Thursday 31 December 2009

The New Year Blue Moon Liturgy / Watchnight / Party

Introit: Still got the Blues

Archdruid:  Peace be with blue.
All:  And also with blue.

Archdruid:  Hey there, Mr Blue
All:  We're so pleased to be with you.

The Archdruid (or it may be a member of the Chelsea Supporters' Club): Blue is the Colour
All:  The future's light blue, the future's Man City

Archdruid: Just the one.  The local Methodist minister was hoping to join us tonight, in lieu of a Wesleyan watchnight service.  But unfortunately he broke a tooth on a hymn sandwich.  Nasty.

Hymn: Blue Moon

Reading: Numbers 15:38.  

All: So why don't the Evos insist on that as well, then?

The New Year Easter Sermon

Statement of Blue Belief


We believe in Blue
Colour of the heavens, 
the sea and also of smurfs.
lying in the spectrum at approximately 470nm.
And also in Turquoise
Calming colour of the spirit
suitable for tracksuits and loonies alike.
And we believe in Cobalt
Atomic number 27
So useful in magnetic devices and high-strength alloys.
And also in blue ceramic tiles.
It burns with the brightest of blue.

Hymn: Don't it make my brown eyes blue

Archdruid: Still ages till the Big Moment.  Any ideas?

The Beaker Band perform their tribute to ELO's
Out of the Blue.  For three hours.

All:  Thank goodness that's over with.

The Liturgy of Midnight

We wait for the bells of Big Ben.  Then realise there is no radio or TV in St Bogwulf's chapel, so it's not going to happen.  Nor will the authentic Beaker sundial that Hnaef has brought with him be of any use.

Archdruid: OK, it's five to by my watch, five past by Young Keith's, exactly midnight by Burton's and 1662 according to the Prayer Book Society.

All: Let's rock and roll! 

The singing of Auld Lang Syne

Rapid swapping of hi-viz from blue to red for the New Year.

Recessional - New Year's Day.   (appropriate as we wake up under blood-red eyes.) 

By Episcopal decree, the toilet cleaners for this year's Watchnight Party were Bloo.
And for those of you watching in black and white, the blue ball is the one behind the green.

The Archdruid's Easter Sermon

Yes, the title was chosen deliberately.  It wasn't accidentally defaulted from last Easter.  And in any case I didn't do an Easter message this year.

This week is traditionally the time of year when people all over the civilized world, and even Milton Keynes, complain.  And the complaint they make is the same one.  Ooo the Cadbury's Creme Eggs are in the shops.  Valentine's cards have appeared.  Easter bunnies abound.  And the telly is full of adverts for summer holidays.  I ignore the DFS sale, now into its 40th glorious year and with no sign of abating -the only thing in this world that is longer-running than Last of the Summer Wine.  All around us the world springs into the Spring sales, ignoring the 3 months of winter that remain.  And all of this can be firmly blamed upon one group of people.
Yes, you.  You ignored 2000 years of tradition and put the dancing snowmen on your path on 1 December.  When the tradition of the church and all the voices of nature were crying out for you to batten down the hatches and face a bit of misery as the days shortened, you put a 60 foot singing, ringing tree outside your house.  The inflatable Santa has been in the garden since Advent 2.

And it's Santa that exposes the trouble with your attitude to Christmas.  This is where you blew it.  This is where you left yourself open to Creme Eggs in the shops before the geese were even a-laying.  You idolised Santa.
Let's consider what we know about Santa.  He appears on lots of cards.  He's inflatably glowing in many people's front gardens.  There are signs saying "Santa please stop here" in shrubberies all over suburbia.
And he's redundant on 25 December.

The really devout, the ones that saw Advent as a preparation for the coming of Jesus - they've got until Candlemas (aka Imbolc) to celebrate.  That's 2 February, last time I looked.  All that time to celebrate their God with Them.  But your god had a red coat and went ho-ho-ho.  He substitutes living by faith with a little list that says whether you've been naughty or nice.  He delivers his promises of a better world by the 25th.  And then it's all over.  He's done now.  You might as well pack him, and all the things he stands for, back into the shoebox and stick him in the attic until next year.

You've been eating Xmas dinners since mid-November.  The Office Do was in the first week of December.  You've been playing Christmas carols (the crappy Victorian sentimental ones,  not the decent theological pre-Victorian ones) since about Armistice Day.  So you've had it by now, haven't you?  You don't want any more Christmas.  If you attend Church on Sunday you won't understand why you're still singing carols.  Unless you belong to a Pentecostal church, in which case you're probably already back to Redmanesque introspection by then.  When the Wise Men turn up in a week or so you're going to wonder what they're playing at - weren't they standing by the crib, back in the 2nd week of December, when it was Christmas?

Of course the retailers of this world are selling you Creme Eggs.  What else did you think they were going to sell you?  Stuffed Goose?  That's for Christmas.  Sild?  Quails Eggs?  Blow-up models of the Royle Family? All these things are irrelevant.  You had your Christmas in Advent and before.  It's Lent now.

But of course Lent is like Advent.  You're going to skip that because it's dull and challenging and you don't like it.  And you wouldn't like your faith to be about temptation and challenge and self-discipline and denial.  Not in a world crying out for you to be more restrained in your consumption and simpler in your tastes.  How would that work?  So you'll be down the shops this weekend, New Year's hangover settling down, moaning about the Easter Eggs.  But buying a few packs of hot-cross buns, because they're so nostalgic, aren't they?  And maybe a few fair-trade bars of chocolate because you always feel better about eating that.  It's not that it has less calories - but they're smugger than normal chocolate calories, so they're probably less fattening.

So get your Easter over quickly because January will be on us soon.  And then you'll probably want to dance around a Maypole.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Nick Griffin prepares for Santa Claus

The fire was lit up immediately he heard that Saint Nicholas was Turkish. There's no way Father Christmas is putting his Immigrant bottom down this chimney.

And the cat's just relieved he's not Siamese...
ht Matt Wardman

Ecumenical Matters

I've known worse evenings I must admit.  Especially with the Guinea Pig Folk of Stewartby.  After all, last time we got together all their gods were eaten due to an awful cultural misunderstanding.  And the time before that, after one of the guinea pigs ate the electronics from a Blackberry and became a rodentoid, it all ended up in a shoot-out on Weymouth sea front.  They're a forgiving bunch.

The sermon from the Great Guinea Pig itself was, it is reasonable to say, totally incomprehensible.  Being one of the more traditionalist of the Guinea Pig People, he speaks entirely in grunts, squeaks and whistles.  It was a shame the sermon lasted three hours, and I'm afraid the simultaneous translation didn't help much.  I guess, when all's said and done, there's only so many things you can say about hay.

Afterwards the Great Guinea Pig and myself had a very important discussion for very nearly a minute.  I told him how important it was that we kept the channels of dialogue open, how we all essentially have the same aims in mind, and how we can all work together in the future.  And his squeaks and whistles - as far as the translator can tell - were deep and profoundly moving.  "Shut up, I'm right" appeared to be the gist of it.  I feel we've made real progress.

But I'm afraid that Young Keith let us down later in the evening.  A couple of glasses of the home-made carrot wine obviously went to his head.  A few choruses of "Roll me over in the Clover" may be acceptable in some environments.  But not in a religious meeting.  And particularly not in the Guinea Pig community.  Not when they regard clover as the food of the gods.  So once again we were run out of Stewartby on a rail.  But at least on this occasion the guinea pigs kept their lives.  I'm starting to feel hopeful about the new year.

Good luck to the Guinea Pig folk when their New Year finally does arrive.  The year of D'phweeeeep kk-kk-kk-wheep starts on 27 January.

On the care of guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are cheerful little characters, with their squeaks and whistles.  They are vegetarians, fond of hay and fresh vegetables.  Make sure you feed them a guinea pig food, not a rabbit food which is differently balanced.

An important thing when feeding guinea pigs is to remember that the verb "to feed" can be both transitive and intransitive in the English language.  It is also important to bear in mind which is the direct object and which the indirect.  In other words - what is being fed to what.  The sentence "I'm just feeding the guinea pigs" uttered by our South American visitor Dominga last year, we took to mean that she was topping their hay up.  In fact, it turned out what she really meant was that she was feeding the guinea pigs to the Stewartby Guinea Pig Folk, who worshipped them as gods.  It may have been the low spot in our ecumenical career.  So far, at least.
The Guinea Pig Folk are nothing if not forgiving, and we are grateful that they are inviting us over to the their "Not the Guinea Pig New Year" celebration tonight.  Surely nothing can go wrong this year?

The Archdruid's New Year Message

When giving a New Year message it is always tempting to assume that everyone else that is listening to you agrees with you.  I suspect that this may  not be the case with Gordon Brown this year, as he'd probably have to go a long way to find anyone to agree with him.  Even in his own party apparently.

For myself, in greeting this new year 2010 CE, I will instead reflect that each of us has their own story.  In a post-modern world there is only one grand narrative, and that is that there are no grand narratives.  And therefore this address will be in many parts.

To the Beaker Secularists Movement I say - happy new year, Albert.  That's another year gone before we're all dead.

To the Moon Gibbon people I say - I know you've renamed yourself "Forward in Ferns", and gone out on your own onto Aspley Heath to pretend you're nothing to do with us.  But isn't it awful cold out there?

To the Primitive Extreeme Beaker Folk, I wish a new year of happy mis-spelling and rousing hymns.

To the unexpected Mayan Beaker Folk who appeared in the community early last week for no apparent reason, I say - "Only two years left!"

To the honest, hard-working, decent, salt-of-the-earth, Archdruid-supporting middle-of-the-road Beaker Folk I say this.  Early in the year we realised that in order to pull the Community through the recession, it was important that I borrow lots of money from you so I could use it to bribe you with deluxe tea lights, pebbles bought in from Indonesian islands and special glittery hi-viz.  And for a while it worked.  But next year, Hnaef will be raising the "voluntary" offerings to new and stringent levels so I can remove the money from you, then pay you back the money I borrowed from you minus a special "bankruptcy protection fund".  You may not understand the fine detail of this but be assured, we'll all be poorer.  Except me of course.  Next year you'll be digging for your own pebbles and melting down roadkill to make tea lights.  And it will be my job to try and make you think life would be worse under Drayton Parslow.

To Drayton Parslow I say - you take over this community over my dead body, sunbeam.  Or, more likely, yours.

To the Guinea Pig folk of Stewartby, I can only say it in song - "Who ate all the guinea pigs?  Who ate all the guinea pigs?"  The answer is we did, but it was a huge mistake.  Sorry about that.

And to the Muslims, Jews, Mayans and others of this world whose religions don't think it's the New Year at all (I include the Beaker Folk of course, whose New Year was last week, and any neo-pagans who think it was at Halloween).  But to all whose years are numbered differently I say - did you notice what happened back there?  I referred to next year as "CE", for "Common Era".  Not "AD" for Anno Domini.  It's a cunning trick carried out for Political Correctness purposes.  It relativizes the date by distancing it from the Christian faith whose original (wrong) reckoning of when Jesus was born is the foundation of the Western calendar.  And so you think it's all suddenly so neutral and dolphin-friendly and respectful of all traditions and none.  And yet - it's the same old Western numbering system.  So we've conned you into thinking that it's so even-handed, and yet simultaneously we've made sure that the "Common" date you use.... was ours all along.  Clever eh?  And they say cultural imperialism is dead.

Happy New Year.  And may your God or gods go with you.  Unless you're a humanist, in which case may your anorak keep you warm and dry.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Complaints Flood in

I should have known it.
After my last bulletin, in which I suggested that choir masters have come from the infernal regions and the best way to deal with choirs is to fill their robes with helium so they float off, I have received a veritable flood of complaint.  It comes, surprisingly enough, from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales.  She writes:

"Dear Rowan.
I notice that you suggest that choir masters have come from the infernal regions and the best way to deal with choirs is to fill their robes with helium so they float off.  This is outrageous.
Given the relative densities of helium and nitrogen, and the average size of a chorister relative to their robes, there is no way you could get them off the ground.
Yours faithfully
Mrs Trellis."

Goodbye to the Choir

An odd little episode, was the Beaker Choir.

Clearly we had to do something.  You can't have some out-of-control maniac running around the place pushing people around and not listening to anyone else.  Correction.  You can only have one of those.  And it wasn't going to be the choir master.

I'm still a little baffled.  It's one of those mysteries of the universe.  Where do choir masters come from?  He wasn't a member of the Beaker Folk before the Choir was formed.  He just appeared from somewhere at the precise moment.  Or was he behind the suggestion that a choir was needed?  Either way, instantly he assumed total power in his sphere of influence.  Which was ridiculous.  Under our democratic, heavily-delegated, bottom-up form of religion, it's only I who have total power.

So once again thanks to Young Keith.  He can be a right pain when he's freelancing off the leash, but when operating under archdruidical sanction he is just the right man for dirty deeds done dirt cheap.
So as the choir launched themselves into the Tedium (as I believe they called it) this morning, their robes once again strategically placed to trap all the hot air coming out the heating vents, Young Keith flicked the switch on the helium bottles.

Now initially the Choir seemed to benefit from the addition of helium.  Clearly their robes weren't completely airtight, so some of the gas was able to escape through the necks of the robes.  You could see the effect when Edith Weston went for a high "C" and, for the first time in her life, hit it without breaking one of the windows.  The smile on her face only died away when she realised that Burdwitt, who was the Choir's "double bass", unable to hit notes even on the bass clef normally without the use of extra-tight trousers, also hit the note.  For a while, there was a general impression of a group of eight mice singing in ragged harmony.  But then as they reached the line "et extolle illos usque in aeternum", the singing stopped as they realised that they had indeed been lifted up, but not in the way the song envisaged.
So there they all were, squeaking "get us down" in a manner not dissimilar to the performance of Messrs Alvin and the Chipmunks, while floating approximately eight feet from the ground.  A couple of the lighter choristers with more voluminous robes were actually bobbing off the ceiling.

As the Ceremony ground to a halt, and we all headed for the open air, poor Ardwulf floated out through the chapel door and off across the fields.  He was last seen causing a problem for air traffic somewhere in the direction of Luton Airport.  I'm getting a little worried now.  Those robes were worth quite a lot of money.

Meanwhile, the choir master had disappeared.  We still don't know where he went.  We just know there seems to be quite a smell of sulphur around the place.  But at least the Choir is at an end.

Under a blue-moon sky

Much excitement as we realised that the full moon this Thursday night is in fact going to be a Blue Moon.
Followed by a certain amount of sadness for our Australian cousins, as we realised that theirs won't be.  Astronomy is funny like that.    Or maybe Australia is.  But then they have nice weather, apparently, which must be a great comfort as you are treated after being bitten by one of their many dangerous reptiles and insects.

It can honestly be said that a Blue Moon on New Year's Eve actually happens much less often than once in a blue moon.  And I'm glad to hear that we are heading towards a blue moon.  I thought my recent run of depressing bulletins regarding thermodynamics and New Year's Eve were just down to post-Christmas/Solstice ennui and the stresses of dealing with a bunch of stroppy numpties in the Choir.  But now, with our plans in place to deal with the Choir, and knowing that it is the moon that is blue and not I, I am looking forward to the New Year's Eve Watch night Service / Party with real vigour.

The party will now have a blue theme.  Beaker Folk are invited to wear blue, the colour of heaven and spirit.  Woad will of course be compulsory.  Drinks will be WKD blue, Blueberry Pear Cider and blueberry wine.  And Blue Nun, if you must.
Beaker People are invited to refer to each other as "Blue" at all times during the service / party.  I must needs work out the liturgy, but the word "blue" is liable to occur quite a lot.
Until then - may Peace be with blue  (I think you can see where we'll be going with this...)

Monday 28 December 2009

Second Law of Thermodynamics

The 2nd law of Thermodynamics is of particular importance to the Beaker People.  We refer to it from time to time, but have never bothered to explain it in any detail.
Now I realise you came here expecting perhaps some enlightenment, some thoughts of spiritual significance, or some expression of depth to take away with you.  You didn't come here for the expression of a law of physics.  But I hope to be able to explain to you the importance of this law, in both physical and spiritual terms.
The tendency for entropy to increase in isolated systems is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics — perhaps the most pessimistic and amoral formulation in all human thought. —Gregory Hill and Kerry ThornleyPrincipia Discordia (1965)
So... what's it all about?
It's all about entropy.  "Entropy" being the word that Chemists and others of the white-lab-coated classes use when they mean "chaos".  Because "chaos" is scary and random - whereas "entropy" is all scientific and unscary.  And Chemists are quiet, docile chaps who don't like upsetting other people.  They're nice like that.
It states this...  "in a closed system - with no heat going in, nor coming out - randomness always increases with any change".
Got that?  Simple enough.  That's why you can't un-stir your tea.  The sugar doesn't leap out.  It just stays there  - dissolved.  Putting sugar into tea - simple.  Take it out - you need filters and heat and evaporation and all sorts of stuff.  You have to put energy into the system to reduce the chaos.
But see the sneaky problem?   To repeat: "in a closed system - with no heat going in, nor coming out - randomness always increases with any change".  There's heat going into this little tiny system of one cup of tea with sugar if you want to get the sugar out.  And how does someone generate the heat?  By burning stuff.  Oil, or gas, or coal. That's where the heat comes from.  And what does the burning do?  2nd law of thermodynamics... it increases the amount of randomness and chaos in the system.  You can't not put chaos in the system.  Stuff just gets more random.
So there's some conclusions here.  If you tidy your house - you're increasing the chaos in the world.  Your rooms may be tidy - but the world is less random.  How you going to deal with that?  You can't, you hygiene freak.  You may have made your tiny corner of things more organised, but you've done it at the expense of the rest of the universe.  How selfish is that?  STOP IT!
You will occasionally, if you hang out with the wrong people, hear that evolution cannot be true because it contradicts the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  The argument goes -
2nd Law says things become more random.  But evolution says things get more organised.  So evolution breaks the 2nd Law.  So evolution's not true. QED.
....except, of course, that 2nd Law says things become more random in a closed system.  And one animal breeding (or even two - let's go for it - let's not mimsy around these things) is not  a closed system.  Even if evolution produced more "organised" things (discuss...) animals grow at the expense of the outside world.  Animals maintain their fragile (and temporary) organisational abilities by spewing chaos into the world around them - sweating, excreting, breathing - there's all sorts of ways that animals increase randomness. So the nett effect - on the whole closed system (the entire universe) is that randomness increases.  2nd Law wins every time.
"So where does that leave us?"  you ask yourself.  "What does that mean for me and the world I'm striving for?"  Simples.  It means you, me, the whole universe and the whole improved world you're striving for are doomed.  You can make all the improvements you like, and as you make those improvements you'll be increasing the overall randomness and chaos of the world around you.  You can tidy your house, park your car neatly, sort your vast collection of gloves (which I'm guessing you may possess) into Left and Right - you're just making matters worse.  As you put your CDs into alphabetical order of the keyboard players on each title track (I'm assuming I am addressing male Beaker people here) - you make the world as a whole less organised.  STOP IT!  LEAVE THE WORLD ALONE!  YOU'RE ONLY MAKING IT WORSE!
So where does that leave us spiritually?  Desolate, I suspect.  The words "Things can only get better" are exposed as the biggest lie in the entire history of untruths.  The idea that we can work towards a better future is exposed as a fallacy.  The harder we work for a better future - the worse we will make it.  As St Jarvis Cocker put it - "the future that you've got mapped out is nothing much to shout about".  The quicker the randomness takes over, like a triffid with its own supply of Baby Bio.  The more you try - the quicker it goes downhill.  Until the whole universe is like a giant homogeneous custard of not-much-happening.  This is real science, trumping your imaginary and sad hopes of a better future.
So what can we do?
Despair, is my advice.
And then find a better way out of it, than trying hard.
And a happy new year.

New Year Preparation

By "New Year", of course, I mean the secular one - not the Beaker one which took place on 21 December (or, according to certain stubborn people who believe what they read in papers, on Halloween).
I'm planning a combined Watch night Service and New Year's Eve Party on Thursday night.  This will consist of the Beaker Quire (as opposed to the Beaker Choir - we'll sort them out tomorrow) playing "Auld Lang's Syne" repeatedly from 8pm to midnight, by which time you'll all be thoroughly glad it's the new year.
Meanwhile Bible readings will include the bit from Ecclesiastes about nothing ever getting any better, and the bit from Galations about not celebrating special days.  While other spiritual writings will include the Norse sagas, ending with that cheerful bit where even the gods die.   Also we will hear inspirational readings from such optimistic poets as Ted Hughes, Thomas Hardy and our very own Drayton Parslow.
Drayton's special New Year Poem, "It's gonna be even more ghastly than this year" is now nearly finished.  He tells me it will be complete on the Big Night.  He also promises a complete performance of his street-poetry three-day epic "Stop hitting me and I'll go away".
For the hour before midnight I'll be preaching my special New Year sermon.  You may remember it from last year (or the year before).  Or more likely you won't.  In any case - the theme is "Next year will be just like this one.  Or maybe slightly worse.  Rejoice!"  This year I will be accompanying the sermon with a Powerpoint on "Environmental Breakdown, Global Warming and the Peak Oil Problem".  Watch out for those graphs - they're totally dispiriting!
Refreshments will include champagne, Belgian Trappist Beer and Wadworth 6X.  Or they will for me.  You'll all have to bring your own.
All in all, it should be an inspirational start to 2010.

Wicker Man

The Christmas movie showing in the dining hall was interesting.  In previous years we've had "The Grinch", "A Christmas Carol", "Gremlins" and "It's a Wonderful Life".  This year, in a slight change from tradition, we had the remake of "The Wicker Man".
Many of the older male Beaker Folk spoke wistfully of the original, and especially of Britt Ekland's part in it.

But we decided to go with the remake.  Overall I now feel quite ambivalent.

Obviously, anything that ends up with Nicholas Cage having his legs broken before being burnt to death will never be short of laughs.  But a film where a sinister and power-mad woman rules a community with a rod of iron, while all the men are gormless, useless drones - where do they get these ideas from?

More Trouble with the Choir

The Beaker Carol

Wombles roasting on an open fire
Rudolph cooking on the stove
Random warblings come from the Choir
Stacey crashing through the Grove.

Terrifying vibratos this morning.  The newly-formed Beaker Choir apparently overdid it on the cherry brandy at last night's Politically Correct bingo.  Well, it was enough to make anyone turn to drink.  Especially when we discovered that, in a sudden bright flash of imagination only partially stolen from Bruce Almighty, Hnaef had ensured that everyone had identical Bingo cards.  I know that among the seventy-three official titles Hnaef holds (including Lord High Executioner and Pebble of the Board of Trade) he is the Political Correctness Tsar*.  But this was taking "all shall win prizes" to another level.  Once we realised that every game was going to result with us all shouting "house" at the same time, we jut gave up.
But let us turn back - probably with a shudder - to the Choir.  The tenors and altos were warbling so far that at times they were an octave apart, at times singing in unison.  Which isn't great when they were supposed to be singing in close harmony.  And who told the sopranos they could manage the descant in "O Come all ye faithful"?  By the end they'd both passed out - although whether that was due to hyperventilation or because they had over-heated from parking their voluminous gowns above the heating vents is something we're unsure about.
And I swear the Traditional Beaker Carol was sung in 9 parts.  Which is worrying for two reasons - firstly because it was only written for four, and secondly because there are only eight in the choir.
I really need to do something about the Choir.  Trouble is, you have to be so tactful and so gentle - so sensitive to others' opinions.  Especially when the choirmaster has taken to carrying that club everywhere with him.

*I prefer the Russian spelling to the Polish.

Sunday 27 December 2009

The Beaker Choir

Full marks once again to Keith for his hard work and imagination.  It was quite an achievement, clearing St Bogwulf's Chapel.  But I think the knock-on effects may mean trouble.
St Bogwulf's had been the chapel on the family estate for hundreds of years, until my grandfather Orville's joining of the Extremely Primitive Methodists meant an end to what he so waggishly called "iconography, idolatory and abomination".  He had a very dry sense of humour, did Granddad Orville.  At least, I think it was a sense of humour.  In any case, over the years he converted the chapel into a log shed, a Chinese steam laundry, a branch of Woolworth's and - finally - a very small warehouse for a local ironmonger's.  Granddad died during a seven-hour sermon in the long cold winter of 1978-9.  When they came to bury him in the family vault, they found they couldn't get to it because the chapel was full of assorted iron fittings.  So instead they threw him in the brook and covered him with hinges and coat hooks.  It was what he would have wanted...

Anyway, thanks to Keith we now have St Bogwulf's re-opened and, due to some really hard work on the part of Grenville, and some assistance from a local plumbers' merchants, we have heating.  So a suitable replacement for the Moot House!  Unfortunately, the place is quite small so twenty or so Beaker Folk have to stand outside during our Occasions, but into every life a little rain must fall.  Or sleet, indeed.

Now when they said "can we start a choir?" I presumed they meant a quire.  So I said of course they could - looking forward to our worship being enlivened by a little 17th-century carolling.  I even said they could pick the songs.  But no.  They meant a choir.  Eight people who would - let's say - be entitled to protection from Sudbury council's offense-prevention unit, each equipped with enormous robes.  Singing 19th century tat and - for reasons best known to themselves - a selection of "songs from the shows".  Not only that,  but by careful placing they managed to put their robes over all the heating vents in the floor.  We were all so cold that we might as well be outside - a reminder that Granddad Orville used the place as a refrigerator for a while, on account of its thick walls - while the choir stood in cosy splendour.

Now, I've spoken to the choirmaster (who appointed him?  I'd like to know) about the situation.  He explained that the choir has chosen the hymns - ever since 1845.  I pointed out that he meant 18.45 last night.  He accused me of unreasonably attempting to change the music in the church and said that "some people" (unspecified, he said because I might "get at" them, I think because they don't really exist) only come to Beaker worship because of the choir, and that he, the choir and they would walk out if I stopped them.

It's a tricky situation, needing tact, diplomacy and empathy on both sides.  So I think we could be in trouble here...

Some more unacceptable bingo calls - the Pride of Sudbury

Hot on the heels of Sudbury Council's crackdown on politically incorrect bingo calls - we hope that the oppressed bingo caller finds some way of dealing with the kinds of assorted twits and cowards that think this kind of thing is in some way sensible, without losing all his punters.

Bingo is of course an important if declining part of our culture.   Based on a community activity, mostly practised by women, where regular attendance and the frequent donation of small amounts of money can bring great rewards.  Oh no, that's the church, isn't it?

But checking through the traditional bingo calls - we find more than just "8" and "88" may lack political correctness.
Kelly's Eye will have to go as well, of course - on the grounds that we should not discriminate against the partially-sighted.  And "one-" and "two little ducks" could be offensive to vertically-challenged peculiar people.  Best be on the safe side.  As for "5 and 6 - was she worth it"?  Clearly that's got to go.  And poor old "number 30 - dirty Gertie" is deeply offensive to people called Gertrude with personal hygiene problems.  "Man Alive number 5" would presumably be OK if changed to "person alive".  And on the "all shall win prizes" philosophy of modern councils and schools, "Top of the Shop - 90" will definitely have to be abolished as it is depressing for all the other numbers.  We suggest "Well done, but no better than any of the others - 90".
It's going to be a dull old Christmas Bingo session in the Beaker Ballroom tonight, but at least Sudbury Council won't be coming round to sue us.

We note, incidentally, the appalling grammatical blunder on Sudbury's web page - but don't suppose they will spot it even if we quote it - somewhere below.  More time spent on grammar, less on politically-correct stupidity, may be the way to go in Sudbury...
"More of Gainsborough's work is on display at Gainsborough's House than any other museum in the world. It also displays exhibitions by contemporary artists and houses a recently refurbished workshop where artists can make prints (click on the Local Attractions link for more information on Gainsborough's House and it's opening times)."

Anyway, eyes down for the start of this afternoon's Filling-up of Beakers.  And the first hymn is Heaven's Gate - number 78. 

Saturday 26 December 2009

The Power of Crystals

I'm often asked about the Power of Crystals, and these post-Yule days, with not much to worry about until Imbolc, give us the chance to explore some of these important questions.  So here we go, on the power and uses of crystals... 

Ice -the sixfold symmetry of the hydrogen-bonded water molecule accounts for the hexagonal beauty of the snowflake.  People tell us they're all unique.  We say - how could they possibly know?  Apart from the obvious answer, who has checked them all?

Sodium Chloride (Common Salt) - especially handy in these frosty conditions.  Thanks to the wonders of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, salt suppresses the freezing point of water.  Interestingly, it actually melts water while lowering its temperature.  It's true.  Try it.  Isn't science great?

Copper Sulphate (or Sulfate, in the States) - in its dry state is in fact white.  It's hydrated  CuSO4 that is blue.  Little known fact, oft-exploited by sneaky quizmasters.

Diamond - Face-Centred Cubic arrangement in a beautiful lattice.  Lasts nearly forever (but we refer you to the Second Law of Thermodynamics).  The ideal gift for your local Archdruid's birthday (10 January, in case you were wondering...) Say it with diamonds.

Perovskite - always handy if you're looking for that piezoelectric effect.

Quartz  - there are more stars in the universe  than there are grains of sand on the beach.  But I refer you to my comments on snowflakes.  Who counted?

Krystle Carrington - the moral centre of the family in Dynasty.

The Dark Crystal - reasonably good muppet-style fantasy/sci-fi movie.

..... what?  Misunderstood the question?  Spiritual effects of crystals?  Healing?  Do me a favour.... Mind you, the diamonds might make me feel better.... is that spiritual or is it healing?

St John the Evangelist / Divine / Apostle - 27 December

Pity the poor Anglican priest having to preach a sermon on Saint John (not the Baptist's) day.
That's all we know with certainty.  Just - not the Baptist.  But which other "John" is it?  Is it John the Apostle?  Is he the "beloved disciple"?  Did he write the Gospel?  Did he write 1,2 and/or 3 John?  What about John who wrote the Apocalypse?  Would the real John whose birth/death/festival occurred on 27 December please stand up?  (Not till the Resurrection, obviously, but figuratively, at least?)
It's fair to say that John was a fairly common Jewish name.  But if you're going to preach a sermon on 27 December you'd better be fairly sure which John you have in mind.  Otherwise you could have an epistemological disaster on your hands.
We like to take the simple route.  So our proposal is that the John who wasn't John the Baptist went on to be the Beloved Disciple, wrote the Gospel and all three Epistles, was exiled to the island of Patmos, wrote the book of Revelation, and then was very old in Ephesus, where he told everybody to love each other before going on to sign the Magna Carta, be the ancestor of the Tudor Dynasty and write Annie's Song then get booed off stage by a bunch of boring atheists before being an unidentified crime victim in the United States.  It's nice and simple that way.

The traditional Boxing Day

It has been nice to celebrate "Boxing Day" or "The Feast of Stephen" in the traditional way.  Which, needless to say, has pre-Christian pagan origins.

The original Beaker People celebrated Boxing Day by traditional pursuits such as building massive boxes from wicker and daub*.  Why they did this is beyond us, but we like to think it was a prehistoric version of "cage fighting".  Our surmise is that they would put two of the rowdier Beaker Folk into the boxes and leave it to them to battle it out.  The winner would be named the "Stephen" as he would generally spend the rest of the day getting stoned.  It was a simpler time, before Christmas health warnings about binge drinking** and what to do with Turkey fat***.  In fact, there was no problem for the Beaker Folk because they had no turkeys.****
As time went by, this primitive Beaker ritual evolved into the sports we now know as boxing (hence the names), wrestling*****, and basketball.

So this year we shut Drayton Parslow and Burton Dasset into a large wicker hamper, and left them there while we went off down the White Horse.  By the time we got back, Burton's drivelling on about the Community's P&L (whatever that is) had driven Drayton so insane with boredom that he had gnawed his way through the wicker to escape.  Drayton's not too bad for the experience, except that he keeps finding bits of willow in his teeth.

We have of course also engaged in our other traditional Boxing Day activities.  The Boxing Day Hunt, for example.  It used to get round the ban on hunting with hounds by using a couple of wolves they borrowed from the Safari Park, but then the people at Woburn found out about it and banned hunting with wolves as well.  So now the Beaker Hunt ride around Aspley Heath on mountain bikes chased by Stacey Bushes.  Stacey puts a set of authentic vegetarian reindeer antlers on her head in an attempt to make herself look like Hern the Hunter.  And being a fit lass, she normally manages to catch one or other of the male Beaker Folk eventually.  Personally I think it's a cruel sport and ought to be banned like hunting with hounds.  But Stacey assures me that it's all natural, that it's a tradition in her part of Dorset, and that deep down the blokes she's chasing enjoy it, and feel no real pain.

* There's no archaeological evidence for this, but it seems like a reasonable guess.  None of the other explanations make much sense either.  Apart from the theory that people were so hung-over from their Solstice celebrations that they just wanted to crawl into a box.
** Don't, apparently.  Or if you do, try not to get into any fights with policemen or cross-dressing cage fighters.
** Don't pour it down the sink.  Nor should you put it out for the birds.  I realise this information is not much use to you now, on Boxing Day, as you are charged triple-time for unblocking the neighbourhood sewerage system and dead starlings are falling out of the sky and landing on the people from Dyno-Rod.  But if you've a good enough memory you might benefit from it next year.
**** Or possibly they ate them all, which is why they had to be re-imported from the New World 4,000 years later.
***** Not Graeco-Roman wrestling, which as the name suggests was invented by the Graeco-Romans as a way of occupying whole days of boredom at the time of Winter Solstice.  Imagine - all those dark evenings and no X-Factor or Celebrity Big Brother.

Friday 25 December 2009

Matriarchy, Patriarchy and Beaker Culture

Frequent commenter Ukviewer has made some interesting suggestions regarding the authenticity of the presence of a female archdruid here at Husborne Crawley.  In particular he cites the attached website, which suggests that the Beaker People were patriarchal.

There are many points I could make in response.  One obvious comment being that you shouldn't believe that everything that you read on the Internet is true.  That Cranmer, for example.  I've got a feeling he's not really a 16th century archbishop at all.  Not least because if that Cranmer really was alive and blogging, Rowan wouldn't have a job, would he?  The second is that you particularly should never believe articles that do not tell you who their references are.  For a website simply to state as a "fact" that the Beaker People were patriarchal, and to do so without referring to published sources, an Archaeological journal or famous archaeologists such as Tony Robinson, simply means it can't be trusted.
The Beaker People had female archdruids, and you can trust me on this.  Their task was particularly onerous as we know that the Beaker Males were into drinking and fighting.  Therefore the archdruids had a terrible time, trying to drag hungover or unfortunately dismembered male Beaker People to sunrise rituals and wicker man burnings.  Which makes me think that nothing changes really.
But what does this use of men for fighting, and metalwork in the case of the so-called "Amesbury Archer", tell us?  Tells us that men were disposable, doesn't it? So we know who was actually in charge.  While the men were out trying to steal La Tene wear, some of them coming home in a Celtic ambulance, the women were busy lighting neolithic tea lights and planning the next cairn-building ceremony.  In any case, I have my own theory.  Isotopic analysis on the guy's teeth shows that he was from Central Europe and he had accumulated great wealth through having superior skills than the locals.  So I think we was probably a plumber.

We do know that there were other gender differences.  For example,  females were buried in disc* barrows, while the males were in bell barrows.  Naturally.  So the men were all "look who's got the biggest barrow" while the women lay gently, at one with their surroundings.  As I said, nothing really changes.

In any case, I would point out than an interest in concepts such as "matriarchy" and "patriarchy" shows an obsession with status and that other -archy, hier-archy.  This whole social-pyramid attitude to life is so modernist.  By contrast, the Beaker Folk from 2,500 BC to the present day have gone in for altogether much flatter structures - more gentle, less structured, more organic ways of being community.  Basically, what I say goes and they can all lump it.

*Stonehenge is regarded as a prehistoric computer, so the women who designed it (leaving the men to the heavy job of dragging the stones around) can fairly be called the world's first computer programmers.  No doubt in recognition of their achievements they were buried in disk barrows.

Yule Service - Revised

In the light of the recent unseasonable weather (it's been cold at Christmas - imagine!) we were forced to change today's Yule liturgy from the normal. 

Introit: "I’m dreaming of a White Christmas"

Archdruid: Sherry, anyone?

All: Don’t normally, but seeing it’s Christmas....

Archdruid: Very Christmassy, isn't it? Still some snow laying around, even now.

All: Yes.  Copenhagen was clearly a great success.

The Beaker Folk pass around sherry and nibbles.

The grand opening of the presents

The Beaker Folk disappear under an enormous pile of shiny paper

Archdruid: We join together in the Seasonal Liturgy of Telling the Truth on this Occasion.

All: Chris de Burgh?

Archdruid: Well if you hadn't wanted it, you should've said.  I thought I did well getting that job lot in "Tat is us"

All: Yes, I guess it's our own fault.

Archdruid: Still, it's not as bad as that Rage Against Machine thing you all downloaded.

All: Well, it seemed a bright idea at the time.

Recessional - "I'm walking in the air"

The dismissal

Leader: So here it is.

All: Merry Xmas, everybody.  Now can we get in, it's cold...

The Beaker Folk proceed to the Community Bar (strictly donations only please, the Customs might get interested) for the festive Chris de Burgh flipping competition .

Christmas #Fail

No, no no - you've got it all wrong.

I clearly said that today we would be handing round presents.

So please can you return those farm workers to Aspley Guise.

And a very Merry Christmas to all our readers, even the Guinea Pig Folk, the Corded Ware Folk of Halstead, and the Beaker Secularists.

Thursday 24 December 2009

The Alternative Christmas Carol Service

So another alternative Carol Service goes by.

The singing of "Fairytale of New York" was of course as rousing and touching as ever.  Barely a dry eye in the yurt.  And "So here it is Merry Xmas" of course.  I do love the traditional Christmas songs.  And well done to the person who switched off the microphone when Stacey Bushes started singing "Walking in the Air".  It's possible to have too much of a good thing.  Good spirits were revived with "When Santa got stuck up the Chimney."  But next year we won't be using Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as the closing hymn.
And the readings were as touching as ever. Hardy's "The Oxen" had that lovely combination of sadness, wistfulness and vague spirituality that characterises the Beaker Way.  And "The Burning Babe" was just plain surreal, in a profound kind of way.
Can I now issue a request that all male Beaker People return to the Safari Park all the wildebeests that Burton gave out.  I know Young Keith's got a strong Luton accent, but he clearly said "Good News", not "Gnus", to all men.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

A Beaker Secularist Seasonal Message (not Christmas, obviously)

Obviously he can't mention which season this message is seasonal to (it's Christmas), but welcome to Albert Beard, the president (and only member) of the Beaker Secularists, to give his Secular Seasonal Message.
"Once again, the Beaker Secularists have made great steps forward this year.  We know from the internet forums that there are many - possibly dozens - of teenagers, spotty students and lonely computer programmers, all anxious to fight for the secular cause, by any means that does not involve getting off their atheist backsides and actually doing something, or spending money on it.  And we know that a minority of only 60% of the population claim to have a Christian belief.  While a further 60% have problems with numeracy.  And by counting only members of the Church of England, rather than all those with a faith, and then quoting very carefully, we can make it look like only 5% of people went to Church last Christmas.  However untrue and misleading this is.  But hey - it's not like we answer to a higher power, is it?
By contrast, the evil deists in this country seem not only to have their intolerant and immoral beliefs, but also a willingness to part with their own money to advance their cause.  That's hardly fair, is it?  When the 97% of people who are atheists in this country would willingly die for secularism if they could be bothered to get out of their living rooms.
Just consider.  If the people who rant about their support for atheism on internet forums were to stump up and pay subscriptions to the Beaker Secularist society, I would be able to afford a suit big enough to accommodate my expanding waistline.  A waistline, I hasten to say, that has expanded due to the happiness that secularism has brought me, and not due to my own inability to get off my backside and do something.
 Those people in the BNP agree with me.  They don't like immigrants either.  Those immigrants coming over here with their alien Christianity, when the native population just want to be free to pursue their traditional activities of drinking alco-pops and fighting in the High Street.  It's just not right.
So in summary - please join and please give us some money.  There's only me left now and I'm getting very lonely.  And happy Christmas Yule Winter Solstice  New Year.
(In a completely unrelated matter - we notice that the Seasonal Message of the Secular Society refers to its spokesperson in its meta-tag as "Terry Sandesron".  The webmaster could at least have got his name right?)
name="DC.description" content="A seasonal message from Terry Sandesron, President of the NSS" />  

Politically Correct Mumming

In keeping with the Thomas Hardy school of spirituality, we thoroughly enjoyed the Mummers' play last night.  Still, in these days of treading on the eggshells of sensitivity, we thought it was best we made a few changed to the tradition.
"Father Christmas" is emblematic of the patriarchal society crushing dissent and differance, especially when waving that very phallic club around.  We replaced him with "Mother Yule", a much gentler and kinder figure who would bring consensus rather than confrontation.  However, in the interests of discipline I still felt it was necessary to equip the character with a pointy stick, to ensure that I - I mean she - was taken seriously.

"St George" is no longer regarded as a bona fide saint, and has been to an extent appropriated by such undesirable elements as the BNP.  In the interests of harmony, therefore, I thought it was better to replace him with "Mother Gaia", a much gentler character with the interests of all at heart.  Except when she's burning the planet up to kill us all and replace us with aardvarks.

"The Doctor" is an interesting character, but in these days of doubt about science I thought it would be better to replace him with the "Homeopathist".  Equally effectual in healing, but in a much gentler, less invasive way.

Finally - "The Turk".  Well, obviously he can't be killed at the end.  In order to make him more sympathetic, we recast him as "the Kurd".  In the interests of diversity, we felt it better that he and Gaia come to a peaceful resolution, although as you will see things didn't quite work out...   At the end, the cast joined in the singing of "Merry Christmas, War is Over".  This was somewhat drowned out by the cries of "boring" from the audience.  However I still feel the evening was a success.


We are the Beaker Mummers

We'll play you an old tale
Which you will think quite funny
if you've drunk a lot of ale.

Mother Yule: 

I stand here with a "Ho ho ho"
My rhyme is short and quick
Be sure to give us lots of dough
Or I'll poke you with this stick.

Enter Piotr

My name is Piotr 
I'm the newest Mummer
I come from Poland
and I'm a plumber.
If I can find St George tonight
I'll happily give him a fight.

Mother Yule:
St George can't be here tonight
A dragon gave him quite a bite
At first we thought 'twas septicaemia 
but now it's probably anaemia
To give him a nice healing draught
We really need a homeopath.

I live for homeopathy
I can cure your son and daughter
Although I say it's a remedy
It's really only water.

It's good for itch, 
malaise and stitch,
and people with bad back
But for heart disease and swine flu
You're better off with a real quack.

Oh, my back.

What's amiss with thy back, Piotr?

Slipped disk?  You need a doctor.

Enter Gaia
Here am I, Mother Gaia, 
But I'm feeling pretty strange
My temperature is getting higher
And they're telling me it's the Change.  

(Well, I am 4 billion years old)

Gordon Brown:
Here I am, a noble Scot
Come to save the world with my ditty.
If you've got money I'll take the lot
and give it to those in the City.

I am a noble champion bold;
I'd never tolerate crime
I took ten billion pounds in gold.  

And sold it at the wrong time.

Gordon Brown throws a bucket of water over Gaia to cool her down.  Gaia hits him where it hurts.  In the polling booth.

Enter the Kurd

Here I am, a Turkish Kurd
Afraid to stay at home
With children four I've swum the Channel
And to Bedfordshire I've roamed.
Surely there is room for me at the inn?

Border Control Officer:
In days of old Kurds came to stay
and we just watched and stood
but there's an election due in May
so you're going to Yarl's Wood.  (He hasn't even got an Identity card...)

The Border Control Officer drags the Turk and his children off.

Mother Yule:
Now the Kurd is locked up for the country's weal
And all of his kith and kin.
For twenty months he will fight his appeal
But we'll leave him to it and sing.

Happy Xmas - war is over 
Not really, we're just deluded - la la la la.

The verse is repeated until all the Mummers have gone and the door is closed.

With thanks to the Christmas Time website, whose play was used for the outline.

Advent Calendar 23 - Rollrights

As Beaker in origin as their counterparts in the south, and yet so much more... well, so much more South Midlands.  The Rollrights, gentle, yet very eerie in the early light of an All Hallows Eve.  Which this wasn't.

The case of the poorly-timed Druids

Interesting little article in the Telegraph regarding the Druids who celebrated the Solstice sunrise on the morning of the 21 December.  The Telegraph correctly points out (as I did in a response to a previous blog comment) that because the Solstice was round about 6pm on Monday, the Solstice sunrise was actually on the 22nd.

So far so ho-ho-ho.  But I believe the Telegraph has missed an important aspect of modern-day druidism (and indeed much that passes for modern "Celtic" Christianity).  Frankly it doesn't matter.  In a highly unscientific movement based on wishful thinking and re-imagining of a past that never really existed, they could have turned up and celebrated the Solstice at Easter  for all the difference it would have made.  Particularly if, as in Husborne Crawley, the sun was hidden behind a great pile of snowcloud.

A couple more points of interest.  The Telegraph refers to the druids turning up in "traditional dress".  Yet the people they show round the stones appear to be wearing normal winter clothing for the English climate.  Frankly they look like a bunch of carol-singers.  But in my opinion, given all the unstable stones and lumps of rock laying on the ground, these people are inadequately supplied with PPE.  They should all be wearing Hi-viz, hard hats and steel-toed trainers for their own safety.

And the smug get from the so-called "English Heritage" is quoted as saying "People always assume that because the Summer Solstice is the June 21st, the Winter Solstice will be the 21st December."   Apart from the over-use of the word "the" in that sense, technically he is as wrong as they are.  For the Summer Solstice can also move its date - indeed, it will be on 20 June in 2012.  Or... surely not... is this another sign of the End of the World in 2012?  No, checking a little more, the Summer Solstice was also on 20 June last year.  And we're still here.  Panic over.  However - this is clearly the kind of misrepresentation we can expect from the agency that bought Stonehenge to protect it from people building cafes and car-parks nearby, and then built a car park with an attached cafe*.  Personally I would turn the whole place over to Mr Arthur Pendragon.  Except I am slightly concerned about his numeracy.  He is quoted as saying that he conducted "about three handfastings".  Surely he could be more accurate that kind of low number?  I mean, it must be an integer - it's not like he has to worry about fractions.  Or is this the origin of the old tradition that it's impossible to count the stones

So God bless the poorly-timed Druids of Stonehenge.  In this selfish, consumerist, cynical world they made the trip to Stonehenge to answer the call for some kind of spiritual experience.  They recognised the emptiness of our politically correct, CRB'ed, cotton-wool-wrapped society and went to fill it with meaning.  And by arriving for Monday morning, hopefully they missed all the travel problems they would have had on Monday night through Tuesday.  Maybe their Goddess was looking after them after all.

And in case you're wondering why my image of Stonehenge looks so sunny and empty, it was taken about Michaelmas.  Or the Autumnal Equinox, for those of a druidic persuasion.

* I refer you to the excellent "Stonehenge Complete" by the learned  but very readable and often amusing Christopher Chippindale for details.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Thou shalt (or shalt not) steal

Real concern over the Anglican* minister who said it was OK to shoplift if you were a bit short of the readies.  (ht to Clayboy).  As a result Edith thought she had divine sanction for that shoplifting spree.  And now she's changed her mind.   But it's probably too late for her to return all those books to Wesley Owen now.

*Note for clarity - "Anglican" means "Church of England" in England.  And "Episcopalian" in America.  Simple, really.  Except that American Methodists have bishops, so they must be episcopalian as well.  I know it's a small "e" but it's hard to tell when you're talking.  Or writing in capitals.

Any religion you like as long as it's not Beaker

Sometimes I swear that we are being persecuted for our Beaker faith.

As is widely known, Hnaef runs an archery school for people with no thumbs.  It's a worthwhile career, albeit he sometimes comes home with arrow marks.

This afternoon, he had a not-uncommon occurrence, when one of his customers was accidentally shot.  A mixture of the frosty conditions and a lack of thumbs took its inevitable course.  Thankfully just a flesh wound.  But as the time was coming on towards 4pm, it was starting to get quite dark.  Being out on the range, there was no electric light to hand.  But as fortune would have it, Hnaef had some tea light supplies he had picked up from Morrison's "Stone and tea light" section on Westcroft this morning.

Naturally, Hnaef lit a few tea lights to try and see the severity of the injury.  However the injured customer, realising he was now laying in a ring of tea lights, thought he had died and woken up in a severely constrained version of heaven.  This caused a certain amount of panic.  He then realised he was in fact alive but decided that Hnaef was trying to coerce him into taking part in a Beaker ceremony.

At this point, he decided to try to fight Hnaef off to stop himself being, as he imagined, brainwashed.  Ironically, since he tried to keep Hnaef away by throwing stones at him, it could be argued that he had in fact joined the Beaker Folk himself at this point.

In any case, Hnaef has now been banned by the Health and Safety Executive from bringing tea lights onto the premises.  And the local council has said he will receive no funding until he can prove there are no essential oils anywhere on the premises.  As I said, it feels awfully like persecution.

Advent Calendar 22 - The unspecified number of wise People

From our day-trip to Althorp again, the "Wise Men" from Church Brampton.  Top left appears to be Terry McDermott.  Did he suggest to the BVM that she "calm down, calm down" when she noticed that they'd brought gold, frankincense, myrrh but no Turkish Delight or toblerone?

Christmas Eve Sermon Revisited - The Shepherds Again

The gospel according to Arthur.  It's always a wonder what you find hidden in the corners of the loft space here at Husborne Crawley.  With all outside ceremonies frozen off, I was able to spend an evening sorting through some of Mummy and Daddy's old belongings.  Now I know that before that unfortunate accident with the straw baling machine Daddy had been a bit of a collector.  But finding yet another Gnostic gospel was still a bit of a surprise.
Arthur is unique among the Gnostics in referring to the weather at the time of the First Christmas.  Perhaps not surprisingly in view of later tradition, but in sharp contrast to modern Liberal commentators, he tells us that "snow had fallen, snow on snow".  A reference to what appears to be earth standing "hard as iron" has been corrupted, probably through a copyist's error.
Arthur, who seems to have a great interest in thermal matters, also tells us that as well as shining with a great light, the angels also gave off a great heat.  This is important, as it seems to imply that these were radiant angels rather than the modern compact fluorescent ones.  And that would be why they were able to give off such a bright light.  It would have been a lot dimmer on that Bethlehem hillside if the European Union had had its way.  Also, the heat from the angels apparently melted the snow and left the shepherds' feet "strangely warmed".  Another detail that Arthur gives us is that the angels were all blonde girls, and wore haloes made from tinsel - something that seems to have been suppressed in the early church.
Pausing only to push the Little Drummer Boy into a ditch to make sure they got there first, the shepherds headed off to Jerusalem.  However at this point Arthur again seems to support later theories while disproving others.  As well as bringing a lamb, as recorded in certain hymns, they also took a couple of kangaroos, a pig, two llamas, a Care Bear and some spare Wise Men that had strayed into the wrong scene - thus confirming that the modern Nativity scene, with its random collection of farmyard and other animals according to what the children fancy being, is in its essentials correct.
Having reached the Stable, pausing only to sell a few copies of "Socialist Worker" and accuse the Kings of being "the representatives of a fascist and outmoded society that exists only by supporting itself on the backs of the workers", they bow down and adore, before returning to the hill side on which they are abiding to find that Herod has nationalised all their sheep.  The irony is not lost on them.

The other thing I found in a corner of the loft was a couple of Beaker Fertility Folk, busy sharing body heat.  Well, I guess it's a bit cold out on Aspley Heath in this weather.