You are currently browsing Neil’s articles.

I think it is time to move on from this blog, and this online identity. A talk by Andrew Graystone at Youth Work Summit 2011 started me reflecting upon my use of ‘LastMinuteFox’ as my blog and twitter identity.

This name came from a Dave Pepper’s nickname for me during my ‘gap’ year over ten years ago, presumably representing my attitude to things at the time [although in my defence I would claim this was because I was an early member of The Slow Club]. This is something about myself that I have spent much time trying to change. It could be argued that ‘LastMinutFox’ is a true representation of my identity. However I have come to conclusion that although I originally used this on-line as a joke, this is something that I do not want to continue ‘speaking over myself’ need to let go of this identity for both the sake of the young people I hope to work with and for my own personally identity and development.

I will continue blogging at neilfox.wordpress.com
and can now be found on Twitter as @TheNeilFox

Inspired by a recent cookery post, I decided to share the results of an experiment I recently conducted. Like many other families, we always try to eat well, and make the most out of the food we buy. Owing to my recent changes in my circumstances I wanted to see how cost effectively we could feed ourselves for a week. We always use the left over meat from larger meals to feed ourselves later in the week, a frugal tradition that I have a hunch has been lost in many homes. I decided to base this experiment on a simple and cheap set of basic ingredients:Chicken

  • One large Chicken
  • Bag of Potatoes
  • A few Carrots
  • One swede
  • Two Parsnips
  • A few Onions

Total Cost approximately £9.95

Day 1 – Roast Chicken with some trimmings

Cooked using a variation of this recipe, accompanied by some of the vegetables and gravy. The size of the chicken meant that this Roast dinner for two adults and one child didn’t even clear one of the chicken breasts.

Approximate additional cost 75p

Day 2 – Cold Chicken & Chips

Proper left over meal; slices of cold meat with oven chips and beans – easy food for a busy day. Could easily have been made much healthier had we have had time to use some of the potatoes instead of the chips, but alas we did not.

Approximate additional cost 80p.

Day 3 – Chicken Salad or Sandwiches

Only light meals were needed for us on day three so a small amount of chicken was used to make a sandwiches, but could equally have been used for salad, pasta or rice dish.

Approximate additional cost 50p-£1

Day 4 – Stew

The cook-down. Boiling up the remains of the chicken carcase to make a delicious chicken stew. Adding the remainder of the vegetables and that’s another meal sorted, with suet and flour from the cupboard to make dumplings. Slow and messy but delicious.

Approximate additional cost 25p

Day 5 – Curry [or Soup]

The intention was to use the remainder of the stew to make an unusual, but none-the-less tasty curry and rice.

Approximate additional cost 30p

However on this occasion time was against us again, so the remaining stew went in the blender with some extra vegetable stock and became a thick and flavoursome soup. The addition of some saltines [essential accompaniment to soup] did add to the cost.

Approximate additional cost 25p

Summary

In summary five meals for two adults and one child came to a total² of £13.05, or £2.61 per meal. Which equates to a approximately £1 per adult [portion], per meal per day.

I wanted to prove that it was still possible to feed a family well and cost effectively. News stories about food prices or healthy eating often show clips of people complaining that good food costs more than healthy or home made food. I did not believe that. Granted eating chicken for a whole week is not very interesting, and you do need to be careful about food hygiene when cooking, chilling and reheating foods. However with the exception of the Saltines and the chips, all of the meals were completely home-made, so we were able to monitor what was in each meal, and could have adapted the meals to make them healthier. Clearly this would not work every week, but with a bit of imagination interesting variations could be introduced; for example some Tandoori Curry Paste with chicken before frying it with some Onions is a delicious way of using some pre-cooked Chicken.

All I am really advocating, is the kind of common sense cooking that many people will be doing week-in-week-out, and was the norm for parents and grandparents, however I do think that many people have forgotten how to do it, and if they haven’t I think supermarkets are doing their best to convince them other wise. For example a quick search on MySupermarket brought up packs of two chicken Breast Fillet Portions for £3.96 or a Freedom Food Endorsed Whole Chicken for £5. In my example the two Chicken breasts Fillets would have made the first day’s meal, but the extra £1.04 of the whole chicken would have provided the additional meat for the remainder of the week.

¹ I would usually advocate using local shops rather than the supermarket, but on this occasion I ended up at Sainsbury’s, and I would also usually prefer free-range, or at least friendly Chicken, but on this occasion I forget to check where this bird was from. #EthicsFail. Also, shopping at a cheaper supermarket would have brought the total cost down still further, as would I believe shopping at the local butchers and grocers, but that is an experiment for another day.

² This does not include the energy cost of cooking the meals. I have not included this cost mainly as alternatives would also need to be cooked.

Credit where credit due… There is a pothole in the road outside our house which has been growing over the last few months. On Monday I decided to tell the council. I did a quick Google and found an online form to report road defects and quickly filled it in. Within 24 hours there was  paint on the road, marking the area that needs to be fixed. Impressed how quickly they reacted. Let’s see how long before the fix it.

This last weekend, and the weeks leading up-to it, have been an experience, and an emotional and spiritual roller coaster. I want to capture some of this while it’s still fresh, this seems as good-a-place as any.

Recently things have been spiritually dry for me, I have been very busy and not really given God much time or consideration. A couple of weeks ago we took a break at Les Pa Opton, and this served as a great opportunity to stop, and reflect, and towards the end of the week decided I needed start again, and prayed this through with the speaker.

On our return home, I was nicely chilled out and felt so much better, and in the week we got back managed to spend some time reading the Bible and praying. However things rapidly got worse the following week. Over four days last week I tweeted the following;

“quiet relaxing evening this evening, nicely chilled.” 19/06
“Horrible day.” 20/06
“What a day. I’m exhausted, fed up, demoralized, I could go on…” 22/06

I do not want to go into details about what was going on, but needless to say, I didn’t give God much time last week either.

This weekend was our church Sizewell weekend, and by the time I arrived I was feeling pretty low and fed up. I took some time out to calm down and then asked someone to pray with me, mainly that I would forget the crap from the previous week, and the comments and experiences that had left me feeling as I did. After this I felt so different, happy, relaxed and the previous week became a parked memory that did not need to be thought about.

Saturday brought about a further session, and further prayer time, specifically for more filling of the Holy Spirit, verses were shared with me, and through the rest of the day I felt great.

This morning I when I woke, I was feeling a bit lower than yesterday with memories of the week previous starting to creep in, perhaps in the knowledge that were leaving this afternoon. I spent time prior to the session, going through with Greg the passage he had shared with me on Saturday. Again we prayed, and I felt so much better, hanging on to the promises of God for his protection.

During the first session this morning, Ali & me, in response to Roger’s talk, both felt that we were up for an adventure, and that we were on the brink of an exciting time. We have no idea what this means, but both felt this call on our hearts. Again we were prayed with and left with the excitement and anticipation of what is to come.

I see a generation, Rising up to take their placeThe final session was really moving, as it was led by Izzy & Beth [who we had led when they were younger] and I was challenged by the need to have our hearts broken to see people as God sees them. Following this session, I even spent sometime praying with others , and felt so blessed to be able to do so, and to feel able to do so.

I guess this last three weeks have been a real lesson in God’s ability to transform situations, or transform the way I view and interact with situations – if I only ask Him, and give Him time and space to do so. I have also begun to hear his call on my life, and am excited to see how this will develop. In preparing to write this post I found a post I had [very poorly] written three months ago, where I reflected on seeing God at work but not hearing him personally until we actually stop and listen (Exodus 24:15-18). When will it sink in? I have had some great experiences of refreshment, encouragement and maybe calling, over the last few weeks, at times when I have stopped, spent time praying alone and with others.

If you are reading this, and you know us, please pray that God will start to show us what the adventure will be, that I will learn the lessons from the last few weeks and put effort into maintaining a relationship with God, spending time with him and remembering the promises I found comfort and strength in this morning. Previous experience is that I am never very good at maintaining the good intentions from experiences such as this, and hence I am writing this now, mostly to remind myself of the experience and so that I do not forget the power of God, and his love and protection.

“Because I love You,” LORD You say, “You will rescue me;
you will protect me, for I acknowledge Your name.
I will call on you, and You will answer me;
You will be with me in trouble,
You will deliver me and honour me.
With long life You will satisfy me
and show me Your salvation.”
Inspired by Psalm 91 and a conversation this morning

Reflecting on Moses’ experience in Exodus 24:15-18, makes me think that there may be times when we can approach God’s presence, maybe even see time a work, but not necessarily hear him speak. This encourages me as not to give up. Moses’ experience was that the cloud ws seen on the mountain for six days before God spoke on t seventh day, and then Moses entered GOD’S presence for 40 days. Maybe times when you can se God but not hear his voice are, times o waiting from the seventh day, after which you can really enter a experience the presence of God.

It also strikes me that it is the seventh day when GOD’S voice is heard. [With te caveat that all of this is unresearched reflection] I’m also left reflecting why God spoke on the seventh day, a day of ‘rest’. Which reminds me of the need to stop, to have Sabbath, and to allow God to speak.

(Originally Posted on http://neilfox.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/exodus-2415-18/)

I have this weekend a completely work free bank holiday weekend, and I intend on spending it with my family and with friends.

Bank Holidays always used to be special, but I never really knew what to do with the extra day. But now working full time, and with my own family, Bank Holidays now have a whole new meaning. Needless to say I need to finish what I’m doing and put the computer away.

With the recent news of GM europe being taken over by Magna, and the subsequent announcement regarding job losses in the UK, I would not be surprised if the Vauxhall brand disappears altogether. In fact I’m sure that in due course current Vauxhall operations will be rebranded as Opel.

Given the support that German operations are receiving from their Government and the apparent lack of support Vauxhall is getting from ours suggests that any moves that new owners make to cut costs across the company would have a positive bias towards Germany / Opel.

My understanding is that much of the company’s product development is done centrally, with Vauxhall (and presumably each of Opel’s regional operations) doing things such as handling adjustments and marketing. Therefore it could be argued that a Opel UK would in effect have a similar role, however I can’t help thinking that the new owners without, perhaps the sentimental attachment to the British brand will consider Vauxhall an unnecessary extra expense. And I can certainly see the argument from a marketing perspective, as a a change to Opel would fit with the new image they are clearly striving for with the Insignia and new Astra.

My suggestion to the company would be to market both brands simultaneously across europe, each with separate brand identity and values, for example as MGRover did. Although perhaps this is not the best example I believe this is a model that could be successful for GM europe.

Coming back to the reality of a belt tightening era, I hope that I am wrong in prediction. Maybe Vauxhall does not present any greater cost implications than an Opel operation, but I can’t help thinking that Vauxhall’s days maybe numbered.