He Qi

I've been impressed by the work of artist He Qi.

He has produced a mural for the new offices of CMS in Oxford, and they used his picture of the Three Kings as a Christmas Card. At the time of writing, both of these are on the front page of his web site.

Mark Berry features another on his blog, with a moving poem for Christmas Eve also.

Finding True North web site launched

Finally I have arrived at the point of feeling happy with initial publicity literature and a web site for the new firm. The purpose of Finding True North is to allow me to spend more time doing what I am good at – consultancy and coaching – with business clients and individuals, in a way that is mutually beneficial!

It has taken a while to get to this point, having decided to do it during the Summer and then incorporated the company – Richard Hovey and Associates Ltd – on 18th October. I am happy with the direction that this is travelling in.

Go to the Finding True North web site.

Into the Wild (film)

Watched this film at the Little Theatre, Bath, last night.

It is the moving true story of Chris McCandless who, having not got on well with his parents, after graduation chooses to vanish on a journey around the USA of self discovery.

Having brightened the lives of many people he encountered during his explorations, he heads for the wilderness of Alaska to prove that he can survive there. Sadly he does not.

Having enjoyed some months, the turning point comes when he notes that true happiness needs to be shared with other people. Having chosen to return to human company, he finds himself unable to do so because of a flooded river. No longer pleased to be where he is, a kind of panic seems to ensue resulting in futher poor judgements.

Sad, but moving and insightful. Journeys have to end somewhere.

Church Climate Change Priority

Should churches be “running with the pack” in their action on climate change? They have a special task.

It is encouraging to hear that government support for climate change is growing. Also this year a leading economist spoke of the importance of tackling the problem. I believe that his purpose was to speak to the business community, to convince them that they should not be relying on politicians. Indeed western businesses are now asking governments to legislate appropriately – an apparent turnaround from global firms trying to avoid government intervention.

Writers have also been pointing out (again) that the problem is not a problem for the planet, but for the human race. We may succeed at killing ourselves off, but the planet will recover from us.

Reading the church press it is clear that churches are seeking to be more environmentally responsible, and to encourage the general public to do the same. As local organisations,  churches do need to be environmentally responsible at least as much as other organisations. Yet they also have a task that is their own and thus more important for them.

Much of the human race has treated the planet like an inexhaustible mine. This is worse than treating it as a machine, because at least we usually recognise that machines need maintenance from time to time. Surely what lies under this attitude of disrespect is greed.

Current appeals to people to behave more responsibly put their hope in “enlightened self-interest.” In other words, if people who are concerned mainly about themselves recognise that it is in their interests to avert climate change, then they will act. The same belief is behind the Market Economy, yet we see that its “trickle down” theory (that if some people get rich everyone will benefit) works in some areas; but in others people continue to be severely exploited. Economics will not provide an anwer to everything.

So this way of appealing to people has a problem: its underlying philosophy is unsound. This is clear even looking at it just from a secular world view. From a religious point of view, the only way to tackle the greedy behaviour is to deal with the greed underneath the symptoms.

Why are we greedy? I think that in many cases the root is insecurity. We think that if we don't grab all we can get we won't survive, because nobody else cares for us.

The Christian religion reminds us that there is a God who loves us, cares for us, and has provided all those resources that we think we need to grab – so actually we don't need to grab them. Nor are we a law unto ourselves. The church is to demonstrate and proclaim this message.

So as well as acting responsibly, the church needs to remember it's special task. Whatever the human causes of climate change, I believe that the only lasting solution will come when we discover that God loves each of us, and that we can abandon self-interest.

The good news of Christmas continues to be as relevant as ever. God sends a saviour, Jesus, to save us from ourselves.

PADI Open Water Diver!

I made it (and so did Steph). We completed our qualification as Open Water Divers today at Fathom and Blues dive centre, Portland, Dorset.

We dived to about 12 metres inside the harbour wall, twice, to do some underwater exercises (like removing and replacing our dive masks) and to peer at a wrecked ship through very murky water. All this in three layers of wet suit and water at 9°C (warmer than the air at 6°C).

Yes, of course it was fun. We also enjoyed a ride on a RIB to the divesight and practised falling off it into the water – just like they do in the films.

You may remember that all this is to get Steph set up for her diving in Mexico, however the rest of us are also starting to plan for warmer and more colourful diving.

Choosing banks, accountants, and insurers

I'm still working through the administration of setting up the new business, and finding that it takes longer than I expect. I am choosing a bank and an accountant to work with, as well as researching insurers for Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance.

It is worthwhile meeting bankers and accountants, as relationships are important, and talking to accountants produces advice about banks and vice versa. At the moment UK banks are competing with one another to get new business customers, and offering a period of free banking. The charging structures of some are such that banking continues to be largely free thereafter. Having said that, it's more important to maximise sales than to worry about bank charges. I find myself warming to managers who are obviously honest, and demonstrate their skill by listening rather than talking about their relationship with other customers.

In meeting accountants, I have been impressed by each but then inclined to meet with others. This is because I at first valued people who were telling me things that I did not know, then realised that it was more important to have an accountant who listened to where I was at rather than giving me a pre-prepared speech. I also realised that some were more in touch with ways to help me “keep it simple” – so that I have to spend less time on my own book keeping. Quotes for doing the end of year accounts for a small Limited Company have ranged from £400 to £1750 (plus VAT). It seems useful to me to have access at the firm not just to Chartered Accountants, but also to a Chartered Tax Adviser.

I need to have Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance, although I am not sure to what level. I do not need Employer's Liability Insurance as there are no other employees at present. I find a wide range of different kinds of policies are available, at a wide range of prices, and are easily accessible over the internet (Towergate offer a comprehensive range, and Hiscox policies are widely offered by brokers). Being a member of a relevant professional institution attracts discounts on tailor-made policies which is good.