshire.jpg

And this was the view from the window where I am typing at Sunset.

18d - Sunset.jpg

So, Cowley Peachey lock was our last lock on the way to London….

But it is also the first lock on my way back north to the midlands, before I head down the Oxford Canal.  So, is it first or last?

James and John were in Jesus’ closest inner circle.  They and Simon Peter saw more than anyone else of what Jesus said and did.  They were known as the “Sons of Thunder”, or the Thunder Twins as I like to call them.  We’re not told why but from some of the things they said (like wanting to burn down a village because they didn’t make Jesus welcome) I’m guessing they had short tempers.  They spent quite a lot of time in that first Holy Week arguing about who was going to be the best. Truth be told the other disciples joined in and were really angry with James and John as they’d even got their Mum to ask Jesus for the best seats for them a little while before Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Jesus wanted to show his disciples a different way of thinking about who was most important and how they should behave. He has already told them these words…

18f - last first.jpg

(Sorry – couldn’t resist the image – those who have played Mario Kart will know why this image was chosen – if you haven’t played the game it would take too long to explain – Google search for “Blue Shell of Doom on Mario Kart”)

In a few days he would demonstrate exactly what these words mean.

So the last lock is the first, and the first last.  So it is in the Kingdom of God.


Day Total: 15.25 miles, 26 locks (162 ft 5 in downhill), 9 hrs  47 min
Overall Total: 187.75 miles, 159 locks
Distance to London mooring: 18.5 miles, 1 locks

We’ve made it!!  Not to Little Venice – we aren’t due there until Friday.  We’ve made it to the bottom of the Grand Union Canal.  26 locks today (crumbs!!) and we are now just one small lock away from the Cowley Peachey Junction, where the Slough Arm heads west, and from where, along the Paddington Arm, we get to Little Venice.  As you can see since leaving Middlewich 17 days ago we have travelled through 159 locks!!!!!!!!!!

Today has been a day of real contrasts.

We’ve travelled through some beautiful countryside, large and most definitely expensive houses, with beautiful greenery, but we’ve also been through urban, industrial landscapes too.

We crossed a major milestone today 9:51am – we crossed under the M25!

17a - M25.jpg

The contrast of a quiet canal (only a few other boats moving) with the thousands of vehicles using the M25.

And then the biggest surprise of all – some of the most rural locations we passed today were INSIDE the M25 – less than 7 miles as the cross flies from Central London.  Bizarre!

Locks ranged from a measley 5′ 2″ south of Kings Langley, to the last but one lock – Denham Deep Lock – which at 11′ 1″ is the deepest lock on the Grand Union Canal.  This view is from inside looking back at the uphill gates.

17b - Denham Deep Lock.jpg

I didn’t get a picture of the bottom gates closing as I was busy steering the boat, but they resembled the gates of Hades!!! A typical broad lock takes 240,000 litres of water to fill it – Denham is almost certainly more than that!

The final contrast was the fact that on this stretch the locks are spread out, so a peaceful cruise of 10-15 minutes would be interrupted by 10-20 minutes worth of hard work on the locks.

My mind today is still full of Holy Week – the huge contrasts between the popularity of Jesus and the plotting of the religious authorities – the contrast amongst the disciples, some thoughtful, some vying for good places in heaven and one contemplating betrayal.

Judas and Peter – both destined to betray Jesus, yet only one of them would survive the week.

And what are our contrasts?  What are the things that stop us and make us think?  What are the things that jar?

The contrast between rich and poor? The contrast between healthy and sick? The contrast between the life we had planned and the life we are living?

Let’s allow these contrasts to stop us and make us think again about our lives and this world.  Let’s let God speak to us through the contrasts.  You can often see an image more clearly when you turn the contrast up!



Day Total: 11.5 miles, 25 locks (42 ft 3 ins uphill, 126 ft 10 in downhill), 8 hrs  12 min
Overall Total: 172.5 miles, 133 locks
Distance to London mooring: 33.75 miles, 27 locks

Well! We made it to Hemel Hemstead!  Here’s a picture of the boat at sunset today.  (You’ll have to look hard to see the boat!)

16a - Essence at Sunset.jpg

Having left Marsworth early this morning we made the last climb up to the canal summit at Tring.  Summits are key points on the canal network.  Because canals are artificial waterways there is no natural flow, so at the highest point on each section you need to feed water into the system, otherwise when the locks on either end of the summit “pound” (a pound is a stretch of water between two locks) are emptied the summit pound would run dry.

So far we have passed a number of summits on our journey south –

The Harecastle Tunnel stretch on the Trent and Mersey above Stoke, 124m above sea level
The Braunston Tunnel stretch on the Grand Union Central near Daventry, 110m a.s.l.
& The Tring Summit on the Grand Union Canal South near Aylesbury, 121m a.s.l.

The highest summit in the canal network is on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal for the Standedge Tunnel (the really long one) 197m above sea level – but we aren’t going anywhere near there!!!

We are well on the way on the long descent into London and doing really well – we should get to the bottom of the locks tomorrow and then be able to spend a few days near Slough and Windsor.

So today’s image relates of course to summits – three to be precise.

  1. The summit of the Mount of Olives
  2. The summit of Mount Zion (where the temple stood)
  3. The summit of skull hill – also called Golgotha or Calvary (where the Cross stood)

On the first Palm Sunday Jesus climbed from Bethany to Bethphage up the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, topped the summit and saw this view (or something close, this is a model of how the temple would have looked).

16b - Temple.jpg

The gate in the middle of the wall is where Jesus would have entered Jerusalem and according to Luke as Jesus saw this view he wept – amidst the shouts of the crowd.  He knew the fate that would befall Jerusalem – to be ransacked, the Temple destroyed and to this day, the temple has never been re-established.  In fact, a mosque now stands where the holy of holies was.

Jesus route took him down from the summit of the Mount of Olives and perhaps the high point of his popularity – “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”, down into the opposition and ridicule of Holy Week and eventually up to the hill of the skull – which Jesus would also have seen from the Mount of Olives.

Mountain tops and dark valleys are part of the world around us, but also part of the journey of faith.  Where are you at present?  Mountain top or valley?  Are you looking as Jesus did at dark days lying ahead, or is hope rising.

Wherever you are on this journey remember that Jesus knows what it feels like – He knows the heights of joy, and the depths of suffering.  He alone can help us on dark days!

This song is one of my favourite Palm Sunday reflections by Michael Card.