Thursday 30 September 2010

Ancient Pokemon discovered in Peru

According to the BBC, the fossil of an ancient giant penguin has been discovered in Peru.

That's never a penguin. Not looking like that. But maybe, given long enough, it will evolve into Golduck.

The Nigella Effect

That's the trouble with Nigella's food programmes. You always end up feeling slightly nauseous afterwards. It's not that I followed the recipe or anything, it's just the way she keeps pouting at the camera.

The SI Unit for Politicians

Bishop Alan asks what happens when you times a Miliband by a Miliband. The answer would be you get a square Miliband.  Which could be either of them, if you ask me.  And if you times by another one, that would be a cubic Miliband. Times-ing by another would give a 4-dimensional hyperMiliband, if you can face the thought.

I guess while we're at it we could consider that 10 Milibands would be a Centiband.  1,000 Milibands, if you can imagine such a thing, would be a Band. 1,000,000 Milibands would be a Kiloband, and a billion (US) Milibands a Megaband. A million Megabands would be a TeraBand, but now we're just getting silly. One thousandth of a Miliband is a Microband.

Hope this helps.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Of Michaelmas and Hell

One of our favourite Saints' Days. And it's true our numbers are already swelling, as we find stray left-over Beaker Folk in outbuildings, the White Horse and living in the Junction 13 roadworks.  But we were still a little short on numbers to do the "Throwing down of the dragon and the last days" pre-enactment as part of today's rituals.
After all, when there's just the eleven of you it's pretty hard to symbolise the 12,000 from each tribe of Israel. And then we were down to ten, after Hnaef got stuck in that dragon costume, and so we had to jettison both Dan and Reuben. And jiggle about a bit to give the impression there were more of us. And we had to skip the Michaelmas daisy-chains event due to the endless rain.

I'd like to thank Daphne Hnaef for her rather inspired idea that, to stay out of the rain and in a tribute to the "Last Things" theme of the day, we each paint our own depictions of what Hell looks like.

For myself, of course, I drew Hell as a very small place - too small for anyone ever to fit in. Daphne did a more traditional view, a Doom with the damned heading off into the eternal fires while the blessed mimsy around in the rather boring way that they do. Drayton's vision of Hell seemed to dwell, in rather too much detail for my liking, on the application of spiky implements to various parts of the inhabitants' anatomies. Whiles for his own reasons Hnaef drew a sketch-map of Luton. And Agila drew a rather realistic impression of a Take That reunion concert.
Above all, it was Ardwulf's drawing that really worried me. A six-feet high, full colour, oil paint rendering of Ardwulf himself.
So off to an early night now. I'll try to work out the appropriate programme of counselling in the morning.


I've just been listening to an interview with Ed Miliband. He was explaining, in a very brotherly way, that the choice of whether or not to be in the Shadow Cabinet was up to his brother, David (the one with the knife-handle sticking out of his back).

I don't understand much about Labour electoral practice. I know that electing the Labour leader is the only electoral process that rivals the elections to Church of England General Synod for Byzantine complexity and anomaly. But I'm still pretty sure that the way it works is not, that people called "Miliband" get to decide whether or not they are in the Shadow Cabinet. I'm pretty sure that the party has some kind of say in it. Or am I missing something?

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Holding hands in a circle

I've had some more complaints from people - mostly men, I have to say - complaining about our "Blessing Circle" tradition of holding hands in a circle and exchanging holy looks of blessing at the ends of ceremonies.
The men say that it's not very manly. Which is, of course, exactly the point. If we had the men in the community going round being manly, what sort of place would it be? Not very holy, that's my point.

I've also had complaints about the Blessing Circle from Agila. She's convinced that Ardwulf is making sure he stands next to her every time a ceremony draws to an end. So now she skips round to the other side of Drayton (if he's considered the occasion to be sufficiently un-pagan), then realises her mistake and goes to stand between myself and Daphne Hnaef. I tell you, sometimes the end of our ceremonies can be more like a country dance than the still, silent centre of the bustling cosmos that they're supposed to be.

But I'm still not abolishing the process. If you're that concerned about bodily contact you can wear gloves. If you want to avoid eye contact, put on dark glasses. And if you're concerned that we're dragging your testosterone levels down, then just remember it's for your own good.  That is all.

Fairytales of New York

Totally underwhelmed by the not-very-surprising news that American atheists know more about religion than American believers*.

After all, unlike most British folk atheists, standing in long traditions of couldn't-care-less-ness, most American atheists probably rejected religion and so are well informed about it. Also in an overwhelmingly Christian country like America, you'd normally assume that the atheists are more intelligent - not because they're right, but because intelligent people like to buck the trend. Which in the States would mean they're likely to be more liberal, more interested in the world at large.  And Americans generally seem to have a degree of parochiality more extreme than a frog stuck down a well. So you're not going to be competing with much.
For example, fewer than half knew that the Dalai Lama was a Buddhist. Well, if you're a Fundamentalist Baptist, you like to keep the surplus information to a minimum to save memory space. To these people, since Buddhism is of the Devil, who cares who actually is a Buddhist? Likewise the 50% of Protestants who did not know that Luther was the driving force behind the Reformation - why would they care? He lived neither in the 1st nor 21st Centuries.  And he was a German, which is a very dull European country: white Americans only claim to be descended only from the Irish and the Italians. And Luther lived 250 years before anyone invented their country. All in all, he's not very important is he?
But I'm curious about this statement: "Almost half of Catholics surveyed did not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion actually become the body and blood of Christ." and would just want to know - did the survey get the wrong answer because the Catholics didn't "know"? Or because the question was so badly nuanced that only an atheist or extreme Protestant would get the "right" answer? Indeed, the Telegraph's nerdy blogger didn't understand the "when and where", let alone the "what" when he tried to comment on it.

* There's an interesting slant in the Telegraph's reporting, when it says that atheists know more about "religion". What doesn't come across from there (in fact they seem mysteriously to be trying to indicate the opposite), but does on the Pewforum site, is that it's actually Mormons and Evangelicals that know more about "Christianity" than anyone else, including atheists and agnostics. Again, they're a parochial lot. In my experience a Clearwater cat going missing is worth more airtime in Tampa Bay than a mudslide in Bangladesh.

Hunting the Flying Spaghetti Monster

It's turning into a good week for eating rare species.

And also a good week for theology. Who would have thought we'd have found an outbreak of Flying Spaghetti Monsters out in the covert this early in the season?

Please can all Beaker Folk assemble at the Armoury after the Pouring out of Beakers. We'll get you a shotgun each and rudimentary instructions on how to use it.
And don't forget, it's bad sportsmanship to shoot a running FSM. They're much easier to hit when they're sitting still.

In which Drayton says Thanks

It is true to say that I have fallen on straitened circumstances over the last few weeks. It was probably the Lord's doing, bringing me low after I had risen so high. When men's praise was flowing in over my beautifully-crafted sermons and prophetic beard, I listened to that praise and took it to myself, instead of handing it to the One that deserves all praise.
But truly I have been brought low. From the heights of the pulpit in Frisby on Soar, I plummeted as the evening star to that concrete pipe in Wellingborough, where I passed an uncomfortable few weeks. But then I remembered - like unto the prodigal remembering the pea-pods that were fed to the swine - the many evenings I spent eating road-kill and noting down ungodly activities here in Husborne Crawley.

So I conclude by saying "thank you" to "Archdruid" Eileen for her generosity in once again welcoming me into her bosom. Not literally, I hasten to add. I would not want anyone to suspect ungodliness.  I shall of course be praying for Eileen's soul - in the unlikely event that she actually has one.
I am now going into town to buy a new set of A4 notebooks and a fountain pen, therein and therewith to record all activities in the Beaker fellowship that can be identified in the broadest sense as "deserving condemnation". I suspect that my notebooks shall not cease from mortal strife, nor shall my fountain pen sleep in my hand. There's always something dodgy going on in Husborne Crawley.
But rest assured, once again I shall be joining in all activities that are either theologically acceptable, or without any genuinely religious content whatsoever. I suspect that, like a Taize evening in Solihull, the latter is more likely than the former.

Monday 27 September 2010

Abba Tribute Bands plumb new depths


The End of a Perfect Day

Wikipedia Commons, User Pmaas
Finding those Great Auks on the way back from Ireland in 1858 was a real stroke of luck, I must say.

In those days the bird was already believed extinct, so who would have believed that we would find a nesting pair on a Hebridean islet like that, on our tour back home to Wessex?

And when we got them really home back to Husborne Crawley in the 21st Century - what a find! What a boon for naturalists and the natural world.  Yet it's so natural, the way we brought them back to a village on the Woburn estate like that. Although, in a funny kind of way, they were a temporal anomaly - a breeding pair of extinct birds, three halves of a century after their breed died out.

So it was appropriate that we washed them down with that rather nice Tillich '64. Dry, and yet so full of depth, the perfect accompaniment. We'll never see their like again. What a meal.

A Rather Shabby Designer Baptist Fundamentalist

An odd thing today.

We saw somebody staggering towards the Great House dressed in what looked rather a tatty suit. As he got closer we realised it was actually our old colleague and irritant Drayton Parslow, dressed from head to toe in battered Armani.

It would appear that, since we last saw Drayton, he has seen both better and worse times. He has apparently been working as the pastor of a church up in the Midlands, although we have since gathered that his wife Marjorie has succeeded him in that post. Poor Drayton, meanwhile, after a period of aimless wandering that culminated with a short time living "in a concrete pipe next to a spinney in Wellingborough", decided to walk back to Husborne Crawley on the off-chance he might find some stray Beaker Folk.

Drayton is making the completely implausible claim that he has spent the last few months being a relatively successful blogger, with a large following in the United States. Challenged to provide any evidence of this, he typed a URL into my Chrome browser, only to be informed that his postings have all disappeared. He claims Marjorie may have deleted all evidence of his former online existence.  Or that Google Analytics is lying about his Chrome stats.

He also asked if he could introduce a friend. When we allowed him to do so, he whistled and another figure appeared at the far end of the Bottom Meadow. On coming closer we discovered we had a full-grown and - for the species - rather handsome specimen of Wodewose. Mr Walter Vole, as he called himself, was accompanied by what he claimed - without any evidence - to be a group of talking rabbits. That is to say, he definitely had some trained rabbits, but there was no sign they could actually talk. For want of something better to do, we've parked him in a quiet corner of the wood.

So it's been an odd kind of a day, but for the time being we've given Drayton his old room back while I try to think up some titles. In the old days he spent all his time plotting to steal my job, but I'm happy to let bygones be bygones. I'm that kind of a trusting girl. Though I'm keeping the Slazenger handy.

A hole in your life

I've had an interesting time with Drusilla. I feel that after a great deal of talk, prayer and discussion we've really made good ground. We have, as the saying has it, "broken through".

One of the weekend Serbian Spirituality pilgrims, Drusilla was most intrigued by Hnaef's rather earnest talk on everybody having a "God-shaped hole" in their lives. Drusilla's rather an experimental type. At coffee time after the meeting, she discovered that in fact the hole in her life was not God-shaped. She claims it's Hob-nob shaped.

So I think we have a way to go here yet.

Late-life ambition

I've been out of the loop somewhat this last six months, so can we get this straight - is it right that Last of the Summer Wine has been cancelled so Clegg can concentrate on his new job as Deputy Prime Minister?
Nora would have been proud, but who's going to go downhill in a bath tub now?

Sunday 26 September 2010

Labour's First Family wonder how to work together

Look, I'm sure this is just me. After all, he'd have to dye his hair and change his suit and everything.

Hobbit forming

"Producers auditioned short actors to appear in the [Hobbit] movies" says the BBC website.

We know that the BBC are dedicated to equal opportunities in all things, going so far as to ensure that even the utterly stupid and offensive are entitled to huge pay packets.
But I reckon at least two people in this queue are in for a big disappointment.

And surely "short" should be "vertically challenged"? Or possibly "differently horizoned"?

Helium Liturgy

Thanks to Hnaef for this morning's "Helium Worship". It was creative, light-hearted and approachable.

However I'm not too convinced about its long-term usefulness.

Firstly I'm not sure it's as "down with the kids", "on the cutting edge" and "postmodern" as Hnaef claims.

Secondly, it's really distracting that everybody has to keep taking gulps out of those helium balloons every time they have a liturgical response to make. Add to that the number of balloons everyone needed to be supplied with, and the number that people let go of and which ended up bobbing around the ceiling of the Moot House. It's just too fiddly for the kind of monthly alt.worship pattern that Hnaef was suggesting.

He has remarked that we could dispense with the balloons if we pumped the entire Moot House full of helium. I have a few objections.

  • We appear to be at "peak helium". 
  • It's not that cheap.
  • We would all die of suffocation.  It may not be toxic but that doesn't mean we can live on it.

Apart from that, it's a winner.

You're all very kind

I'd like to thank you all for the warm welcome back to the 21st century. I have seen literally people flocking back to this little oasis of sanity in a gray, secular world.
And I'm delighted to see our new followers to the blog. It gives me a warm feeling. Or would if I didn't have such a cold heart.

But in particular I'd like to mention Phil, whose Profile tells us that "My brilliant research in brain transplantation is unsurpassed".

I wouldn't want to be a pedant, and nor am I kow-towing here to the Celtic - and therefore almost certainly wrong, if not imaginary -  concept that the head is the seat of the soul. But shouldn't that be "body transplantation"?

ERS Investigation

The ERS are investigating the possibly that there may have been a betting scam in the Labour election. They're saying that a very high number of people went for No Balls.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Burning the God Delusion

The forum has discovered a way to get The God Delusion for 6p. I note that the Waterstones website has already closed that loophole. Shame.
At those rates, it's well worth burning. Much cheaper than firewood.

Never trust an older brother

So the votes have been cast, the preferences re-allocated, the percentages added up, the brothers (and sisters) of the Unions, including those that vote Tory, have been added up. And the younger brother has beaten the older brother again. It is Micromiliband that has won, vanquishing Megamiliband. And the whole country struggles to remember which was which.

It's the old story. Abel's offering was acceptable, while Cain's was rejected. Isaac has a close shave, but Ishmael is sent into the desert.  Jacob gets the blessing while Esau gets the soup. Reuben loses his rights while Judah produces a line of kings. The elvenfolk head to the Gray Havens while the sons of men inherit Middle Earth.  And so history repeats itself. The younger is victorious, the elder licks his wounds.

But many of those elder brethren had a sting in the tail. Cain killed Abel, Ishmael's descendants have hung on for 3000 years, the people of Edom were alway likely to rise up out of their caves and cause some aggro to the Children of Israel. Best keep your eyes open for an elven invasion, I reckon.  And Micromiliband better watch his back.

For myself, I'm pleased to discover that my own brother is still locked in the attic despite the changes of ownership. Even though apparently a few of the Serbs went missing at the time of the full moon. Mrs Rochester seems quite sanguine about it. Says he's got to get his exercise occasionally.

Commemoration of the Battle of Stamfordbridge (1066)

Just in time we've had an unexpected influx of weekend pilgrims. It turns out that Mr Jovanovich had been running his "Traditional Serbian Spirituality" workshops in the Moot House, and "forgot" to cancel them when Young Keith moved him on. Mr Jovanovich didn't offer any refunds, it turns out, so we're not picking up any accommodation fees (just as well, as there is no bedding and the swatches are only just starting to arrive).  But we're making do by cross-selling doilies, Russian dolls and Serbian ikons to the pilgrims. And naturally we don't speak any Serbian, but then neither do any of the pilgrims. So Hnaef is deploying his Anglo-Saxon to best use and the pilgrims know no better.

So today we commemorate the battle that finally settled the hash of the Vikings, in traditional Serbian Anglo-Saxon Beaker way, with a pitched apple-fight in the Orchard.  Hnaef is today representing Harold Godwinson. We consider him the only person able adequately to do so, as (a) he's a man (b) he has an Anglo-Saxon name and (c) He's got the Beowulf book.

Introit: Stamford Bridge is falling down (poor old Chelsea) (Kendrick)

Hnaef:  Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

Vikings: You're going home in a Chelsea ambulance!

Hnaef: Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold,fen ond fæsten; fifelcynnes eard wonsæli wer weardode hwile,siþðan him scyppend forscrifen hæfde.

Vikings chorus: "I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high, up in the sky,
But like West Ham they fade and die,
Tottenham always running,
Arsenal running too,
We are the Chelsea blue boys and we're running after you." 

Eileen: OK, enough with the Anglo-Saxon already. Let the blue-noses have it.

The Anglo-Saxon slingers fire a volley of Granny Smiths down the orchard.  The Vikings scatter and hide behind trees.

Vikings: Sling when your're winning, you only sling when you're winning.

Saxons: Angle-Land, Angle-Land, Angle-Land!

Vikings: Super, super Harald,
Super, super Harald,
Super, super Harald,
Super Harald Hadrada."

A second volley of apples flies down the orchard. The Vikings respond with a hail of mouldy plums.  This time the Saxons run for cover.

Vikings: You're not slinging anymore, you're not slinging any more.

Saxons:  If it wasn't for the Danish you'd be Swedes, if it wasn't for the Danish you'd be Swedes.

The air is thick with a blizzard of apples, plums and walnuts thrown from all directions as the two armies come to grips. Fruit explodes until the air is a fine mist of pomace and nutshell. The Saxons claim the victory, as the Vikings run off towards Mr Ogrizovic's Traditional Serbian Hot-dog Stand.

Hnaef:  Ac hie hæfdon gefrunen þæt hie ær to fela micles in þæm winsele wældeað fornam, Denigea leode.

All:  And also with you.

What do Pretty Girls do?

"I’m always described as a ‘female singer-songwriter’. You don't see all these other singer-songwriters described as male singer-songwriters. I mean, what’s your genitalia got to do with it? You're either a singer-songwriter or you're not.”- Kirsty MacColl

A sign of things to come

Three months today, then.

Just thought I'd mention it.

Friday 24 September 2010


So the Prime Minister is a middle-class white man. His deputy is a middle-class white man. The Chancellor is a middle-class white man. The Foreign Secretary is... yeah, yeah...

And hot on the news that the Labour candidate for the Mayor of London is a middle-class white man, we'd like to add our forecast that the new Labour leader will also be a middle-class white man.

Even if we thought all candidates had an equal chance we'd be 4/1 on to be right, but let's face it. Because Diane Abbott put her children through private school, no way she will win. She's far too posh.

Doing Tangos in the Quango

The BBC has published the list of quangos that the Government has decided it may or may not abolish, merge or devolve to other quangos.

Having seen the list I have a few suggestions:

Commissioner for the Compact: To explain what it means. Does it look after the rights of short people, perhaps?

West Northamptonshire Development Corporation: A contradiction in terms.

Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee: to be replaced with the advice "It's not a medicine. It's a herb". Which is much cheaper than the committee, in my advice.

Pensions Protection Fund Ombudsman and Pensions Ombudsman: to be asked to explain how they managed to pull these two nice little earners simultaneously for so long.

Food from Britain: replace with Food from Holland, which is cheaper and available out of season.

Cycling England: it is to be determined whether this is a quango or a sponsored event.

Royal Mint Advisory Committee on the Design of Coins, Medals, Seals and Decorations: to be replaced with the Arts Lesson of Class 2C of Watling School, Dunstable.

Young People's Learning Agency: functions to be replaced with "schools"

Shine on Harvest Moon

A sound of pattering footsteps and a group of familiar faces appear at the window, somewhat hairier than the last time I saw them in the Spring.

It was the Beaker Fertility Folk, convinced that, this being late September, this is the Rutting Moon and it is therefore time for them to return to the warmth of the Great House. Not having been out of the fields since April, they hadn't realised we'd been gone.

I explained that this is not the Rutting Moon, but the Harvest Moon.

So they've gone back into the woods.  I look forward to seeing them again in October.

Key demographic

I've been thinking quite hard about our marketing opportunities here. Although the UK has staggered out of recession, it will be at the cost of civil servants and other public employees.
Which gives me pause for thought. Our main customer groups - or "host species" as I like to think of them - have always been naive people, middle-class people and needy people. People that can be encouraged to do almost anything as long as you make them feel wanted - and some of them even have the skills to be useful.
Unfortunately, this means that the key demographic is needy, naive middle-class people. And I've a nasty feeling that a cull of middle-ranking public servants could therefore see our target market dwindling rapidly.
Maybe former council middle-managers could be encouraged to knit doilies for peanuts? In which case we could still be onto a winner.

Pain and being Human

"Chili (sic) pungency is not technically a taste; it is the sensation of burning, mediated by the same mechanism that would let you know that someone had set your tongue on fire."

I apologise for starting this posting with a piece of English spelling pedantry, but I wish to make it clear that this is not my way of spelling Chilli. No, it belongs to this article.

There are people in this world that seem to like pain. I don't mean the ones that attract it. They can often suffer, and it's inexplicable, but somehow there are those for whom pain is like a heat-seeking missile. One can only pray for them, and try to help them through it. But I mean those that re-create pain.

Maybe some of them are actually - in a strange kind of way - happier with pain. They take comfort in failure because that confirms them in who they are. Maybe the pain of failed relationships is to them, as the pain of a chilli is to a chilli-lover. It drags them back to other painful experiences, other painful relationships - other places where they feel they now know where they are, because they have failed again. To a strange kind of safety in their pain.

Just a metaphysical thought. Now, if you'll excuse me. Hnaef's sweeping the front hall and he's making an awful mess. I must seek out the old Slazenger from the boot of the Porsche Cayenne. And it's a bit dented after falling off that cliff...

Thursday 23 September 2010

I Predict the 20th Century

Forgot to mention...

When we staggered out of the wreckage of the Cayenne with our meagre belongings (including two Great Auks we picked up on our way back from Ireland) one of the first things we did was nip back to Owermoigne Roundabout to dig it up and get our money back.

But we forgot that was a parallel universe. So there was no money. Maybe in another Dorset, another Archdruid Eileen or Young Keith is getting rich on our ill-gotten gains, but not in our one.

Instead we found a time capsule in the form of a lead cylinder, with a plaque on it saying "Not to be opened until 1 January 1900".  In it was a letter. From me. Or, at least, from the parallel me. I will share it with you. Although, to be honest, it's a bit late now.

Dear people of the 20th Century

You will not think that you are now in the 20th century, as you believe there's another year till that. Should you live for 100 years, you will find out that you are wrong. I'm not writing this to help you in any way - just to point out your ignorance. The following, however, you may find more useful.

Those amusing horseless carriages you see wandering around the streets very occasionally will take over the world. Take over the world, sucking every drop of oil our of Mother Earth like vroomy leeches and leaving a dark stain over everything they pass, and in the air. It is your duty to your future to stop them. If you see a man driving one of these evil devices, remove its wheels.

In 1914, somebody will shoot an Archduke in Eastern Europe. Being British, you may not find this very important at the time. Unfortunately some people will go totally over the top. If you've got any sense, you'll nip across to the Austro-Hungarian Empure in 1913, and kidnap anyone you meet called Franz Ferdinand. Not only will you prevent a lot of deaths, you will save a lot of earache around about 2005.

Should you ignore this advice and let Frankie Ferdinand die, a very large war will break out. Towards the end of it, people will start to go down with fevers, sneezing and acute bloody pneumonia. Do not assume it's "man flu".Get all the people thus affected to stay in Belgium until at least 1920. It may be bad news for Belgium, but at least it will protect the rest of the world. And it may just prevent the European Union.

Edward VIII will have an affair with an American divorcee. Nobody will let you know, any more than they will tell you that Prince Philip is a Venusian fruit-snake. Don't kick up a fuss about Edward and his Mrs - in another 50 years nobody will care. Actually, thinking about that whole Hitler thing - why not cut out the middle man and stop Eddie being king in the first place?

On the subject of which - in 1935 only idiots and conspiracy theorists will believe that Britain should start building planes and other armaments as fast as possible. The idiots and conspiracy theorists are right on this one. Do what they say.

In 1961 someone will build a wall around Berlin to stop food getting in. Taking their lead, try and build a wall round Liverpool to prevent the Beatles getting out. Honestly, you know it makes sense. You'll be charmed by their boyish good looks and humour to start with, but once you've heard "Mull of Kintyre" or "Imagine" you'll know why this has to be nipped in the bud.

Buy shares in Space Hoppers, Sony, Twitter and Nandos the minute you hear of them.

In 1980, an orange man with implausibly dark hair will become President of the United States. If you think that sounds unlikely, you should see what his successors will be like.

Don't eat the beef. I'm not saying it will hurt you, nor am I saying it won't. But it'll save you a lot of panicking and taking up vegetarianism in 1995.

Do not allow anyone named Bieber to sing.

And then there were four

And a happy Full Moon to you all. In contrast to the old days, it seemed very quiet, just the four of us out there in the Orchard, surrounded by rotting apples and with drunken wasps rolling around.

I say "four", because we've discovered another member of the old crew. When I came to clear out the Archdruid's Wing I found Young Keith had taken it over. He explained that, with his new important post in the Coalition, he'd found a way to claim the entire Great House was his second home (his main home being, apparently, an ice cream van parked in a side street in Fulham). So that explained why Mr Jovanovich and his friends had all left. A shame really, as I was looking forward to the fight to remove them.

So we've spent the evening on the web-site of every online fabric seller, ordering every fabric swatch we can. We're needing to refurbish the pilgrims' bedrooms, so before any turn up we need to get sufficient swatches that their first tasks will be to sew their own quilts. Both economical and spiritual, is how I look at it. Just think of all the worldly wisdom and good-fellowship that will be shared as they each add their own little patch of random cloth into what will be some Beaker Person's rather shoddy and non-chill-resistant quilt. And then we can charge them for the experience. I tell you, it's good to be back.

Mott the Hoople Day

Can both Beaker Folk please note that today is Mott the Hoople Day. It is not, as far as I'm aware, in any way connected to any birthday or other genuine event in the life of Mott the Hoople, but I'm sure Mr Hoople would be very grateful to hear that we will be lighting a tea light in his honour.

There has been a certain amount of grumbling about the work that needs to be carried out. Can all Beaker Folk (i.e. Hnaef and Daphne) please note that the first advert will be put in Stones and Tea lights Magazine's online edition as soon as possible. We need some more drudges - sorry, pilgrims, as soon as possible.  It's a big house.

Sunday 5 September 2010

So farewell then

It has been an interesting couple of months, at Frisby on Soar Independent Baptist Chapel.

But all good things must come to an end. However swiftly.

I hinted earlier that I had had a troubled morning service. My views on the animal referred to in the psalm "as pants the hart for cooling streams" were accused of heresy. I referred to a muntjac I once saw in the vicinity of Woburn by way of illustration.  But some of the more fundamentalist members of the congregation felt that this was a contradiction of the Good Book, the muntjac being a Chinese, not a middle-Eastern, member of the Cervidae.

In these circumstances, I could feel a vote of no-confidence in the air.

So I'm off. To where, who knows? How Frisby Baptist Church will get on - well, they've lost pastors at short notice often enough in the past. I'm sure they will survive.

So I'm going to go on, now go. Walk out the door. Not turn around now - I'm not welcome any more.

I really must do something about that O'Vienna's syndrome.

... and Statistics

I'm sitting here in a more than normally thoughtful mood, after this morning's worship. And in an attempt at finding something to distract me, I came across a Telegraph discussion on the so-called "man-made" global warming, a commentator quotes Winston Churchill as saying there are "Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics". I suppose that Sir Winston may have said some such thing, at some point, but if he did he would have been quoting somebody else. Since Mark Twain popularised it, but he attributed it, probably wrongly, to Benjamin Disraeli. But whoever invented it, unless it was Sir Winston as a very young man, who then passed it on to Mark Twain and claimed it was Disraeli, it probably was not Churchill.

It just goes to show, as Charles Spurgeon once said, there's one born every minute. Or was that John Bunyan?

Men's Breakfast

I'm afraid this morning's pre-service Men's Breakfast was a bit of a failure.

Problem was, nobody knew how to cook it.

Saturday 4 September 2010

The Ecumenicabus

I have had a disappointing and saddening experience.

I was out for my constitutional and I was walking past the Presbytery, when I saw had appeared to be Oz's minibus heading out of the Catholic Church's driveway, with what looked like most of his Baptibus regulars in tow.

The St Aidan's Social Club, attached to the actual church, isn't a building I have frequented before - but on this occasion my curiosity had to be satisfied. I walked in, re-introduced myself to "Father"* Francis (who was standing behind the bar, enjoying a pint of Guinness) and asked what he knew of Oz and his associates.

And Francis told me that the "Catholibus", as they call  it, has been ferrying Catholics from around Leicestershire to Saturday evening Mass for months.  Unfortunately, according to Francis, they are often on the late side, but tend to arrive just about the time that he pulls the shutters up on the bar.

So between Francis and me, we have worked out that Oz and his bus are basically going out on a motorised pub crawl every Saturday and Sunday, and while Oz doesn't get to have a drink he is raking in expenses at 40p a mile from myself and Francis and - I believe - charging his friends for the trip as well.

It makes me really righteously angry. I'd dis-fellowship the lots of them. But then - why should I let the Catholics have them?

* NB - I have put "Father" in inverted commas to explain that, while that's what he calls himself, it's not a title I recognise.

Gog and Magog

While mowing the lawn - a late spurt of grass growth has occurred in this week's better weather - I have been pondering that troublesome pair, Gog and Magog, from the book of Revelation. And wondering what can it all mean?

The Good Book tends to discourage us from guessing the times and ways in which the End will come. And yet we are also to read the signs of the times. And I have oft-times identified these two harbingers of Apocalypse, only for my identification to be revealed as sadly missing.

For example, for a while I considered it as Russia and China. But since China now has more Christians than England has members of truly evangelical Baptist churches, one might have to suppose otherwise this old identification no longer applies. When the Wall came down, and the end did not follow within time, times and half a time, I had to reassess.

Likewise, the European Union and the United Nations. And I still wonder. They both demand ever-increasing power, and Mr Van Rompuy could just be the friendly, charismatic oratorical genius that covers up the darkness behind him.

Or maybe Al Gore and Prof Dawkings? That's possible, as representatives of a world super-state and godless science. Although a correspondent has alerted me that I have in fact conflated two different scientists in my reference to Prof Dawkings - one that believes that life started in a soup, while the other thinks the universe started with gravy.  Sorry.  Gravity. Gravity. But if Prof Dawkings is actually two people, then for this identification to be true then Al Gore is maybe not a real person.

In an earlier time, I imagined that Gog and Magog were in fact represented on this earth by Simon and Garfunkel. Certainly 59th St Bridge Song could be seen as leading us in this direction.  But after Garfunkel sang "Bright Eyes", I realised that here was a man of real soul as well as mind-numbing curliness of hair.

Faced with such confusion, it is easy for us to think that Gog and Magog will never appear - that in fact they are in some way truly figurative.  And the City of London tends to lull us into a false sense of security with its friendly giants in the Guildhall. But we must be ever watchful. I notice, for instance, that Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley will be presenting Daybreak on ITV. And I wonder again. I shall stand on the tower and watch. And in time - as is appropriate for the Apocalypse - all will be revealed.

Meanwhile I must return to the garden. I see that Mrs Collins's cat is once again digging around in the leek patch, and I must dispatch it once more into the outer darkness of its own back yard.

Friday 3 September 2010

Not a great Beach Mission

I feel this was all my fault. You can pray, you can discern, you can plan. But if you don't check your dates you're not going to succeed.

I'd planned our beach mission with precision. And we headed down to the beach at Hunstanton today with jugglers, a puppet show, some serious amplification and my new audio-visual display, "If Gravy made the universe, who made Gravy?"

I'll be honest. That Gravy business was a mistake. I'd written up a response to the latest news from Stephen Dawkings in a hurry, and I'd missed the point completely.  Should have been Gravity, not Gravy.

And that was just my second mistake of the day - and, to be honest, the minor one. The more serious one was planning a youth-focussed beach mission to take place when the kids had all gone back to school. We attracted a certain number of old folk who were quite interested in the jugglers, and quite a few more who wanted to know what we had against Gravy, but that wasn't really what we'd been praying and hoping for.

And then on the way back we had the third mistake of the day. Sheila asked if we could call round to a little chapel of historical interest she knew, and not knowing anything about a place called "Walsingham" I said OK. We went in expecting a quiet little Baptist chapel and... well.  I passed out in the Chapel of the Ascension.  Let us just say I'm not going back.

All in all, perhaps the worst day in my experience of Friday evangelism. I'll stick to Leicestershire in future.

Thursday 2 September 2010

A Prophet in his own County

It was Anonymous's true and sad comment on the ease with which Baptist ministers can often be removed that made me take a good look in the mirror this morning.

It is truly said that what congregations really want in a pastor, is a strong leader who agrees with them. And that although people will talk of their need for a prophecy, they don't really need a prophet.  They generally need someone who can raise the money to get the roof fixed (I talk of many English churches and chapels here - in America I am sure that godly prophecy can be found in every church).

And so I saw myself in the mirror this morning, looking an awful lot more like Moses than I did a couple of weeks ago. And reflecting - do the Frisby Baptists need a prophet just yet? Someone they could disagree with - and if more than 50% did so, they would be looking for a new prophet. Maybe not just yet. I must step more slowly. Maybe  their great need - at least for the moment - is of a solid and capable administrator.

And so, regretfully, I have shaved off my beard. I now look a lot less prophetic, but a lot more like that calm, solid pastor who is biding his time until the day for vision is come.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Constitution, Constitution, Constitution

How often it is said that you can base a church on the Bible and that will make its people holy.  But if you really want it to function properly, the important thing is the Constitution.
I have spent an hour or two today going through the minutes of an earlier phase in our fellowship’s history, and trying to discern how we should move forwards.  The last-but-one pastor was the Revd Obadiah Slowly. He upset a number of members of the fellowship when he claimed there was some doubt as to who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews.  As a result a vote of no confidence in him, on the grounds that he sowed doubt, was proposed.
Under the Constitution, a vote of no confidence will succeed if more than 50% of eligible church-members that vote (and no less than 30% of all eligible members) vote against the minister. The vote was carried, 29-28 with 16 voters declared incompetent. And Mr Slowly was thereby deprived of his ministry.
But to approve a new minister, at least 66% of voting members (and at least 50% of the congregation) must vote in favour of him or him*. And the followers of Mr Slowly were therefore able to block every single applicant – their 28 votes being easily sufficient to prevent any new minister ever winning his or his* appointment. In any ordinary circumstances the church would have split into two equally godly groups, each bearing the conviction that they were right.   But neither group was prepared to give up Salem Chapel – and so the impasse continued for 17 years. Eventually Mr Slowly died, and his followers subsequently abstained from the vote that allowed Mr Syston Whyte-Plumme to become the next minister.
And the Constitution has never been changed. To do so would require a two thirds majority of the trustees, but one of them has been senile since 1989, two live in New Zealand, one took a vow of silence and the other one believes that changing the constitution would be an act of heresy. It seems that if I want to move forward with constitutional reform, I shall have to do so carefully.

* The Constitution is full of these strange wordings. At one stage there was a failed attempt to put it all into inclusive language. But instead of removing the “or her” clauses, somebody just ran a “change all” on their computer, changing all “her” to “his”. There is a strange little appendix to the Constitution that explains that “he, his or him” can also include “she, her or her” – except where it can’t for sound Scriptural reasons.