Monthly Archives

August 2017

Thought For The Day – Bridges – 30th Aug 2017

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When the new Queensferry Bridge was in its infancy, I took my twins on a 4th birthday treat to Inchcolm Island. We sailed right up to the new bridge, before the towers had been connected, and the middle tower looked exactly like the Angel of the North. It’s been a thrilling experience seeing the new bridge grow up with my girls. We’re part of history now, and it’s exciting to think that when my children’s children see it, they will know that the twins were there at its very birth.

We often talk about bridges as a metaphor, and joke that it takes a full three of them, to try to bring the people of Edinburgh and Fife a little closer together. And bridges are about connections and crossings, but this is also a beautiful bridge. On flying into Edinburgh airport, I see the sun catching its feathers as through a huge bird is sailing into land; when driving in the car, I glimpse it winking at me in the gaps; and on the train, instead of feeling cross that I can’t see the lovely red bridge I’m actually on, I hang out of the window so I don’t miss the new one for a second.

I think it’s spectacular. Even though we can watch the webcams, to see it going up day-by-day, it still seems an amazing achievement. Of course it had to meet exacting technical standards, but it has done so with great style. And I think all really good public building projects do this – they build our future around us, knowing that they need to stand the test of time. That’s why as a nation we love our historic buildings. And the world’s bridges are particularly awe-inspiring, because they’re such feats of engineering. They represent a particularly poignant combination of a triumph over nature, whilst yet being in partnership with it.

Will we take this bridge for granted in the future, when we get used to driving over it every day? I hope not. I hope that this bridge will always give us that sort of reflective joy we get, when we see man-made marvels amidst beautiful scenery.

It was William Morris who said: “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” In this bridge we have both. Wouldn’t it be great, if we could make more of the useful things in our lives, beautiful too.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.

Koomi of Smale

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The fiasco of St Sepulchre’s closing its doors to the musicians for whom the church is named has finally woken the public up to what is going on within the Church of England. If your measure of success is the sheer volume of worshippers you can attract, then of course you will prefer to prioritise the accommodation of the faithful rather than lend your buildings to those who are of more dubious and less manifest faith. Read More

Thought For The Day – Sad News – 18th August 2017

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What sad news from Barcelona. It shouldn’t feel familiar, a vehicle ploughing into pedestrians, but it’s starting to.  We’re all immediately wondering why, thinking about all those who’ve been affected and whether we’re somehow next.

I recall a vivid moment after the Sri Lankan tsunami of 2004. We were gathered in church, shocked; trying to understand. We were hoping the minister might tell us why. The preacher that day was Canon John Sweet, and I remember exactly what he said. He talked about the Book of Job. In it, one of God’s most faithful servants suffers such dreadful experiences that it seems as though God is punishing him, entirely unjustly. Obviously, Job’s not impressed. He takes quite a long time to tell God off about it. In summary, he says:

“Does he not see my ways, and count my every step? If I have walked with falsehood, or my foot has hurried after deceit, let God weigh me in honest scales, and he will know that I am blameless.”

I think this chimes with us, when we see crimes against the innocent. So I was surprised by what John Sweet said next. He focused instead on God’s response. Listening to Job’s – entirely justifiable – complaints, God thunders back: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand….?

I had to think about this. But what I think was meant was, why are we trying to solve the intellectual puzzle about the why, why, why; rather than getting involved in making it better? Let’s leave the why to whoever might know. Let’s instead focus on what we can do.

And what we can do is possible. We can hold those who died, and those who mourn them, in our thoughts and prayers. We can refuse to give in to those who would seek to make us too scared to lead our normal lives. And maybe we can befriend the unfriended, so that what holds us together is always stronger than what pulls us apart.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.

Managing Risk: by Spreadsheet or Emotion?

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Ethics is often seen to be a luxury, or a nice-to-have; if deployed suitably publicly, it might enhance an organisation’s licence to operate, or give their brand a virtuous glow. The business case for ethics is, however, less cynical and more strategic: it’s not so much about brand personality than it is about risk.

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