Three chairs for Gareth!

It all began when I broke my chair a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t doing anything unusual with my chair. I was sitting in it.

I believe in single-purpose furniture. The beauty and simplicity of design: a chair, a desk, a table, a bedside table, a bedside chair, a chair, a bed, another chair. See: simple. Jimmy Saville’s armchair that also made cups of coffee, and dispensed silver badges was, to my infant mind, just plain wrong! I don’t want to sit on something designed as a transformer, I want a chair. A good, solid chair.

This, however, wasn’t a good, solid chair. I sat on it once too often and it listed, like a sinking ship. So, I emailed Viking (from whom I purchased it). No problem they said, we’ll send you another one.

They did. The very next day. And it was a different model, too. An ‘upgrade’ they called it — they didn’t have my old model (the “Boss”) in stock any longer.

I eagerly built it. My new chair — the “Director” — only to discover that it is much, much shorter than any other chair I’ve ever used at my desk. In my life. Ever. In fact, I’m actually taller kneeling at my desk than sitting on my new chair.

I think I’m going to have to either send it back, or saw the legs off my desk. Or off myself.

I was looking at possible replacement chairs on the Ikea website. One says it is made of:

High resilient polyurethane foam (cold foam)

How disappointing: cold foam. I so much prefer those chairs made from boiling, hot foam. I’ll keep looking.

Writing to washing powder manufacturers

I sometimes wonder about myself. I’ve just been clearing out a folder on my PC, the one where I dump stuff to be entered into my journal (it’s password protected, so don’t even try to read it!). It appears that in December of last year I had a spell of writing emails to washing powder manufacturers offering them advice, and giving general feedback on their websites. Here’s what I wrote:

Surf washing powder

I discovered the following email that I sent to Surf, and their reply:

Your name
The Revd Gareth Saunders

Where you live
In a nice upper villa house in Edinburgh. The house is owned by the Scottish Episcopal Church, for whom I work. I wouldn’t have chosen this house, it has too many stairs but the last minister liked it, and it doesn’t get broken into as much as the old house did. That was terrible.

Let’s hear it
I simply wanted to tell you how much your website brightened up my day (and my computer screen). What a lovely shade of yellow — may I ask who chose that shade for your website? If you could let them know that I like it that would be lovely of you. I’ve had a sad day today, and was looking at the internet for some inspiration. I enjoy cleaning and so thought I’d take a look at your website — our Lord himself cleansed lepers, but I don’t think he used Surf! My little joke there, don’t worry. Anyway, that was all. Please let your chief colour selector know that he or she did a spendid job.


Fr. Gareth Saunders

And to my surprise, I received this lovely reply a couple of days later:

Dear Fr Saunders

Thank you for your e-mail.

I was really glad to learn how much you enjoyed looking at our website and that it brightened your day.

I have passed your comments onto the Surf Brand Team who will be delighted to get your feedback.

Thank you once again for your comments.

Kind regards

Charlotte Wooller
Consumer Care Advisor

I’m now quite upset to discover that they have changed their website colour from bright yellow to some kind of deep pink. Is this some of joke? Does my feedback mean absolutely nothing to them? And after that lovely reply … all lies! Lies, lies, lies! I think it about time I should write to them again!

Ariel washing powder

Then I wrote to Ariel about their fine product; I’ve been using Ariel washing powder since I moved away from home in 1989, to university. It is my washing powder of choice, so I guessed that I owed them some feedback by now.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am a long-time user of Ariel washing powder.

I was wondering if you have ever considered putting free gifts or toys in your washing powder boxes in the same way that cereal manufacturers do in theirs?

You could have special tie-in promotions such as a free tennis ball, or a small effigy of Tom [sic] Henman, or how about a nice, clean pair of spare socks? It was just an idea, and I think a good one. It might attract other powder users away from their preferred cleaning products.

Also, did you know that your website does not work in Mozilla Firefox or Netscape?


Fr. Gareth Saunders

No reply. As yet. Can’t understand it, it was quite a neat idea, and some practical advice regarding their web-standards non-compliant website.

Downy fabric softener

To be fair, I’ve never even heard of Downy fabric softener, although I do like their name. They are owned by Procter & Gamble so I must have discovered a link on their website. But that didn’t stop me, here’s what I wrote to them:

I just noticed that your logo for Downy reminds me of the chocolate bars Bounty that you get in the UK. I wonder if you’ve ever noticed that too. I asked my wife and she agrees.

Have ever considered making a chocolate and coconut flavoured version of your product?

No answer. How rude!

What does it all mean?

Last week Jane and I were in Portbury, just south of Bristol, for the baptism of our (now) godson, Felix Jonathan Coore, third child of friends Jonny and Emma. During the meal in the church building following the baptism I was sitting near the vicar who had performed the baptism. She was talking about a recent meeting of the clergy chapter at which someone was addressing the revered audience about the need for more lay people to be involved in the public life of the Church of England.

From what I gathered the clergy in attendance didn’t feel quite as enthusiastic. Which I found strange, because it is a debate that has been taking place for quite a while in the Scottish Episcopal Church. The trouble lies when the question about the ministry of all the baptised gets mixed up with questions about money and misconceptions about the role of the clergy — but that’s a whole different ballpark of worms!

I’ve recently discovered that what you might think you are saying is something positive about the ministry of all the baptised might not be interpreted as such by others. So much is dependent on the hearer’s point of view, fears, and/or prejudices. Take this recent cartoon that I did for Inspires magazine (the monthly magazine for the Scottish Episcopal Church):

Journey of the Baptised

The Journey of the Baptised, for those who don’t know, is an emphasis in the church just now to recognise that not only the clergy are called to ministry but everyone who is baptised is called by Jesus to exercise their ministries and gifts in the church and in the world.

I drew this cartoon as a pro-Journey of the Baptised cartoon. With a bit of cunning wordplay I translated the ‘journey’ into a map with a route: a route from the font (where one is baptised) to the pew, with the words “an incomplete route” beneath it. It was a way of saying, the ‘traditional’ (whatever that means) way of understand that someone gets baptised and then sits for the rest of their church life in the pew is an incomplete and limited understanding of what it means to be a Christian. A more complete route would have had more than one dotted line: out of the door into the world, would be one; up to the front to conduct the service, might be another; into the pulpit might be a third — I’m sure you can think of hundreds more.

It turns out that not everyone read the cartoon this way. Some people interpretted this as a criticism of The Journey of Baptised — that it in itself was an incomplete route. I’m sure it is, such is the strength of the arrangement in our church of lay people served by deacons, priests and bishops (who are themselves part of the laos, the people of God). But it is certainly something to be encouraged and explored.

Well, at least it’s got people talking about what’s important in the Church.

Norton AntiVirus for Humans

If only Symantec also shipped Norton AntiVirus for Humans! I could certainly do with it just now. I’ve been battling some kind of viral bug since Monday 9 May, and while I’ve been improving I’m still feeling under the weather.

I’ve been frustrated with my GP practice since we joined, which makes me a little hesitant about making appointments. As soon as I find a nice GP he or she leaves the practice. Some I’ve found to be poor listeners, or I leave the surgery feeling that I’ve been wasting their time. I don’t think I’ve seen the same doctor twice in two years!

Today I saw Dr David Crookes who was very understanding and helpful; I’ll have to ask for him the next time. He assured me that I had been treating this the right way (rest, fluids, paracetamol, decongestant and cough medicine); he listened to my lungs, I don’t have a chest infection, so antibiotics wouldn’t be effective, so I should just keep treating it the way that I have been. It should clear soon. (You would think!) I just wish that I had a little more energy. And made fewer trips to the bathroom. And didn’t go through paper tissues like they were going out of fashion.

I wonder how you would download updates for Norton AntiVirus for Humans…