Christmas 2006

Welcome... here are the answers to the quiz on the Baker's 2006 Christmas card. No points at all this year - double points awarded in 2005.

1 Is margarine environmentally sustainable?
The true joy of wise children spotting how palm oil production damages the environment. So we're eating more butter.

2 Is it normal for middle sons to borrow your slippers?
Matthew has borrowed Dad's slippers (permanently), coat, T shirts, belt... Normal here in Harrogate, then.

3 How many churches are like the BBC – offering repeats?
This isn't just about churches wanting to be classified as 'Classic FM' on the CTH listing. No church has pulpit notice every 15 minutes, and, of course, some say that Classic FM plays the same tunes week in, week out. No church we know play their favourite hymns every week...

4 Suggest three ways to improve strawberry yields
All thoughts welcome. We have a strawberry pot.

5 Who pinched my acorns?
They all disappeared one night, and it wasn't

6 Choose a name for Sophie's Trio: Skysong, Phoenix or …
Emily, Sophie & Vicky are making a fabulous sound, receiving whoops of delight and standing ovations - and that's when they're introduced onto the stage.

7 House moves: when, where, why and how?
Always ready for that still small voice to move us on. Only proviso: Sophie's A levels in the summer of 2008, Matthew the following year with Andy J taking GCSEs.

8 I can't make it work – let's close it”: sack this leader, or pray?
It isn't that difficult to see the pain within these cries for help. When a leader or team member is struggling, some find it easier to blame anyone but themselves - especially if they're self-reliant and untrusting of others. Therein lie the solutions: establish the root of the insecurity, who or what has helped them stand in the past, and anoint that with any extra nourishment appropriate to their needs. Far better to help others make a valuable contribution - including offerings beyond their ability - than let another person feel bad.

9 Are baby oak trees a sound investment?
Yes, over the longer term. We're growing some for our grandchildren.

10 Should dogs be allowed to have two email addresses?
Those in the UK who heard the BBC Radio 4 item on dog names may have seen the 2,000 doggy pics on the BBC website. was included - more and link on his own
webpage. to follow

11 Parenting: a dying art or the new frontier?
Apathy v supportive directing; parameters v free for all; anarchy v kingdom. Realising there's only a year left to help your eldest offspring to learn how to create Christmas dinner serve to redouble the input-output, proactive relating of parent with glorious children.

12 France, Ireland, Germany or Scotland?
The new
camping car is likely to head to France for its first outing. Unless you know differently.

13 Lark News, Ship of Fools humour on good days, too.

Growing up

Sophie on five string bass touring Prague … her five weeks' work through the summer at the local call centre is paying dividends. She's filling the little car with diesel – how uncommonly responsible. ‘A' levels in Maths, More Maths, Physics with Maths, Spam Chemistry & Maths follow her GCSEs – so she'll be a singing chef, then. Delightful Trio with two of her good friends at school: Children in Need fund raising was harmonious.

Sophie and Matthew were welcomed as junior helpers on a summer SU camp near Lincoln . Loved to bits, dear things, with someone suggesting that Matthew was a gracious drummer. They were smothered at the reunion, too. As well as their own MySpace websites they help out with - there are many limits to dad's abilities.

Andy has joined the school cookery club – so perhaps we will have a wise pastry chef in the Baker family. Chilli burgers with cinnamon suggest a budding Mrs Cropley in the making.

Now three months into ‘week-at-a-time' household duties and all of us are benefiting – except for the dog. Talking of whom – he, too, was included on the BBC Radio 4 dog listings. There's an extract on the THM website pics pages (shortcut:

A quiet, long hot English summer

Sophie, Matthew & Andy learned to sail with Martha, goddaughter, on the Broads over the Mayday weekend. Some 16 years since we last sailed together as families; this time the grockles were the hardy types and few in number, making it a perfect time away

A delight to welcome Anne during May, the eldest in the family from France. Here for three weeks to practice her English, Anne visited schools, worked in Wesley Owen here and was shocked with some rare colloquialisms. Perhaps the most astonishing thing was hearing the school worship band – unheard of back home.

Bidding a sad farewell to the camper after a week's break in Winchester, we're on with the new project: making a two berth motorhome out of a miniature Vauxhall combo tour. It'll sleep two, seat five with belts, and is giving more than 50mpg around town. Twin sunroofs suggest it'll double as a Popemobile.

We're grateful to those who've made short breaks so very refreshing. Musicians, festivals, friends and family have done more than keep us going this year especially. Perhaps we'll put something back into the pot in the future.

Harrogate and Nidderdale

Loads of reports and excitement, including another April fool; the search report once included ‘atheist' – so either we have a troubled local leader or someone's got the wrong end of the stick. YfC need a wise director of high calibre here; much to be grateful for, yet so much more to do.

Nidderdale news includes the chapel closures and the launch of a single, ecumenical “The Church in the Dale” at Pentecost 2007. Many wise moves in the area, and then some plans falling on stony ground – such as million pound church developments. We, too, are aware of struggling Bosnian pastors and desperate children across the South

We picked up a classic quote this year: “Why weren't you at last night's meeting?” “When do you tell me about it?” “Just now – umm, sorry.” Perhaps we're all expected to work miracles all the time.

CRE came to Harrogate in October; the catwalk included two of our well-appreciated hospital chaplains, one dressed as a bishop. Did the picture make the front page of his Baptist Times? ‘First union bishop', perhaps. Link and pics on the CTH New Archive.

“Aging is a spiritual issue just as fat is a feminist issue” (!) A quote from an evening on Age in November; full transcript on