Wednesday, 22 February 2012

To Sleep to Sleep Perchance to Dream

We bought a bed yesterday. The old one was a bit past its use by date, but you know how these things go - it isn't any worse today than it was yesterday so there is always a thousand things ahead of a bed in the budget queue. But what with the defunct springs and alarming potholes and everything, not to mention the rumours of vast ecosystems dwelling within it, it was getting harder to sleep on the probably important artifact of domestic furniture history in our bedroom. So yesterday was the day.

Over the last couple of weeks I made a thorough reconnoitre of the bedding market. It had been a few decades since I had taken the remotest interest in it, so needed to refresh my memory. I googled. I wikipediaed. I looked in showrooms. I found that beds were a lot taller and more expensive than last time I looked. Over a few days I managed to look at every bed for sale in Dunedin and noticed something very odd about the bedding market. Although several of  the major brands were proudly stocked by several different retailers, there was no individual bed that could be seen in more than one store. Which is very strange, don't you think? After all, it you wanted a toaster or a new Ducati Multistrada you could look in several places stocking the same item and choose the one at the best price.

After a few days of looking at beds and reading the brochures, it was pretty clear what was happening, and then a conversation with a nice bloke in one of the shops confirmed my suspicions. Each manufacturer makes an (obviously) limited range of products. But each of the models in their range is tarted up in different coverings and given slightly different names for each individual retailer, who can then make up their own price structure without any great fear of comparison shopping. So, for example, the bed we eventually bought is sold at Smith's City, dressed up in a fetching black as a Sleepyhead  Sanctuary Entice for $3691 after a generous $1000 trade in price for the old bed (BWAAHAHAHAHAHA). At Farmers it is sold in a sort of beige cover as  a Sleepyhead Sanctuary Rapport on special at $2899. At the bargain basement John's Furniture Warehouse it is decked out in white and sells as the Sleepyhead Sensorzone Elite (latex) for $2499. But unless you asked the salesperson carefully about what was inside it and read the brochures and looked on Sleepyhead's website, and carefully noted the stitching patterns on the fluffy top bit, who would ever tell that they were exactly the same bed? We bought one. I'll let you guess from where, and a jolly fine bed it is too. I didn't know you could go from lights out 'til alarm without waking up. 

Now, I have no complaints about the retailers trying to maximise their profits, or about the manufacturer trying to give each of  its many outlets all the advantages of a monopoly, but it does raise questions about the "market " economy. It seems that in this case, as in many others, the market is cunningly worked by those who control it, for their own advantage: who would be surprised at that? But when people appeal to the market as a mechanism for regulating economies and for such things as the remuneration packages of CEOs, it is well to remember that in most markets someone has got their thumb fairly firmly on the scales.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

New Beginnings

Although ours is, geographically at least, a big diocese, it is traversed by only a few main routes and by now I am pretty familiar with all of them. I began this year driving on roads I know very well, into Central Otago and Southland; but while the scenery and the way into it might have held few surprises, the destinations had plenty. There is change in the air. All over the place, people are realising that what we have been talking about for years in the Anglican Church - the necessity for new ways of doing things - is now a matter of inevitable necessity rather than a conversation filler for church discussion groups.

It's been a while since I wrote the above paragraph. In the time since I have:

-Helped to choose a new warden for Selwyn College.
-Agreed to the ordination to the diaconate of  two people
-Ordained Richard Aitken to the diaconate and inducted him into a new ministry in Invercargill
-Met with four people newly interested in the possibility of ordination
-Inducted Hugh Bowron as Vicar of St. Peter's Caversham
-Agreed to the appointment of Stephen White as the new vicar of Taieri
-Had meetings with 4 parishes to discuss future options for ministry
-Held the first meeting of the trust board for the proposed new community house in Wanaka
-Met with a couple of  visitors checking out possibilities for ministry in our diocese
-Had significant conversations with  several of our clergy
-Begun, with the leaders of our diocese, to think through the implications for us of the Christchurch earthquakes and the subsequent rocketing insurance costs and the need for seismic strengthening; made arrangements to talk with the Dunedin City Council and leaders of other denominations about the same
-Had the usual round of meetings with all  the usual bodies, committees and boards
-Had input into several quite significant pastoral matters
-Read not a few emails  and sheets of closely typed A4 paper
-Maintained my reading, meditation, physical exercise, spiritual direction and supervision; managed some very good quality time with my family; managed at least one day off a week.
-Rearranged my office and done a myriad other things which now slip my mind
-Failed miserably at maintaining my blog. Sorry about that. I'll try to do better.

There is, as you can see,  a lot going on in our little diocese, what with one thing and another, and this brings with it both excitement and anxiety, sometimes at the same time.Some of the anxiety, naturally enough, gets directed my way or towards the Diocesan Office, but that doesn't faze me too much, as both the anxiety and the excitement are inevitable when change occurs. Both are inevitable, also, when we follow Jesus on the path of crucifixion and resurrection; and walking that path and inviting others onto it is, after all, the sole reason for our Diocese's existence.