Documentally’s Backchannel

Documentally's backchannel
This week’s backchannel email from Documentally

Christian ‘Documentally’ Payne is someone I’ve been following on social media since I first met him in London in 2008.

I love Christian’s style and voice in his writing and the humour and honesty of his videos. I really admire his outlook on the world and his willingness to share so much of his life online with the rest of us. I’m a big believer in the idea that often what we believe to be the most private is often the most universal; I often feel inspired by the stuff that he shares, especially his anecdotes about personal experiences.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I ought to blog regularly about stuff that has happened to me in the past: the stories that I find myself telling in social gatherings, the stories that make me laugh when I’m on my own and wandering aimlessly through my memories, the random stuff that I’m reminded of because of something said or seen or heard. I’ll maybe start doing that as a Throwback Thursday thing, or something.

This year, Documentally started up a weekly email called Backchannel, which has replaced a lot of his blogging. It’s a personal jaunt through his last week: stuff done, books read, drinks drunk, sounds heard, and items bought. I thoroughly recommend it, it’s full of personality and humanity, and a whole bunch of really practical stuff too.

How can I not enjoy something that has a heading of “Greetings from my shed” and opens with:

Nourishing rain. I was starting to feel sorry for the grass. It needs this. More than I need this coffee. But there’s nothing better than sheltering, supping and writing. And it’s too early for wine.

I belong to the rain. If you can be happy on a rainy day, you can be happy any day.

Subscribe to Documentally’s Backchannel.

News from the Potting Shed (Lent 2011)

Reuben, Isaac and Joshua
Reuben, Isaac and Joshua

Last night I wrote our Christmas 2010 newsletter!

You can download it in PDF and/or read it below. News from the Potting Shed (Lent 2011) (PDF, 65 KB)

And then there were three

There’s a good reason for our Christmas letter being three months late (apart from our usual pre-Christmas disorganisation) our main present arrived 26 days after Christmas.

Our third son Isaac Jacob Neilson Saunders was born by Caesarean section on Thursday 20 January 2011 at 10:30 weighing in at a healthy 3820g (8lbs 7oz) in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

Nearly eight weeks in and we can wholeheartedly confirm that we did this in the right order: twins then one. How much easier this is after that crash course in parenting!


In a couple of months’ time I will have been working at the University of St Andrews as Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager for five years, a role that I still enjoy, despite each year seemingly bringing new challenges. Our team has now grown from two to five and there is still enough work for another five!

Church-wise I have now been welcomed into the ministry team at All Saints’, St Andrews the ‘higher’ of the two Scottish Episcopal congregations in St Andrews, where I am feeling quite at home.

Again, 2010 wasn’t a great year healthwise although I did learn that the “various kidney-related infections” that I’d been suffering since 2008 was actually acute bacterial prostatitis (!) after one of my renal registrars took my concerns seriously and referred me to urology. I’m now on the mend.


Last year was a tough one for Jane as she battled the effects of post-natal depression.

Then, no sooner had she found the right balance of medication, she discovered in late May—the night before her birthday—that she was pregnant with Isaac and had to come off them completely within two weeks. That was a really cruel crash landing!

A month later Jane visited London to attend the Thursday and Friday of the first week of Wimbledon. A dream come true!

Over the summer we enjoyed the company of friends, many of whom came to visit, some to stay for a few days.  It was lovely to catch up with good friends and enjoy their company; there was much laughter and happiness in the house.

In October we enjoyed a week-long holiday in Aviemore at the Macdonald Dalfaber Golf and Country Club, and caught up with friends from our Inverness days.

Reuben, Joshua and Isaac

Our twin boys Reuben and Joshua turned two on 18 November 2010. We celebrated with a birthday party and a homemade birthday cake that looked like a John Deere tractor (the green and yellow one).

It’s been an exciting year watching them grow up so quickly, from learning to walk to putting sentences together and communicating most eloquently with us.  They are amazing and we love them more each day.

Reuben and Joshua welcomed Isaac into the world eight weeks ago and are the best big brothers that he could hope for; albeit at times a little over-enthusiastic for him to join in with their rough-and-tumble games.

You can read more about their various adventures online

or view more pictures at

Love and blessings to you during this holy time of Lent and may you have a very happy Easter.


News from the Potting Shed, Christmas 2007

Gareth hugging Jane beside a loch

Here’s our annual Christmas newsletter for those of you who didn’t get a paper copy through the post.

New Year 2007

Having moved into our new home in November, we were feeling quite settled by New Year, which we celebrated in style with Eddie, Rebecca and Owen. Of course, when we say “style” what we really mean is that Eddie and Gareth played Lego Star Wars on the PC in the study while Jane and Rebecca sat in the living room chatting and drinking champagne.

About a week later lardy Gareth realised his New Year’s ambition (of the last eight New Years) to get on his bike (and drink his milk) and begin to get fit again. It’s been a long, and at times literally uphill struggle, but his efforts are paying off, the fat is dropping off and so are his clothes!

Moving parents

Having enjoyed so much our experiences of moving house three times last year we helped Gareth’s Mum Rosalie move from her family home of 35 years to a newly-built flat about half a mile from there.

Between March and August we travelled down to Selkirk most weekends and got to work clearing out, packing up and redecorating the house ready to put it on the market. It was exhausting and emotional work, that reawakened many a memory, both joyful and sad, but looking on the bright side we did get to be on first-name terms with the man at the dump! His name was Stig.

Rosalie moved out of Kirkbank Cottage on Wednesday 22 August, and into her newly-built flat about half a mile away. Unfortunately the carpets weren’t all laid, the gas pipe had only just been installed (that morning) and when we arrived with the keys the floor was up! It was certainly an adventure!

But Mum was soon settled in. By ‘soon’ I mean after about four months. For the first few months it literally looking like a building site outside her front door, her telephone wasn’t connected for three months (thanks BT!), her shower didn’t work for just as long, and her garden needed landscaped before she could plant anything. Bit by bit she’s getting there, though, and we get down to Selkirk as often as we can to lend a hand and give her a hug.

Not to feel left out Jane’s parents, Peter and Dorothy, also moved house, from Edinburgh to Anstruther, where they’ve bought a house with plans to open a Christian retreat house.

Unfortunately their move went fairly smoothly and there isn’t really any drama to report. Their new house has a pond, and the original Anstruther village well under a man-hole cover in the drive.

There’s a palm tree in the garden too. And a fridge in the kitchen. I told you there wasn’t much drama!


In May Gareth’s hard work coding the new website for the University of St Andrews paid off and the site was launched to the public (and the rest of the University). You can visit it at (but don’t use an old browser!) We went live slightly earlier than we’d have hoped and spent the next fortnight answering support calls from a safe position beneath our desks!

When it was safe to come out we were able to realise what an achievement it had been to move around 4,000 pages from 35 websites into one, all-singing, all-dancing, shiny new website in about 10 weeks. Seven months on and we’re still fixing things. It’s very much like moving house, initially dumping our content in different ‘rooms’ and sorting it out later.

In July we travelled down to Hereford to support our friend Jonathan Coore who was ordained deacon, stopping off en route to visit friends Kenny and Chris Fyfe in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. A quick overnight visit in Bristol, via Wales, and then it was back up the great British motorway network of the UK (via Selkirk) to sunny Anstruther. All in three days. We know how to relax!

Jane enjoyed our long, hot and dry (?!) summer weekends playing tennis at the Anstruther Tennis Club, where she was voted player of the year with most potential. Gareth, meanwhile, was still cycling the back-roads of the East Neuk of Fife trying to lose weight and bring his blood pressure down.


In July we bobbed to the top of the waiting list, and got a bit of a fright when they called us into the hospital about three or four months sooner than we had anticipated. But we needn’t have worried, because it still hasn’t begun!

Due to unforeseen complications Jane’s three months of preparatory (and painful) injections turned into four months, and then five. Which then led to an operation and the whole of December off to recover.

We expect to begin (again) in the New Year (2008)sometime. We continue to hope and pray.

New job for Jane

After four interesting years with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Jane couldn’t take the extensive, all-over-Scotland travelling anymore and moved to a ‘closer’ job, starting in August . in Kirkcaldy, which is 35 miles closer to Anstruther than Edinburgh.

Jane’s new role is as Service Manager at Aberlour Victoria Family Centre; that means that she’s the boss. (Isn’t she just!) The Victoria Family Centre offers parenting advice and respite crÅ che facilities for some of the most vulnerable families in Kirkcaldy.

One of her aims is to raise the profile of the centre within Aberlour, which she managed to do very effectively on her second visit to head office in Stirling when she launched herself down the stairs, ending up in A&E! She and her project are now very well-known. Well done Jane!


We made two very enjoyable visits to Inverness during the year. (For those who don’t know, we lived in Inverness from 1999-2003 while Gareth served his curacy at St Andrew’s Cathedral.)

In August we spent a couple of nights in a lovely B&B at Alturlie, overlooking the Moray Firth (we still didn’t see any dolphins), and caught up with lots of old friends from the cathedral. One highlight was phoning up the Frasers to see if they were available for afternoon coffee and being invited to supper. Which was super. What wonderful hospitality we experienced in the Highlands. Another highlight was catching up with Des, who was the Church Officer at the cathedral during our time there, and really helped to keep Gareth sane.

We returned to Inverness in October, staying with the Howies in Beauly (what a memorable curry!), to attend our second ordination of the year, that of The Revd Canon Mark Strange who was ordained Bishop of the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

What a celebration! What a sermon! (See for the sermon script.) What an awful lot of young people in the cathedral! It was a real joy to be a part of that significant event. The best service we’ve ever attended in the cathedral.

As we were processing in, to a rousing trumpet and drums fanfare, I spotted my dear friend Jamieson Sutherland in the pews. As I passed by I leaned over and said quietly “Hello gorgeous!”. At least, it would have been quietly had the trumpet fanfare not just silenced completely.

I winked at him on the way back up the aisle at the end of the service. And not a subtle wink either. It made us both laugh. Laughter is good in church. Even at funerals, so Fr David reminded us in his sermon.

Deacon Blue

On Gareth’s birthday (11 November for future reference) we joined Gareth’s brother Eddie and his wife Rebecca in Edinburgh to see the popular beat combo Deacon Blue playing their instruments and singing for the enjoyment of the public in a live concert held at the Edinburgh Playhouse theatrical emporium at the top of Leith Walk in Scotland’s fair capital city (Edinburgh).

The gig was really for Jane and Rebecca, who as massive Deacon Blue fans. Eddie knew most of the songs because his is a walking pop music encyclopaedia. Gareth knew about five songs, and actually preferred the support act, 6 Day Riot, but don’t tell Jane.

Jane says, “It was GREAT! I loved it. Can I see them again?” She literally has the t-shirt (and CD). Gareth on the other hand reported that “it was quite simply the quietest concert that I’ve ever been to, and with the oldest audience that I’ve ever been a part of (other than congregations).”


After the excitement of watching Ricky Ross & Co. November was obviously a quiet month, because all we can think to report was that on 12 November, exactly one year and one day after we moved into our new house, we realised that we still didn’t have any lampshades. So here’s a top tip for you all: don’t go buying all your lampshades in one go. It’s really rather expensive. “Why did we buy them all in one go?” asked Jane. “Because I was on a mission!” said Gareth.

Bits and pieces

Other highlights of the year include Gareth seeing thrash legends Kreator and Celtic Frost in concert in Glasgow; continuing to play guitar at the Christian youth event Powerpoint Edinburgh run by Scripture Union Scotland (see; Jane’s sister Pauline had a son, Aidan; Gareth has continued leading church services at Newport-on-Tay, Leven and St Salvator’s Chapel, University of St Andrews.

Finally love and thanks to all our friends and family who came to stay during the year. We look forward to welcoming you here during 2008.