Part 5: 2013 World Record

World Record Hayabusa Hearse

World Record Hayabusa Hearse

Straightliners have now processed all the evidence needed for The Guinness Book of World Records for the various world records set under their auspices in 2013. My own record was set on the Elvington strip where I rode the now derestricted Suzuki Hayabusa hearse west-east at 126.6mph and east-west at 124.8mph. For the official world record the average of 125.7mph at the one mile mark is used. The goal was to prove just how stable and well built our rigid vehicles are in comparison to bendy hearses or trailers and on this video you can see clearly how rock solid these outfits are even when flat out. It was a bit of a jump from the  practice run at 115.2 mph to 126.6 mph in 2013, but as the Hayabusa outfit was properly set up there was no need to weigh it down with a heavy coffin for stability. In fact, as you can see, we had no need for additional weighting at all.

The Elvington strip tests prove just how stable and agile an authentic motorbike and sidecar hearse is at all speeds, that a proper rigid vehicle is still better than a bendy hearse and that professionals can provide something families can be proud of, the best!

The Suzuki Hayabusa Hearse is the real deal, a properly certified hearse

The Suzuki Hayabusa Hearse is the real deal, an authentic motorcycle that is properly certified as a hearse

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King Edward VI College Charter Day

It was a real honour to preach at the King Edward VI College Charter Day at St Mary’s Church Oldswinford near Stourbridge. This service commemorates the Granting of the Charter to the school, from which the College derives, by King Edward VI on 17 June 1552 and celebrates the good work of benefactors, governors, trustees, staff and students since that time and especially the achievements of current members of the College.


The Charter Day pulpit in Oldswinford

The attitude of the students at King Edward VI College is that of expectation, expectation to do well and expectation to do well in the world afterwards too, so what a thrill to speak to such a  number of future world changers. As I sat beside the choir I suggested to the young man beside me that he preach and I sing. True to the sixth form’s reputation he said yes… until he heard me sing! So I preached.

The sixth form soon fill the old swinford church.

The sixth form soon fill the Old Swinford church.

When preaching to some five to six hundred students and faculty, every one of them better educated than you, the reinforced wooden pulpit is reassuring as no matter how hard they throw the hymn books you’ll survive if you keep your head down. Alternatively of course, you could try to preach a good sermon! To communicate to young people it’s important you do your homework and make sure you have a well thought through talk. Contrary to most people’s fears youths are very forgiving and intelligent students will make an effort to listen to someone who has made an effort to speak to them. Even if you are not the best speaker in the world work hard at your notes as they will see your efforts and stick with you, as long as you aren’t too long of course! If you are a good speaker, or even pretty good, dynamic young students like those in King Edward VI College will bring the best out in you and you might even hear a clap of appreciation at the end. Not everyone considers such a response appropriate in church, but those of us on the receiving end of an applause certainly don’t mind!

Myself, the Revd Stephen Agnew (a real pastor), the College Principal (whom I'm in awe of) and my friend Charles Cowling who runs the Good Funeral Guide.

Myself, the Revd Stephen Agnew, the College Principal and Charles Cowling who runs the Good Funeral Guide.

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Scottish Funeral Fringe

When James Blackburn, head of ScotMid Funerals, organised ScotMid Co-operative’s first conference to coincide with the Edinburgh Fringe it was inevitable it would be nicknamed the Scottish Funeral Fringe and turn into a very enjoyable and even entertaining day as well as educational.

James Blackburn Scotmid co-op

James Blackburn of ScotMid co-op Funerals with the names of all the conference speakers.

When I discovered I would be in the line up against the renowned and respected historian Brian Parsons the pressure was on. With thirty years in the profession under his belt, a distinguished career in training others and former editor of The Funeral Service Journal Brian Parsons is undoubtably top of the tree. I’ve known him for eleven years and never failed to be amazed at his positive contribution and commitment. Off stage he is a gem too and my wife’s favourite driver (he drives an Aston Martin). Finally the big day arrived and as I sat beside Brian I let it out, “Brian, I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be speaking at a conference alongside you.” With a wry smile, a glint in his eye and perfectly timed dry humour Brian hammed up his most condescendingly funny tone to reply, “… and I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be speaking at a conference alongside you!”

Brian Parsons, the respected and near legendary funeral historian

Brian Parsons, the respected and near legendary funeral historian.

There is some good advice in the New Testament where it tells us to, ‘esteem one another greater than yourself.’ When it comes to conference speaking this is a great tip as when you recognise someone really is better than you in their field you can simply sit and enjoy what they have to say without the pressure to be on a par in their subject, instead your own goal is to be focused on your own field. As such I had the joy of listening to Brian Parsons live and numerous others including Richard Arnold who had brought along some demo heads to help us with our skills. I wish I could tell you of them all as each one I could easily esteem as greater than myself, yet know that they would share the same respect for me in my field too. Inviting folk like Charles Cowling of The Good Funeral Guide along was positively radical, but this society sees the value of an outsider’s view whether that is hard-hitting or flag waving and the risk paid off.

Paul Sinclair with the inspirational Richard Arnold of Omega Supplies

Yours truly with the inspirational Richard Arnold of Omega Supplies

Of all the co-operatives involved in funerals ScotMid certainly stand out in their aim to make a difference while keeping a grip on all their best values too. When I heard these people talk about their core values I couldn’t help but feel they really meant it! Conferences like these impact the speakers as much as the listeners and if this is how the funeral profession is moving in Scotland then I would hope that the next TV expose is one that exposes just how good these folk are!

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How to speak with a translator

Pastor Ti preaching with a seriously good translator.

Pastor Ti preaching with a seriously good translator.

I first preached with a translator for the French church in Harlesden about twenty three years ago. Since then I’ve preached with a Spanish translator in Peru, Romanian translators in both Romania and the UK as well as Norwegian and numerous others. Today I enjoyed a return trip to Espérance de la Gloire where the translators are second to none, but even with the best of the best a few tips may help.

1.   One liners don’t translate! My old gag, ‘they used to call me the Faster Pastor until I fell off my bike and now they call me the Elasta Pastor’ never fails to raise a laugh, but it simply doesn’t rhyme or flow in other languages. Likewise, if you have ‘four Ps of…’ you’ll find they are never four Ps in any other language. So, like it or not, you need to have less punchy titles and points. Don’t despair though as good communication is not about being punchy and dynamic, its about being understood. Don’t fear being dull either as by having a simple outline with sincerity your actual content will still be appreciated.

2. If possible type your notes in full. For many of us this is normally a stifeling experience, but when you are working with a translator it is often difficult to remember what you are supposed to say next as you await the translation. Sometimes, indeed almost always, someone from the congregation offers an alternative word or phrase to your translator at some point and as you observe the live discussion it can really throw you. There are other advantages of fully types notes too. If you can get them done far enough in advance send them to your translator and let them pass comment, ask questions and get involved. This saves your translator the stress of having to think on their feet and that can only help everyone. Finally, when you have fully typed notes you can leave them behind and anything folk didn’t quite grasp can be explained.

3.  If you have bible readings or quotes do your best to get these to the translator well in advance. They are under horrendous pressure and scrutiny, so help them.

4.   Good translators will often interpret slightly rather than translate verbatim, this is because they understand cultural differences, what is polite and what is offensive etc. You need to trust them here and be patient when something you said short takes a while to explain.

5.  Every translator has a different style and a different memory so before you begin ask how many sentences you should speak before pausing for them. You may find them adapt as you go along, so try to be sensitive to what they can cope with.

Each of the above I’ve learnt from experience, so I’ve certainly not done all of this over the years, but now that I’m getting the hang of it I thought I’d help save you the same twenty three year learning curve!

Comments and further tips for readers welcome.

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Marian sings a cappella at Wye Church

Marian sings a few versions of The Lord’s my Shepherd in under three minutes at Wye Church. There is something powerful about singing the Lord’s word in such a historical building, where the word has been preached and the congregation has sung for centuries.

Straight from the National Funeral Exhibition Marian and I battered on down to Wye to preach at the evening service. It’s important in a service to preach the gospel or teach something that builds folk up so we are always careful to keep our company hat separate, but on this occasion we were coming straight from the National Funeral Exhibition with a very conspicuous vehicle so it was only decent that the Rev Ravi Holy be given every opportunity to pose on it!


Rev Ravi Holy outside Wye Church on the Triumph motorcycle hearse

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Espérance de la Gloire’s twentieth anniversary

This week Espérance de la Gloire celebrated their twentieth anniversary in Wembley. I had the honour of telling the story of how the church started and sitting with my old friend Pastor Tito, or Pastor Ti as he is commonly known now. I recognised many faces, although not all recognised mine! Apparently I don’t quite look the same. Perhaps a tad wider?

Just before it’s transformation into the Congo one of the Zaire diplomats who had recently come to know The Lord started a French-speaking African church in London. The congregation met at the Church of England hall in Stonebridge and quickly grew. This ambassador took the huge jump of faith to leave diplomatic service to become their pastor and I met him soon after. Rev. Tito or Pastor Tito as he was more commonly known immediately became my friend and I had the sheer joy of ministering at this Francophone church. As it grew though, the congregation began to face a serious problem, they simply couldn’t find a large enough place to meet and run their activities. As the pressures of growth in this confined space began to tell I offered the use of our facilities a few miles way in Willesden. Pastor Tito’s nephew Modest took over in Stonebridge and Pastor Tito took the huge bold step of planting out a whole new venture, thus in 1993 Espérance de la Gloire – The Hope of Glory was born. And I was there!

Full house for the anniversary

Full house for the anniversary

Our building  was significantly larger than the CofE Hall and the new congregation was of course smaller so the dynamics were  different, but the folk settled in immediately and it  was straight down to work preaching the gospel, teaching the saints, worshiping God and going for it. Sure enough the new fellowship began to grow and we really did enjoy working together. After a few years I lost the use of a building we hired for our children’s work and had the horrible job of having to ask Espérance de la Gloire to move out. I hated doing this and as I watched them being pushed from pillar to post it was heartbreaking, but as soon as we had purchased the old Congregational Church building we hired and the William Hill Bookmakers next door I didn’t hesitate to invite them back. Soon it was as if we’d never been apart! In 2001 I met with a terrible accident and wound up completing my pastoral tenure as new year broke in 2002 so it was farewell Willesden and farewell Espérance de la Gloire. Conclusion below…

I wasn't married when we founded the church so it was a delight to see Marian so well received.

I wasn’t married when we founded the church so it was a delight to see Marian so well received by my friends.

Well it was a kick to know that while I was long gone to Leicestershire I wasn’t forgotten and even received pride of place at Espérance de la Gloire’s twentieth anniversary. I’ll hopefully post my talk here soon. In the meantime, happy birthday Espérance de la Gloire!

Pastor Tito awarded with a certificate for twenty years of faithful service

Pastor Tito awarded with a certificate for twenty years of faithful service

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Mixed Race and Eggshells

White people seem to live in fear of saying anything non-politically correct and find themselves walking on egg shells around black folk instead of simply enjoying their company. The ‘is it ‘cos I is black?’ minority have actually made it difficult for the vast majority of folk to simply have a healthy laugh. In England I get ribbed about being tight due to the fact I’m Scottish, or is it come to think of it because I am in fact tight-fisted? Eh., moving on… Scottish people can have a laugh at the stereotypes surrounding us as can the Germans, where humour is no laughing matter, the Irish, the Welsh, tall people, small people, fat people, thin people, short-sighted people and just about everyone else. What one has to watch is not so much what is said, but how it is said. No one in their right mind says to a Glaswegian, “hey Jock, come over here,” unless of course they want a Glasgow kiss, but equally no Glaswegian would mind hearing a gag about, “Jock and Hamish.” If folk are secure and what you say is said with warmth and love, what harm?

Earlier this month I created an advert with my wee niece, who is admittedly not so wee anymore. I wanted to have a bit of fun with her colour in the text, but soon found my ad rejected. She thought it was funny and Marian did too, but the white magazine editor, understandably in retrospect, was clearly worried about causing offence. Eventually I concluded the editor was right so rather than pull my ad I rewrote it and played safe. While I must admit I am very happy with the end result it is notable that this logic doesn’t apply to Irn Bru who have no problem sending up their fellow Scots. We actually revel in it! The Yanks play on their cowboys, the Australians on their macho drinking and so it goes on. Wouldn’t it be great if we could lighten up a bit on colour too? It’s what’s underneath that matters, the spirit, the soul, the heart and the mind. We’ll never get it right all the time with anyone, but isn’t it time we cracked the eggshells and fear?

A bier, pronounced beer, is the original word for a coffin deck.

A bier, pronounced beer, is the original word for a coffin deck.

To end this blog, there once was a Scotsman, an Englishman, a Welshman, an Irishman, a white guy and a black guy…

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The friendly Friendship Group

Getting behind a Leicestershire initiative

Getting behind a Leicestershire initiative

Leicestershire folk are rightly proud of their Triumph Motorcycle factory and now our wee sidecar-hearse mini-factory has become a source of enthusiasm and pride too, so rather than take a box of Now Open Sundays! to the 050 Friendship Group in Braunston, I took the unusual step of visiting with one of our motorbike and sidecar hearses. The fact I’d just about run out of books had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Honest!

050 Friendship Group Leicestershire

Barbara the chairperson, Paul and Jean who organised Paul’s invitation

Barbara, the chairperson, made it clear to me that the 050 Friendship Group like a good laugh, so I decided to test out a few fresh gags. Barbara used to be a minister herself and is a real live wire, as indeed the majority were. The 050 Friendship Group are an active bunch over over fifties. At first I was conscious of the ’050′ as I’m not far off that myself now, but within minutes it became obvious the real emphasis was on the ‘friendship’ and it was a real kick to speak to a good sized group who not only enjoy what you have to say, but are actually quite proud to be geographically associated with what we do!

The door is always open.

The door is always open to the over fifties!

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Middle aged – it’s official! (The Times)

Women's Institute at Stoney Stanton

Marian, a woman of a certain age, sings at the Women’s Institute in Stoney Stanton

Paul opened The Times in early January 2013 to find himself described by Matthew Parris as: “a pleasant, gentle mannered, middle-aged, Scottish biker.” If it’s in The Times it’s official, we really are a middle-aged couple. As if this wasn’t enough Paul then appeared on a BBC TV programme about Middle Aged Bikers. Isn’t middle-age supposed to creep up on you, not be publicly announced in The Times and on the BBC?

Exit this way... Matthew Parris describes both Paul and his funeral service

Exit this way… Matthew Parris describes both Paul and his funeral service

Being officially middle aged we’ve decided to pace ourselves a bit better in 2013 by spreading our engagements and cutting down on the blog, so in January Paul built a new Study at home and we took just three meetings. With Marian concentrating on Aletheia at Coton Green Church Paul went solo to speak at a motorbike club and church service. It’s important walk with the Lord, fresh and alive or as you start to wear down your ministry soon wears down with it!

Aletheia - Unique to Coton Green Church

Aletheia – Unique to Coton Green Church

Oh well, if this is middle age let’s rejoice there are great days ahead.

This lady brought her classic model along. She is an AA motorbike and sidecar enthusiast!

This AA motorbike and sidecar enthusiast brought her model along to show us.

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Brass Monkey Run 2013

Paul and Marian went out in support of the Rainbows Hospice Charity on the Brass Monkey Run from The Vic Biker’s Pub. We hope this five minute video, where we attempt to sing Arlo Guthrie’s classic Motorcycle Song, gives you a great grin for the New Year.

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