5th March 2018

I was pleased so many of you contacted me about the piece I wrote about Peter. I promised some of you that I would write about my meeting with Gabriel in a cemetery. This story is so intriguing that I could not possibly make up anything this good.

Coming home late from a church meeting in the 1970’s, one of my best friends Ken was killed when a drunk driver drove sideways into his car. Ken had married Francie only two years earlier and our small circle of friends was devastated.

Ken had been an awkward sort of guy, loving, kind but who found it desperately hard to form strong friendships with people. Francie somehow came into our circle like some heavenly gift. So different and yet somehow alike, they became inseparable.

Over the next forty years, I lost track of Francie as she put her life back together and moved out of Auckland. One of her friends called me after she died to invite me to attend her internment at Purewa Cemetery in Auckland. During some terrible family squabble and rejection that no-one there could fathom, Ken had been buried there without Francie’s knowledge or permission, causing her pain that took a long time to heal.

Purewa cemetry

Many of our old circle of friends were there. Ken and now Francie had been cremated and we stood near the small hole that the Purewa staff had dug beside Ken’s newly-discovered grave. One of our group had done some clever detective work and found that he had been interred with an incorrect name in the graveyard’s registry.

The plot was down in one of the lowest valleys towards the back of Purewa, shaded by trees. As we talked, not quite sure what the order of service was going to be, a young man in a white shirt walked over the brow of the hill carrying a basket. Smiling, he mingled with the guests, greeting them one by one.

When he got to my small group, I asked if he knew Francie. “No” he replied.

“My name is Gabriel but I am not an angel” he laughed and I noticed that everyone had stopped talking to listen.

“I work up at the crematorium here. I absolutely love my job but I noticed that people often do not know what to do to inter someone here. They also often regret not having petals to scatter over the grave. So, when I see groups like you, I take my basket and gather flower petals that have fallen on my way here. I love helping people like you.”

Sure to his word, Gabriel stayed while we sang hymns acapella and he shared his basket of flower petals as we each sprinkled soil onto Ken and Francie’s shared grave. United finally, it seemed like the perfect finish to a love story that had been sundered by such tragedy.

At the end, Gabriel used a trowel to put the grass sod back onto the gravesite. He shook people’s hands and quietly walked back over the hill.

I tapped my friend John on the shoulder laughing: “I saw you looking as Gabriel left. Were you expecting him to disappear in a flash of sunlight like I was?”

His wife Janet was nodding, obviously thinking the same thing.

“I really did…” said John. “I wondered if he really was the Angel Gabriel, in-spite of what he said.”

Like Peter from my previous reflection, Gabriel seemed to be a man who had found his perfect calling, helping people to celebrate the end of someone’s journey. People who love their jobs like that cannot help but make a difference.


4th March, 2018

Sometimes, God arranges for us to slam head-first into our most deep-seated prejudices. He often does that in ways that are so creative and effective,  showing us something that has been right in front of us for so long in a new light.

While moving into my new library, I re-discovered this entry in one of my old diaries…

Visiting my mother-in-law in her rest home today, I found her unwell and distressed.  It affected me in a way that I did not expect and I later left upset and uneasy too.

Her rest home is a labyrinth of narrow corridors. More than once in the past,  I had wandered around confused trying to find the front door. I was the boy they never trusted with the compass on Boy Scout tramps, for reasons that quickly became obvious to my pack leader.Chair by the door_2

Half way along a corridor I stopped because a resident was blocking my way. He put a hand on each of my shoulders and looked at me face-on: “If you are trying to get out, the code is 412E” he said, wide-eyed behind his glasses.

“Great…” I thought to myself. “My mother-in-law now lives in a loony bin and I am bailed-up in this corridor with a madman who wants to help me escape. Typical…”

“You’re lost…” he continued. “I’m Peter. I didn’t get enough oxygen when I was born so I live here now.”

“Hello Peter” I replied.

“I only have one job in this world” he explained.

“What is that Peter?”

“To tell everyone that Jesus loves them. That’s all I do. Do you know that Jesus loves you?”

“Yes I do Peter” I whispered. “But to be honest with you, today it kind of feels like I had forgotten that.”

He took me by the hand and led me through the corridors without saying anything more. When we got to the front gate, the code 412E worked just like he said it would and he waved as I walked away.

Over the last few months of my mother-in-laws life, I got to know Peter better. His mother had looked after him all his life and when she became too frail, they had both moved into the same rest home. The manager shared with me that Peter was probably his greatest asset around the place.  He was the one who would just sit alongside residents whenever he sensed they needed company, listening to them as a comforter.

I often found him beside the front door of the rest home, greeting people as they arrived or left. More than once, I heard his signature phrase: “Do you know Jesus loves you?”. This was not the cry of a madman; it was the calling of a person who had found and understood their purpose in life, and then begun to live it out day-by-day.

Chair photograph (c) Tom Deacon from

Beyond and Beneath – changes

11th February, 2018

Have you ever tripped over something that was so profound yet was so simple to grasp? A few years ago in Wellington I was clearing up a room after a meeting and noticed a screwed-up diagram in the waste paper bin. It contained a scribbled version of the diagram below that I later redrew.

If nothing changes

Change is often hard but it has one inevitable characteristic: if nothing changes as a result of what we are trying to achieve, then nothing changes. So often, no matter how hard we push, things get stuck. This diagram is all about how to figure out why something in your particular situation is not moving.

The top line includes some of the things that are needed to make change happen. We need a clear vision of what we are trying to achieve and the skills necessary to facilitate the change. We need incentives for accomplishing the change coupled with appropriate resources. To carry us step-by-step through the stages we also need an action plan.

The following lines take away just one component from that recipe and show you at the end of the line why you might be stalled wondering why nothing is happening. With no vision, there is often confusion since people have no clear idea why the change is needed. When people lack skills to carry out their tasks, there is anxiety. When there is no immediate incentive to keep going, people stop.

Resources are an interesting component. I think of skills as being the capabilities my team already possesses within themselves. Resources are different. They are the skills, facilities or equipment that exist outside your team that you can call on when needed. One definition of being resourceful is having lots of favors you can call in when needed.

I said before that we are often lousy planners. That last line is the result of not having a proper action plan. That approach dooms us to make many false starts and retrace our steps in frustration.

The most useful way I have found to use this chart with someone is to go down the last column and ask them if any of those outcomes resonate with their current situation. We then work along that line, discussing what is happening in their case, seeing if any of the components are missing. We often then repeat that looking at other lines for other symptoms.

I have no idea who drew the original sketch diagram but it has become an invaluable and simple one-page tool that I have shared with clients and students many times. I hope it proves to be a great catalyst to help your team restart their stalled journey towards a goal that demands change.

Click here to download a PDF copy of If nothing changes.

I love this stuff..

Next installment: Spots…

Beyond and Beneath

4th February, 2018

The red triangle you see at the end of the Rockweather logo is part of a much wider concept called Beyond and Beneath. In 2006, I began drawing together a disparate collection of mentoring resources that I had been collecting into something more cohesive. These had started to be shared with clients and close friends during some of the deep heart-to-heart discussions we were having. Sometimes, over coffee with a friend or during a quiet time with a client, I began to hear some of the frustrations and issues they were facing. We all seemed to be banging up against a lot of the same challenges and I cherished hearing how these people were tackling things in different ways.

That brought opportunities for me to also open up my heart about what I was experiencing, what I was learning and the Christian faith that I based my beliefs upon. There is a hunger we all have for something deeper.  The times that we spend with each other on social media are too thin to be truly fulfilling; we crave face-to-face time.  I found that I also wanted something to help when we were exploring issues together, resources that I could leave behind to keep the conversation going for the next time.

There are two key concepts in Beyond and Beneath, captured in its logo. The first red triangle represents the goal(s) that we are aiming for, the mountain we are pointing towards in the distance.

Beyond and Beneath logoWe are all aiming for something, no matter how dim our perception of it is. Some of us have thought through those goals deeply while others only have fuzzy, early-stage ideas. That’s OK; all this is a journey, a journey that should take us Beyond where we are currently.

There are only two dots in the first picture to remind us that we will seldom have every step of the journey worked out in-advance. Most of us are lousy at planning so we have to travel with a certain degree of trust, with faith, for the steps that are further on that we cannot see clearly yet. Psalm 119 verse 105 captures that concept perfectly for me: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I really only need enough light on the road to illuminate my feet and the path where I am walking. The rest has to be worked out as I go. That requires faith.

The second part of the picture is accompanied by the word Beneath. Note how the red triangle is submerged beneath the line. The iceberg that sunk the Titanic did most of its damage below the waterline. That is often what happens to us on the journey. The things deep inside, including unresolved issues and needs, are usually the things that scuttle our ship. Along the way, we need to address the deep stuff, learning new skills and patching up holes. Often, we need to throw useless stuff over the side that is weighing us down.  There is a feeling of lightness that is delicious when we get rid of excess baggage <grin>.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the current collection of the Beyond and Beneath resources, topic-by topic. With each one, there will be a download link that will allow you to take a copy of the material. None of it is copywrite; please feel free to use it yourself and share it with others.

A wonderful thing happens each time I share this material with people. They give me feedback and begin sharing new material of theirs in return. We are all works-in-progress and I enjoy that I am part of a circle of friends and clients who are facing all this hard stuff head-on.

I would love to hear your stories, either via the comment links or via the Contact Me page.

I love this stuff….

Next installment: If nothing changes…

Sweden: four pluses, one minus

January 3rd, 2018

Design is a key part of my research so I love the surprise of tripping over both excellent and awful examples by other designers. So, as I near the end of my time here, these are ones that have come out on top of my list over the last two months:

The Light-Headed Person

Light headed

In the Wallace and Gromit films, Gromit has no mouth. All his expressions are conveyed brilliantly via his eyes, ears, face shape and head angle. That makes perfect design sense since dogs do not talk. It is also very funny to watch.

I found this light-headed character in a shop in Oslo. It has no arms but struck me as amazingly expressive. The design felt somehow complete, a minimalist figure that was still fully poseable. More than that, I could easily believe that this character had a story to tell.

One-plus to the brilliant designer.

 Bike ramps 

Bicycle ramp I hope you are not getting tired of my musing about bicycles. I found these bicycle guide ramps in both Stockholm and København.

Instead of bumping up or down steps, you just lead your wheels into the rail and walk gracefully up or down.

Simple, elegant, someone was thinking and they are all around the place rather than being a one-off aberration.

One-plus to the designer and the local authorities for installing them.




The Hour Glass in our hotel shower

HourglassThere is an hour glass in the shower in our hotel, the Downtown Camper, here in Stockholm. The hotel is what a Backpackers on steroids might look like if someone was given a budget and free rein to do whatever they felt like. There are free longboards you can borrow from reception, free bikes (naturally –  this is Sweden, after all) and running training each morning. They also have fireside chats on the top floor each evening.

So, now that you get the context, it kind of makes sense to have an hourglass in your bathroom. It takes six minutes and thirteen seconds to run through. There are also no heartfelt pleas to save water, towels or whales in the bathroom. Just a simple, brilliant non-electronic hint that makes you smile when you notice it. Even better, you can see it clearly through the shower glass.

One plus to the designer and to the visionaries who created this place.


Milk Grenades

I first encountered these infernal contraptions on a flight to Göteborg. They look innocent enough until you unsuspectingly pull the little silver taper. The result is like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and then not throwing it. My first one sprayed milk onto and then past my tray table to hit the next passenger’s tray table.

The problem is that they contain the perfect ratio of air and UHT milk to create a small bottle rocket. When I tried pointing the next one downwards into the cup, the milk ricocheted off the bottom of the cup and produced a similiar mess on the tray table.

Damp but undaunted, I resolved to experiment later in a controlled environment. That turned out to be the bathroom here in the Downtown Camper. The room was quite cold but pricking a milk grenade with a pin revealed that the darn things are pressurized, even at sea level !!!!

One minus to the Swedish Defence Department for allowing an experimental military-grade incendiary device to be released onto the local weapons black market.

But..One plus to the designer for creating so much entertainment for those in the know: I now watch to see other people on flights encounter these for the first time…and giggle silently, wickedly, each time….

The København cycle chic manifesto

January 2nd, 2018

Jane and I spent today cycling in Stockholm. It is still cold here and the ride triggered a memory from over ten years ago. Early that morning, I remember finding the København Cycle Chic Manifesto, inspired by the photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen . The very first photo that he published about bicycles in Sweden, taken on 14th November 2006, has been referred to as “the photo that launched a million bicycles”:

The first photo

I wrote earlier about Sweden’s fixation with bicycles . That was not the first time I have pondered the subject though. About six months ago I had an unpleasant run-in with a Kiwi MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) early one morning who swore like a sailor at me. Apparently, I did not get out of his way fast enough. I was running on a narrow path while he was geared-up and glowing like he was ready for the Tour de France. I forgave him – LOUDLY – as he pedaled off into the distance and he responded with a perfectly delivered one-fingered salute.

So, here for your enjoyment is the current version of the manifesto:

The København Cycle Chic Manifesto

We’ve been discussing for ages the composing of a manifesto regarding Cycling Chic. We coined the phrase, after all, so we thought it necessary to highlight what it’s all about. So here it is as ever, with a hint of seriousness, a splash of poetry and a dash of playfulness:

  • I choose to cycle chic and, at every opportunity, I will choose Style over Speed.
  • I embrace my responsibility to contribute visually to a more aesthetically pleasing urban landscape.
  • I am aware that my mere presence in said urban landscape will inspire others without me being labelled as a ‘bicycle activist’.
  • I will ride with grace, elegance and dignity.
  • I will choose a bicycle that reflects my personality and style.
  • I will, however, regard my bicycle as transport and as a mere supplement to my own personal style. Allowing my bike to upstage me is unacceptable.
  • I will endeavor to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle.
  • I will accessorize in accordance with the standards of a bicycle culture and acquire, where possible, a chain guard, kickstand, skirt guard, fenders, bell and basket. 
  • I will respect the traffic laws.
  • I will refrain from wearing and owning any form of ‘cycle wear’.(Let’s be honest, steel-toed boots, life vests, bullet-proof vests, construction hats, bike helmets or any other kind of safety gear have a hard time being chic, no matter how much the people who make them and profit off of them would like them to be. Chic isn’t just on the surface, it’s also in the brain so we encourage people to make an effort to understand the science of helmets.)

So, any MAMIL’s reading this – lighten up and, please, lose the one-fingered salutes.

Stockholm and mys

December 30th, 2017 to January 1st, 2018.

Map of Stockholm

The train stopped halfway between Malmö and Stockholm, turning a three-hour trip into six hours. No one complained; I could not see any frowning or frustration with the conductor. Later, my friend Josef would comment that perhaps that is just the Swedish way: they probably felt angry, he explained, but people here seldom express their emotions publicly.

Curled up in my railway seat with my book on Fridtjof Nansen, I was not complaining either. Swedish railway carriages are luxurious with lots of leg room (airlines, please take note…). The train crew left the coffee urns in our carriage well-stocked too. “It is an electrical fault” explained the conductor. “There will be many trains waiting to get into Stockholm station. I am sorry but we could have a wait…”

Mys. The Danes call it hygge and the Swedish nuance is roughly equivalent to cosiness or snuggly.  Josef had not heard of it but then he is Hungarian so perhaps my clumsy explanation got a bit lost in translation.

Mys place

The winter is something you all learn to survive here, the short-cuts to and from places,   knowing where to pause in the doorways of warm shops for a few seconds. Just as they do in Germany, many leak warm air out into the street, trapped in the double-doorways. Unless you notice it, you miss the delight of warm air on a cold nose for a few seconds.

Implicit in mys is that winter here is not a time to hibernate but rather a time to snuggle down with a perfect chair and the book that you have been yearning to spend time with. Time to get things done. And hot chocolate: that is intrinsically part of mys too. It is something to do with hot chocolate releasing endorphins in your brain which are naturally calming: it also triggers changes to the microcirculation in your skin. Warmth yes but there is a deeper empathy being drawn out here though. Swedes write that they cherish memories of being outdoors as children and the steaming hot chocolate poured from thermos flasks. Families playing in the snow together. Gulnara had a delightful look in her eyes on December 1st as she explained that we were all going for Advent Fika together, just up the hill from her snuggly office.


Out through the snow for apple torte, an open fire and friends talking while clutching steaming mugs of hot coffee. Yes, mys with coffee works too but it is not the same somehow. Then there was Café Lina next door back home later, the morotskaka. Think carrot cake but no, somehow different.

Mys is also solitude but not loneliness. It is not mindfulness either but it resonates with my own ideas of fellowship and grace, the being alone and at peace with your Father as a believer. Perhaps finally comfortable in your own skin too? At first, I did not notice myself mimicking the locals but Jane tells me I have started saying ja even though I consciously avoid saying hei when greeting people I do not know yet (Hei, hei is for friends). With the light already gone late on Friday afternoons, I found myself yearning to get back to my tiny apartment and get snowed in for two, uninterrupted days.

Bottomly_1 - CopyMys: snuggled away with Bottomly, hot chocolate and a wicked research problem, not hibernating but thriving. Going out sometimes, wrapped up in great gear, still getting cold but the first step later back into an already warm apartment: mys.

That it rhymes with bliss cannot be co-incidental. I found myself slipping into this concept here long before it was explained to me so, close to the end of my time here, it is delightful to begin to understand it a little. I love this place and mys goes someway towards explaining the attraction.

Mys…does that resonate with you too? Bless you on this last day of 2017. Brave New Year friends.





Malmö, Sweden

December 29th, 2017

We have one day in Malmö, Sweden today before we go on to Stockholm. The early-morning train crossed the Øresund bridge amidst forests of wind turbines to reach the city.

Malmo map

Wind turbines

For the last 300 years, Malmö was one of the most industrialized towns in Scandinavia, but in the 1990’s it began struggling with the closure of manufacturing operations that could not compete with imported goods. It does not look like it is struggling today though. We walked around acres of new, modern architecture amidst massive development projects. There are biotech and IT companies here which are apparently thriving in partnership with research driven in part through Malmö  University. That was something I saw also in Luleå where industry partnerships with companies such as Volvo and Scania thrive.

Today was also our first opportunity to crawl unsupervised through the insides of a real WW2 U-boat at a technology museum here. Lest you think this is just me doing my small-boy-in-museum stuff, I can assure you that Jane was way ahead of me wanting to buy museum tickets <grin>.

For the coffee-lovers in our lives, look what we found in a coffee shop early this morning. If there is a coffee machine on the Tardis, then this is it. Or perhaps this is what happened when the Dalek’s discovered caffeine ?

We are loving this stuff…


København, Denmark

December 25th to 27th, 2017


København, or Copenhagen, is situated on the island of Zealand. A smaller part of the city is located on the island of Amager. It is separated from Malmö by the strait of Øresund.

This place feels similar to Oslo, Norway to us, so, we explored it on foot too.

It is so enjoyable to drink a city. You do not have to try and understand everything you see. Most places are far to big to ever appreciate all the intricacies and differences of in a single visit. Rather, just soak it in, sip the architecture and look for the unusual stuff. Ask how it affects you and what it feels like when it gets inside you. New places challenge us to look again: we become complacent about the places we live in day by day,  We stop seeing things because they are too familiar and we miss noticing the changes. Places like Oslo and København are meant to be drunk in while they are fresh to you.

Which is why I also spent a day watching bicycles here.

One special treat was at The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Jane and I got lost there for hours…

Home of Hans Christian Andersen

The home of Hans Christian Andersen from 1871 to 1875, where he wrote The Little Mermaid.

Denmark is LEGO. I have been waiting for a special new set to be released that was promised by the end of 2017. The Woman of NASA series commemorates the pioneering women scientists and astronauts of NASA and was a personal project of journalist Maia Weinstock.  We saw it in the shops for the first time today here and it is magnificent.

Women of NASA

The new Millennium Falcon is huge but let’s not discuss the price…<grin>. No, we did not buy it…

Millenium Falcon


It is still Christmas here and the amount of effort some stores put into their window displays is stunning,

The Frederiks Kirke has been a place of worship here in the center of København since 1749. We spent some time just sitting, quietly. Christmas on the streets is busy here but this was still a place of solitude.

In contrast, Marmor kirken is in the grounds of the Danish Royal Palace.



Kongens Have is the oldest national palace garden in Scandinavia. It was first laid out in 1606 and supplied fresh fruit to the royal household. Within 100 years, it had grown to over 1,000 fruit trees. The Royal house, Rosenborg is in the grounds of the Kongens Have.




idiot tourist

Oslo, Norway


December 22nd to December 24th, 2017

Bigger Norway map

Oslo is further south from Narvik as we head down to Copenhagen and Stockholm over the next week. The trip in from the airport to the city was a surprise; our first really high-speed train trip.

Oslo is a town best seen by walking and we have covered a lot on foot. Yesterday was different, heading out in a guided tour with a masters student who is studying Norwegian Cultural history. We explored sculpture gardens, visited Nansen and Amundsen’s Fram. Fram was always going to be emotional for me since she played such a huge part in the exploration of both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Somehow we ended up on another tour, courtesy of our guide who asked us to stay for one more museum visit, this one is personal favorite: the Viking Museum.

Snow Shovel

Norwegians and Swedes are big on recycling. Hence it was no surprise to see the size of the spoons they give you for the sundaes at Burger King Apparently people take them home and use them for shoveling snow…

Everywhere you go in Norway, you realise that this is a country that enshrines Nordic beauty, from tall, blonde athletic people to mountains and spectacular architecture.

Then there are the trolls …

They are everywhere, poking out from behind shelves in shops. I think it is a running joke that the rest of Europe just doesn’t get. The trolls also have a predilection for sharp objects; you never see them without weapons as you can see in the photo below. Scary… I am just going to put this aspect of Nordic culture down to experience…