Monday 31 January 2011

Listening to Popular Opinion

Never let it be said that I don't listen to the voice of the People.

I have heard the Beaker Folk outside all day shouting "Eileen Out!", "Free Elections to the Moot" and "The Archdruid is a tyrant!"

And what I think they're trying to say is, I need to rebalance my seconds in command.

So I am announcing today sweeping changes to meet the needs of the People.

Hnaef, who was formerly Executive Arch-Assistant Druid, is now Arch-Executive Assistant Druid.
Burton Dasset, formerly Treasurer, is now Finance Director.
And Young Keith's Uncle, the Police Constable, is herewith appointed to the strictly emeritus post of Security Advisor with Special Powers, which I will not be going into now.

Normally I would be dealing with this kind of trouble-making by singling out Drayton Parslow as the ring leader and locking him in the Doily Shed. But on this occasion I suspect that he has nothing to do with it. Still, best to take no chances, so I've locked him up anyway. Oddly enough, Marjorie was very keen to help. She said that, while she sympathises with Drayton's aims, and believes that the Beaker Folk are entitled to a say in the running of the community, she is aware that the Folk also need a strong leadership.

Tomorrow's talk in the conservatory will be on the ancient Stoke art of "Rearranging Deck Chairs".

Sunday 30 January 2011

Tonight's roast

We were going to have a pork shoulder for supper tonight, but Mrs Hnaef has told me we're having nut roast. This is rarely a good sign, and I have no idea why she's indulging in behaviour which is usually indicative that she feels that I have transgressed in some way.

I have honestly no idea why, unless it's something to do with the film last night, which I must admit that I slept through, having had a few pints down the White Horse beforehand. I was planning to watch it tonight, but Mrs Hnaef, in a steely tone, announced that the DVD had "gone somewhere it could do some real good." I'm sure I heard a quiet cackle as I closed the door.
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The Baptibus Redivivus

Dear friends, whether saved or on a downward spiral towards perdition. It has been a truly wonderful morning’s worship.

Earlier in the week Marjorie and I had been on an evangelistic tour of Bedfordshire. And not without our labour bearing fruit. For we had five people desirous of attending our worship. Although, in a manner that is becoming familiar from our old ministry in Frisby on Soar, they are rather widely scattered.  One in Pepperstock, one in Farndish, one in Whipsnade, one in Clophill and one in Leighton Buzzard. There was another potential convert we found in Leighton Buzzard on Thursday, but it turned out he’d just come into town from Stewkley. That being over the border in the Vale of Aylesbury, we found it best to reject his request, and direct him to find a godly fellowship in his own county. You’ve got to have limits.

Not least as none of them know how to drive. Still, if the apostles could go to the 12 tribes of Israel and the 70 nations of the Gentiles, then we could venture to take the Good News to the Manshead Hundred. And so, early this morning, Marjorie borrowed the Beaker people's Shuttle and headed off round the county to collect our worshippers.

Naturally we expected them to be slightly late. It is, after all, a two and a half hour trip to collect them all. Amazing to consider that one small county could take so long to drive around.  So when I started my sermon and they still had not arrived, I was unsurprised. Then after a couple of minutes there was a bit of a commotion outside the chapel door, and eleven of the Beaker Folk came in. They listened to a small portion of the sermon - maybe twenty minutes or so - but when I said that I was now moving on to the second of the ten commandments, they all walked out again.

Marjorie and the others eventually arrived during the last hymn. Sat around afterwards drinking coffee and chatting and then I left to carry them all home again. I'm afraid I was unable to witness successfully as several of them insisted on having the radio on to listen to the FA Cup. And when I finally arrived home, I was surprised to find how many new items from Dobbie's at Fenny Stratford had appeared in  our suite. Odd, really. I wonder how they all arrived?

But I feel deeply blessed.  For with my regular congregation, together with the stray Beaker People and the late-comers in the Shuttle, we have achieved a record congregation. Truly we are being blessed.

I am not normally one to watch televisual entertainments, but this evening I am borrowing the equipment off  Mrs Hnaef to play a film that she is lending me. "Deliverance" is a ministry that is most neglected in certain sections of the Church, so I am glad to see that someone has produced a documentary. It promises to be an interesting evening.


I read with interest Canon Ritchie’s comments on alt.worship this morning. And he has a point. It is of course a fifth Sunday of the month, and unlike the Anglicans we were not celebrating Candlemass today – we celebrate Imbolc on the correct day, that is the 2nd February. We don’t let a little thing like it being a weekday put us off worshipping on the right dates, not us.

So this being the case, we decided that today we would have a taste of alternative worship. And we went for Book of Common Prayer Matins, Litany and Ante-Communion. With the King James Bible, which caused Drayton to rush off to check we have the absolutely approved version (we don't).

I’d like to thank all those Beaker People who went to a lot of trouble to ensure the authenticity of the Occasion. All those realistic smallpox scars and fake running sores went a long way to making it a genuinely 17th-Century experience. As did that bit halfway through the sermon when everyone got bored and went off to join the Baptists. Although, having heard Drayton’s preaching, they all came back again shortly afterwards.

Never Again

I will never let Mr Hnaef choose a DVD by himself again. 'Squeal like a pig' Enough said.
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Saturday 29 January 2011

Stringed instruments

Although I have to admit that I found few of the performances at last night's service exactly to my taste, I was encouraged by the enthusiastic music-making to re-consider a genre for which I have long held a torch, and whose key instruments I long ago harboured an interest in playing.

I speak, of course, of Bluegrass, and the banjo and mandolin, most royal of terpsichordian accessories.

I mentioned this to Young Keith whilst imbibing a quick pint or two down at the White Horse. He enlightened me to the existence of a film which is, apparently, a key witness to this most exciting, inspiring and uplifting of musical tropes. It is named "Deliverance", and, from its title I surmise that it will be a beautiful and touching examination of spirituality and religious revelation.

Young Keith has kindly offered to lend me his copy - oddly missing packaging, and on an unprinted but hand-labelled DVD - and Mrs Hnaef and I are settling down now to enjoy a quiet and, no doubt, romantic evening in front of the wide-screen TV.
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The dangerous Pentatonic

Last night, Marjorie and myself did not get much sleep. Although I would hope nobody will read that in the ribald way that so many in these evil times, and especially on those Cities of the Plain, Northampton and Milton Keynes, are inclined to. No, we are of the opinion that sexual congress outside of a dedicated and Christian marriage of male and female together is an abomination. And Marjorie believes it is so special that, even within that holy institution, it should be carefully rationed as a dangerous source of pleasure inclined to cause loss of rational control.
No, we were kept awake by the sound of a number of the Beaker Men playing - or, I for I regret to say their faculties had been blunted - attempting to play - "Smells like Teen Spirit".

I notice that Eileen, while mildly satirising those involved, has not stressed the dangers in playing any kind of rock music, especially with improvised guitar solos. For is it not obvious? Are they blind to the dangers wherewith they play? Cannot they be aware that "Pentatonic" is a contraction of "Pentangle" and "Satanic"? I live in equal fear of one day coming across the word "Satangle". I know not what it will mean, but it will be wrong. Of that I am sure.

Bogwulf Funambulist Baptist Church have always been aware of the dangers of the Pentatonic scale - and also of the minor keys - leading as it does to depression and impure thoughts. That is why since 1958 they have removed the black keys from all keyboard instruments, and restricted accompanying instruments to harmonicas and ocarinas in the key of C only.

There is a problem with this rigorous enforcement of purity, of course. Hymns that are written for major keys other than C, while not spiritually hazardous in themselves, all have to be transposed to C. Which means that approximately two-thirds of everything we sing is either traumatically low, or as dangerously high as Mount Ararat (but without the petrified remains of the Ark). However I believe that a little hyperventilation is a small price to pay for keeping our congregation on the narrow path that leads to salvation. And the woosiness that it causes can be quite spiritual.

Middle-aged Rocker Service

It's just gone midnight. And the male Beaker People of a certain age have been watching the Guitar Heroes on BBC4. What could have been more appropriate than the Middle Aged Rocker Service?

And they say we don't produce worship for men any more. Over an hour of middle-aged, overweight blokes earnestly looking at the frets of their Squier Strats as they wish they had a US-built Fender. I wouldn't say there was a particular focus of worship as they thrashed through "Smoke on the Water", "Sultans of Swing" and "Voodoo Chile". But as they went through that bottle of Jack Daniels, it's fair to say there was a certain degree of community and common spiritual purpose. And if that was just a longing for the 70s heyday of Santana, who's to say that it's not, in the truest sense of the word, what CS Lewis described as "Joy"? The Pentatonic could be carved into Creation, as far these guys are concerned. As the Apostle put it, "Ziggy Played Guitar".

I've left them to it. They could be hours yet. As I walked across to the Archdruidical Lodgings I could still hear the sounds of "Every Breath You Take". Bad news - they're all going to have to re-tune the guitars at the end. But you know, the way they're going, I reckon they could still be playing in the morning.

Friday 28 January 2011

The 10 Remembered Commandments

Drayton Parslow mentioned my Bible as you Remember it in his ramblings last night. Normally I'd deal with Drayton in the same way as normal - i.e. assume he was trying to steal my job and put in his joyless, fundamentalist theology instead. And then kick him in the shins.  But on this occasion he did encourage me to get on with putting together the 10 Remembered Commandments. I've had to ask a few friends for help, but here's the Commandments, as people seem to remember them.

1) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul.

2) Don't be idle.

3) Keep Sunday Special

4a) (KJV) Thou shalt not commit adultery
4b(Modern version) Thou shalt not sleep with someone else's committed partner. Unless you all agree it's OK.
4c(Fundie version) If thou shouldst commit adultery, keep quiet about it. But condemn it in others.
4d(Drayton Parslow version) Don't. Just don't.

5) You shall not witness false bears.

6) Keep out of your neighbour's covert. Especially with an ass.

7a) (KJV or pacifist version) Thou shalt not kill.
7b) (Modern, non-pacifist version) Do not murder.
7c) (Jesus version) Don't hate other people. And don't think they're idiots, either.

8) Do not adulterate your neighbour's wine.

9)  God loves those who love themselves. Or something. Or was it help?

10) Slightly exaggerating your expenses is not theft. Oh - is it?

With thanks to @kouya and @tinnles 

Longlived, Unstable

A little shout out for a new website devoted to that nursery of all the best people, wherever they end up, Dunstable.

The website is Which you could read as "long live Dunstable".
Or you could read it as "long lived" "unstable".
If you consider it's on the crossroads of Icknield Way and Watling Street, and has been inhabited since that crossroads first existed, yes it's long-lived.
And if you walk the length of High Streets North and South on a Friday night, you may decide it's unstable.

But it's old, historic,in the beautiful Downs, the people have a certain strength of character, and it's resolutely not Luton. God bless them.

Thursday 27 January 2011

New Unwinese Bible

I am indebted to Eddie Arthur for showing me the way to this short article on English Bible Translations. The gist of Tim J Davy's argument is that there are enough English versions of the Bible now, and we should concentrate on other languages.

The soi disant "Archdruid" next door was very short with the idea. Her remark was "and there's money in these other languages, is there? You'll never go bust flogging new versions to Evos". Whereas I feel in my heart that there is a point here, and that after 1610 we had all the English versions we really needed.

But still, there are those for whom the beauty, majesty and above all direct inspiration of the Authorised Version are a little strong undiluted. There are those too lazy or spiritually unambitious to aspire to teaching themselves King James English. And others for whom there are spiritual or personality issues that make it difficult for them to come directly to the authentic word of God.

For these, I am working on some special versions. Eddie Arthur might not be happy, but I see it as my duty to labour in this vineyard until every special interest is met.

The Cynophobic Bible is written specially for people with an irrational fear of dogs. All canine references are replaced with badgers, in an attempt to make it dog-free. The passage where Jezebel comes to a nasty end is a classic.

The Andy Gray Bible is aimed specifically at male 50-something sports commentators. Designed to be light and easily portable, for climbing into high commentary positions, it consists only of the Epistles to Timothy.

The End-times Bible (2012 edition) is a new twist on the old Red-letter bibles. Any passages referring to the End of Things are highlighted in lurid colours in numerous different fonts.

The Kindle Fundamentalist Bible locks the Kindle's electronics so you'll never be able to read another book, ever. Some of them, after all, could be suspect.

The Embarrassed Christian's Bible is designed to fit into a hollowed-out version of  "Being Jordan", so people don't look at you on trains like you're odd or something.

The "As you Remember it Bible" is not something I really approve of. One of Eileen's sidelines, it contains all those parts of the Bible that people "remember" but aren't really there. All the people telling Noah that there won't be a flood, the lines "God helps those who help themselves" and "sexual sins are worse than little ones like greed and anger", the number (and names) of the 3 Wise Men, Mary Magdalene singing "I don't know how to love him", Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem, the chariot race from Ben Hur, the "Beat groups playing a rock 'n' roll" in Nineveh, Noah's whale. Not to mention that bit where everyone notices how white-skinned and blue-eyed Jesus is, and comments that he must take after his Father.  They're all there, just as you remember them. And just as they weren't. I hope Eileen is reading Rev 22:18 very carefully.

Possibly for the less serious end of the market is the Unwinese Bible, which I suppose may at least be regarded as an attempt at another language. It's been suggested since the late Professor gained a certain reputation on Twitter. Personally I regard it as gibberish, but the Archdruid says she is fond of the 23rd Psalm:

O my Lordly sheepfolder, nothinglode am I lacksley
Makes me sleepybole in meadowlodes
besidemost the evenlodey watermeads.
He refreshleysouls me and guidesly in straightlypaths
Although nightlyboles in darkest deadlyloppers,
yet his pokeystick and sheepyguider are my comfortloaders.

Preparest thou a tablelopper comfeybold
before the peepyballs of my loathey-peoploaders.
Knapper is oiled anointywise
and overflowsie is my cup of tilty-elbow.
Surelymost goodlylode and affectionale are followly all my lifely daysimost,
and dwell in Godly household to lifely evenloder.
Deep joy.


Mrs Hnaef, reading the blogs over breakfast this morning, nearly spat out her organic FairTrade tea as she noticed a post on The Church Mouse blog. She gets on very well with the Archdruid, and was clearly very happy to see her getting coverage in a well-respected publication such as this, which I understand is read by a large proportion of the several dozen people Left Behind after the move to the Ordinariate. I assume she was happy. She didn't look happy. But she did immediately encourage me to "go out there and get yourself some media visibility, she's not the only one with a presence in this community, you know! If you're worth anything, you'll stand up and be counted ...", with a number of epithets that were troubling to me, some involving (somewhat ironically) comparisons with small rodents. Wanting always to do what seems best to my dearest - and valuing an easy life - I decided to embark on one of my successful and critically-acclaimed discussions on theology. But on what to theologise? What reflection should I seek? I looked for inspiration.

And, wonder of wonders, there it was, right in front of me, in the Morning Office: the second reading. Who, after an altercation with their dear wife, or a shin-kicking by their worship leader, has not been led to muse on the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 (reproduced, of course, in the Authorised Version here)? Does this passage not tell us all we need to know about how churches - and other, less structured worship communities, of course - should conduct themselves? Spaul, as I believe he was known to his friends, has much to teach us about how we work together, who should do what, and other useful community-based instruction. And I, for one, take great comfort and instruction from that. In particular, I live by the very last verse, for I have no wish to be contentious. The Archdruid views contentiousness very poorly. Those who express thoughts - or are even suspected of thinking thoughts - which are lacking in contentiouslessness are gently encouraged - sometimes with metal toe-caps - to move from their state of contentiousnesslessness to a more holistic, tea-light- and pebble-centric view of the world. We, the Beaker Folk, live, in this verse at least, as Spaul clearly wished, and I am indebted to Mrs Hnaef for her loyalty and encouragement in helping me to express this important fact in a way that is both supportive and unchallenging, but still prophetic and enthusiastic, within the non-doctrinal belief system of the Beaker Folk behind and beneath our Great Leader, the Archdruid.

The little details

Yesterday I was touched and flattered that our friend Church Mouse allowed me to write a "piece", as I believe it's called, on Growth, George and Gaia.
On reading it back again today, however, I notice two minor changes. Where I wrote"Global Warming (TM)" and "CO2", they have been rendered as  "Global Warming (TM)" and "CO2". A mere copyist's error, I have no doubt, caused by an inability to reach the "superscript" and "subscript" buttons with paws. But as a result, instead of a thoughtful piece, balancing the need for economic development with respect for the environment, it makes me come over as some kind of megalomaniac who wants to fly around the country in a helicopter while her fellow Beaker-folk press doilies in a desperate attempt to cling to a subsistence lifestyle.
Truly it is amazing how it is the little details that make a difference.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Once in a New Moon

Oh boy, what a day.

A bad combination of Hnaef's early-morning habit of reading the Daily Office, Drayton's fundamentalist tendencies and that bunch of delusional, impressionable losers - the Moon Gibbon Folk.
Hnaef, being possessed of a love of the well-turned phrase, was much taken with Hosea 5:7 - "Now the new moon shall devour them along with their fields." He took to musing on the verse at breakfast, and then set it to the tune "Lydia".
Drayton caught on to this most interesting of verses, and expounded upon it at great length to a small group of Moon Gibbon people he met in the Upper Meadow. He explained how the attack of the New Moon was a punishment for the whoredom and adulteries of the People Called Beaker.

Of course, this was disastrous for the confidence of the Moon Gibbon folk. They were already convinced that, once a month, the Moon disappeared after being eaten by a giant Moon Gibbon. And now Drayton has persuaded them that, at God's specific command, the New Moon roams the earth looking for sinners to consume in its turn. And what chance do we have, they ask? After all - a cosmic Gibbon you can see coming, you've got a chance. But a ravenous New Moon - it's invisible, by definition. Or, at the least, it's so slender it can catch you by sneaking up sideways.

I've tried to reason with them. I've said it's a poetic way of explaining that whatever bunch of people God was angry with at that stage in the Bible had a month before disaster befell them. But you know how it is with some people. My arguments were nuanced, subtle, respectful of context and poetic licence. Whereas they had the plain words to consider. I wasn't going to win that one. And it didn't help when Drayton announced that actually he'd got it wrong all along. Having checked the King James Version, it turns out that what God originally said was "now shall a month devour them with their portions" - and that's really bothered them. Now they're terrified of a whole month, but they don't know which month it is they're supposed to be scared of, and how exactly it's going to eat them. Or their portions. I tell you, the combination of fundamentalist certainty and millennial confusion is making it a nightmare to live round here. And March is certainly looking quite hungry.


My head feels like someone was playing drums at it from early in the morning. I'm tired, my tongue has fur on it and I'm feeling a little nauseous. I'm never going to eat haggis again.
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The grand avoiding-each-other get-together

Sorry if I seem a little tired and shirty this morning. Mrs Hnaef and I have been up since 5am playing the drums and cymbals in the Hnaef Suite. I wanted to let Hnaef know that I knew who'd consumed a substantial amount of my single malt last night, while Daphne was striking back for the way he'd snored all the way through "Big Fat Gipsy Wedding".

The rest of this morning will be dedicated to the visit of the Worldwide Archdruid Reunion Synod. Except the ones that won't turn up because the Americans are invited. And the Americans that won't turn up because we invited the Canadians. And nobody will talk to the Finns. And the Finns haven't even done anything to upset anyone, ever.  So that's just made them depressed. So in a spirit of ecumenical unity, we're going to lock everybody in a room where they agree with everybody else. There's 16 Archdruids coming, so I think we may need 16 rooms.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

When to avoid Wikipedia

Just discovered that Young Keith lied about the contents of a haggis. It's worse than that: much worse than that. And that's just the _inside_. Time to copy that other silver fox, Mr H. Ford (and not, as Mrs Hnaef suggested, the automobile magnate), and open the 40 year old Bruichladdich I spotted in the Archdruid's office the other day: that's bound to counteract the worst effects.

And the Archdruid won't mind: she's a very sharing person.
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Celebration of Rab Burns

"But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle."

What's not to like about St Rab o' Burns? A fantastic supper tonight. The haggis piped in (we used a CD - although technically we do have bagpipes in the Beaker ensemble, they have been banned under the Geneva Convention the way Elsmir plays them). A drap o' a dram. And much singing of "Rose of Scotland".

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

Of course, what we had forgotten was that two members of our Community are in fact Scotchpeople. I refer, of course, to Hamish and Morag. They insisted, throughout, on telling us that in Scotland they don't really celebrate Burns's night the way we did, that it's more of an excuse for a drink than the religious festival we turned it into. They said they don't normally eat porridge as a starter at supper, and that the Procession of the Leprechauns was out of place. They did explain why but, to be honest, I don't really understand what they're saying that often. Maybe it was our ginger wigs that upset them.

In any case, we felt that they were spoiling the atmosphere a bit. We wanted to celebrate the Caledonian strangeness of it all - to enjoy our thoughts of sandy-haired caber-tossing chaps called Angus striding through the heather and playing "hide the sporran", or whatever they do in the Northern Isles. We wanted Columba and Ninian and St Mungo aka Jerry. We didn't want a pair of know-it-alls making everything so prosaic.

So I'm afraid we moved them to sit in their own private room to eat their dinner. But we did make sure it was traditionally Scottish. Deep-fried pizza with battered Mars Bar for dessert. All washed down with a lovely cheap can of extra-strong lager.  We made sure they didn't have any sport on telly, as being Scottish they'd be bound to be losing, and we didn't want to wreck their big night.

This liturgy was brought to you by the Stereotypes Commission (ex-proprieter, Andy Gray). If you have any complaints please can you email them in. If you leave a message on the answerphone I can't understand them.

Ordinariate and Forestry

Good news. The government's plan to sell off our forests, no matter how much money that loses, will not affect the entitlement to join the Catholic Church.

There's absolutely no plans to remove the Rite to Rome.

Monday 24 January 2011

The offside rule explained

After all the fuss over the Sky commentators, and their rude comments about women's understanding of the offside rule: It's quite simple. Let me explain.

If the ball is passed forwards by a member of your side, and you are in your opponent's half, and are "active" in that you are involved directly in the play, and there are fewer than two opponents closer to your opponent's goal-line than you are, and you are in front of the ball when it is played, then.... it doesn't matter. It's just a silly game.

Daily M**l

I was reading what I took to be a newspaper on the train today, and am grateful to a Ms Elaine Phillipps, a contributor to this journal, for enlightening me to the dangerous hypocrisies practiced by a grouping to which she referred to as "the gay rights equality movement". It would appear to me that what sounds, at first glance, to comprise a set of people having the odour of a worthy, non-discriminatory organisation, actually practices horrific levels of non-equalisatory behaviour. I had expected that they would welcome any Tom, Dick or Harry. Or, as it may be, Joan, Liz or Sally. Even, one would hope, any Drayton, Eileen or Daphne. But it turns out, according to Ms Phillipps, there is one set of people whose membership they will simply not countenance: they are completely Ruth-less.
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Trash in your Attic

We call it the "Worship Room". Strictly speaking, no worship ever happens in there. As it's the place up in the loft where we store stuff we've previously used in worship, or might use in the future. And since the day I founded the Community, it has collected the debris that has washed out of the various Moot Houses like so much flotsam and/or jetsam according to linguistic correctness. And we're always a bit nervous going up there, just in case Mrs Rochester has let my brother out for a roam.

And I'll be honest. I've not tidied it up for more than three years. And last time it was just to clear out the pebbles and half-used tea lights. And I'd noticed that there had been a certain build-up of these again. So it was definitely time to do it.

In fact, I was a bit worried, so I let Marston open the door for me. A wise move, as he was buried an avalanche of hazelnuts left over from last year's Mother Julian festival (which we had to hold in the autumn when there are hazelnuts rather than her feast day - you really can't go gathering nuts in May, whatever the song may say). Then as he lay there, stunned but not particularly unhurt, there was a wondering rumbling noise. And he was buried under a mass of pebbles and half-lit tea lights.

We spent half an hour digging him out - unharmed, but smelling of vanilla and lavender. I left a few willing helpers to sort the tea lights out into piles of "reuse" and "dispose", and to ship the pebbles out to mulch the new Mediterranean garden we're building. While I ventured into the Worship Room to see what else we had to deal with.

A real history of changing worship trends was reflected in the hymn and chorus books. 120 copies of "Hymns Neolithic and Bronze Age", stacked up just in case we ever have another revival. There's another 60 copies in the Moot House, of course, which we use ever week. A 1st-edition collection of "Sounds of Living Pebbles", and the sequel "Groans of Living Walters". And the combined "Complete Sounds of Living Pebbles". And then "Complete Sounds of Living Pebbles Extended".  And "Ultimate Sounds of Living Pebbles". And "Ultimate Sounds of Living Pebbles II".

And the "Missing Praise" series, 1 to 9. And "Now that's what I call worship" numbers 1 to 65. And "Sydney Carter's Unforgettable Praise Party". Or at least that's what the covers said. Somebody had pulled all the pages out of the books, to line the cage of the Beaker Earless Bunny. No wonder she always looks so grumpy, having "Lord of the Dance" to read all the time.

And a small plastic loud hailer. Why? And a selection of Wise Women from the Inclusive Nativity Scene. And a selection of dried-up mistletoe from the Celtic Christmas festivities. And another twenty-four pumpkins, although they were all getting a bit squidgy. And five years' dried-out oranges from Christingle.

And a selection of service books. The "Rite of Rolling Stones" from the early days. And "The Beaker Common Prayer (2nd Series - now forbidden) and "The North Bedfordshire Worship Book" (which is just the Northumbria one with the word "Celtic" crossed out in green crayon). And "Thymes and Reasons", a guide to nice aromas for tea lights.

And a random selection of inflatable animals from the "Bouncy Worship". And special glasses for "Worship 3D". And all those papier-mache face masks from that "Come as your favourite Theologian" service (they were all Jurgen Moltmann, as it turned out). And all those assorted brass instruments and animal masks from that Wicker Man festival we swore we'd never have again.

Anyway, we needed the space. So it's all gone. Mostly burned, but you'd be surprised what the Woburn antique market can take off you hands.  Funny really, they all seemed so cutting edge at the time. So now, so spiritual, so happening. And when we get right down to it, we're just back at the Beakers and pebbles and tea lights, all over again.

That Moon Family Tree in full

Sun Myung Moon = the Moon Gibbon
The Waterboys
Ban Ki-moon

With thanks / apologies to @gedrobinson

Sunday 23 January 2011

Celebration of Roy Clarke's Award

Congratulations to Roy Clarke, writer of "Last of the Summer Wine" and "Open All Hours",  on his lifetime achievement award. A few notes for tonight's celebratory liturgy:

Flat caps are obligatory for men, wrinkled stockings for women. But if you want to do that the other way round, go ahead. I've an open mind and we are an equal-opportunities community.

"Going downhill in a bath-tub" is technically a song of descents, not ascents.

The correct liturgical response to "How do, lads" is "Ee, it's Wesley!".

"Mending Stuart's Leg" is a very crude way of describing a service of attempted healing.

Don't upset the Yorkshire god Earnshaw. He has a filthy temper.

 Mind your fingers on the cash till in the Beaker Souvenir Bazaar. It's got a mind of its own.

Litany of slight guilt for believers at a Sunday Morning Football Match

Although this isn't much fun, and although we're freezing to death out here
and although we are suffering from the other lot's loud mouthed manager, who seems to think he is the Alex Ferguson of the Whitworths U-11 league,

yet we have a slight guilt.
For young Johnny [or, as it may be, Georgia or Ethan] is missing Sunday Club.
And we ourselves should be halfway through the Creed by now [evangelicals may substitute "still halfway through the sermon"].

Therefore we abase ourselves, and yet console ourselves that young Chloe [or, as it may be, Elliot or Ellis] finds the Sunday Club quite dull [we may substitute "Old Revd Grimham is going to be preaching again", or "it's the 'ensemble' playing this week", or another suitable thought to make ourselves feel better]

But we know that as surely as night turns to day, this freezing winter will pass.
And with the summer will come the close season. And we may get a few weeks back at church.

And one day young Alfie [or, as it may be, Sophia or Lucy] will get fed up running around this muddy strip of land getting kicked, and will instead discover girls [/boys/the joys of not getting up in the morning at all] and will probably never go back to church at all.

And then we will reflect that, at least our here in the rain [/snow/sleet/howling gale], we knew something of common purpose and community, of sacrifice and selflessness and endeavour.
And that maybe this wasn't so bad after all.

Saturday 22 January 2011

And there in hope the lone night-watches keep

A strange one this.

I had a bit of a word with Hnaef earlier. He's still quite annoyed with Burton over his latest kick in the shins. But I pointed out to him that he's bound to give people a turn, singing Thomas Hardy poems while chucking wood around in the middle of the night.

He came back from the White Horse after a row with Mrs Hnaef, hoping to have a lay-down in the Moot House. To discover that we were having an evening of worship in the Ukrainian Wood-folk Style.

Anyway, he's gone off into a bit of a sulk. Mrs Hnaef tells me he's out in that boggy area down by School Lane, sitting on the ground and making a booming noise.

I mean, enough's enough. Sure, he's had a hard day. But there's no excuse for bittern-ness.

Lizbie's brow...

... may be past joy, past pain, but my shins aren't. There really _is_ something in the woodshed, and it doesn't like Finzi. Or maybe it doesn't like Hardy. I've always liked "To Lizbie Browne", although the first time I sang it to Mrs Hnaef, she hit me round the head with a nearby log, assuming I was serenading Another Woman (she can sometimes speak with capitals). Very much like tonight, in fact. Maybe it was her in the woodshed. I've never seen her in it before, but then again, I only ever end up going there after dark. It's rather like a song by The Divine Comedy, and I'm not even sure they're on the Beaker Approved Listening List.

And the eye! Just one, but it was bright, shining out of the darkness, like, like ..., well rather like Mrs Hnaef's eyes sometimes do when I come back late from the White Horse and she's stayed up late to reprimand me in the sitting room, carefully positioned between the door and my single malts.

I'm going to the White Horse, and when I get back, I'm going to light some tea-lights and make a bed of pebbles for myself in the Moot House. I don't dare go home.
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Short issues

I've had an interesting conversation with Mrs Woodhouse, and her son Mansfield.

Mrs Woodhouse, dragging herself from the chaise longue to which she normally repairs for fits of the vapours, tells me that Mansfield has trouble with "height" issues. She tells me that essentially he is quite tall, but he has a short tendency. She wonders if counselling can help with his shortness issue.

As far as I can tell, Mansfield is about 5'2". I've told him that there is no amount of counselling that will add an inch to his height. I've said that  it doesn't matter - he's a great bloke and he should learn to accept his shortness. Some people are just meant to be short. But Mrs Woodhouse has suggested that maybe laying on hands would help him to grow taller.

They've gone off now to buy some shoes with subtly raised heels, and a top hat. I've told them to go ahead if they like. But he'll still, deep down, be short - whatever he says.

Long dark night-time of the soul

What a traumatic night. Not that I ever imagined that sleeping in the woodshed in the orchard would ever be a breeze. Although there was a breeze. Went right down my back. Very uncomfortable.

But around 11 pm I heard a mystical noise coming from outside. Narrowing it down, I realised it was something with Hnaef's voice, singing Thomas Hardy's poem "To Lizbie Brown". It then started rooting around in the woodshed and, in my sleep-befuddled state, I assumed it must be one of the Pope's legion of robots, come to take me away to the Ordinariate.

In the circumstances, what else could I do? Naturally I kicked the robot in the shins. Switching on the genuine authentic candle-effect LED tea light which the Archdruid had issued me for lighting in inflammable situations, I found Hnaef laying on the floor, clutching his knees, surrounded by the logs which Mrs Hnaef had ordered him to collect (Hnaef having once again forgotten during the day time, and only now returned from the White Horse).

But I am full of angst. For even now I am awake, and have eased the wrinkles and creases out of my muscles, I cannot be sure that Hnaef was not really a robot. And, now I think of it, I'm not totally sure I am not one myself. For surely if the Pope's legions of robots had removed the real me, and left in my place an identical robot, onto which it had played all my memories: how would I know?

I think I may sit here in the woodshed a little longer. This will require some thinking.

For those who wish to know what Hnaef sounded like, albeit he didn't look like this and he didn't have a piano:

Friday 21 January 2011

My name is not Grimshaw

There seems to have been some confusion.

A rumour has spread around the Community that when I was in t'North this week, I joined the cast of Coronation Street, lost my job, got in a mood and stole a load of money. No.

I went to t'county of Yorkshire, where the people cling onto their money tighter than a limpet clings onto a rock, and their lives are accurately represented in Emmerdale.  Whereas Coronation Street is set in Greater Manchester, formerly in the county of Lancashire, where the people eat black puddings and play football. My name is not Grimshaw, I have never had a fight with Gail, and I have never dated Ernie Bishop's murderer. These are ridiculous, far-fetched stories which an Archdruid who has time-travelled to the 19th Century after rescuing a chapel from a black hole would have nothing to do with.

I hope I've made the situation clear.


Mrs Hnaef keeps "reminding" me that we need more wood for the fire. Must try to remember to go and pick some up during daylight hours for a change.
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After an overnight stay in the Gulfing Room, I have now realised that the entire membership of the Beaker Folk has not been "taken away" to join the Catholic Church, and they have not been replaced by robots. Neither had Archdruid Eileen accepted an invitation to be the next female Pope, as it was claimed in the Husborne Crawley Examiner. Indeed, she had merely gone to Yorkshire to look into planting a new modernist religious group, the "Tupperware folk of Tadcaster".

And in retrospect I can see that kicking people in the shins to see if they are robots is almost always wrong. Mostly because a well-designed robot could simulate suffering from the pain of being kicked in the shins. And partly because some of the angrier ones are likely to kick you back.

Which is why I am now hiding in the wood shed in the Orchard. There are apples stored here, and a plentiful supply of fuel to keep me warm. I am sure that by the spring everyone will have forgotten the events of the last few days.

I just hope there's nothing Nasty in here.

Thursday 20 January 2011


My shins hurt, and it wasn't even Drayton. I tell you what: if the Archdruid _did_ get Taken Up, her replacement has very robust foot-coverings. Not that I'm getting any sympathy from Mrs Hnaef, so I'm off for a medicinal lock-in down the White Horse.
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Restoring some order

I don't know. Three days I go away. Three days. And when I come back there's chaos.

Young Keith's uncle the police constable was round when I got back. There's been complaints in the village. Apparently Burton Dasset, under the impression that a number of people had been taken in a Roman Catholic Rapture, has taken to walking around kicking people in the shins to see if they were robots.

Things also rather came to a head at the "Week of Christian Unity" service in Bogwulf Chapel, at which Drayton Parslow was guest preacher. Drayton spent twenty minutes explaining why, on the basis of Scripture, Christian Unity should consist of everybody joining Drayton's church. The sermon came to an abrupt end when Burton climbed the steps into the pulpit and kicked Drayton in the shins. He then tried to control Drayton with his car lock remote control. All the time shouting "Tell the Pope to give us the real Drayton back, you android!" A number of Beaker People tried to wrestle Burton from the pulpit, but when they let go of him he kicked them in the shins as well. I tell you, there's nothing scarier than a rather naive accountant with a fixed idea.

Anyway, I've locked Burton in the Gulfing Room. Give him a couple of hours with the lavender oil and he should stop kicking people in the shins.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to visit Drayton. I think he needs a good kick in the shins.

The Rapture of the Workmen

I drove past a couple of miles of traffic cones today, not a workman to be seen.

After yesterday's illuminating talk by Hnaef, I'm guessing they were all raptured.

Three-Donkey Puzzle

Dear Readers, I have been awake all night puzzling over a Biblical conundrum. I refer to the problem with the donkeys on the ride into Jerusalem. Why does Matthew refer to Jesus riding on two donkeys, while Luke and Mark have only one?

But I met Drayton just now, already a-field. Drayton says that he gets up early because the Lord wakes him every morning. Especially, for reasons I do not understand, his ear.

But Drayton tells me that if one part of the Good Book says there was one donkey and another part says two, there is no contradiction. They are both true.  How can this be?

I have concluded that there are two solutions. One is the "serial" solution and the other the "parallel". In the "serial" solution, Jesus first rode one donkey into Jerusalem, and then dismounted and rode another two. In the "parallel" solution, he rode all three at once. I have concluded that the "parallel" solution is unlikely, as there is no mention of Our Lord having the very long legs which would have been necessary.

I thanked Drayton, but just to check I asked him whether he is secretly a robot covering up for the real Drayton having joined the Rapture. He said not, but I kicked him in the shins to be on the safe side. He hopped about and screamed a bit, but the robot could have been pretending.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

A terrible thought, and brass instruments

What if the Archdruid has been Taken Up to the Ordinariate? She did mention that she was planning to "Head Up North": could this have been a euphemism? If it was, then think of the consequences! Not only has the Archdruid started playing a large brass instrument, but what about the Ordinariate? Are they ready for her? Because you know, by Gibbon, that she'll be ready for them.
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In case of Rapture...

Reading Mrs Hnaef's comments on the Rapture pet-keeping services has made me think.

People of Britain. Before getting in any bus, train or taxi - check if the driver is an evangelical. And bear in mind the consequences if the Rapture happens during your journey.

Beaker Folk & the Rapture

There has been much talk about the Rapture & the Left Behind in the village recently. I keep thinking Mr Hnaef has been Taken Away but then I realised he was still 'checked in' at The White Horse. I'm hoping there is 'Check In With The Lord' option or I'll be sending Young Keith to find Mr Hnaef everytime he is out of sight.
I can't help but think that all this talk of Rapture is just an excuse not to undertake any chores or tea light related duties. Think of the pebble mountain those who are Left Behind would have to move into ritually significant shapes!
And another thing struck me - what about the livestock and pets of those who have been Taken Away? I'm not sure the service is available in the Husborne area but it has to be a plan - and - after all we don't have to look far to find 'certified atheists.'
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I wish we'd all been ready

Hnaef has very kindly explained to me the concept of "Left Behind". As far as I understand it, according to the Daily Telegraph (which must be true) almost everybody in the country has gone to a new country called Ordinariate - a happy land where the blessed rejoice all day long.

And yet - it is undeniable that (with the exception of the unaccountable absence of Archdruid Eileen) the Beaker Community is as busy as ever.

Putting these two facts together, I came to the only logical conclusion. Everyone apart from Mr & Mrs Hnaef and myself must have been Taken Away.  And replaced by robots. Who have kidnapped Eileen and hidden her somewhere.

But I am no panic-stricken scare-monger. I applied a scientific approach to my theory.

So I walked up to "Marston" and kicked him in the shins with my steel toe-capped boots.

He jumped up and down screaming and clutching his shins, and said some very rude words.

That's one impressive robot. It even managed to simulate being tired out after chasing me round the Moot House 9 times.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Reading the Telegraph

I happened, as I sometimes do, across a newspaper on the train, and so sat down to read it. This immensely annoyed the gentleman who was holding it, particularly as I had to keep asking him not to turn the pages as I hadn't finished the articles.

In the end, he threw it at me, which was painful, but useful. I came across some fascinating news about The Church of England. Apparently, all the remaining members - the "Left Behind" - of whom there are only a few, most of the rest having been Taken Up into the Ordinariate, are quaking in their cassocks! Priests, bishops and congregations are upping sticks (or candle-holders) and moving to Rome!

Here I became confused, as the new Head Ordinary (who isn't a bishop, though he can have a mitre and crazies, but more like an Abbot (light, but satisfying if you're in the pub looking for something to cool you down after a long day's metal-detecting)) said that he might let those Left Behind share their old churches with the Taken Up. Very kind and generous, I'm sure, but will all of the Left Behind really want to journey to Italy every Sunday for services in the churches the Take Up have, well, Taken With them?

And what about the flower rotas?
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Monday 17 January 2011

Folk music

This evening Mrs Hnaef accompanied me to a folk music concert in a secret location. Well, I thought it was secret, but she tracked me down. I'd thought it was a Beaker Folk music concert, with lots of music by the Blessed Kirsty, but it wasn't.

There was real ale, hand-knitted jumpers, and many beards in attendance, though some of the women only wore moustaches. And lots of humming as people put a finger in their ear. In fact, if there had been more tea-lights or pebbles, it could easily have passed for a Beaker Folk music concert after all.

On a different note, the Archdruid has disappeared somewhere, and I can't find any fire-lighters, matches or paraffin anywhere, so I think it may be that time of year again when the self-assessment tax forms are due in.
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Blue Monday Schedule

6am Rising in the Dark

7am Cleaning of Teeth

7.30 am Wailing (with Gnashing of Teeth)

For those at work:

7.45 am Departure for Work

8.30 Shuffling round for a cup of coffee

8.45 Waiting for the computer to boot up

9 am Whingeing back round at the Coffee Machine

10 am Doing some actual work

10.50 Getting in orders for trip to Coffee Machine

11  Trip to Coffee Machine

11.20 Handing-out of Coffee

11.45 Some more actual work

12 noon Peering out the window thinking it's not very nice

12.30 Surfing the net instead of going into town

1.30 pm Going into town anyway

2.30 Coffee Machine

2.45 Bit more work

3.00 Weekly stand-up meeting

3.30 Weekly sit-down meeting

3.45 Brainstorming Session

3.46 Awareness Training (Implicit Epileptic Discrimination - Module 8)

3.50 Thought Puddle

4.00 Getting ready to go home

4.59 Last-minute crisis

5.00 Departure.

For those who do not have, or choose not to have, paid employment

7.45 Hiding under the duvet

9.25 Jeremy Kyle Show

9.30 - 5 pm Fear and Trembling

Combined activities

6 pm Dinner

7 pm Wailing

8 pm Gnashing of Teeth

9 pm Filling up of Beakers (if not frozen)

10 pm Cleaning of teeth

Sunday 16 January 2011

Sydney Carter - an update

I hear of a Baptist minister in the east of England who not only chooses "One more step along the world I go", he revels in it!

This is the sort of thing that caused the Reformation. If we let down our guard, surely the barbarians will be at the walls. I for one will not rest from mental strife, nor shall my sword rest in my hand, until we have banished "Lord of the Dance" from England's Green and Pleasant Land.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

I had a note dropped through my door from a local organisation calling themselves "Churches Together". They have kindly informed me that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity starts on Tuesday.

Of course, I am thoroughly in favour of Christian Unity. "That they may be one" is one of the dearest commands in my heart. But it leaves me praying and meditating in my heart.

For consider. The local Churches Together represents congregations that together number literally dozens. If we achieved true, godly Christian unity - how would they all fit in the Baptist chapel? While our Father's house may have many rooms, in Bogwulf Baptist Chapel we have just the one main room and a small vestry. I would have to have serious building work done before they could all join. Indeed, I might have to stall them for a while by extending our current 26-week membership and reorientation course to a full year before they were allowed in.

In the meantime, they have attached a prayer diary for the week. I won't be attending any of the meetings, of course - some of the prayers and activities could be liberal or Catholic. But I shall pray for Christian unity. Mind, I  know that having the £5,000,000 I would need for the enlargements drop through the letterbox would be in many ways less of a miracle than all Christian people agreeing.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Astrology "is wrong" shock claim

Much alarm at the news that everyone's got the wrong star sign. And when I say news, I mean, old history as they've been wrong for ages.

If you're concerned that you may have the wrong star sign, then don't be. Astrology is nonsense. And I should know, I'm a pragmatic, level-headed Capricorn. Or at least I was until I found out I'm actually Sagittarius.

Sermon on the 10th birthday of Wikipedia

I believe it was John F Kennedy that said "Knowledge is power". And it was, of course, Gandhi that followed him in saying that "absolute power corrupts absolutely".

And what more could you need to tell you about Wikipedia on its tenth anniversary? For all the knowledge in the world is there - as St Sebastian said of the library at Alexandria. And if all knowledge is there, then in using it we are absolutely corrupted. Or possibly it is Wikipedia that is corruped, by our human nature.

For was it not Pelagius, holder of the world long jump record for 800 years, who posited that our human natures are absolutely corrupted by Origami Sin? Whatever we try to do, there is an equal and opposite reaction - as Isaac Newton told us. And therefore any human enterprise built on the belief that humans are basically good - be it Wikipedia, the European Union, or Russ Abbott's Madhouse - is doomed to cause the utmost woe.

And so we find that the most well-meaning can cause the most utter havoc. Although of course the deliberately awkward can cause trouble as well, by claiming that Luther Van Dross invented the hovercraft or that Cher is a singer, as the case may be.

But isn't that the way of human nature? When even the article "Wikipedia is wrong" contains broken links, whom can we trust?

No, as Paul Simon said, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". While TS Eliot (who I notice is 120 today, still the oldest living Anglo-Catholic poet - well done, Tommy E! - said "I'm so pretty vacant."

So, I close by quoting the words of St Margaret of Antioch: "Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is anger, let me bring peace, where there is hunger let me bring Crunchy Creme donuts."  And let us give thanks to Wikipedia, without which we would all be far more ignorant.

[Hnaef: can you check some of these quotes in proper reference books? Thanks.]

Distributed Membership

I note that Nick Page's "extra-ordinariate" is growing apace after a slow start. So slow, indeed, that I only heard about it this morning.

And I also note the popularity of "dispersed communities" whereby people can be members of religious groups without having to live there.

And I thought, I want some of that. But I wouldn't want any nasty exclusivity about the Beaker Folk. I reject exclusivity on principle. The principle that, even if somebody's a member of another organisation, I wouldn't like that to stop them giving me money.

So with a nod to the computing concept, I am glad to institute the concept of "distributed membership" of the Beaker Folk.

For distributed membership, there is no training necessary, no statement of belief to which to adhere.  No fee is payable and no form need be filled in.  You only have to adopt these two practices:

The Daily Ritual

Every morning, or at least fairly often, you should share in the Beaker daily verse - "What? Is that the time already?" (regional variations are allowed)

The Annual Obligation

Every November/December time you must find yourself humming "Fairytale of New York" at random times.

I am please to say that Distributed Membership of the Beaker Folk is already well into the millions, all of whom are currently unaware of the fact.  And as "Fairytale" continues to be played worldwide over the next few centuries, I look forward to us growing fast.

Naming Service

Can you all please note that Marston is to do no more service preparations.

He persuaded that young couple that we may have banned Lord of the Dance, but Lord of the Rings is similar.

That's the longest Naming Service I have ever sat through.

Friday 14 January 2011

Sermon bingo

Completely spoiled game of Sermon bingo this evening.

All we had after eight minutes was the same score. Everybody got "In a very real sense" 27 times. I blame myself. I should never have invited a liberal Anglican as the guest speaker.

Results of the Husborne Crawley By-election - Reaction

Marston Moretaine (Beaker Democrat)  (46 votes)

Having previously been cheated out of the constituency at the General Election, I am of course disappointed that I have obtained far fewer votes than last time. However this is a natural response on the part of the electorate to the austerity programme that the Coalition has been forced to put in place. When we stood seven months ago on a platform of free University education, cuddling fluffy bunnies and closer European integration, we were not to know that we would actually end up in government and have to do real governing and stuff. Since we never thought we would have to deliver on any promises, I don't see how we can get the blame for doing the opposite to what we said.

Ardwulf (Conservative Beaker) (3 vote)
It was obvious that I had no chance in the first place. So what the heck. I've been in Portugal mocking the natives during the campaign.  Thanks to the boss for turning up and looking like he cared. It looks like the Beaker Democrats are heading for a pasting, so that's the main thing.

Rorgwild (New Beaker) (93 votes)
That I have won this by-election proves that, in the last seven months, the political scene has totally changed in a way that it won't over the next four-and-a-half years. The electorate has spoken, and New Beaker will clearly be elected in a landslide at the next General Election. Frankly, David Cameron might as well resign now.

The Grand Guinea Pig (Guinea Pig Party)  (1 vote)
Weesh weesh pht pht pht weesh.

"Mad" Ed McMad (Monster Raving Loony Party) (0 votes)
We're mad, we are. Really mad. Why won't anyone be my friend?

Thursday 13 January 2011

Nativity of Michael Bond

In honour of Michael Bond, we put a sign on Young Keith before he set off for London earlier, with the message "Please take care of this ex-MP". What a mistake that was. He's come home with three consultancies.

There have been complaints that eating nothing but marmalade sandwiches in honour of Paddington is unhealthy. I was prepared to ignore the whingers in my usual pastoral way, but it's since been pointed out that it could be banned under the Geneva Convention. So I've given way. Marmite is available as well.  It sounds similar, after all.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

How Cold is your church? Introducing the Parslow Scale

Brothers (and of course sisters, suitably guided by their lawfully and divinely appointed menfolk) - I am an expert in cold churches. Indeed during the cold snap over Christmas, it was only the warmth of my own assurance that kept me from frostbite when conducting services in Bogwulf Chapel.
But it was Eileen's Northern Liturgy that inspired me.  Just last January I was in Newcastle. Truly the depths of winter. And even so the hardy inhabitants of that city walked around in their vests. Indeed, even their womenfolk braved the Arctic conditions wearying the skimpiest of clothing. So shocked was I that I wandered about after some of them, intrigued to see if they were showing any physical signs of the impact of the cold on their bodies. But eventually a very nice policewoman  asked me to stop and go home. I am pleased to say that she, at least, was wearing full uniform.

How, I wondered, would one categorise the cold in a typical church? And I have therefore created a scale - along the lines of the Beaufort Scale - to classify cold churches.

Parslow 1 - Toasty - The warmth of a modern church with a well-funded oil or gas fund. Or meeting in a hired school hall. Happy parishioners wear shirtsleeves or suitably modest ladies' lighter clothing. There are rumours that the acolytes and servers (if all-male and Anglo Catholic) "go commando".

Parslow 2 - Methodist Church fallen on hard times. Although there is heating, the thermostat is kept on "defrost". Worshippers wear tweeds or suits, pashminas and jackets. Older ladies wear dead animals on their heads that they claim are hats.

Parslow 3 -  Mid-summer. Worshippers wear three layers of clothing. The organist wears fingerless gloves. Plenty of processions (or lively songs in evangelical churches) to try to keep some body warmth going. While people suffer from frost-bite in their feet, the male worshippers of the balder tendency get sun-burn from the radiant heat lamps in the ceiling. People lose the sense of feeling from their feet.

Parslow 4 - Anglo-Catholic 8 a.m Mass. Older ladies in  ski gloves wear animals on their heads, that they claim are hats. In fact the animals are still alive, but in a state of hibernation. The ice in the font/baptistry has to be broken before a baptism. People lose the sense of feeling in their hands.

Parslow 5 - See amid the winter snow  - The church mouse has run himself up a nice cosy jacket out of a preaching stole. In churches of the Anglo Catholic variety, the worshippers huddle round the thurible. In churches of the alt.worship variety, they cluster round the tea lights. In Methodist churches they huddle around the hot-water urn. People lose the sense of feeling in their ears.

Parslow 6 - Gothick - The minister (in a church where they wear robes or preaching gowns) is standing conveniently over the only working hot-air vent. Ageing processes slow drastically, which is why so many regular worshippers live to 100. Smoke from incense is a liquid, which flows beautifully across the floor. The organ keyboard has frozen and the organist is reduced to humming. People lose the sense of feeling in their brains.

Parslow 7 - In the Bleaker midwinter - The temperature is below the point at which candles will no longer light.  It is snowing inside the building. Old ladies in gloves wear animals on their heads that went extinct in the last Ice Age. The words sung by the choir come out of their mouths pre-frozen. Falling to the ground, the notes can be heard months later when they defrost in the late spring. Bodily functions (of the type that I would be prepared to mention on this web site) shut down.

Parslow 8 - A country church on Advent 3 - Worshippers possess no thermal energy. Entropy is at a minimum (which is why the minister doesn't mind the temperature so much). In Newcastle churches, people start to think about maybe wearing a jumper. Smoke from incense lies, frozen, on the ground.  The treasurer concedes to the church wardens that maybe it's time to think about lighting the boiler.

A celebration of Northern-ness

It being the saints' day of Aelred of Hexham (bp of Rievaulx) and Benedict Biscop of Monkwearmouth, this evening's Occasion is a Celebration of Northern-ness.  

Please note that, Beaker Folk mostly being what may be described as softy southerners, there may be a certain degree of stereotyping, and clumping together all northerners together as if they all speak a mixture of Georgie and Derbyshire, in this liturgy. We assure you that it is done with affection for all you gruff, scary people who seem to feel no shame in talking to strangers on trains and in shops.
Please also note that for Americans who generally think that Edinburgh and Cardiff are both in "England", this may all be meaningless.

Dress code: Hi-viz, flat caps and whippets

Hymn: The Blaydon Races

Archdruid: Eh-oop, Beaker Folk.

All: Eh-oop, Archdruid.

Archdruid: 'appen it's stopped snowin', then.

All: Aye, but it's blowin' a gale.

Archdruid: The fog on the Tyne is mine, all mine. The northern lights are in my mind.

Geordie Confession:

All:  Awee, we've done stuff wrong. We've gang agin our neighbours in thowt an word an deed,
threr negligence, threr weakness, threr wor aan deliberate fault. Wor truly sorry.

Archdruid: Awee, gan an' behaive yerselves.

Yorkshire Offertory

Hear all, see all, say nowt, 
tak' all, keep all, gie nowt, 
and if tha ever does owt for nowt 
do it fer thisen.

Song: On Ilkley Moor Bah't At


Archdruid: Will yez all stay for a barm cake?

All: We'd loov to but there's trouble at 't mill.

Gnome Day - Order of Service

I'd like to thank Hnaef for his defence of gnomes yesterday. And out of respect to his stout advocacy, today is hereby declared "Gnome Day".

Introit: Gnome on the Range

   Confession (There is no elf in us)

   Absolution (Go and sin gnome more)

Gradual: Gnome Woman Gnome Cry 

   Reading from St Morrisey: Heaven, gnomes, I'm miserable now

Offertory: The Laughing Gnome 

   Meditation: Gnome Man is an Island

Recessional: Gnome or Heroes Any more

Note that we are electing a new Moot. Please can we have any gnominations by gnometime on Sunday.

With thanks (if that is the right word) for a few of these to Gnome pun intended.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Evening Liturgy for the death of Thomas Hardy, OM - 1928

Hi:Viz: Pillow-case whiteness

1st Yokel: That Thomas Hardy's dead and gone then.
2nd Yokel: Ay, dead and gone as we all shall be.

1st Yokel: Should we open a bottle o' Hardy's Ale then?
2nd Yokel: Nay, the brewery's been taken over, as they all shall be.

1st Yokel: I mid as well sit by the fire.
2nd Yoke: Fire's gone out, as all fires shall.

1st Yokel: Then I mid as well sit on the five-bar gate out i' the thicket.
2nd Yokel: Five-bar gate was the last fuel for the fire. Replaced by a metal gate, as all shall be.

1st Yokel: Then shall we jolly fellows hark down school lane to White Horse for pint?
2nd Yokel: Spent all my groats at Christmas, as all shall have.

1st Yokel: Looks like an early night then.

Small garden ornaments

Spurred on by the success of my previous theological reflections on Queues, I feel that I have something to add to the Archdruid's thoughts on heresy.

It has come to my attention that members of our community have been making representations to the Archdruid on the subject of the garden ornaments that I have been placing, over the past several years, around the community buildings. I have the Archdruid's full support on this endeavour to brighten up the local environment (or, at least, she's never complained about it to my face). I believe that these little ornaments, representing small, bearded men (and women, I suppose) involved in everyday, often humourous, pursuits such as fishing, pushing wheelbarrows, or lowering their trousers in an inoffensive manner, provide for a positive atmosphere, and act as excellent talking pieces for these wishing to indulge in light-hearted discussion as they wander around the locality.

I take great umbrage at attempts to have these ornaments removed or declared personae minimae non gratae. This anti-gnomianism must cease now.
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Morning liturgy for the Death of Thomas Hardy, OM (1928)

1st Yokel: The sun, as visiting landowner on a foreign demesne, rather than an accustomed landlord, glimpses his smiling visage over the fair Vale of Beaker.
2nd Yokel: Fair mornings mek for death by nammit-time, I'll warrant it.

1st Yokel: Shall we take out the convertible for a drive on this fine morning?
2nd Yokel: Convertible's not been out sin Lammas. Dree months afore we even give it a clean, if you ask me.

1st Yokel: Still, lambing-time is nigh upon us.
2nd Yokel: Yes, and the deaths of ewes and sleepless nights that they shall bring us! We shan't hae a day off this side of Beltane or my name's not Norman.

1st Yokel: With thy face so unsmiling and eyes so hollow-cheeked, why didst get up at all this forenoon?
2nd Yoke: Wife threw me out. Turns out she was secretly married to the Lord of the Manor twelve long years ago, and my bairns are his, and the cottage is his, and I've till Candlemas to find a new job and who's looking for council environmental planners with this government in charge?

1st Yokel: And so the Lord of the Immortals had his laugh, and the Council Environmental Planner had to dwell like a gipsy around the environs of his former estate. And the Lord of the Manor was revenged.

Monday 10 January 2011

An outbreak of Pelagianism

I'm afraid to report that we have had a few reported cases of the new outbreak of Pelagianism.

Please can Beaker Folk please take the normal precautions:

  • The "embarrassing hug of peace" will be suspended until things are back to normal.
  • Avoid the sharing of tea lights.
  • Pebbles must be soaked in surgical spirit before being re-used. Anyone caught sucking the tea lights before they have dried out will get a week in the doily mines.

A note regarding those members of the community who caught last season's ArM1 outbreak of Arminianism. The good news is that exposure to Arminianism has left this population with a residual immunity. We are not expecting anyone in this cohort to develop fully-blown free-will. Although of course it's up to them whether they do or not.  However they are still liable to develop some of the symptoms, in what is technically known as Semi-Pelagianism. The good news is that you can get a cream for that.

Nativity of Rod Stewart

Would all Beaker People please note, that although Lycra trousers are allowable on this Rod Stewart's Day, they're not compulsory. The weather is still officially "taters".

There's been some concern over the Rod liturgy. I'm pleased to be able to include a video of the correct form below.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Icebergs in the Stream - on Baptism in Brooks

I feel, brethren (for speaking of what I am today, this need not concern the sex that is less-equipped for leadership) that I should share with you what I have learnt on the subject of brooks, and baptism therein.

For surely baptism in a brook is more challenging than in the carefully-dug well with which the Frisby Baptists have provided themselves. Even at this time of year when we have been blessed abundantly with rain, sleet and snow, and the brook therefore flows more swiftly and voluminously, like the oil upon Aaron's beard but with a lower viscosity.

But notwithstanding the added volume, and our choice of the gravelly stretch down by school lane, it was still a tricky task carrying out the baptisms. In essence, our candidates had to lay on their backs on the gravelly bed of the brook while I spooned water over them.

It is true to say that we are always blessed in our services. When they are well attended, God has blessed up with willing hearts and ears. When it is just me and the Trinity attending, I am blessed in my adversity. When the congregation's singing is half-hearted and they do not respond I am blessed in pouring myself out as a drink-offering that the undeserving might be edified.

But today I felt particularly blessed. I was delighted to see Edgar and Elinor turning their lives around, and washed clean (once we'd removed the residual water weed from them).

Maybe in the circumstances the 45-minute sermon was on the long side to be preaching outdoors. Edgar and Elinor had gone a particularly strange colour of blue by the end. Eileen and her Beaker Folk passed by as they were processing to the White Horse, and Eileen offered them a draft from her hip flask. "An old Luton remedy against the cold" she called it, so it seemed acceptable. I discovered afterwards that it was brandy. I really must have a word with Eileen - it seems reckless to go offering people ardent spirits when what they really need is the laying-on of hands for warmth. However I followed Eileen's advice that what they really needed was to be got into the Great House by the fire, with blankets, and now they seem much better.

A great morning.


Another thing that suggests that we English are the Chosen People is the fact that, like Jesus, we know how to queue. Anyone who has visited Abroad will know that Foreigners don't know how to queue properly.

Jesus, on the other hand, was clearly proto-English, because in all the illustrations I've seen of his baptism, he's been waiting very patiently in line for his turn. No barging to the front. No forming a delta-like huddle and jostling to get forward. No. He was in a queue.

So far my research hasn't thrown one up, but I'm certain that there's an Anglo-Catholic chapel somewhere near Sandwich dedicated to Our Lady of the Queue, and I'm considering asking the Archdruid to research a suitable liturgy for today, based around lines of patient English people.

"Cashier number Three, please."
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In keeping with Tradition

I had been hoping to introduce the Frisby Baptist tradition of baptising outside on Christmas day. However in the circumstances, this would have been impossible. The brook had frozen solid. And so reluctantly I was forced to postpone Edgar and Elinor's baptism.

But today I looked out and beheld a clear sky, the sun shining. The perfect day for an outdoor baptism! Indeed, I spent only a couple of minutes with the blow-torch unfreezing the hinges on the chapel door. It will be a great day.

Saturday 8 January 2011


I had my hair cut yesterday, and Mrs Hnaef referred to me as a "silver fox". She was smiling at the time, so I was somewhat suspicious. As a result, I have done some research, and have found several references to foxes. I am not sure whether she was referring to the foxes in Judges 15 or the one in Luke 13, so I consulted the Archdruid.

I suspect that her answer ("have a look at the Song of Solomon, chapter 2") may have related to the incident with the Christmas tree which I was supposed to be retrieving from the attic, and was not entirely charitable. I feel free that the careful application of some glue, coat-hangers and strategically placed (and Risk Assessed) tinsel will ensure that the minimal damage inflicted by my rapid descent down the ladder onto the tree will be all but invisible to the casual observer.

Lord of the Dance? Nein Danke

Sydney Carter - what can I say? The man who had the same effect on the hymnody of the 60s as the architects of that time had on our urban landscape. The man who wrote that hymnodic equivalent of the South Bank complex, "Lord of the Dance". The man whose "Every Star shall sing a Carol" may even have inspired de Burgh's "Spaceman came travelling". The man who did for religious music what Luton Town do for football.  The man who found the perfect synthesis between heretical thought and naff folk tunes. Well, enough is enough.

After widespread consultation and a free vote, I am glad to announce that the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley are henceforth a Sydney Carter Free Zone.

From now on, we will not tolerate the playing of "Lord of the Dance" or "When I needed a neighbour".  "One more step along the world I go" will be regarded as a form of cruelty. Anyone even suggesting "Every Star shall sing a Carol" will be put on trial for heresy. And, to be fair, probably found innocent, as it's not a bad bit of speculative theology in its way despite the kitsch Xmassy tune. But never mind, it's going out  with the rest. In Husborne Crawley, when we throw out the bathwater, the baby goes with it. The SCFZ ban includes the possession, importation or exporting of Sidney Carter-related material. And humming. And Michael Flatley videos, to be on the safe side.
The "SCH-free" posters will be put up on all entrances to the Community Grounds, on the doors of the Moot House, and in every bedroom in the Great House. We will enforce this with particular vigour in the Doily Shed where, due to the inflammable nature of the contents, people will be at particular risk should a thunderbolt strike.

It's Christmas!

I'd like to thank Margaret for reminding us that it is now the Orthodox period of Christmas.

In Beaker tradition, we have very few sad festivals.  Those that we do have, we try to get through by hiding under our duvets and drinking camomile tea (although not at the same time - that would require a risk assessment).

And we weren't looking forward to the January mope towards Black Monday. But now we can celebrate Christmas again until then! And as a bonus, we can rejoice knowing that we have been truly ecumenical.  We will be lighting an incense tea light in the Moot House, and Hnaef can get back up in the attic right now and recover the Christmas tree.  The Fairytale of New York is back on Radio Husborne Crawley, we're out scouring for a new Yule Log. Somehow we seem to have a purpose again.  Apart, that is, from trying to find another branch of the faith that maybe celebrates Christmas in February.  You can't have too much of a good thing.

Friday 7 January 2011

Service of Silence

Nice change, the Service of Silence.

No words, no books, no print-outs, no folders of liturgy, no OHPs, no gonks, no sin-shredders, no plasticine, no tea lights, no giant pile of pews in the shape of Etna, no organ, no guitars with a string missing, no tambourines, no zithers, no recorders. And again, most of all, no words.

Just a period of silence. A time with our own thoughts. A time to pray, or think, or contemplate. Or hear, afar off, the rumble of the M1.

Spoiled at the end, I'm afraid, when Burton announced that we were holding it in honour of John Cage's birthday.

Wrong Cage. Should have been Nicholas.

Thursday 6 January 2011

The problem of Nod

Dear Readers, I've been a little inactive around the blog lately. But don't go thinking that's because I have given up my role as Community Treasurer and gone back to a quiet, dull yet oddly fulfilling life counting paperclips in different branches of Coleman's. Although, to be honest, I do miss those days.

No, I've been busy with the year end accounts. Always a dangerous activity, especially with the Receipt Shed's habit of spontaneously exploding when you least expect it, or important records being eaten by Llamas or even -on one particularly strange occasion - by a Lama. And how I'm going to explain to HMRC about the Archdruid spending six months in the 19th century, I've no idea. Although I'm sure they've heard worse.

But I have been alerted by Drayton to clayboy's latest foray into the world of creationism, and felt I could add something. Or, at least, I could add something more coherent than Drayton had to say.

The issue is the phenomenon in Genesis 4 that could be referred to as "the problem of Nod". And it is this. Adam and Eve had two sons. One (Cain) killed the other (Abel). As a result Cain was thrown out from the Lord's presence and lives in the Land of Nod. And he sleeps with his wife there. And they have a child called Enoch, at the time that Cain is building a city.

But whence came Cain's wife? And whence came the people who were lurking in the Land of Nod, awaiting a city to be built for them by the first fratricide that should pass by?

So I had a think and a bit of a Google and I have found a few suggestions.

The "other creation" theory - God didn't just make Adam and Eve, he made some other people. Could have been before, could have been after, could have been at the same time. In which case, presumably those people wondered why, when Eve ate the apple, the ground suddenly got cursed for no apparent reason. And Adam and Eve, when they wandered out of Eden, wondered where all these other people had been hiding - or at least Cain did, when he got to Nod.

But Apologetics Press have poured scorn on this theory, effectively cursing it as the proposals of liberals. After all - wasn't Eve the mother of all living?  Instead they prefer the "Cain married his sister" theory. What can I say of the science of all this? Especially the suggestion that marrying your relatives was OK before the Flood, because it was the Flood (or the sunlight released by losing the Earth's natural cloud cover) that caused a rapid increase in genetic mutations. While suggests that eating prawns, pork and hoopoe may be the problem. Best to say little, I think. Or I may begin to rant, and you know how that crumples the pinstripe. suggests that Cain could have married his brother's daughter. But this doesn't really remove the incest issue, particularly as that means Abel (or one of Adam's other sons) must have married one of Adam's daughters.

I have to say that the argument on the Christian Answers page can safely be ignored.  They say God cannot have created other people, as Adam is the father of all who are saved. Even on their own terms, this seems quite daft. Because, if we follow their logic, and accept the inerrancy and historicity of Genesis, then we know that all the men on the Ark were descendants in the direct male line of Adam. And so there could have been other people before the flood - as we know that the generation after the Flood would all have been descendants of Adam.  Their claim that when Adam looked around the garden he could not find a mate does not hold water. Obviously he couldn't see the other women - he was stuck in the Garden, wasn't he?
Christian Answers also say that there was no sin in incest because Moses had not yet given the law. But living in New Testament times, presumably they believe the Mosaic Law was superseded.  I have to reflect that maybe Christian Answers is hosted in a remote and mountainous area of the United States. Especially after reading their section on genetics. Oh, boy.

There is another, pragmatic answer to all this. This would be to suggest that Genesis is telling a number of creation and foundation myths. Not that there is no history at all in there - Abraham and Moses could well be historical figures, revered down generations. But the names "Adam" and "Eve" - isn't there a clue there? The cosmological Genesis 1 myth; the appropriated and polemic Flood myth; it all adds up.  And if that's the case, then there's no problem with the People of Nod or Cain's wife. Put simply, it doesn't matter where they came from. They're just there as a narrative plot device. They are - if you'll excuse the comment - a deus ex machina. The important thing is the story, not the consistency. And the story says - maybe among other things - we reckon the world should be good, and we should know what right and wrong are, but the world goes wrong and so do we - why?

Drayton tells me the last suggestion is heretical, deviant and liberal. He may be right. And I don't like it either. I don't enjoy allegory, myth and suggestion - you never know where you are. So I'm going with the "other creation" theory. It fits, it works, the Flood sorts out any objections, and nobody has to sleep with their own sisters. All in all, it's got to be the best answer. Simple is always good.

When computers go bad

Good news of a kind for gullible people with certain physical disfunctions. They'll all be a bit richer, at least for the time being, after the amount of spam sent fell sharply over the Christmas period.

I myself thought my PC had joined a botnet this afternoon. It started to put up alerts telling me I'd put a few pounds on over Christmas, that my pointy hat looked silly, and that I smelt of tallow tealights. It even suggested I was a rubbish archdruid and should give the job to Marston Mortaine.

I was completely mystified, but thankfully Mrs Hnaef came round and explained what had happened. Apparently the operating system  had downloaded a Critical Update.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

A Homoeopathic Night Out

Last time I let someone fix me up on a blind date. Would you believe he was a believer in homoeopathy? Surely my so-called "friends" know better than that.

Anyway, took him down to the Harvest Home in Houghton Regis. That normally sorts the men out from the terrified screaming edible dormice. You could see the nervous sweat break out on him as he walked into the place, and there wasn't even anyone in there at that point.

So I bought him a pint of shandy, poured it into a bucket of water. Took a pint of that out, diluted that with a bucket of water. Took a half out of that, diluted that with a bucket of water.

Took a pint out of that. It was so weak I thought for a minute it was lager. I reckoned by this stage it was 0.000003% alcohol. He drank a half and was plastered. Ten minutes later he picked a fight with a lass called Eva and ended up laying in the car park.

So that was that. I left him to the Houghton Regis wolves and drove home.

Still, it's clearly true what they say about homoeopathy.

It is believed in by gullible nits.

On Twelfth Night

Yes, we celebrate Twelfth Night the traditional way around here. No taking the bling down early. It stays till Twelfth Night.

And we celebrate in the traditional way. We burn the Christmas Greenery on the last of the Yule Log.

But please, not the plastic Christmas tree. Not again.

Notes and Queries

My responses to various pastoral and theological queries mailed in over the last week or two.

"Romantic Revival" - Yes, a certain vagueness is always worth seeking in spirituality. Remember, they'll never disprove your soul. On the other hand, you'll never weigh it, either.

"Calvin's Cousin" - No, you didn't have to fall down those stairs. You were carrying a trayful of mugs while bouncing on a pogo stick. I would blame your own stupidity rather than predestination.

"Scented Seasons" - Honeycomb, vanilla, lavendar, yes definitely. Almond arguable - you'd have to look into the cyanide risk. Bacon never.

"Droytan Porslaw" - Well, some people - even relatively sane ones - would argue that the Book of Daniel was written during the Babylonian Exile. Others would place its authorship in the Maccabean period, as a series of inspirational stories for the Jewish people undergoing persecution. I would say we can all have a profitable debate here, and the second group may not all be "fit for the lowest circle of hell" as you suggest.

"Lonely Bunny" - yes, a habit of kicking small woodland mammals will make most women go off you. I have traced your IP address, and the RSPCA will be round later.

"Sad Scouser" - Man City are trying to buy the Title, just as Chelsea did. So I'd suggest rooting for one of the two well-run North London clubs, or failing that you're just gonna have to swallow your pride and hope M****  U**** do it. I know, I feel your pain.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Definitely the right date for the end of the world this time

I'm indebted to Steve Borthwick for the picture which gave us the link to the "We can know" website.

I needed a quiet couple of days, so I've shown it to Drayton Parslow, who's gone off with a pocket calculator, a King James Bible and an air of optimism.

He reckons this may be the right date. Not 2012, Not 1914. Not all the other dates when other equally well-meaning, deluded or downright fraudulent people predicted it for. But 2011.

Well, I suppose I'll get the Community dinghy pumped up for the twenty-third time. "As it was in the time of Noah", and all that.

Blessing of Electrical Equipment

Should have known better.

And I'll hold my hands up now. It was all my fault. But at least if I've learnt this lesson others can profit from it, and not follow where I lead.

When you are asked by geeky Community members to bless their new fridges and television sets, do not use copious amounts of holy water. Especially if the devices are plugged in.

Thankfully, Hnaef and Daphen have a "crass stupidity" clause in their insurance policy.