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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Are You Really Church of England?

The Church of England does not really define membership very well. It's easy to know if you are a Beaker Person - you can see the direct debit going out of your account once a month. When I was a Methodist, we used to get a little blue card. And once a Catholic, always one. Unless you really upset the Pope.

But with baptism, electoral rolls, parish boundaries, Mothers' Unions and extra-parochial places all overlapping, the C of E is so complicated. How can you tell if you are an English Anglican? Well, 
here is the definitive guide.
Probably a C of E Church

If you:
  • Were baptised in the Church of England
  • Or another Anglican Church (but live in England)
  • Or you're on an Electoral Roll
  • Or you worship in an English Church that doesn't need its denomination on the notice board
  • Or always intend to go along at Christmas
  • Or you would like a church wedding
  • Or you are confirmed.
  • Or like sitting in old buildings
  • Or you have watched Songs of Praise
  • Or your granny insists you "get the baby 'done'"
  • Or you can listen to Giles Fraser without switching off Thought for the Day
  • Or you want to get your kid into a good school
  • Or you are the Bishop of Salisbury
  • Or you switch off Thought for the Day whenever Giles Fraser comes on
  • Or think the Anglican Communion is either vital or irrelevant
  • Or you regularly drink wine in cold buildings at 8am
  • Or you quite like Wodehouse, Lewis or Betjeman
  • Or  your church minister plays a guitar or wears a chasuble or both, but preferably not at the same time
  • Or you enjoy lighting candles in quiet places
  • Or you are a party leader who wants a fighting chance of actually winning a General Election
  • Or you don't like ticking "No religion" on surveys
  • Or you have a sense of vague dissatisfaction that people don't listen to you any more
  • Or you are in favour or against same-sex marriages (or don't know)
  • Or never know what title to give to ordained ministers
  • Or think deep down God is a reasonable bloke, his Son would have made a decent cricketer and the Spirit does his best work quietly
  • Or like the sound of bells

...then you can reasonably claim to be C of E.
Though you can be sure that another Anglican thinks you don't qualify.

Liturgical Time

There's been a lot of heated debate around the Moot House this week as people try to work out how the Liturgical Year is playing out around the whole Imbolc/Candlemas period. So let me try to get this straight.

Imbolc is on 2 Feb. Always is, always will be. Candlemas is nominally 2 Feb, but we have found that makes it clash with Imbolc. Now while Candlemas celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Imbolc marks the time of year when ewes start lactating. So we move Candlemas for two reasons. Firstly because if we celebrate Candlemas on a Sunday, the Beaker Folk who are more like "other" Christians are more likely to turn up. And secondly, because if a ewe has decided to start lactating on a certain day, I'm not going to be the one to tell her to stop, or to start early. Blooming terrifying, sheep.

1 Feb is Candlemas Eve, as we can't move it to the previous Sunday because Candlemas is already there. So we can leave that where it is. But that means we have to find somewhere for Imbolc Eve. So, since Candlemas is already tomorrow, we have to transfer Imbolc Eve to next Sunday. This gives us the following:

31 Jan - Candlemas
1 Feb - Candlemas Eve
2 Feb - Imbolc
7 Feb - Imbolc Eve

So I hope that is clear. We will have the same problem next year, as it looks like Imbolc clashes with Candlemas again.

Sometimes I feel we're not so much juggling thr Liturgical Calendar, as dropping it.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Not to be Invited to Dinner Parties

And so to the case of the mixed couple who went to court to argue that they should be allowed a civil partnership.

I mean. I know that technically they don't have the right to something that gay people have. But strikes me civil partnership was always a near-miss on equality.

A few other things strike me. One is that if you want a ritual and legal relationship that is not enshrining patriarchy, you can have one. It's called civil marriage. Though even C of E marriage these days is remarkably non-sexist. Giving away, kissing the bride, seducing the bridesmaid at the reception- these are all sternly regarded now.

Then, looking at the picture on the BBC, if they want to break the patriarchy, why doesn't Rebecca Steinfeld insist on being the one wearing the tie?  At least it would save Ed Miliband-lookalike  Charles Keidan from embarrassing himself trying to tie one.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Cancer is a Bastard

The thing about cancer is that it's a bastard.

It mocks our ability to nurture; our fertility; our love of life and food and drink, by taking over the things with which we nurture; bring to life; celebrate love, digest and taste and generally enjoy things. It uses good things against us. Because it is a bastard.

When people talk about someone's "battle" against cancer, they forget that in cancer, our strength is turned against us. The normal, joyful, life-affirming multiplication of cells is turned into our enemy. People with cancer can be sick, low, depressed or utterly despairing.  Their brains themselves can be overtaken. This is not because they are not "fighters". It is because cancer is a bastard.

And when people act like someone's to blame because they've got cancer - when the mid-range tabloids tell us that only by eating / not eating a certain food. When we're told that stress increases our chances of getting it - which may cause us stress. Remember that the world we live in, the ages to which we now live - these also contribute. When people blame themselves - thinking they must have done something awful to deserve it. Don't blame a sufferer. Cancer takes advantages of the life we live, in the place we are in. Cancer can just occur through a random mutation. Because cancer is a bastard.

And when you hear someone referred to as a "survivor", remember that doesn't mean they are clear. They have passed a milestone after treatment. They can celebrate the milestone - rightly so, because every day on this world is a gift. But the enemy can still lay waiting, genetically like us. Just still, just biding its time. Because it is a bastard.

In the world to come, there will be no tears, no death, no fear and no cancer. No shame - because some still feel shame when they are diagnosed. No hopes, aspirations or plans cut short. No too-soon farewells, no worries that the lurker will return. But that is in a place yet to come.

In this world we can support the people who work to find cures to this disease. Let's pray for their work (and/or give to them to support them according to choice). Their work is important. Because cancer is a bastard.

Cancer Research UK
Macmillan nurses
Marie Curie

Programme for 28 January (St Thomas)

8.30 - Chipping-out of Frozen Beakers, with Liturgical Shivering

9.30 - Tea light Symposium, in the Illuminarium

11 - Rehabilitation of Duns Scotus

Noon - Standing around like Penguins (BCP version)

2 pm - Festival of Tom Toms for St Thomas

3 - Accusations of Thomism

4 - "So I hear you're a Thomist now, Father?"

6 - Supper (Thomato soup)

8 - Howling at the Moon (with Filling-up of Beakers)

9 - Compline

9.30 - Complaints

10 - Complexes

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Leisurewear Liturgy

Liturgical Dress: Leisurewear

Charlii: Who has arrived dressed in their PJs?

PJ people: We have.

Charlii: And who has turned up in a crocodile onesie?

Onesies: We have.

Charlii: And who dresses in clothes despite being naturally au naturel? 


Charlii: Srsly? 

Italian Statues: Oh yeah. Apparently the Iranian president would pass out or invade Tajikistan if he saw 6 feet of naked marble.

Charlii: So cover up the feet?

Italian Statues: Not just the feet... 

Charlii: Did the Italian museums consider dressing the statues in crocodile onesies?

All: No! Crocodiles are haram!

Charlii: But nobody's eating the statues...

All: You don't understand!  We must avoid the mere appearance of not worrying about everybody's feelings.

Charlii: So parents in onesies and PJs dropping the kids off?

All: Oh no. They're chavs. They don't count. You can upset them.

Charlii: Grief. I hate taking guest-services in Islington. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Programme for 27 January (Death of Francis Drake)

7 am - Pouring out of Beakers

8 am - Breakfast

10 am - Gnarling

11 am - Iggy Pop

Noon - Unlikely rapping

2 pm - Raffia

5 pm - Ant Music (Rutter)

7 pm - Grunge Church

9 pm - Howling at the Moon

Monday, 25 January 2016

In Memoriam - Cecil Parkinson

It doesn't matter how many elections you win or laws you pass if you are a wilfully bad parent.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Quote of the Day

ROYAL COLLEGE STREET • NW1.

"It consists mainly of early-19th-century terraced houses, in one of which lodged the young French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine in May–July 1873. Rimbaud’s prose poem Une Saison en Enfer was published in the same year; the title refers to his past, not to a bad summer in CAMDEN TOWN."

From "The London Encyclopaedia". A fantastic book.

Hibbert, Christopher; Weinreb, Ben; Keay, John; Keay, Julia (2011-09-09). The London Encyclopaedia (3rd Edition) (Kindle Locations 37446-37452). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition. 

Maybe, Cavy

Once again our desire for congregational, interactive and spontaneous worship has led to an awkward pastoral situation.

It's lovely, during a time of open prayer, for everyone to be free to bring the matters most pressing on their own hearts and minds.

So today, Hnaef prayed for Donald Trump's hair to receive sentient life - if it doesn't already have it - and rise up to overthrow the demagogue whose head it covers. Which seems like fair comment.

But then Jazmyn prayed for the Worship Hutch of the Guinea Pig Worshippers of Stewartby to be thrown down "and all their holy plastic tunnels be consumed by fire."

I've just had a call from the Great Guinea Pig. As usual it was very hard to understand - his liturgical language being a mixture of clicks, squeaks and whistles. But by the limited assistance one can derive from sticking a goldfish in one's ear, I believe what he was saying was, "My ceremonial furs are singed and we are rescued as brands from the burning. Please can we stay with you while we get the  Hutch rebuilt?"
"Hallelujah, raise your paws" 

Once again I must insist. All spontaneous prayers must be submitted in writing, a week in advance.

Does anyone have a few bales of straw and some feed pellets?


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Liturgy for Church Leaders With Imposter Syndrome

Archdruid: Peace be with you.

All: And also with you.

Archdruid: Obviously, you lot are all genuinely feeling a sense of divine peace. Whereas I must admit I'm a seething mass of tension. That tension I always carry with me.

All: And also with us.

Archdruid: In fact I'm not even sure I should be leading this. You're gonna think the sermon is rubbish, badly thought-through and theologically illiterate. You're all brighter than me,

All: You're leading this because your pointy hat convinced us you're the only proper leader here.

Archdruid: Please be seated, all appearing serene and spiritual, while the turmoil of inauthenticity churns within you.

All: And also in you.

Mario Balotelli: Actually, I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be here...

Archdruid: I dunno, Mario. At least you're not at Anfield.

Reading: Judges 6:11-40

Reader: This is the word of the Lord, which I have frankly rather messed up through my squeaky voice and Black Country accent.

All: You read it much better than we ever could.

Reader: And I'm sure other, proper leaders, wouldn't have this kipper tie.

All: You've got it in perfectly standard "Beryl" crockery. At our churches we have mugs - we're sure that's not right.

A Kipper Tie
Archdruid: There will now be a brief moment while we all read our Certificates of Ordination, Ministerial Authorisation, Druidification or Being Elected Pope (delete where appropriate) to confirm to ourselves we are all really entitled to be here.

Imposter:Oh, hang on - this is 10 yards Doggy Paddle. And I'm not sure I didn't put my feet on the bottom halfway across, now I think back.

All: Imposter! Imposter!

Archruid: Isn't that another certificate stuck to the swimming one?

Imposter: Oh yeah. A Diploma in Dogma. To be honest, I have no idea how I ever passed it. I must have scraped through. Maybe they marked somebody else's paper?

Archdruid: You see? Let he who is without Imposter Syndrome cast the first stone...

Stoning Party: OK. We'll just leave these piled here then....  We probably couldn't throw straight, anyway.

Archdruid: Morgwulf will now lead us in our Prayers of Reassurance.

Morgwulf: You sure? I'm not really very good at this...


Friday, 22 January 2016

London Mission Fields

"Firmly I believe and truly, God is three and God is one. And I next acknowledge duly manhood taken by the Son."

"There is no god but Allah." 


"Good point. Tell me about the Trinity and Incarnation again?"




Thursday, 21 January 2016

Bad Atheism Society

Impressed be Edward Feser's review of "Faith versus Fact". I'm not going to read the book, but some of the lines in the review are coruscating. On the Dawkins Scale, it rates a whole tube of squeezy honey.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A State of Constant Reformation

"The Confederation of British industry, which represents business leaders, is campaigning for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union." (Telegraph)

Maybe it's just me, but I hadn't noticed the EU reforming. And Goldman Sachs would have to donate more than a "six-figure sum" to make it worth the people in Brussels seriously thinking about changing things. I mean, a million quid? That's the sherry reception on the first day of the European Parliament.

Cloud of Witnesses

Archdruid: And so, as we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses....

All: Are we? Where?

Archdruid: All around, obviously. That's what "surrounded" means.

Hymn: Angel (MacColl)

All: What, in the Moot House?

Archdruid: Yes.

All: So why don't we count them in the attendance figures?

Archdruid: Because they're innumerable. Burton Dasset would have to write "A cloud of witnesses + 37."

Stacey Bushes: But they can't get out though?

Archdruid: What do you mean?

Stacey Bushes: I mean, they just stay in here?

Archdruid: What, you think the Moot House is like a Faraday Cage? The Cloud of Witnesses is bouncing around like microwaves cooking a steak and kidney pie?

Stacey: Yes.

Archdruid: Yes. You are absolutely right. The Cloud of Witnesses is indeed trapped in the Moot House. It's why we have two doors. That's why we check none have snuck out into the airlock at the end of every service.

Stacey: You're just being silly now.

Archdruid: Well, you started it. The sacred is everywhere. And though the Moot House is a thin place, through which spiritual things can seep through from the world beyond... Look, can we leave it there? I've a horrible feeling I've just clog-danced into heresy. I need to go and check page 37 of "Nicene Christianity for Dummies".

Burton:  Can I open a window?

All: NO! What would happen if we let the Quire Invisible out?

Archdruid: Wish I'd never mentioned it. OK. Go into all the world. And what ever you do, remember you are surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses.

All: Close the door on the way out, Eileen.

Losing Our Religion

Andrew Brown reflects on the decline of religious affiliation - and specifically the Church of England - and concludes that this is because the C of E has become less like the society it still serves, even if it it no longer half-controls it.
"But at the same time as people have been growing less religious, the Church of England has been growing more religious: more exclusive, more of a club for self-conscious believers, prouder of being out of step with the people it once served."

The trouble with the theory that if the C of E were only more liberal it would be more popular, is that we have a control experiment in the form of the Episcopal Church in the States. And the evidence from these seems to be that the more"progressive" the Church, the fewer people will go. In that respect, it might be worth looking at the Guardian - itself a bastion of liberal values and declining adherence. And like the C of E, as one can see in the  Comments section, increasingly populated by a small, devout, convinced minority that thinks that the rest of the world is out of step.

Well, let it be. The world was never meant to be run by the Church or by North London liberals - both far too out of touch to do a good job. The Guardian should stick to singing the praises of vegan juggling collectives performing at the Roundhouse. And the Church should worship Jesus. Neither is designed for popularity. But maybe one can cling onto something that will last forever.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

On Discovering a Pop Star You Weren't That Fond of Has Died

There's been a little cluster of pop deaths since the turn of the year. And although some are suggesting foul play, I am going for statistics. I suppose it is a result of the great explosion of pop music in the 70s. A lot of people who were pop musicians then are now entering the kind of ages where they are at increased risk of death - and let's face it, they weren't always that careful with their health at the time. So we can expect a lot more ageing pop stars to be heading off to join the Rhythm Section Celestial over the next 20 years. It's a demographic time bomb.

Whenever a pop star dies, there's an outpouring of grief from people who like them - even people who have never bought a track they've made, and only discover how much they like them when they die 30 years after their last hit. It can all get a bit maudlin. And then there's the backlash, as people point out that the deceased muso was in fact somebody with a past, or wasn't all that good, or the vocals were actually overdubbed by session musicians.

So what do you do if you discover that a pop star you weren't all that fond of has died? What can you say on Social Media? When everyone is demanding an instant response - how can you distil 5,000 words into a balanced view of the departed that doesn't lapse into idolatry or iconoclasm?


Don't bother, is my suggestion. Reflect that all flesh - even flesh with a gold record - is as grass. Commend their soul to the Lord, if that's what you do. And then pass on your way, feeling just very slightly sad. The world is full enough of tributes and debunking. Let it pass.

Monday, 18 January 2016

How to Finish a Church Meeting on Time

Archdruid: Matters Arising. Anyone done anything yet?

Stacey Bushes: We talked about maybe canvassing opinions and setting up a sub-committee....

Archdruid: That's "no" then. Next! Treasurer! Are we going bust?

Burton Dasset: No...

Archdruid: Excellent! Ecumenical matters?

Edith Weston: We thought of reaching out to the Quakers...

Archdruid: Heretics! And "reaching out" is drivel. Mission? No, forget that. Social events?

Hnaef: We have organised the following dates....

Archdruid: Send me an e-mail! Building committee?

Charlii: In the time of Archdruid Elspeth....

Archdruid: Too slow! Any other business, informed before the deadline?

Marston Moretaine: Last week I sent you an email about the newsletter...

Archdruid: But the deadline was 4 pm on 7 December 1642. Too late! Closing prayers - Daphne, light the tea light. OK. Let's go.

The meeting closed at 8.02.

A Gong for Europe

We (ie the UK) should take the Eurovision Song Contest seriously, says someone.

Well, far be it from me to dissent from someone I've never heard of, on the subject of a programme I only switch on at the end of the scoring to see what crime against music has won this year.  But let me put it this way. Fr Ted's "My Lovely Horse" is, in my opinion, the mark at which to shoot - not a satire.

My preferred song would be George Galloway endlessly banging a gong with a pool queue, while singing a song calling for the release of Perkin Warbeck. In my opinion it has everything - pointless social worthiness, a regional angle, and a bloke in a cat suit. What's not to like? And, according to electoral law, nobody who wins Eurovision while wearing a suedette outfit is allowed to stand for election in a European metropolis, unless they speak Flemish.

Everyone's a winner. Go on, George. A country needs you. Probably Lithuania.

Liturgy for Blue Monday

Barton Dasset:  How does it feel, to treat me like you do?

Archdruid: Pretty good. Why are you in the Moot House and not in the Beaker Bazaar, colouring in Santa on all the Xmas stuff to make him a traditional Beaker Gnome of Spring?

Burton: Sorry Eileen. I'll get right over.

Archdruid: Hope you've supplied your own marker pen. They don't grow on trees.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Problem with the Church Heating

Burton Dasset rushed round earlier, bloody and screaming that the End Times are on us (again).

And I know it was freezing cold and snowy this morning. But I'd told him that the heating system in the crypt under Bogwulf Chapel needed special attention, and he was to tell me if it needed any servicing. But does he listen? When he found it was cold in the chapel this morning he picked up a bag of tools and headed down the stairs.

Thing is, a monkey wrench is almost useless when you're dealing with a hungry dragon. Thankfully, this meant its pilot light had gone out and all Burton received was a bit of a mauling.

According to the Big Book of Rules in the library, in the 18th Century the parishioners used to feed the dragon with local damsels and a few live sheep. But we're more civilised now. Turns out he's actually quite fond of pepperoni pizza. So we've thrown him a few down and everything's back to normal.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The God We Can't Live Without

From this week's "Roots" magazine for All Age worship (p17) - on the subject of the Miracle at Cana (i.e. turning water into wine):
"Of course, in today's world, it would not need a miracle like this - just send someone with sufficient cash or a credit card down to the local off-licence...."
Brought up so short by this I nearly went through the windscreen. That'll teach me to check the Little Pebbles teaching material while driving round Milton Keynes. Hard enough to concentrate as it is - you've got to keep looking up to deal with roundabouts.

There is an insight here, I guess, into the unconscious mindset and background of those who read and use this material. If you don't have enough of something, just go and get some more.

I'm not sure that's true of most people in the UK today. It's certainly not true worldwide. If you are struggling to raise the money to pay for a wedding - and we're told they average at about 20 grand these days - maybe you're not gonna be so quick as to put 700 bottles of Aussie Merlot on the old MasterCard. Maybe you wouldn't fancy getting 3 or 4 grand in tenners out of the cash machine next to the offie. Maybe what with the mortgage for the two-bed flat you've got enough debt hanging over you already.

What the Roots magazine has done, I think - and it often has great, creative worship ideas that I am only too happy to adopt or satirise according to my mood - is take British middle-class situation as being today's normal. And in doing so, it has shown how far mainstream middle-class church is from that wedding in Cana, sure. But also from many normal lives in England and, for that matter, anywhere or any time else in the world.

There's a minor crisis in Cana. The wine has run out. We're not told if the groom knew or, if he did, what he was planning to do about it. Maybe he's over-invited. Maybe he wasn't expecting people like Mary, when told it was OK to bring her son along, to turn up with 12 apostles as well. Maybe he's able to run down the road with a load of talents of gold and get some more wine.

But Jesus is going to do a sign. Of course it's on the third day - he likes doing good things on the third day. This is the third day since he's told Nathaniel that he will be like Jacob's Ladder, which reached from earth to heaven - an analogy of the cross? And on the third day he's at the party.

And what he does is save the host from embarrassment. He saves the  party-goers from an early night. He ensures that everyone has a good time. And he shows a sign of his own nature.

What God does through nature, Jesus does here through his power. God makes wine out of water all the time. Every day of summer sunlight, vine leaves take water from the roots, take power from the sun take CO2 from the air - and make sugar. Every day of summer sunlight, vines turn water into the next stage in the wine-making process: grape juice.

Smash some grapes up and leave the juice around for a bit, and there's a good chance that, without you doing anything else, wine will happen. Yeast gets into the juice from the air or the skins and it turns the sugars in grape juice into alcohol. I wouldn't recommend this method too strongly - without decent cleanliness, and ideally a decent fast-acting proper wine yeast, you never quite know what might ferment out. But it's pretty well how wine is made. Has happened for thousands of years.

So when Jesus does what John calls his first sign, he's making a statement - not to the host of the party, not to the bridegroom - but to his mother, and his disciples and the servants. He's showing God's power, just in sped-up action. He's doing his Father's work, and he's revealing his true nature - to the poor (the servants) and to the Church (the disciples and Mary). In his first chapter, John tells us "we have seen his glory - the glory of the one and only Son" - and here in chapter 2 he's revealing exactly who he is.

The idea that if we need something we can just go and get it - that's an idea that belongs to very few of us, at any time. It makes us independent - makes us forget the source of our nature. Cuts us from the God on whom all things actually depend. To see God turn water into wine is a reminder - "fruit of the vine and work of human hands." Sure the skill of a human will produce the best vintage, but the soil, the sun, the very atoms from which the winemaker is made - all come from God.

So Jesus is saying, "Here I am. I made you, I made everything you're made of. I'm the source of life, the source of joy, the one who first imagined grapes and juice and yeast and wine. I'm the one who first dreamt that two people's joy can be increased in the state of marriage. I take water and make grapes grow. I work in this world secretly and gradually - and to show who I am, I'm going to act suddenly and miraculously. And as I'm doing all that - to make the point about who I am, and how I am not just God but human, not just eternal but also living absolutely here and absolutely now - I'm going to provide some stunning wine to celebrate this special day. Congratulations on your wedding. Nobody ever had a special day like this, did they? Here, in the here and now, I'm doing something special for you.

That's the story of incarnation, for me. The eternal God, at one place and one time, doing something specific for real people. And proving who he was. We depend on that God, every instant of every day. Every action we take, every stir of a leaf, every laugh of a child or heartbroken cry - everything we do takes place in him. We don't just pop down the road to buy a few bottles of wine for a wedding - even that is an incredible act of faithfulness and love on the part of the God in whom we live, move and have our being. He was there - then. He's here, now. He was there for that married couple - and now for you. God and human, eternal and mortal, present in one tiny place and throughout the whole universe. He's here for you, now.

Fixing Easter

Much excitement over the suggestion that Easter's date may be "fixed" through agreement between Churches. The idea being that Churches should agree to the same date (probably a good idea) and apparently that it should be same-ish Sunday every year. Which I reckon is a blooming awful one.

I know its' a bad idea because the National Secular Society think it's a good one:
But that's not the only reason. If you scroll down a bit in the replies to that tweet of the NSS's, you find this bit of nonsense in response:
 It is remarkable that people still think that a festival that was first celebrated by Jewish Christians in the Middle East would do so to commemorate a goddess (named only once, by Bede) who was allegedly worshipped by the Anglo Saxons. The fact that  only the Germanic languages use names like "Easter" might be a clue that that isn't where the feast comes from, when everybody else chose a name a bit like "Pascha" - coming from Hebrew "Pesach". The Passover.

Which is where Easter as a festival really comes from. Jesus was crucified, we are told by all four Gospels, on or round about Passover. Passover being a celebration of liberation, God's work and God's love for enslaved and refugee people. Passover is a lunar festival. And that's why it moves around in the calendar year.

To fix Easter in the calendar is to take it away from our liberation story that reflects the whole of God's saving work  - including the earthy, incarnational, often inconvenient fact that Jesus was a Jew, following Jewish customs, living a Jewish life in a defeated nation.

To fix Easter in the calendar is to make the convenience of modern life more important than rooting Jesus in the cycles of the sun and the moon - the two lights that God put in the sky to make out the calendar. It puts Easter into the realm of technocrats, tidiness, planners, project managers and administrative assistants. It also puts Christmas at risk of becoming the second-last Sunday in December, to make life easy for the people who run chains of shops. It's "fixing" Easter in the same way that we might fix a car. Or maybe even a tom-cat.

Let the Churches agree to celebrate Easter on the same day. Ideally, see if we can get it so it always agrees with Passover. And let it wander from March to April, from snow-times to bluebell-times. just as it always has. Let's have an awkward, inconvenient, unpredictable, Jewish Jesus. Not a tidy modern one.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Liturgy for Twitter Being Down

Archdruid: Twitter is down.

All: Aaaagh!!!!!!!!!

Archdruid: How am I going to post a link to this now?

All: When Twitter is Down, No-one can Hear You Tweet

Primates 2016 - Your Questions Answered

Q - What does it all mean?

A - Dunno.

Q - Are the Americans still in the Anglican Communion?

A - Officially, yes.

Q - But what have they been stopped from doing?

A - Goodness knows.

Q - I thought you were giving me answers.

A - Would you prefer I asked you questions?

Q - No. That's scary.

A - You don't like it when the tables are turned, do you?

Q - So can people still be gay?

A - In America they can be as God made them. In England they can be as God made them, as long as they don't act the way God made them. Any more questions?

Q - What would Jesus do?

A - Stick up for the oppressed, love the poor, upset the establishment and die horribly and yet remarkably photogenically.

Q - But that hasn't got anything to do with stopping gay people being gay, has it?

A - Not that I noticed, no.

Marking the Anniversary of Roger Lloyd-Pack

A nearly-silent Liturgy in the tradition of Anglican training courses

The Eternal Broom is taken from the Eternal Broom Cupboard.

The Archdruid raises the Eternal Broom for all to see.

The Executive Arch-Assistant Druid raises the letter of congratulation from the Council.

Beaker Folk attempt to light the dodgy tea lights the Archdruid picked up from some mush in Shepherd's Bush.

Archdruid: Cheers, Trigger.

Trigger: Yeah, seeya, Dave.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Hatton Garden: The Movie

Phil Daniels: 'Ere! We gonna driw an 'ole fru this waw or wot?

Ray Winstone: 'Ere, Phil - you sure we'we old enough ta do this job, Geezer?

Phil Daniels: No' really, Ray, but they needed some Cockerney Geezers. An' Bob 'Oskins ain't wiv us no more.

Ray: Phil! I can't ge' darn the tarnel!

Phil: Wot? You put yer 'ip art agen?

Ray: Nah. I've just bin so Cockerney I've dislercated me jaw.

Phil: Del - can you 'elp?

Del Boy: Nah, my sarn. I put Uncwe Awber' on lookart - an' 'e fell asleep!

Ray: Jellied eel, anyone?

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Quick Patron Saints Joke

Still on the subject of the church-shaped shoe. Sorry. Shoe-shaped church.

If St Paul had a "tent-making" ministry - did Ss Crispin and Crispinian have a heeling ministry?


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Man-Shaped Church


So Young Keith has got excited and designed a church to attract men - that being the main problem round here:
  • Nice, comfy chairs they can relax and - ahem - spread out in.
  • The ability to stand in small, mutually supportive groups around the Focus.
  • Some multimedia video screens showing the kinds of things that men are interested in.
  • The ability to "drop in", or leave, at one's discretion and convenience. Without being emotionally pressured to fit into pre-set and severely restricted times.
  • Refreshments available throughout.
  • No need to show vulnerability - but the ability to do so, especially at the end of meetings, when it's acceptable to express one's love for other, manly, men.
  • The room to speak freely, with acceptance, and yet acknowledgement of a diversity of opinions.
  • Being able to sing hymns lustily when people actually want to  - i.e. Xmas.

Basically, Young Keith has described a pub.

Shouldn't be too hard to work out what that should look like.

Man-shaped Church

Monday, 11 January 2016

Death of David Bowie and Thomas Hardy

1st Yokel: That Thomas Hardy died on this day in 1928, then.

2nd Yokel: Aye, dead and gone as we all shall be.

1st Yokel: And that David Bowie has died as well.

2nd Yokel: Oh, no. It feels like a piece of my childhood just fell away, leaving a void where a talent used to be. I'm going off to play "Starman" for the rest of the day.

In the strangely-coloured distance, Beaker Folk dressed as Pierrot are pursued by bull dozers. A magenta gloom settles over Husborne Crawley.

If the Inspiral Carpets came from North Buckinghamshire

Husband bought a rare antique
From that trendy new boutique
Mum's bought whey, pure-juice sorbet. Quinoa gets her through the day
Daddy's bought some ethnic clothes
Wish we could have a Waitrose.

So this is how it feels to be Olney
This is how it feels to be niche
This is how it feels when your food is little but quiche.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

20 Times Not to Walk Out of a Church Meeting

More on walking out of things - a propos  the Primates 2016 conference. It's such a lovely thing to do, though, isn't it?. You get so upset by the outrageous thing somebody - or even everybody else - in a meeting is doing. It might be the pastor wanting to rearrange the chairs, the Quire demanding  4 quid to pay for a new song book, or your cherished scheme to evangelise people in pubs by holding drinking sessions paid for out of church funds. But one way or another, something happens and you up and walk out - possibly, if the role is appropriate, resigning en route. You get the spotlight, you get the righteous indignation. You have done something on principle.



But here are some times you shouldn't/can't just resign and / or walk out.For example if....
  1. You might regret it ten minutes later.
  2. You're paid for this church job and you really can't afford not to have it.
  3. You forget your coat and have to go back for it.
  4. There's a 1% chance (in your estimation) that, in 12 hours time, you'll realise you're in the wrong.
  5. You're the keyholder for the church hall and you've now got to hang around waiting to lock up.
  6. Your wife or husband is the chairperson.
  7. It's a "Church Leaders' Breakfast" and you've not eaten your bacon yet.
  8. You're the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  9. There's two feet of snow on the ground, the meeting is five miles from your house, and the vicar's giving you a lift home.
  10. Your own item is later on the agenda.
  11. You don't have a very stylish flounce.
  12. You only go to committees because they're better than being at home.
  13. You can't remember which is the way out and there's a chance you may walk into the chair cupboard by mistake.
  14. You think people might talk about you when you've gone.*
  15. There's nice biscuits/sherry/cakes at the end.
  16. The door is on a spring, and won't bang properly.
  17. You led the opening prayer for charity and harmony.
  18. Your spouse stays behind saying "I really don't know what's got into them."
  19. You're on a two-day Church Committee "Retreat" with shared rooms.
  20. You're so angry you're gonna walk out regardless of what some twit on a blog tells you.
Basically if you do walk out of a meeting, the best thing to do is to go straight the pub, have a few, go home, pack your stuff, take the phone off the hook and then leave town in the morning, changing your name and appearance. Anything else will look like weakness.

* They will. Of course they will. That was kind of the idea. But it won't be "ooh how principled", will it?

With thanks to the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson for the inspiration.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

What if God was One of Us?

In some countries, Joan Osborne is a proper one-hit wonder. Most of us have never heard of her - I had to Google her to find out who she is - but she recorded a song that many know, which has always nagged at me. The song is "One of Us", and in case you don't know it - this is the chorus.
"What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home." 
It sounds like it's just slightly disrespectful - what if God were a slob like one of us? Not really polite to us. But then I read this from Luke 3:
Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and
was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in
bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.’
In Luke's version there's no mention of the singling-out of Jesus that Matthew tells us about. And even though Luke has told us that the baby John the Baptist recognised Jesus even when they were in their mothers' wombs, we aren't told by Luke what passed between them. Simply, when all the people were baptised and when Jesus had also been baptised. He's part of the crowds that come to John, and he's baptised and he's there with all the others - barely noticed until the voice comes down from heaven. The voice from heaven picks out the anonymous Jesus - there among all the others - and says "you are my Son, the Beloved." And the question what if God was one of us - starts to find an answer. If God were one us - God would look like us, blend in with us.

Baptism is a sign of death - in an immersion baptism, you're plunged down into the water as if into the grave. And then, as a sign of life, you're dragged back out into the light. Everybody dies. And if God was one of us, then God has got to die as well - although it's not something natural for God. If God was one of us, then God can't behave like a day-tripper, wandering into a crisis scene to get a selfie and then wandering back home, unscathed and unstained. That's why Jesus was baptised - to show his solidarity with us. And he didn't just go through that symbolic death - he walked up out of the water and headed his face towards his real one.

"Just a slob like one of us"? Well, that was the accusation that they threw at Jesus later. When he stepped out from the anonymity and started healing, and John was dead and so Jesus started teaching. They said, he has a demon in him. They said, he's a drunkard and a glutton. They said he was the friend of tax collectors and "sinners". They watch a woman pour perfume over his feet and wipe it away with her hair and they say - what's he doing with that woman? His mum comes to get him and says, "Come home, son - you're very likely mad." And they beat him, whip him, spit on him and nail him to a cross and mock him - hanging there so useless. They didn't know he was finding his way back home.

Baptism is a sign of death - but also of new life. And after days plunged into the waters of death - they became the waters of new life and he broke free. Free to make his way home. Free to set his Spirit loose upon us, as the Spirit was poured upon himself. Free to identify with all of us.

And if God was one of us - just another ordinary person - it turns out that he identifies with some people in this world of ours more than we might really want. It seems that he identifies with the poor more than most others. Which means if God is one of us - you may see the face of Jesus in somebody you carefully walk round - eyes averted so as not to recognise their humanity - in London, Bedford, Luton. You may not think it's a good idea to give such people money straight out - I don't think it normally is. Nut that doesn't mean you can't help - whether that's through charity, through politics, through your local homeless drop-in or food-bank. The eyes of Jesus can be looking at you when you least expect it.

Jesus's baptism is a sign that God is one of us. God has become one of us - plunged into the world, facing the power of death. Knowing poverty, homelessness and helplessness. But in becoming one of us, he makes us like God. He joins himself with each of us - especially the least likely. And he raises us up - as we are raised through baptism - to take us back home.


Emergency Liturgy for #Primates2016

To be used if required

GAFCON Bishops: Do you solemnly promise not to let gay people do gay things in gay ways, as it is written?

North American Bishops: Certainly not.

Church of England Bishops: We'd rather hoped to avoid the subject. But now you've brought it up - perhaps we could have some extended conversation, bring everyone's views together? Maybe whiteboard a way forward at the next Lambeth?

Liturgy of Walking Out

GAFCON Bishops: Right, we're off then. Thanks for the coffee.

Other Bishops: Bye then. You won't be setting up any rival congregations in our dioceses will you? Ah.

GAFCON Bishops: Hello, Easyjet? We'd like to reschedule some return flights... HOW MUCH???


Conversion Error

Just received a text from Kylie, who went to Drayton's "Revival Service" last night.

The organist is now playing " Just as I Am" for the 79th time. And still nobody has gone forward to be saved. I'm sending in food parcels.

Friday, 8 January 2016

All Over Bar the Flouncing Out

Enjoyed Andrew Brown's article on the Archbishop of Canterbury's summit and the funeral of the Anglican Communion.

It's like a very long, unpleasant divorce from a marriage that unaccountably involves 16 people. It goes against all the natural church instincts that think we're better together, that unity is important.

But it's like I said when I kicked the Grand Guinea Pig of Stewartby in the pond last week. It's not you, it's me. I my case I have to admit that it's time I stopped feeling sorry that we ate all the guinea pigs once, thinking they were tapas. Yes, it happened. But we move on. They'd all be dead by now, anyway.

In the case of the Anglican Communion - the former colonies have grown up. They can make their own decisions. If they want to ordain sheep, good luck to the Episcopal Province of Los Angeles. If they want to continue to encourage laws against homosexuality - well, they're not England's problem. If they want to poach a few English congregations - good luck to them. We know the sort of congregations they'll get. If they want to set up their own organisations in England - well, let them. England has a few thousand denominations. The Methodists were, after all, an Anglican schism. It happens. Let's go with it.

So forget the Lambeth Conference. Forget the Anglican Communion. Let everyone Plough their own furrow, in their own field. OK. The bishops will get fewer photo opportunities and less free coffee. They will have fewer ethnic stoles as well. So overall, everyone wins.

Deliver Us From Yeovil

Long and merry ago, neighbours, I wrote of how Yeovil celebrated the time spent living in the borough of Thomas Hardy OM, by sticking his blue plaque on a wall, 18 inches high, next to a dustbin. Just about the level that a large dog might choose to - ahem - mark his scent.

Surely, after seven years, Yeovil has changed things - you might think. Realised that arguably our greatest all-round writer (poetry, occasional play, short story and novel) doesn't deserve that. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. They've changed things. Well done, Yeovil.

They're piling up bin bags in front of the plaque now.

I think the best thing for Yeovil to do would be to give the plaque to Taunton. They respect their heritage in Taunton. They could put it up in the Museum of Somerset with a note below it.

The note would say "This used to be in Yeovil. But Yeovil couldn't be trusted with it.'"

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Feast of Pots and Kettles

Could all Beaker Folk planning to attend this evening's "Feast of Pots and Kettles" come down to the Moot House with a speck of sawdust and a plank.

We'll supply the mirrors, the spotlights and the soot-covered cooking equipment.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Christmas Every Day

Cjelston does like the Xmas bling.

I mean, we all do. Which is why it gets put up in about September most years. But Cjelston more than most.

But super-gluing himself to one of the illuminated reindeers was a foolish thing to do.

Don't get me wrong. We'll still send him food up. But he's still gonna be lonely in the loft.

Epiphany Reading

For a piece of excellent writing on the Magi this morning, I recommend this by Psephizo.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Liturgy for Rearranging Deckchairs

The Liturgical Space has bean bags replaced with deckchairs.

The Elder Rebel wanders among the deckchairs.

The Elder Rebel moves one of the deckchairs slightly to the left.

Far off, a band plays "Abide with Me".

Going to Egypt on a Borrowed Camel

Yes I know we did Epiphany on Sunday. But that was for the Sunday people. And now we can do it again, properly.

We've got the gentler, kinder midweek crowd this time, of course. So we'll be missing the Herod and slaughter of the innocents stuff. Just focussing in on the gold and frankincense. Maybe not the myrrh. Too much to do with suffering and crucifixion and stuff like that, and it was probably a mistake to mention it Sunday. Only makes people remember that Christians are still persecuted around the world and suffering goes along with following Jesus. And who want to consider that when it's still Xmas?

So instead we'll be singing "We Two Kings", which is technically just as Biblical as the original. And we'll be introducing the idea that when the Bible says the Magi went home " by another way", what they really did was invite the Holy Family along to take an Egyptian mini-break and offer the loan of a couple of camels to replace the clapped-out donkey.

Anyone fancy a Creme Egg?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Do Catholics and Protestants Worship the Same God?

Yes

Liturgy for the Completion of Row 7 of the Periodic Table

The existence of four new elements is confirmed

Archdruid:  .....ununtrium, and flerovium.

All: And ununpentium and also livermorium.

Archdruid:  And ununseptium...

All: And even ununoctium!

Young Keith: Behold! I have created a nugget of purest ununennium...

All: Ooooh!

Young Keith: Oh, no, wait... It's gone again...

Archdruid: Why bother? It's all pointless......

All: That would be tuvaluvium.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Rewilding of Husborne Crawley

We've been really impressed with the whole concept of "rewilding". I should point out that I was at college with George Monbiot, whose suggestions that we introduce real deer to the Deer Park and only use natural control methods with the moles on New Quad (i.e. hit them with a spade) were voted down nem con by the JCR. But the whole idea of having a more genuinely natural - wilder - unspoilt landscape - yeah, we love it. In fact we've introduced it back into these gently Bedfordshire fields and meadows around where we live.

Which makes it even more annoying, in these times that we are trying to go for organic living and free-range flood control, that I've had a call from the clerk of the Parish Council. I mean, at this time of night?

Apparently we've been "irresponsible" in our choice of species for rewilding. Well, that's hardly my fault is it? Everybody knows that, before they were driven to extinction locally, Husborne Crawley had a thriving colony of werewolves. And I can hardly be expected to stop them wandering into people's gardens - that's what the concept of "wild" is all about.

So I've put the phone off the hook to stop me calling back. If he finds out about the saber-toothed tigers we've released in the woods off Crow Lane, I'll never hear the last of it.

Christmas is Over

And so the Christmas Tree goes back into the ground in the Orchard for another year. We'll dig it up when Christmas starts again in October.

Some people question the tradition of digging up and re-using the same tree every year. But to me it makes perfect sense. It's environmentally friendly, it cheers up the Orchard with evergreen colour when the apples and pears are bare. It has a cycle about it that reflects the liturgical year.

And sure, the plastic is starting to fade a bit now. But I reckon we'll get a couple of years out of it before it's really knackered.

Compromising with the Guinea Pig Folk

I don't know why we keep trying to get on with the Guinea Pig Folk of Stewartby.

Every year, we get together to try to reach "common ground". Every year the Marston Vale New Religions Forum gets together for crisis talks as to how we can stay together. Every year I can't remember why we formed the Forum in the first place.

The Guinea Pig Folk's demands are as simple as they're unachievable. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with apologising for the time we accidentally ate their Guinea Pig gods thinking they were tapas. It was a simple mistake, and we bought them some more, after all.

But they demand that if we're going to get along in a mood of amicability, we should adopt their Guinea Pig Language. Which is, frankly, just whistles and grunts. So we won't. We get told we must abjure tea lights. And they tell us to sack the Moon Gibbon Worshippers as the Moon Gibbon, being a notorious eater of wombles and the Moon, is probably not safe around guinea pigs.

And frankly we listen to them, and we say we understand their views - because we are nice liberal people - and we want to work for unity, and the future continuance of the Marston Vale New Religions Forum. And then we go off and light some tea lights, and the Moon Gibbon People get upset at New Moon, just as they always do. And then we all tell each other we'll meet up next year. And then we all threaten that we won't.

These days, frankly, we just seem to get together for the sake of the argument. If the Marston Vale New Religions Forum didn't exist, we'd just have to wish each other well and then mostly just ignore each other. And who's gonna feel good about that?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Myrrh and Mythology

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him........ 
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matt 2: 1-3; 10-11)
In the days of King Hezekiah of Judah - one of the few kings in the Old Testament who's not constantly being evil, just a bit bad some of the time - some people came from Babylon. And Hezekiah, being a kindly and maybe quite proud old chap, took them for a tour of the Temple - a bit like the Queen showing the Chinese President around when he came over in October.

A hundred years afterwards, the Babylonians came back, removed the current king, killed half the royal family, looted the Temple and carried the Jews off with them into exile.

I wonder what Herod thought that day, when another bunch of people from that direction turned up?

Maybe that they wouldn't wait 100 years this time?

Especially when they were searching for a king who wasn't him. Herod is probably going to think this isn't going to go well.  They're banging on about a star they've seen, and Herod's probably wishing he had a star himself. One of these....

Herod would surely have noticed this kind of thing.
If you're a merciless tyrant, the last thing you want is competition. If people start being in doubt about who the real leader is, you're in trouble. Especially if there weren't just the three Wise Men. We're not told there were three. Suppose there weren't just three -  imagine there were forty or fifty, along with loyal retainers. Imagine they weren't on camels - which are as much a part of the "Imaginary Menagerie of the Nativity" as the donkey, ox, lowing cattle and Little Drummer Boy. Imagine they're on horses. Remember they're from a scary, Eastern Empire - one that even manages to treat the Romans as equals. And allegedly they can read the stars, and have magic powers. And they don't have the three little presents of a nativity play - they have treasure chests of tribute. Of course Herod ain't happy.

The backlash, as I mentioned last week, hits the totally innocent. As these things so often do. But the Wise Men don't know that. This group of pilgrims whom Herod thinks are a raiding party go on down to Bethlehem, in innocence, to present that tribute. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The tribute for a king and a priest.

And in doing that they fulfil a prophecy from Isaiah - that the Nations will come to worship, bringing their tribute. Herod's been focusing on parochial matters - a little grubby throne in a little tatty, rebellious state. But there's much bigger stuff going on.

From now on, God has no favourites. No nation can claim to be more God's chosen people than another - not the Jews, not Western Europe, not the good ol' USA - nobody. Because the heir to the Jewish promises has been shown to faithful Israel - Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist in the womb; the shepherds. And now he has greeted the Gentiles, in the shape of these star-gazing Persian mystics. Paul will develop this - no Jew, no Gentile, no male, no female, no slave, no free. All will be one in Christ.

In effect, Herod is right. There has been an invasion. God has invaded Earth.
Non-biblical animal and number of Magi uncertain
And I think that's the message Matthew is sending in this passage in his Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the successor and superior to Moses. He's rescued from a slaughter of children. He sits on a mountain. He hands down laws. And the message is - one greater than Moses is here. Here is the truest Jew of all. And, fellow-Jews (because Matthew is nothing if not a good Jew) - let's recognise who he is. Everybody else will. The Gentiles have been to him already. They knew him, and they worshipped. The Jewish (or at least half-Jewish) king has tried to kill him. What about you? What do you think? He's our King as well, isn't he, Matthew says to his fellow-Jews.

Same offer, same deal for us. This Jesus is the king of the Jews, king of the Gentiles, king of Europe, king of the world. Our race don't matter. We can come from any faith, or none. We can come a short way or, like the Magi, the long way round. But he's still there, the King of the Universe. The stars, priests, angels and shepherds bow down to him. What about us? Do we leave him as the cute lad in the crib? Or do we see him as the promise of the ages - the icon of God - the king of all?


"Death star1" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Follow That Star

Charging around Milton Keynes trying to find some myrrh. Not much chance.

Though I've left the really hard challenge to later. Where am I going to find three wise men among the Beaker Folk?

Friday, 1 January 2016

Sherlock and the Case of the Left-Handed Blogger

"But Holmes!" I ejaculated. "What on earth could the Left-handed Blogger have been doing in the year 2155, in the Whitechapel area of London, when all that was left of his murder victim in 1882 was the left ear and a trace of chest hair?"

He leaned back in the carriage, and the conversation ceased. Moments later I realised that we were not alone in the Hackney. A distinguished, middle-aged man was with us,

"My word! The Prime Minister!" I expostulated.
A series of implausible plot devices, ready for installation in Baker Street

"So you thought, Watson," replied Holmes. "So the Butcher of Gerard Street thought. But in fact, judging by the Raxacoricofallapatorian dust on his shoes, the distasteful odour and the tendency to flatulence, what we actually have here is not William Gladstone - who at this very moment is in Piccadilly, trying to save ladies of the night - but a member of the Slitheen. And after all, what could look more like a Slitheen than Mark Gatiss in a fat suit?"

"By Jove, Holmes! You mean you have just introduced a load of themes stolen from a different TV series?"

"Indeed, Watson. I suspect that when the authors of this little piece were in their mind palaces, unable to come up with a decent plot line, they realised that a Victorian  twist, some snow and something a bit spooky - all stuff they could rip out of something else they wrote in the past - and then maybe an analogy between the mind and a computer (think the Forest of the Dead) - would make up for any real inspiration."

"But, Holmes, in that case would one expect the BBC still to fall for it and show it on Christmas Day? Or would it be relegated to a less important day during the Festive period?"

Holmes took from his pocket a copy of the Radio Times, and indicated the listing for the show in which we were to feature.

"Elementary, my dear Watson".

A Poem for New Year

Same as it often is, to be honest. I love its starkness and baffled reaction to hope in the midst of trouble.

The Darkling Thrush

BY THOMAS HARDY

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

1 Jan 1901