Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Seriously though, what is Christmas coming to?

On Saturday night I went for Christmas dinner with my boyfriend and another couple. After some tasty turkey-related treats we headed into town for a few drinks. The other couple were still wearing their Christmas cracker hats at this point and were refused entry to a bar until they agreed to remove them. Bah, humbug!

In a similar vein, Jeremy Paxman has caused something of a furore for refusing to have a Christmas tree and decorations in the Newsnight studio. A tree is prominently displayed on the BBC Breakfast set, which Newsnight shares, but by the evening it is promptly removed. As a result, Paxman has reportedly been nicknamed ‘Scrooge’ by other BBC staff.

This reminds me of an office I worked in five years or so ago. Managed by a lay preacher, all Christmas decorations were banned from the reception area in case they offended clients of other faiths. We weren’t even allowed to put Christmas cards on our desks. Wise up!

These stories represent the absurdity of modern culture to me. We have become so “respectful” of other people’s traditions that we are having to lay down our own. Ok, so Christmas isn’t about trees or decorations, but they certainly make the festive season more fun.

I have lots of Muslim friends and all of them love Christmas. Many have a traditional Christmas dinner (minus the pigs in blankets) and embrace plenty of other Christmas traditions. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain points out that Muslims “believe in the Bible” and “believe in the teachings of Jesus”. So who are we really showing “respect” to by banning the mention and celebration of Christmas?

Meanwhile, it seems decorations aren’t the only Christmas controversies making the news this year. Police were called to a hotel near Hartlepool last weekend after reports of a disturbance at a Christmas party held for plainclothes police officers! Although the complaints were never substantiated, three police cars and a dog unit were sent to the scene. Talk about the heavy hand of the law.

On a lighter note, a stolen snowman ornament in Victoria, Australia, has become something of a local hero, according to the Herald Sun. The family received emailed photographs of Frosty with a gun and a blowtorch pointed at him. A ransom note telling them to "Meet our demands or the snowman gets it”, was also sent. But the burglars seem to have fallen for the dainty decoration, taking him for a spin on a motorbike and even for a game of pool at the local pub.

I’m not advocating theft, but let’s keep the fun in Christmas. Let’s remember to give generously, to try not to throttle our families and to have plenty of laughs this year. And let’s not forget the real reason we celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world. We’re not celebrating “winterval”, it’s CHRISTmas!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Sorted magazine xxx

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The children that could change our world

 Kimberley Hainey was convicted of murdering her son Declan this week.

That’s shocking in itself. But when you hear that this poor baby was regularly left in dirty nappies without food while Hainey was out enjoying herself and that his body was left rotting in his cot for months after his death, this tragic story takes on a whole new dimension. To add insult to murder, his mother then sold his clothes and toys to buy heroin.

Like Declan, Paul Apowida was left to die a long and painful death as a child. Born in Sirigu, Northern Ghana, Paul’s father died before he was born and his mother died shortly after the birth.

This was taken as a sign that he was possessed by evil spirits. A soothsayer decided Paul should be put to death to rid the community of this ‘kinkirgo’ (‘spirit child’), who would otherwise act as a jinx to those around him.

Baby Paul was fed poisonous herbs and would certainly have died if it hadn’t been for the intervention of Catholic nun Jane Naaglosegme. Sister Jane had set up a care home for ‘spirit children’ and patiently nursed him until the effects of the potentially fatal herbs wore off.

Then an amazing charity called AfriKids supported Paul through art college. Not only is he now a great painter, he is also a decorated soldier in The Rifles – the army’s largest infantry regiment.

But despite his military success, Paul hasn’t forgotten his shaky start in life. The first time he returned to his own village, Sirigu, five or six years ago, his townfolk were stunned to see that he was still alive. They never believed he would have survived childhood, let alone life on the frontline.

Reading stories like this makes my heart weep for the children like Declan and the hundreds of ‘spirit children’ who aren’t as fortunate as Paul. These children have been seriously let down; robbed of their futures, deprived of the love and care they deserve. I want to do something about it.

These stories also provoke in me a righteous indignation. How dare people take the lives of these children that God created? Psalm 127:3 says that children “are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward”.

There are many references in the Old Testament to God’s anger when it comes to child sacrifice and infanticide. “And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger (2 Kings17:17-18).

And we should be angry: every child is precious and should be loved, cherished and nurtured. We should be looking out for the children around us, making sure they are being cared for properly, offering help if we see parents struggling, and intervening if we suspect ill-treatment.

As an AfriKids ambassador, Paul is helping to re-educate his countrymen and women about the mistaken ‘spirit child’ belief. He has also raised £40,000 for the charity through the sale of his paintings.

“God is using me to talk to people, to educate my community about what they are doing and to help change their ways,” Paul told Sorted.”You never know what a child will grow up to be.”

Paul’s words are all the more poignant as we prepare to celebrate the birth of a very special baby this Christmas. This one baby changed the fate of the world forever, and we shouldn’t underestimate the influence our own children may have if they are given the chance. 
Read more the full story of Paul Apowida in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Boobs and banter, or dangerous drivel?

As a girl, I find it hard to avoid making eye-to-boob contact when I see lads’ mags in the local newsagent’s, so I can only imagine what it must be like for a hormonal male. You might think me prudish, but I don’t think the likes of Nuts, Loaded, Zoo and FHM should be placed within arm’s reach of our kids.

And it seems I’m not the only one. In February, a number of supermarket chains and petrol stations agreed to place lads’ mags on the top shelf and some even introduced modesty covers.

But it seems children aren’t the only people at risk from their content. What impact are these ‘soft-porn’ magazines having on their target audience (teenage boys and men)? And how do they affect men’s attitudes towards women, sexual abuse and domestic violence?

This may sound a little far-fetched, but a new study from psychologists at Middlesex University and the University of Surrey suggest lads’ mags could be legitimising and propagating hostile, sexist attitudes.

Psychologists presented men aged 18-46 with a range of statements, some taken from magazines and some from convicted rapists. The sources were only disclosed in certain cases.

When presented with descriptions of women taken from lads’ mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.

Most men who took part identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists. When told which quotes were from lads’ mag, they identified more with these, despite the fact some were actually taken from rapists. 

In a separate study, the researchers found that both men and women rated the quotes from lads’ mags as more derogatory than those from the rapists.

Dr Miranda Horvath, lead researcher at Middlesex University, said: “We were surprised that participants identified more with the rapists’ quotes, and we are concerned that the legitimisation strategies that rapists deploy when they talk about women are more familiar to these young men than we had anticipated.”

Dr Peter Hegarty, from the University of Surrey’s Psychology Department, added: “We are not killjoys or prudes who think that there should be no sexual information and media for young people. But are teenage boys and young men best prepared for fulfilling love and sex when they normalise views about women that are disturbingly close to those mirrored in the language of sexual offenders?”

Experts are calling for magazine editors to moderate the content of their magazines more effectively. Anna van Heeswijk, campaigns manager for human rights campaign group OBJECT, said: "This crucial and chilling piece of research lays bare the hateful messages which seep out of lads' mags and indoctrinate young men's attitudes towards women and girls.

“When the content of magazines aimed at teenage boys mirrors the attitudes of convicted rapists, alarm bells must ring.

“If we are serious about wanting an end to discrimination and violence against women and girls, we must tackle the associated attitudes and behaviours. This means tackling the publications which peddle them.”

What do you think? Are lads’ mags just a bit of cheeky fun? Or could they be doing real harm? Do you or someone close to you buy them?

You’ll have to excuse the shameless plug, but if you’re looking for a wholesome men’s magazine that is packed full of interesting interviews, reviews, sports news and practical lifestyle tips, why not give Sorted a try?

(Lads’ mag quotes were taken from FHM, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo. Rapist quotes were taken from verbatim interview transcripts in The Rapist Files: Interviews With Convicted Rapists (Sussman & Bordwell).)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Why Gary Speed is not alone

Photo credit: Jon Candy/Wikipedia

You may wonder why it took me so long to write about Gary Speed when his tragic death was announced more than a week ago.

It’s because I found the news extremely difficult to believe and digest. Having watched him on Football Focus the day before, I couldn’t accept that this man – with a young family and at the height of his career – could be dead. The realisation that it was suicide blew my mind. This was a man who was loved by family and friends, former teammates, colleagues and football fans across the world.

But whatever was going on behind the scenes, Gary was far from alone in the struggles he faced. According to the latest suicide figures from The Samaritans, men are much more likely to take their own lives than women.

Its research shows that in 2009, 4,309 men in the UK committed suicide compared with 1,371 women. In men under 35, suicide is the second most common cause of death in England and Wales.

So why are so many promising young men choosing to end their lives?
  • Men are reluctant to talk about feelings. Some of the men in my life would literally rather die than bare their souls
  • Men often find it difficult to ask for help. They feel as though they should be able to cope with life and that asking for help would compromise their manliness
  • Because men tend to relate to each other through teasing and banter, some are afraid they will be mocked or not taken seriously
  • Young boys are often told off for crying because it isn’t manly, and men are told to ‘man up’ if they show any signs of weakness
  • Men who, like Gary, seem to be really thriving can put a lot of pressure on themselves. If something goes wrong they panic that their whole lives are about to collapse
The inability to discuss feelings and problems can lead to a distorted perspective of the situation. Rather than talk to a spouse, friend or doctor, many men bottle up their fears and constantly dwell on them. When the pressure becomes too great, ideas of suicide can creep in.

Some of the men choose to drink their problems away or escape into a world of sport or computer games – anything that helps them to suspend their fears. Others operate on a rewards system that they think will make them feel better, but actually have a very temporary effect (often followed by a deep sense of guilt).

So what can we do about this?

Avoid unhelpful and condemnatory statements. Some believe suicide is murder and a selfish act but if this is you, it’s probably best to keep these thoughts to yourself. Rather than treating the issue with disapproval or criticism we should be looking for ways to reach out, support and offer practical help.

Take good care of your friends. If you know someone who is going through a tough time, or a friend’s behaviour seems to be changing, don’t turn a blind eye. You don’t have to launch into in-depth discussions about feelings, just make yourself available, listen carefully and encourage your friend to seek professional help.

Offer hope. Whether your friend is a Christian or not, God is the answer. He wants us to live a full and fulfilling life, not one of fear and death. He is our father and friend; someone we can talk to and confide in. The Bible encourages each of us to give all of cares to God, because he cares about us (1 Peter 5:7).

Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

However great someone’s life seems, we all have problems and we all need to know that there is hope. It’s our responsibility to love and pray for the people in our lives and to point them in the right direction(s).

You can call CALM (0800 58 58 58) or The Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) if you or someone you know needs help.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The most memorable memoir I've read

Photo: Ian Morgan Cron
Photo credit: Thomas Nelson Publishers

I’ve found some of the Christian books I’ve read a bit cringey. Sometimes the subject matter is good but the writing style is poor or the super-spiritual authors are too far removed from my own experiences to be useful. Some have made me feel like I’m swimming through treacle, which sounds delightful but in practice is pretty hard work (and extremely messy).

So when I was sent Ian Morgan Cron’s book Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was described as a “memoir of sorts”, which didn’t fill me with hope as I’d never even heard of him. But right from the opening chapter I was drawn in. The writing style was modern, captivating and extremely evocative. In fact, the more I read the more I enjoyed it. 

One warning I’d give you is that this memoir should not be read anywhere you might encounter strangers. You will laugh out loud. The story about the “angel”, for example, perfectly captures his fearful, childish imagination. I laughed until my abs hurt.

That’s not to say it’s an entirely comfortable read. It’s likely your laughter will be blended with tears at times (unless you have a heart of stone). However, it’s the lightness of the amusing anecdotes juxtaposed with the painful memories that brings the book to life.

Ian shares tales from his childhood as though they happened yesterday and the descriptions are so vivid you feel as though you have lived through them with him, both the good and the bad; that you know him intimately despite having only met him in the world of print.

It’s his willingness to bring to life the sadness, rejection and humiliation with as much clarity as the more recent, delicious memories of time spent his own children that give the book a rounded, true-to-life feel.

“Every life contains episodes we’d rather not remember, no less commit to paper for others to read, but this is what the memoirist must do or their work will ring false,” explains Ian. “Besides, would you trust a memoir that didn’t include painful or embarrassing moments? Would it even be worth reading?” 

The book reveals deep flaws in the relationship between Ian and his father; however there were also some positives to be drawn. His father was a voracious reader who loved beautiful prose. He gave Ian a Merriam Webster dictionary as a going away gift when he left for college, writing in it: “Words—learn to love them”. Ian says: “It’s spooky that he wrote that not knowing I would one day become a writer; or did he know all along? (Play spooky music here!)”

This relationship also made him think seriously about his own role as a father. He has worked extremely hard to ensure his children are loved, encouraged and protected – the evidence of this leaps out of every sentence he writes about his three kids, as well as his ever-patient wife Anne.

“The relationship I have with my children couldn’t be more different than the one I had with my father,” he comments. “For example, I am not afraid to tell my children that I’m sorry when I’ve hurt them or wronged them somehow. My father never would have dreamt of apologising to his children.

“I’m also very physical with my children. I hug them as often as I can. I think that’s terribly important for dads to do.”

Ian became a Christian as a result of hanging out with a bunch of young believers who invested time, effort and money in him – probably developing a few grey hairs in the process. He wasn’t an easy nut to crack; like most of us before we met with God he had “issues”.

But the dedication of these young Christians who accepted him just as he was and were genuinely concerned about him really touched his heart. Having experienced this unconditional friendship, his advice is to treat all people as precious human beings, whatever their backgrounds and beliefs.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me is available across the UK and is worth every penny. His blog is also a great read.

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The armed robber who’s giving something back

Photo credit: Darrell Tunningley

When I was in primary school, I was still playing shops with my plastic till. Slightly older than me, my brother Stephen was pretending he was He-Man. But if Darrell Tunningley had been there, I imagine he’d have been stealing my chewy hamburgers and coercing He-Man into a vicious battle disguised as his arch nemesis, Skeletor.

Because by the time he reached double-digits, Darrell was fast descending into a dangerous downward spiral. By the age of 11 he was boozing it up and dabbling with drugs. Before long he had graduated to stealing cars, selling narcotics and generally getting up to no good.

The arrests started during his teens and it was clearly only a matter of time before he’d be doing hard time. After committing an armed robbery and thinking he’d got away with it, the young criminal found himself in serious trouble. He was sentenced to a five-and-a-half year stint.

Prison life wasn’t too different form life on Knottingley’s Warwick Estate, where he’d grown up. Having built up a reputation for himself on the outside, no-one was going to mess with him on the inside. He was known for extreme violence, and anyone that crossed him was treated to a generous portion of it.

This is not the kind of guy you’d imagine going to an Alpha Course to learn about Christianity. But after dispatching one aggressive knockback to the guy that invited him, Darrell realised attending the course could actually be a handy skive. He dragged a few friends along and plonked himself in front of the two decrepit nuns in charge of the series.

Initially hostile, Darrell eventually realised there was something special about these women. Not only was he overwhelmed by their love and patience, he actually started to listen to what they were saying. He began to realise God wasn’t as irrelevant as he’d always thought and he suddenly felt he needed answers to the many questions he’d harboured over the years.

After pouring his heart out to this God he’d heard so much about one night in his cell, he expected some kind of lightning bolt revelation but nothing happened. He went to bed feeling rather disappointed.

But the next morning things were very different. Not only did he feel a strong aversion to the cigarettes he’d smoked and the drugs he’d taken for many years, he started to experience a feeling of intense euphoria. The prison chaplain explained to Darrell that Jesus had given him a completely clean slate; that his past had been dealt with and he had been forgiven. He instantly and openly renounced drugs and violence.

This opened him up to certain risks, but overcoming the dangers and difficulties with God’s help only strengthened the sense of peace and joy he was feeling. He rang his former accomplices and told them he was ‘out’. He and several inmates who had also become Christians knew they’d been handed a fresh start and weren’t about to waste it.

Darrell feels God instantly started intervening on his behalf. He was moved to another prison and downgraded from category A (maximum security) offender status to a category C, despite having two years left to serve. He was also asked to lead the prison’s Alpha Course.

The response was incredible and the chapel – which held 500 – was constantly packed. New drug units were opened to cater for the growing numbers of men that had given their lives to Jesus and decided to kick the habit.

Before he was released, Darrell was contacted by Mark Finch, a pastor at church and community centre Hope Corner in Runcorn. Against the better judgement of his Scouse friends, he felt Runcorn was where God wanted him to be. He now spends a good deal of time with the local youth; the next generation of potential drug dealers and armed robbers.

Convinced he would already be dead if his life hadn’t changed so dramatically, Darrell feels hugely privileged to have been given a second chance in life. Not only is he a husband and father, he is now able to show youngsters like himself what it really means to be a man.

Read more about Darrell’s incredible turnaround and work at Hope Corner in the next edition of Sorted magazine, and in Darrell’s book, Unreachable.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cow-a-bunga bunga: Berlusconi bows out

I’m a big fan of comedy, even though it can be a bit close to the bone at times. People often criticise comics like Frankie Boyle, who is known for his foul language and politically incorrect humour. I don’t go to see him because I don’t think he’s funny, but if you’re easily offended, it’s best to give him and others like him a wide berth.

But what about jokes you can’t avoid hearing? Imagine turning on the telly and hearing David Cameron making offensive quips. Ok, so that would never happen… But if you were Italian you could (until now) have expected this on a regular basis from Silvio Berlusconi. If he’s not doing something illegal, he’s saying something that should be. He makes Wubya sound like a silver-tongued rhetorician, as these five ‘Berlusconisms’ show.
  1. “When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30% of women said 'Yes', while the other 70% replied, 'What, again?’”
  2. “All of us have a homosexual part of 25%, which I also have. The only thing is that I, after a profound examination, have realised that my homosexual part is lesbian.”
  3. “Ah, Barack Obama. You won't believe it, but the two of them sunbathe together, because the wife is also tanned.”
  4. “I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone; I sacrifice myself for everyone.”
  5. “An Aids patient asks his doctor whether the sand treatment prescribed him would do any good. 'No,' the doctor replies, 'but you will get accustomed to living under the earth'."
And it’s not just his words that have got him in hot water; the now former Italian Premier has been constantly in the papers for his sexual endeavours. Allegations of “bunga bunga” parties (don’t ask) and sex with prostitutes have been rife.

The crusty Casanova has also been charged with some pretty serious offences including: false testimony, links to the Mafia, bribery, illegal financing of a political party, false accounting, embezzlement, tax fraud, corrupting a judge, abusing state flight benefits and child prostitution.

He’s avoided conviction for many of these, mainly on technicalities, but perhaps that says more about his Mafia connections than the accusations do. And then there are the times he has been found guilty and changed, or tried to change, the law to get himself off.

So how on earth did he stay in power for so long? Technically, he’s been sworn in four times! Well, Mafia connections aside, he was a wealthy businessman before coming to power. His company, Mediaset, dominates Italian print and television media and he also owns seven-time European Cup/Champions League winners AC Milan.

My theory is that Italians were initially seduced by his ‘charismatic’ approach, a stark contrast from that of his predecessor Romano Prodi, who was a much quieter (and less mental) leader. I think some admired his wealth, his ability to “get away” with things and his prowess with the ladies. I don’t want to suggest he and Hitler are similar in any way, but his hypnotic hold over people, like Hitler’s, is hard for me to comprehend.

At best, Berlusconi is an utter buffoon. At worst, he is a dangerous, narcissistic pervert who got away with it for far too long. Public opinion has finally turned sour, but it’s worrying that countries are still voting for people whose private lives are toxic and public lives are little better.

Thomas Jefferson famously said that “people get the government they deserve”. Whether this is true or not, we do have a responsibility to get involved with what’s going on in our country and beyond; to vote when we’re given the opportunity and to stand up and be counted when we feel our leaders are getting it wrong.

Most importantly we should pray for our current and future leaders; that God will spare us from ending up with the government we really deserve.
Read more from Joy in the upcoming issue of magazine Sorted and in its sister publication, Liberti.

Friday, 4 November 2011

All change

Photo credit: Coconut85/Wikipedia (Hernandez in his Mexico strip - couldn't bring myself to use a United shot)

I was watching the highlights of the Everton v Man United game on Match of the Day last Saturday when something commentator Guy Mowbray said caught me completely by surprise.

Evra had just supplied a superb ball into the box, providing an easy tap in for Javier Hernandez (Chicharito). It was practically unmissable (unless you’re Fernando Torres, that is).

Following the goal, the young Mexican ran away, slapping the hands of his teammates in celebration. And then he did something we quite often see foreign players do; he lifted his hands heavenwards and thanked God.

This was encouraging to see, but it isn’t what made me jump. It was Guy Mowbray’s comment on the striker’s simple act of thanksgiving that did.

The commentator simply said: “Prayers answered. Thank you for the cross.”

Now I’m not too naïve to realise that he was attempting to voice Hernandez’s feelings and that the “cross” he referred to was Evra’s and not the one on which Jesus died. But it was a great bit of unintentional evangelism none-the-less.

This reminded me of a time a few years ago on the London underground. I was nearly at my destination when I heard some equally startling words. The voice over the intercom blurted: “Kings Cross. All change at Kings Cross.”

These words had a similar effect on me. It was truer than the announcer could possibly have realised! When Jesus, the king of kings, died on the cross, everything – and I mean everything – changed. Forever.

But that’s not it. The “all change” was significant too. To me it reflected the fact that everyone who approaches the cross of Christ can be transformed; our lives can be turned upside down and inside out (in a good way). And the best news is that this change is not just long-lasting; it’s eternal.

Now I’m not suggesting God is using subliminal messages to speak to us through football commentary or tube announcements – although there’s no reason why he shouldn’t. But it’s interesting that even in the most secular of settings, God’s word is inadvertently filtering through.

Maybe it will eventually touch the hearts of some of London’s toughest commuters and even the most debaucherous footballers. I’m not holding my breath over some of the England squad, but everything is possible with God!

Read more football-related content in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Even better sounds from Stuart Pendred

Photo credit: Stuart Pendred

Opera singer Stuart Pendred is an old friend of Sorted. When his first album, Benedizioni (meaning “blessings”), came out, we interviewed him for a full spread in the magazine.

Then, last week, good old Facebook alerted me to the fact he’s releasing a brand new album, Agnus Dei, and that he was dropping in on BBC radio Oxford to give listeners a little taster.

As a youngster, he had grand visions of appearing on the stage as an awe-inspiring Hamlet and bagging himself a couple of Oscars. Being on stage made Stuart feel “alive”, and his sights were firmly fixed on making it big in Hollywood.

He never had any aspirations to be an opera singer when he was growing up; in fact he thought of opera stars as “fat people who shouted at each other in languages [he] … didn’t understand”.

Although he grew up in a Salvation Army setting, the Bedford boy had no experience of classical music. And his parents weren’t impressed about the idea of their son appearing on the stage. “It was positively not encouraged!” he says.

His singing prowess was attracting attention from his drama teachers and, despite his initial reluctance, he was eventually drawn into the opera arena. Members of a new company he helped set up would attend events pretending to be waiters or ‘undercover’ guests and then suddenly burst into song.

According to Stuart, this was a great laugh. But there were a couple of occasions where he almost ended up getting battered by other guests who weren’t in on the surprise.

Dennis Wise’s wedding was one such experience, as Vinnie Jones was the best man. “Having him tell me to shut up was quite an intense experience,” Stuart relates, expecting a good hiding. But once the action man realised what was going on, he saw the funny side.

This was certainly good experience for what was to come. He later found himself singing in front of huge crowds, including thousands of fans at two Six Nations rugby matches. Stuart speaks fondly about the magic of hearing 75,000 people singing along to “Swing Low” or “Jerusalem”.

Photo credit: Stuart Pendred

He also became the ‘voice’ of Chelsea Football Club, the team he had always supported. Having set up a “Three Tenors kind of company”, he and his buddies sent out promotional packs to every Premier League club. Susanna, who was Chelsea manager Ken Bates’ PA at the time (and is now his wife), rang Stuart and the pair came up with a plot for the three singers to sing live for Ken.

Posing as ordinary fans after a Chelsea match, Stuart approached the manager and asked if he could sing for him. After hearing the three lads sing, they instantly became “Ken Bates’ boys”. This opened up plenty of opportunities for Stuart to appear at players’ and staff weddings and other functions.

Despite the fact his dad was a gooner and was convinced his son had been brought up properly, Stuart and his brother had been firmly encouraged in their support of Arsenal rivals Chelsea by their uncle. So standing on that Stamford Bridge turf and getting to know the players, legends and directors well has been a “real honour”.

The new album features more original tracks than Benedizioni and boasts around 36 live musicians compared with seven or eight. Stuart says that it is a reflection of himself; his way of laying his deepest feelings on the line.

The radio station played track eleven from the album; a song called “Sempre Qui”, (“always there”). He explains that he was inspired to write the song after a close friend was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.

Very sadly, after a furious battle with the disease, he died at the age of 42, leaving behind a wife and two children. Having lost his brother in a car accident and his uncle to cancer, Andy’s death came as a major blow for Stuart. “It was a very dark experience and one that I needed to get out,” he explains.

However, the track is actually a song of hope; reassuring us that there is still purpose and meaning in life. As a Christian, Stuart firmly believes his life is in the hands of his creator and he’s looking forward to whatever lies ahead for him.

The new album is moving, inspiring and full of positivity, so if you’re wondering to get a friend or relative for Christmas, you could do a lot worse than grabbing a copy.

Check out Stuart’s website to buy the album and get the latest news. Read more from Joy in the upcoming issue of Sorted magazine and in its sister publication, Liberti.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What do Christians, Conservatives and fat cats have in common?

Photo credit: Harry Metcalfe/Wikipedia

Tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Michael Farmer for Sorted magazine. Michael is an extremely successfully businessman, a Christian, a family man and a big supporter of the Conservative Party (although not necessarily in that order).

As the founder of RK Capital Management, Michael has become one of London’s best-paid fund managers. The company’s main fund, Red Kite, is one of the largest industrial metals hedge funds in the world.

Having left school at 18 and started out earning just £8 a week, the entrepreneur now ships around 15-20% of China's total copper supplies. And that’s a lot of copper. It’s no surprise he’s been nicknamed ‘Mr Copper’ by his peers.

But rather than becoming increasingly greedy after his success with his first company, MG Metals (and after helping to pick up the pieces of it once it was torn apart by Enron), Michael decided to take himself off to Bible School in Cornhill, London. I bet not many of his fellow fund managers have done that.

"The idea of a City financier who's a Christian is sometimes considered a contradiction in terms," Michael told The DailyTelegraph. With the animosity aimed at London’s financial community in recent years, I imagine he’s used to taking a bit of flak. But being a member of the “God Squad” (his words, not mine) is likely to have brought him double trouble.

And these aren’t the only controversies Michael is courting: he’s also responsible for donating £2.3 million to the Tory Party. He’s not one to make a song and dance about this, but he recently decided to defend his actions after hearing Lord Ashcroft criticise London financiers who he claimed were supporting political parties because they stood to gain from it.

"You can call me a City fat cat if you want, but I'm not giving away my hard-earned money for fun. I'm giving it away because I want to fund something I genuine believe: that Cameron and the Tories will be a far better government for the country than Labour," he says.

Having met with David Cameron to discuss the importance of family values, Michael feels the Prime Minister shares his concerns and is sincere about his intentions to preserve family life.

Conversely, Michael believes Labour is responsible for breaking down families; of describing the family unit as a Victorian concept. “Labour's idea of a family is three people who share a fridge," he says. However, as a Christian, husband and father of three, he truly understands the value of family life.

“I know that if things go wrong for me financially, I've got my family to fall back on. If I lost my job or savings, I'd talk to Jenny and we'd discuss belt-tightening, cutting debts, selling the house, whatever it would take to come out the other side. It'd be tough, but far easier together," he concludes.

Do you share Michael’s faith in Mr Cameron? Should the government be involved in family life? Is it right for Church and State should be linked at all? Feel free to leave comments and any question suggestions below. Be quick though – the interview starts at 10am GMT.

You can read the full story – with exclusive comment from Michael Farmer – in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Why iLove the iPhone

Photo credit: Apple

We all know the English love to queue, but where the iPhone is involved it seems ‘queue fever’ is fast becoming an international pastime – even the French are getting the hang of it.

Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 4S has drawn crowds to stores around the world today, with thousands queuing through the night to get their hands on the latest model. According to reports, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is first in the queue outside his local Apple store in California. You’d have thought they’d have given the poor guy one for free…

The newest handset boasts a faster processor and better camera than the iPhone 4. It also comes with Siri, a voice-controlled 'personal assistant' that can make appointments, send messages and even answer questions. What’s not to like?

The first person to buy an iPhone 4S from the Apple Store in London's Covent Garden said he was desperate to get to bed having been up all night waiting for the shop to open. But not before he’s had a good play with it of course.

I must admit, when I got my first iPhone I couldn’t wait to get it home. I disobeyed the 16-hour charging rule, plugged it on and started working out what to press (I’d like to say I carefully read the instruction booklet, but that would be rather misleading).

Needless to say, it was awesome; it totally met and even exceeded my expectations. I still struggle to text with it, but that’s probably more to do with my fat fingers than the phone itself.

I’m certainly not the most technical person around, but I know what I like, and I definitely like the iPhone. I know there’ll be a lot of people out there who think it’s overrated (feel free to leave comments), but in my opinion it’s still making the headlines for all the right reasons.

I know it’s a cliché, but I really can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. I can check my emails wherever I am, navigate my way out of continual lostness with the map app and while away many a boring hour with a game of Angry Birds. Okay, so the game probably makes me angrier than the birds, but it’s totally addictive.

The danger with gadgets like the iPhone is that, like social networking sites, they can affect the way we spend time and relate to others. Don’t get me wrong, not all communication has to be face-to-face, but I’d definitely rather have a coffee with a real person than be glued to a piece of metal all day.

While a phone can help us keep in touch with people, the more technology it offers the more distracted we can become. Do you find yourself scrolling away on your phone while your best friend is trying to tell you something? Do you find yourself reaching for your phone before you say hi to your wife in the morning?

If so, I suggest you introduce a self-enforced ban for a week so you can get a bit of perspective back (and probably earn yourself some brownie points)! I’m sure the ban could wait a while if you’ve been up all night queuing for the iPhone 4S.

Let us know your thoughts on the hottest gadgets around and whether you think they are changing our lives for the better or the worse. If you’re the lucky owner of the new iPhone, let us know your thoughts on it!

You can read more about the latest gadgets in the upcoming edition of Sorted magazine, or its sister publication, Liberti.