Thursday 31 March 2011

The end of the Imperfect Meeting

It's my own silly fault, of course.

Why did I ever agree to be the Chaplain to the Guild of Barrack Room Lawyers, Pedants and PCC Members?* Oh yeah. The money. But I tell you, it still wasn't worth it.

Fifteen hours in one meeting, the only item on the agenda being - which is the only Tube Station that does not contain any of the letters in the word "mackerel"?  Which some said was Hoxton, and others said Saint John's Wood. If you think about it, and maybe look at this Tube map, you can see why there were two sides to this argument. But I digress. And I'm falling into the trap they so cunningly set. I'm being drawn into their nightmare world.

Knowing it was a choice between violence and gnawing my own legs off, I told them that if they didn't finish the meeting I was going to hurt someone. To which they responded that my suggestion would have to wait until Any Other Business - and even then only if I had notified it to the Secretary in writing (not email or a phone message) 49 hours before the official commencement of the meeting.

After I had shown a little more - ahem - impatience they finally agreed to end the meeting. But even then, not until they had voted on the extraordinary motion "That this meeting runs away from the scary woman with the cricket bat". The voting being For: 16; Against: 2; Abstentions: 6; Don't believe you're really allowed to put this motion: 12. The motion was carried before anyone else got hurt.

* Or, as it was formerly called until the arguments broke out, the Barrack Room Lawyers', Pedant's and PCC Members Guild. There was only one pedant, so that didn't cause any arguments.

The spirituality of kites

It being a windy day, today we  transferred our mid-day worship to the Lower Paddock.  And spent an hour in the spiritual practice of kite flying.

Kites have a long history of being flown at eastern festivals - which makes them a good candidate for being mysterious. But they are no-where mentioned in any scriptures of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Which means we can make up anything we like about them without any danger of being accused of heresy yet again.

I like to think of kites as a symbol of the human spirit. When they are caught by a breath of air, they can fly as the "wind blows where it will". They are colourful and spiritually uplifting. Without pneumatic elevation, however, they are dull and lifeless things that sit around on the ground. And if they lose contact with the wind, they crash to the ground like - well like falling kites, really.

But for a kite to do its job it has, like us, to be grounded. That is, it has to keep in contatct with the earth. We must never lose our spiritual uplift, nor our spiritual strings. For with the wind in our sails and a ground-based tether, we can soar and fly in safety.  But if we cut the strings that hold us to the ground, then we fly across fields, the Motorway and the railway line, until - like Marston's kite this lunchtime when the string snapped - we finally crash, unsupported and useless, into the middle of the landfill - to be buried in rubbish and eventually sealed under a clay cap for all eternity.

You know, I'm starting to remember why we never contemplate the spirituality of kites.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Giving up for Lent - Day 22

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Mane spotting (horses are safer than lions)
Young Keith
Gnawing the carpet
Archdruid Eileen
Has discovered rather a nice raspberry energy drink
Digging holes then filling them in again.
Daphne Hnaef
Relaxed with outbreaks of cheeriness
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Down the gym. At least you can get a prize out of the drinks machines.
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Considering playing in traffic.
Drayton Parslow
Composing his new sermon "Hell is filling up and heaven is rather empty"

Manchester Cathedral "Storm"

I am indebted to Mouse and to my old friend and alt.worship inspiration, Sally, for drawing my attention to the Mail's spinning of a supposed storm about the use of the "Jesus deck" at Manchester cathedral, among other delights. Having read the article, I'm livid.

Where are the pebbles stalls? The Tealights encounter? The "wrapping the altar in 50' of voile" workshop? The "Condemning Rob Bell out of hand" stand? Are Manchester even trying to get themselves into the 22nd century? And I suppose a little worship station with a shredder and copies of the Mail might be a little over-the-top? We could use the shreddings for the Beaker Bunny's cage. Although she's cross enough at the best of times, and this might push her over the edge.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Buried Wonders of Space-Time Team

I'm pitching this idea to the TV companies. It's gonna be quite expensive, but it would be worth it. It's a combination of two current documentaries - The Bible's Buried Secrets and Wonders of the Universe - and that old favourite, Ground Force. I reckon Dr Stavrakopoulou could take the Charlie Dimmock role over, while the slightly-camp narrator job could go to Brian Cox. Then Tommy Walsh could carry on digging stuff up and burying stuff, while Dr Stavrakopoulou leans suggestively over the sunken water feature and Brian Cox stands on the highest point in the decking, pointing to exciting features in the evening sky.

Silly Brass Band Music

Prof Brian Cox  Fantastic! So we've just three days to create the Andromeda Spiral in Mr and Mrs Sagan's garden in Dorking! And what have you got there, Francesca?
Dr  StavrakopoulouWell, Brian, I've designed a flower bed containing Aaron's Beard, Lily of Sharon and some of that notorious weed, Jacob's Ladder. And I'm going to prove that none of them really exist.
Rt Revd Tommy WalshAnd I've brought in a small JCB, to help with the sheer amount of mass we've got to move here... 
Prof Brian Cox.... a million, million, million, million, million stars..... 
Rt Revd Tommy WalshI'm going to need a bigger digger.
Dr  StavrakopoulouI'm going to wear this different outfit, but still use some long words - because I am a proper academic... 
Prof Brian CoxAnd I'm going to stand over there - just where the sun's setting behind that fantastic, marvellous, wonderful sweet chestnut... 
Rt Revd Tommy Walsh... which I'm going to cut down to make way for the water feature. Before I put some decking around Messier 42.
Principal Alan TitchmarshOooh! It's all getting Messier and Messier!
Rt Revd Tommy WalshClear off Alan. You're not pretty enough and you're not a proper academic.
Dr  StavrakopoulouI'm going to stand over by that water feature. Partly to show you our special-effects recreation of the Parting of the Red Sea - which didn't really happen...
Prof Brian Cox...and partly because we've actually managed to put a Black Hole into it. Which was the only way we could fit in the appropriately-named Crab Nebula. By crushing it into the black hole, we've made the Crab Nebula denser than a million, million, million, million, million.... [collapses, hyperventilating]
Rt Revd Tommy WalshTypical. So it's just down to the traditional, salt-of-the-earth Cockernee, with his traditional spade, to move the entire Crab Nebula into the Water Feature. I'm gonna need a bigger wheelbarrow.
Tony RobinsonSo now we're going to go and see what Francesca has found in Trench Number 2.
Dr  StavrakopoulouTrench? You think I'm going to be digging with these fingernails? That would turn the whole point of this documentary upside-down.
Tommy WalshCome on, Phil. Looks like it's me and you again. You dig up the old warrior who died of the Black Death, and I'll put in the crazy paving.
Dr  StavrakopoulouSo having created the Andromeda Spiral in Mr and Mrs Sagan's garden, we've proved that the book of Genesis Chapter 1 - believed by every Christian that ever lived to be a chronologically-accurate description of Creation - is simply not true.
Rt Revd Tommy WalshAnd we've finished in the nick of time. Here come Mr and Mrs Sagan - just as their house is pulled into the singularity caused by putting the Crab Nebula into a black hole.

Silly Brass Band Music - Prof Cox balances on the trellis, watching the Sun explode in silhouette. Meanwhile Dr Stavrakopoulou smiles winningly in a bikini in the water feature. Tommy Walsh shrugs, and walks off with his spade.

On spiritual and physical exercise

I don't know whether it's because I mentioned my call-up to the England team, but there's been a minor flurry of excitement in the Beaker Community to do with exercise. And that's more than just Hnaef running around at this evening's 5-a-side, maiming people due to playing in hiking boots. Although he has done that. Again.

No, Marston Moretaine's the main culprit. He's decided that his body is a temple. Although what sort of temple you could compare to Marston's body is baffling me. Possibly one that is now under the care of the Society for Unloved Churches, whose slates are falling off, the lead's been nicked, the font's sprung a leak and the church mouse has invited his mates round for a mousey Rave in the Nave with his mates the bats. One where the (mad) former vicar still hangs around the graveyard, screaming at anyone that passes that he is actually the 3rd horseman of the apocalypse, before trying to saddle up on Barney, the village donkey and getting an unexpected kick. That kind of a temple.

So he's received his Induction today down in Milton Keynes - there's more leisure centres and gyms in Milton Keynes than Bedford, and they tend to be newer. Especially now they've knocked down the one at Bletchley, where the particularly cunning squash  shots used to land in the small piles of sick in the corners of the court. I kid you not.

And after the induction, Marston got so enthused that he spent three hours down there, "pumping iron", doing crunches, lifting weights, pedalling on the exercise bikes and walking on the walking machine. I mean - what's going on there? You spend £364 per year (cleverly the £1 off makes it less than £1 per day) to do exercises, the majority of which you could actually do for free or at least near to it. I mean, for £364 you could buy a decent bike and a year's supply of puncture repair kits. For free, you could walk along a real footpath and see real countryside, without the unpleasant distraction of VH1. And if you want to lug heavy weights consisting of packs of doilies or tree trunks around, and chop wood - developing those crucial abs, pecs, biceps and abdominal muscles - well, I don't say I actually pay anyone for that, but their treasure is guaranteed 100% stored up in heaven. And what are crunches all about? I call £364 a year an expensive way to roll around on a luxuriously-carpeted floor screaming that you've got a muscle spasm in your stomach.

So anyway, after all that time Marston could honestly be said to be considerably closer to God than he was. And as a bonus his face is in Lenten colours. He tells me that he feels fantastic, but I put that down to the endorphins. Again, if you want to get a feeling of pain that resolves itself into a strangely pleasant mental sensation, I'd recommend a bottle of chilli sauce. Or a three-hour talk from Drayton Parslow on "Why Rob Bell's view of Hell is heretical, and I'm not going to waste the money buying the book, or the time reading it, to prove that I'm right". Although admittedly the only pleasant mental sensation you get in those circumstances is when you finally slam the door behind his back as he leaves.

So in summary, I reckon spiritual and physical exercises are pretty similar. They both involve changing colours, they both affect the heart rate and they bring you fairly rapidly closer to an experience of Heaven, one way or the other. People like to attend gyms, like churches, in groups. And although they often start off with good intentions, attendance tends to drop off after a while, as they discover it's hard work and requires discipline, commitment and dedication after the initial quick wins.  And it turns out they both hit you fairly hard in the pocket. In fact, I'm so inspired by the idea, I'm thinking of adding the Beaker Exercise Suite - just as soon as I've worked out what passes for ancient British exercise. Apart from running away from Celts, of course.

The Call

After hearing the Archdruid's news last night, I sat by the phone, long into the early hours, but it didn't ring (apart from Young Keith asking if I was on my way down to the White Horse, as the landlord was having a quiet night, and needed the extra takings).

Maybe Fabio has lost my number. The Archdruid swore blind she'd given it to him. Or maybe he had an early night, and will call today. That's bound to be it. I'll keep close to the phone this morning. I'm ready for The Call.
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Not being Captain of the England Football Team

An odd phone call last night.

I've had to explain to Fabio Capello that I'm not going to be captain of the England football team. I'd never realised that, by sending everybody under the age of 45 with two working legs back to their clubs, the well from which he is now drawing captains had become so low.

I've thanked Fabio for his kind offer, but pointed out that, as the middle-aged Archdruid of a religious community in Middle England, I'm not really suited for the role. After all, with a bit of luck and a folllowing wind, and given the way the top half of the Premiership has gone this year, Husborne Crawley are still in with a slight chance of qualifying for Europe, and we need to concentrate on that.

Monday 28 March 2011

Quantum Solipsism Conundrum

I've been pondering some issues regarding the existence of life.

Not about the existence of life on this earth as such. Nor the Drake Equation, which gives a formula (which looks increasingly less "optimistic," if that is the right word). I mean the existence of life, at all.
And I'm not talking about the weaker versions of the Anthropic Principle, that says that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of life. Or not so much. This may or may not be true - and you could put that down to God or gods or a multiplicity of multiverses in the Pooliverse.

But the concept that I'm really interested in is the Participatory Anthropic Principle - that this universe can only exist if there is an observer - even if that observer is in the future of the point at which the multitude of potential universes collapse into the wave form for the one and only universe that makes it through the universe selection process. And I'm wondering whether, if for this universe to exist one future observer were required, logically that one observer might be me.

This is a matter of not insignificant importance. Firstly because it would confirm me in my normal view that the universe rotates around me. But also for the rest of you. Because if the observer in a Quantum Solipsistic Universe that is required for its existence is me - then the day I cease to exist, maybe you lot won't either. The wave form will be up for negotiation again, and anything can happen.

Or something. I really could do with a drop of that port.

End of a Monday Occasion

A whole-new idea, this.

Soothing music

Comfy chairs

A glass of Pimms - or a decent Americano coffee, according to choice.

Quiet readings, in voices that aren't fingernails-down-a-blackboard posh, of nice comforting passages of Scripture

And we've put in the glass convertible roof in the Moot House so you can see the clouds going over as the day dies.

It's the end of Monday. I reckon they've all deserved it.

I may be going soft.

Rumours of Rumours of Wars

I popped over on Sunday, as is my wont, to Eileen's "Great House" for Sunday Lunch. Eileen is always very kind to Marjorie and me, and provides a spread as good as she does for her own Beaker Folk. Which is to say, "frugal" - especially when she is "celebrating" Lent. And frugal is as good as a feast for Marjorie and me, although she does insist on occasionally - no more than three or four times a week - going to the Nando's in Milton Keynes with her bridge-playing chums.

But Burton Dasset on this occasion was much put out - firstly because of his conviction that he had accidentally been "taken up" to join the Ordinariate while meeting Lady Mary of Walsingham, but mostly because of the Biscuitnapper's reference to two-thirds of US evangelicals believing that an increased number of disasters is a sign of the end. How could they be so statistically naive, asked Burton? On any analysis one can see that the number of natural disasters is about steady over history - albeit their effects may increase with increased population.

But I was able to comfort Burton, pointing out that Chapter 24 of Matthew refers not just to disasters - or solely to wars - but also to rumours of wars. And if we include with rumours of war, theories about the end times and rumours of potential disasters then we see that we are heading rapidly into the End Times. For, thanks to the power of the Internet, the number of rumours of wars, disasters and the End times is increasing rapidly. Indeed, as more gullible people with computers are connected to more and more gullible people with computers, the number of end-time prophecies will increase exponentially - making it more and more certain that the End will come soon.

I left Burton confused but, I like to think, frightened. Burton is naive, gullible, clever and - as an accountant - quite well off. I like to think he would make the perfect Fundamentalist.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Advertising for Dummies?

While reading the Telegraph's article on the forecast for this summer's weather I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
I normally screen out adverts on the Net. But there's nothing like the imprecise use of English to get me going. Surely this is wrong? Or is it me?

The wrong kind of kettle

Dear Readers, what a day I had yesterday. And once again I have arrived home from a day out, nearly a day late.

It all started when I went down to London yesterday. Hearing about the Boat Race, I was curious to find out whether my old University had made the finals this year. However on the train I met a young man called Tarquin, who told me that it was Oxford and Cambridge again this year. Tarquin told me that he was actually going into London to "smash the system", but that since he read Law at Corpus, he was secretly rooting for Cambridge. At St Pancras he had to leave me to put on his balaclava. He was clearly looking forward to his day out in London, as he told me he was hoping to pop into Fortnum's later.

I headed off to Westminster, on the basis that that's where the river is, but I found my way blocked by some people worried about "kettling". I didn't understand quite why everyone was so concerned - I thought it was rather kind of the Police to make everyone cups of tea. It's like they say, it really is Dear Old London Town. But in the event, I found queueing up for the tea was taking too long, so I wandered off down a side road, to where I found a group of smartly-dressed people, who told me they were going to celebrate Our Lady of Walsingham. Naturally, I assumed she was a lady of some power and authority like Archdruid Eileen, so I followed them into their rather nice building, only to discover that I had accidentally been Taken Up and joined the Ordinariate. I started to worry - Drayton has repeatedly warned me about the dangers of this happening, but I hadn't realised it was so likely on a fine day in London that one would be raptured.
The good news is, I managed yet again to slink out through a side door and, after much wandering and dodging crowds, I found myself in the vicinity of Piccadilly.

I  popped my head into Fortnum and Mason's and asked if they had seen my friend Tarquin, and whether he had succeeded in finding his friend Old Bill. After all, it's always nice to meet up with old friends in London, even when, as it appears, Tarquin was planning on having an argument with this William. Next thing I knew, I was being taken away and was only this morning released from my overnight stay in police custody. And all because I was thinking of decorating my room in the Great House and asked an assistant where I could lay my hands on a couple of pots of paint.

So I ended up paying extra for my ticket, because I only had a day Travelcard. And I'm hiding away now. Archdruid Eileen's really not very pleased with me. She says I'm not to go smashing the state, because if I do who's she going to hide her income from? And she doesn't want too much attention paid to the occupants of the Great House at Census time - especially when she's claimed we're all dependent members of her family. And I still don't know what happened to Tartquin.

8 am Pouring Out of Beakers - Order of Service

Oh right. yes.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

And, next year, may someone remind me that the clocks are going forward.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Earth Hour - A Message from the Future

Um. A bit embarrassing, this.

We were all set for Earth Hour. All the electric lights in the Community were switched off, of course - after all, that's what Earth House is all about. The oil-soaked-rag torches were all lit. Filling the grounds with hideous, acrid smoke, but definitely lit. Dozens of million-candlepower torches were switched on. Hundreds of solar garden lights were glowing with their soaked-up sunlight. The disco lights were dancing merrily away, powered by the shale-oil burning generator. We lit the bonfires and the citronella candles and the Wicker Men and  arranged the glow-worms tastefully on their mulberry leaves. Then we remembered that it's silk-worms that like mulberry, but frankly it was a bit too late to worry.

Leaving the grounds in a blaze of light, we entered the Moot House and flicked the Big Switch that withdrew the cover from the giant Floor of a Thousand Suns (which had been lit since Wednesday to get it warmed up). We'd opened the roof so we could see the night sky, but realised that in fact it was invisible due to the power of the lighting. We had to break out the welders' goggles from the last Eclipse to protect our eyes - and even then it was a bit bright. And the laser light-show cut in. And we lit the largest number of tea lights since the Night of a Thousand Tea Lights went so horribly wrong.

Now I'm not sure we weren't feeling a bit heady with the mercury content of all those environmentally-bulbs. And the light was so bright you could actually feel it. And the pressure of photons from the lights under our feet was so strong that I swear you felt like you were being lifted off the ground. But there we were,in our welders' goggles,  all ready to worship. Acutely aware that, for once, wearing hi-viz was not so much unnecessary as positively dangerous.

And do you know, we realised we'd forgotten to plan an Order of Worship? In all the excitement over the lighting, we'd forgotten all about actually having something to do. We'd not nominated the evening's worship leader. We'd no liturgy. No Enya CD lined up or even Peter Gabriel.  We'd got no worship focus, no pebbles, no twigs to contemplate, no beakers filled with water, no temple bells or gongs or sin-shredders or Play Doh or pipe-cleaners for modelling, no plastic toys for Oddly Play. Not even any yakuzas- nothing that you'd seriously describe as worship-related.

So I was just suggesting a quick game of "Mornington Crescent" (I really must explain the rules to Burton one day) when there was a knock at the door. And in walked the aliens.

I say "aliens". In fact they were humans from the M36 Cluster in Auriga, from 4,100 years in the future. They said they'd time travelled back to tell us to turn that bloody light off. Apparently they're big fans of  "Push the Button" and we'd blotted out their reception.

They also told us that it's all the petroleum and coal in our lithosphere that's preventing our civilisation from progressing, and advised us that the best bet is to burn it all as soon as possible. This may be genuine wisdom from the future. Or it may be a joke. So don't take my word on it.

Funny thing about the humans from the future. Obviously, 4,100 year is long enough for a certain amount of genetic selection to have taken place. And it's the genes of the most prolific breeders that survive. So oddly enough they all looked like Rod Stewart.

Anyway, we agreed to switch the lights off (they told us that having low-energy lights which can't use dimmer switches is terribly primitive). Although when we'd switched the lights off, strangely we were left with the image of Al Gore burnt into the retinas. Odd.

Anyway, the Rods got back into their Wolseley Wormhole GTi  and went back whence they came.  Unfortunately on the way in, they'd knocked all that magnesium ribbon into Hnaef's potassium permanganate store. And the sparks out of the back of their time-machine kicked a reaction off as they left. Which spread to the magnesium car block. And the magnesium car panels. And the doily dust in the magnesium-roofed shed. And caused a truly wondrous light.  Which was very bright indeed. So bright that I have received calls from people in Ampthill, who believe the Second Coming took place this evening.

So bright, in fact, that the space people returned about seven seconds before they left, scooped the whole mixture up into their portable black hole, and cleared off again. Thinking about it, I'm still trying to get my head round that one.

There are, my children, many frightening things in this universe. And many beautiful ones,  But I have seen the future.  And it's Rod.

Boat Race

A day of tension over the Beaker Community. As a dark-blue myself, I am nerving myself for yet another day when I don't know whether I will face an afternoon of smuggery from those light-blueys, the Hnaefs.

As is traditional on this day, I like to put together a list of famous Cambridge graduates, to remind myself of why Oxford is so great.  I normally start with the Cambridge Traitors.

But this year I note that the Boat Race is scheduled to coincide with the Anti-Cuts March, and the Catholic Church's marking of the anniversary of the vision of OLW (Ordinariate members invited).  I am filled with concern. If you are an Anti-Cuts adherent of OLW and a member of Oxford - or dare I say it Cambridge - which would you go to today? Would you figure that the 950th anniversary of Our Lady of Walshingham isn't so important, as you're hanging on for the 1000th? Or that the annual aquatic encounter is more important than increasing the national debt? Or would you try and do all three? Oh dear, it seems to me that for the left-leaning conscientious Catholic Oxford graduate (I assume Cambridge people are all evangelicals, as it seems to me that both groups reject colour, light and harmony) there is but an overwhelming threat of guilt as they fail to achieve all that is required. I shall wish them well. And remain at home watching the cricket.

Giving up for Lent - Day 18

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Drain spotting
Young Keith
Dandelion leaves don't work.
Archdruid Eileen
Sniffing beer mats
Embroidery class
Daphne Hnaef
Angry, but not because of Lent.
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Watching the disco lights.
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Now banned from Comet.
Drayton Parslow
Preparing for tomorrow's 18th in his "Lessons from 1 Timothy" series. Paying no attention to Lent at all. The swine. The unutterable swine. Smug, grinning Fundie that he is.

Friday 25 March 2011

How to build Stonehenge - by Ikea

I'd like to thank Simon Robinson for showing me the light on this one. A hat-tip, as they say. This is Ikea Instructions for Stonehenge. I'm impressed that the people who drew this cartoon knew about the mortice and tenon joints in the Sarsens. And the legends about Merlin helping with the construction. 9/10.

Extra lighting

Funny thing, I've just walked past Hnaef nursing a black eye. And outside the Steward's Cottage where he and Daphne have their lodgings, there was a big pile of what appears to be some kind of disco lighting.

I've no idea what's going on, but Daphne has told me that I can use the lighting for tomorrow's Earth Hour celebrations. Though she said she was saving the pole that was propped up in the porch. Said it wouldn't be much use for what it was intended, but she had other ideas.

Helping Mrs Hnaef with her fitness regime

I've found a good way to help Mrs Hnaef, and maybe encourage a little more interaction with me. She does enjoy her exercise, and I've found the perfect thing! In the past, I've arranged (well, paid for, at her insistence) spa days and similar, and I know she greatly appreciates it. This is something religious, but fitness-oriented, and I'm trying to find a studio near Husborne Crawley that will provide it. Oh, and it's nothing to do with people from Poland, friendly and helpful as they may be.

As soon as I can, I'm going to sign Mrs Hnaef up for Pole Dancing For Jesus. Many thanks to The Church Mouse (@thechurchmouse) for this inspiration! I'm not quite sure how there's a link with Lady Day, but I'm sure there is somewhere. Good old Fox News.

Small miracles - on the Feast of the Annunciation

As miracles go, as St CS Lewis once said (and I paraphrase, because I'm too lazy to look it up), the Virginal Conception is a very small one.
Not the Immaculate Conception.  That is a totally different thing. And don't expect me to explain it. It's too technical and theological. And probably too Catholic for me to grasp. Although, in the eyes of the scientific world, it would be an even smaller miracle, having no physical component whatsoever.

But compared to Lazarus, Bread and Fish, and the Resurrection - the Virginal Conception is a tiny little miracle. Just a minor piece of creation or adjustment of DNA, and the whole of salvation was started. Not that every conception's not a kind of miracle. Nobody ever thought about it and thought "yeah, that makes sense". But this particular conception - amazing as it is - it's only a small miracle. Compared to making the whole of space-time, it's tiny.

Up to Pepsys's time, the Annunciation was often seen as the New Year. Makes sense. The Incarnation didn't start at Christmas - that was 9 months too late. It started at the Annunciation. That was where our God was "contracted to a span - incomprehensibly made man*". That's where the risk started, the fear started, the pain started, the humanity started, the divine humility started. Not in Bethlehem, where implausibly "no crying he made". No, the risk started in Nazareth 9 months earlier, with a scared young girl wondering what to do with the unexpected presence of the Lord of the Universe in her womb.

A tiny little thing, a just-conceived child. With a world of potential. Stalin was a zygote once, so was  Einstein, so was Elizabeth Taylor, so was Margaret Thatcher. So was I and so, assuming you're a human or mouse reading this and not a robot, were you. Nothing special. Just a cell. Just 100 micrometers in size. Just ponder that. That's a bit small to save a Universe if you're looking at size ratios.

Still, from mighty oak trees acorns fall.  And the reverse. A helpless cell the Saviour of the World - the Ruler of the Universe - the King of Kings. And the Man of Sorrows, lined up alongside every other failure, every other drop-out, every other loser the Universe has ever thrown up.  They're powerful things, small miracles.

*I tried the non-sexist version, but it didn't work. I will comfort myself that, where only 7 out of 57 LibDem MPs are women, 33% or more of Anglican clergy are. And 1 out of 1 Beaker Archdruids is. And that, though both of the Popes are men, and one is a Catholic, that's still more Popes than there will be LibDem MPs after the next election.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Green bins

Who'd have thought it? It was the night to put out the bins tonight. Usually Mrs Hnaef has to remind me, but lots of other people did today. Seriously odd.

Useful, though, I suppose. How could it have happened?


Very odd. I getting lots of attention this morning from pretty much everybody (apart from Mrs Hnaef, obviously). People keep coming up to me and saying "Bins. Green bins."

Very strange.
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Bombing the tyrant

I'm glad it's clear.

It's OK to bomb Libya, because Gaddafi's a bloodthirsty tyrant who oppresses his own people, has no weapons of mass destruction, and promotes his sons to assist him in his murderous deeds.
Whereas it was a bad thing to bomb Saddam because... hang on, it's coming, I'm sure I'll work it out.

So it's OK to bomb Libya - why?

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Acts of the Flower Arrangers

In all I watched nearly five minutes of "The Bible's Buried Secrets" last night. So maybe I'm not in any position to start making comments about the authenticity of certain texts. But I was wondering whether there's a bit missing out between Acts 1 and 2?

I've always thought it significant that, after the Ascension, the early Church got straight down to some serious admin. Counting the disciples and discovering that they had - like Dudley Moore's Mr Spigot - "one too few", they resolved immediately to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting, and the lot fell on Matthias. Who promptly disappears from Scriptural sight.

But also missing is the following four hours of the EGM. In which the Readers demanded the right to blue scarves, and the Pastoral Assistants were licensed and granted little badges. And the Flower Arrangers said it was all very well making lists of gifts, but surely Flower Arranging was an absolute must in a real church? And could they have a badge. But a proper badge reflecting their worth - not one like the pastoral assistants. Or maybe a hat. They liked hats.

And the wardens said they'd like a couple of nice long sticks, to keep order, and the stewards agreed to wear suits - to prove they belonged in the 20th century - and the sidespeople said could they have little sticks, a bit like the wardens?

And then the Bell-ringers asked why they weren't having lots drawn for who could fill the missing Bell-ringing slot. And St Peter tried to explain that it was because they didn't have bell towers - whatever they were. And the bell ringers said that was it, they'd go off and drink instead of ringing bells on Sunday mornings, and St Peter said that would only bring the drinking forward by ten minutes and why didn't they ever show up at the temple for services? As far as he could tell they just rang a couple of hand bells and then headed for the Pharisee's Head.

And then somebody said could they please have a flying apostle, just in case Junia was ever ordained. And St Peter said what did "ordained" mean and why did they think she might one day be a "bishop" - whatever that was? And he was told that they just wanted to be on the safe side.

And then the music group, consisting of (in the front) the singers, (behind them) the musicians and then the girls with the tambourines demanded to know what Peter and his mates were doing, mucking around with the traditional psalms and writing all this new stuff about Jesus. And Peter told them he was just trying to drag the church into the 1st century, and they'd have to get used to it.

And then the Vicarage Garden maintenance group asked what was a vicarage? And if nobody could explain that to them, how were they going to maintain the garden? And they quite liked the hat of office they got to wear, but some of them were also in the Jumble Sale Organisation Group, and that had a hat of office as well, and one or two of them also helped out with the flowers occasionally, and they found it was quite hard to wear two or three hats.

And then St Peter lost his rag, and said it was quite clear. There were apostles, but they were just some among the people that loved God and believed in Jesus and were filled with the Spirit and there was really no need for any extra roles - surely they'd just serve God out of love? And Stephen said that was all very well, but where did that leave him? And was it his left or right shoulder he was supposed to wear his stole over? Only there'd never been a deacon before and he didn't have much of a precedent to work with. And he was looking forward to being priested - whatever that was - in 12 months' time as then he could wear a chasuble - whatever that was. And Peter told him he wouldn't bother checking out the patterns just yet.

So, on reflection, I can see why it all got cut. They listened to the apostles' words, and they broke bread, and they shared their possessions. It all seems too good to be true, somehow.

Wanting Lent to last forever

I've given up Mr Hnaef for Lent. This has bought me much peace, contentment and, well, bliss. No longer do I have to summon the energy to find a sarcastic, yet witty, response to questions like:
Have you seen the (hoover/microwave/chocolate/children)?
Do we have any (food/loo roll/children/bible tracts)?
Any chance of a (cup of tea/bacon butty/pint)?

As far as I can see the only drawback is not being able to nag Mr Hnaef about Bin Night. Which is Man's Work. And tomorrow night. Green bin, by the way.
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Earth Hour Approaches

Still determined that we're going to celebrate Earth Hour without any ill effects this year, we've spent today making torches. Not the massively over-powered ones that you buy in garages that you charge up from the mains. Oh no. As mentioned before, they're already sorted out. No, today we've been making some more traditional torches.

I say "more traditional". I picked up the cricket stumps as a job lot in 1989, knowing that there's always a time when these things come in handy. We wrapped some old rags that Daphne had found for us round the ends of them, and then soaked them in the oil that came out of Young Keith's car when he ran over that Yule Log at Christmas.

But then Hnaef came out of the Steward's Cottage, and asked if anyone had seen his dungarees. And the mystery of where the rags came from was explained. I have to agree with Daphne on this one - what's a grown man doing going round in dungarees?

Anyway, the torches are now standing in an old oil barrel all ready for next Saturday. And we've kicked off the shale-oil-powered generator to warm up the thousands of low-energy light bulbs in the Light of a Thousand Suns Floor. Now we just need to make sure we've got a few more lights. We don't want to be short.

Giving up for Lent - Day 15

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Ygraine spotting (without success)
Young Keith
Turns out this is really tricky.
Archdruid Eileen
Wine tasting isn't like drinking. As long as you spit it out. Eventually.
Obsessed with doilies.
Daphne Hnaef
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Playing Trivial Pursuit. Alone.
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Hanging around Comet.
Drayton Parslow
A face waiting for a punch.
Ygraine (from wikipedia)

Tuesday 22 March 2011

The Idolatrous Hebrews - a Dangerous Secret

I've been doing some serious archaeological research, and I've uncovered some secrets. Things that the Church and orthodox Judaism have laboured to keep a secret for centuries.

I've been investigating some ancient writings that reveal that, far from being the monotheists they have always been claimed, the ancient people of Israel and Judea worshipped other gods. Gods such as Molech, Baal, a Golden Calf, and Asherah. Asherah, of course, was a female goddess famous for her poles. There is no evidence that the priestesses of Asherah did not use these poles for sexy dances.

These secrets have been buried for 3,000 years - until I discovered them hidden in a secret document called "The Holy Bible". The sections of this book that reveal these explosive facts, suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Knights Templar since the time of the early Church, include "1 & 2 Chronicles", "1 & 2 Kings" and "The Prophets". A story regarding a man called Elijah, who fought semi-successfully to supplant the religion of a god called "Baal", is particularly unknown. These secrets will rock the Vatican to the core, and hopefully make me the Nigella of Theology.
Elijah - the man whose battle with the Prophets of Baal has been kept a secret

Now I've got to leave off. Young Keith has asked me why I keep tilting my head to one side and looking interested in what he has to say. He says I'm scaring him. However tomorrow I'm planning to look into God's wife, God's in-laws (a scary pair), God's rather feeble younger brother, God's auntie and God's best mate Nigel, who used to have a Ford Capri back in the 1980s. It's gonna be dynamite.

The Doily Mail

I'd like to thank Hnaef for the attached photograph of an article from the Daily Mail. I'd also like to thank the unfortunate fellow train-traveller he awoke in order to take it. Hnaef's got a keen business brain, and will cheerfully wake people up on trains in the interests of a sale.
I normally avoid the Daily Mail. Being in a state of robust health, the constant supply of health scares could only make me worse rather than better. And living in a large house in the commuter belt with no mortgage, I'm not very interested in house price scares. Admittedly stories about swathes of low-priced  immigrant labour coming into the country can cheer me up, but then I have all these "volunteers" already.

Still, the Mail story would explain why Mrs Whimsey's Doily Company are climbing healthily out of recession. As a result of the story, indeed, we've really racked up  the pressure on the doily mines. Output of doilies is at a six-year high. The only problem is what to do with all the doily dust and chads that are coming out of the "pressing and bashing" process. For the interim, we've stuck them in the little magnesium-roofed shed by the Moot House. The one Hnaef has been storing his water purification chemicals near. We'll have to get that cleared out at some point.

Although I have one doubt about the Mail's story. Is it "This week doilies, next week the world?" Imagine the next headlines in this series:
"Could Doily Dust cause a rise in Lung Disease?"
"Illegal Foreign Doilies set to Sweep the UK"
"Using paper doilies can Lower your House Prices"

We'd better get them made and sold quick, before Richard Littlejohn backs the Good Old British Doily against those nasty foreign ones. Or Dr Evan Davies of the Liberal Democrats, in the interests of equality, declares our (white) doilies to be imperialist, unfairly round, slightly homophobic and a health risk. Although that, at least, would get the Mail back on our side.

The "Light of a Thousand Suns" Floor

This one's been in the planning stage for a while, but it was the approach of Earth Hour that gave us the impeteus to get it set up.

Sometimes in a bid to get back-handers of some kind, or show their ecological credentials, retailers sell low-energy light bulbs at 3 for 20p or other silly deals. We think it's great. We've been buying up thousands, ready for the day when the last proper bulbs are banned and the deals are all dropped. I'm reckoning that we'll corner the market. Obviously, we don't use them round the Great House. I don't trust their mercury content, and they're nasty for reading by. We've also been buying up hundreds of proper 100W bulbs from a pound shop in East Anglia, stored away ready for underground sales in the years to come.

But we've realised that we can use the dangerous, ineffective bulbs on Saturday at Earth Hour. After all, then we're going to be "green". So we've installed thousands and thousands of them under the new glass floor of the Moot House. It's gonna be such a great effect come Earth Hour. Of course, being Earth Hour, we can't use mains electric to power them. So we've brought in an oil-shale-powered generator.

And of course, being low-energy bulbs, they're going to take a while to produce their full light output. So we'll be switching it all on tomorrow morning. I reckon 4 days should be long enough for them to warm up properly.

Are we finished yet?

I know that I may be a little over-sensitive at the moment, what with the lack of regular meals, giving up knitting for Lent, frequent evenings drinking in the pub and everything, but haven't we finished with St Patrick yet? Surely he doesn't have a whole Octave, does he? Just the one day. And maybe an eve. And don't forget the traditional hang-over day, of course. But that's a major third at most.

I'm seriously bored of it, I can tell you. The White Horse keeps serving me green beer, the walls of the Moot House are covered in green wall hangings, Young Keith's face has taken a green hue as he tries to distract himself from cigarettes by using chewing tobacco: I can't seem to escape. Even Mrs Hnaef and the Archdruid seem to be in on the act, dressing in lurid lime and bile green outfits which aren't helping me at this time in the morning, I can tell you.

And don't start me on the hedgerows.
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Monday 21 March 2011

An Ecumenical Matter

Should say that just because we are celebrating St Cranmer's Day today, that doesn't mean that we want to discriminate against Catholics or indeed atheist Beaker Folk. Anyone is welcome, provided they can pay the strictly optional "contributions" that they are under no pressure or, indeed, compulsion to pay.
As it says on the new Beaker Welcome Pamphlet - we welcome people of all faiths, and nuns.

St Cranmer's Day

I don't know why there was all that fuss about our celebrations for St Cranmer's Day.

We made a big thing about it and everything. What with it being 500 years since he wrote the King James Bible. Somebody said we'd got it wrong, and he wrote the Book of Common Prayer. But that's obviously wrong because the BCP (1662) was, as the name suggests, written in 1662 and Cranmer was executed by some Tudor or another. So clearly he wrote the King James, because he was Elizabeth I's son. Stop me if I'm getting overly technical here.

Oft-times in my young days I would bicycle by the cross in Oxford where Cranmer followed the candle lit by Latimer and Ridley. And wonder what it represented. There's too much ignorance about.

Giving up for Lent - Day 13

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Chain spotting
Young Keith
Chastened, and starting again from scratch.
Archdruid Eileen
Hoping to take his mind off it with Magnesium ribbon.
Daphne Hnaef
Sorting through some old clothes.
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Gnawing on a stick
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Resorting to Flannelgraph.
Drayton Parslow
Anyone seen Drayton?

Preparations for possible contingencies

The Archdruid has asked me to "think ahead and plan for possible contingencies", and as always, I am taking my responsibilities seriously. I know that she sets great store by Earth Hour, and one of the contingencies might be that all of the electricity is turned off in the Husborne Crawley area, and won't start back up. For this reason, I have decided to lay aside some chemicals for water purification, as it's clear that we would need lots of fresh water (for drinking, let alone the ceremonial and liturgical requirements).

Coincidentally, a friend of Young Keith's offered me a job lot (about four tonnes, actually) of potassium permanganate, which just happens to be a water purifying agent, and allows me to execute my required duties almost immediately, thereby keeping the Archdruid off my back.

I've put it round the back of the Moot House, in the special "storage area" where the community, um, "stores" articles that it can't get round to throwing away. It fitted nicely next to the engine block for the 2006 BMW 325i which is still subject to discussion with the Archdruid's insurance companies. They look fine to me, and I'm not sure what happened the chassis, or why there's what appears to be a set of body panels for a 1957 Corvette SS next to it, but the sacks should be safe and out of the way there.

Sunday 20 March 2011

An Equinoctial Retrospective

And so we near the end of the First Day of Spring. And a little retrospection is, as always on these great days, in order. Although, to be strictly accurate, it's not yet the Equinox. The sun will pass over the equator -somewhere due north of New Zealand, presumably - at 11.21 tonight in the UK. And all will be balanced on the earth.
As usual on an equinox, we were treated to more daylight than darkness. A little bonus that you don't count on. And if you don't believe me, look here. So the height of the sun is well advanced now in our northern climes - but the temperature lags behind. Somewhere in the Great House, as I am writing this, Young Keith is making yet another disastrous attempt to light the log fire. I will have to go and sort him out in a minute, as Hnaef walked past my office door a moment ago, with an intent look and what appeared to be a coil of magnesium ribbon. This can only end badly.
Hnaef had his traditional Vernal Equinox, of course. Plummeting from great height off his tightrope into the duckpond, as he does regularly every equinox. One day his demonstration of the wonders of balance may work, but I'm not counting on it being soon. I'm thinking it's about time we put in yet another Duckhenge, so if he tries it again in the autumn he may well come a cropper. This time, as every spring, he merely scattered frogspawn all over the banks and upset a couple of grebes.
And now, as we idle away the three hours until we light the Great Equinoctial Fire - knowing it's not long till we light the Great Beltane Fire - a thought strikes me. Surely it's not that long since Christmas, is it?

And a little post-script. I note that, what with it being Equinox and Super Moon, the Severn Bore is in the news again. I saw the Severn Bore once. He was a bloke called Archie, in a pub in Gloucester.

Getting Ready for Earth Hour

Last year's Earth Hour was, to be honest, on the verge of being a bit of a success.

Athough there was a mixture of terror, soaking with water, bruise marks and lacerations - all accidental, of course - we did achieve a recreation of the Fall of the Roman Empire, so that's not bad.

But we did get back to the Great House to discover that Mabelline, as well as causing some nasty lumps and bumps, had over-enthused and switched off all the plugs. Including the ones for the freezers and the hydroponic system. That wasn't a great success for the lickle plants and the Earth in my opinion.

I'm not taking chances on worship in the dark this year. So we've bought some million candle-power torches and we're getting them all charged up now, while it's not a sin to use mains electricity for lighting.

Balance in all things

To celebrate the Vernal Equinox, as ever we are going to be celebrating our Festival of Balance.

The see-saw is set up - or, at least, a plank and an oil barrel. They've been having four or five people jump on one end at once, to propel the sucker on the other end high into the sky. Not really balance, but at least they're trying.

Hnaef is, once again, going to try to tightrope walk across the Duck Pond. Which should be bad news for the new tadpoles.

And all Beaker Folk of uncertain balance are being issued with water wings and balancing poles. It makes them inclined to get stuck in doors, but we are hopeful that we'll stop them falling over. Not least because it makes it impossible for them to enter the White Horse and get a pint.

Now if you'll excuse me it's time to get out there and squint at the horizon. I'm sure something is going to happen.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Giving up for Lent - Day 11

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Drain spotting
Young Keith
Has been discovered with a secret stash of B&H
Archdruid Eileen
Not long till Mothering Sunday. I do get Mothering Sunday off, don't I? Please?
Croquet is good
Daphne Hnaef
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Walking round in small circles
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Has put the radio in a crate
Drayton Parslow
As irritating as a bunch of poison ivy wrapped in insulating foam

A thought about the moon

Here's something about the moon. When you think about it, it's obvious. And to people of generations before, it was natural - just the way things are. But in our sodium-lit century it's not, and we have so many other things to think about...

When it's very early or late in its cycle - very slender crescent - the moon rises and sets near the sun.

When it's full, the moon is opposite the sun in the sky. So in autumn and spring (and especially just now, as full moon nearly intersects with equinox), the full moon is rising just when the sun sets, and vice versa.

There you go. It's obvious when you think about it and purely scientific, and you could have worked it out yourself and I didn't have to mention extreme weather or any other kind of catastrophe. But isn't it beautiful?

Nice little Catholic Joke

With thanks to @Londiniensis, I think this is a nice little joke. You see, Catholics can do irony. Bless them.

Wonders of the Universe Generator

It's funny how things come together. The Wonders of the Universe co-inciding with the Super Moon and all the rest of it.
But you know how it is. The Good Professor's only got one new episode a week, and he'll be finished just as soon as the budget's been blown. So, to let you re-create that "Wonders of the Universe" experience whenever you like, you can use our Wonders of the Universe generator! For those who liked the old "Thomas Hardy" version, it's still down there at the bottom of the side-bar. And will be back just as soon as I'm bored with space again.

Super Moon

At this time of the year, we celebrate the new life flooding into the environs of Husborne Crawley. But it's all a little slow this year. The Daffs haven't really kicked off, only the apricots are in blossom and the Beaker Fertility Folk are confining themselves to barracks until Mayday.

But it's Super Moon later!  Can you imagine? Not your boring old Full Moon  - beautiful, yellow, scary, sure - but just full.  This is a Super Moon! 14% bigger!

Guaranteed to produce earthquakes in Japan two weeks before it happens, and other related disasters, because it's a Super Moon.
Let's just, for a moment, consider the scientific load of foetid dingo's kidneys we're dealing with here. "Did the Supermoon cause earthquake?" asks the Sun. No. No, it didn't. It didn't because even if a "Super Moon" could cause an earthquake (it can't) the earthquake didn't happen now, it happened then. When there wasn't a full moon, and the moon wasn't at perigee. It was just somewhere in its orbit, and crescent. Not a super moon, and not even gibbous - let alone full. No, it didn't cause it. Or, to put it into full scientific rigour - no. For goodness' sake get a grip.

Now it actually is Super Moon, can that cause extreme weather, earthquakes, volcanoes and worldwide woe? No. It it can't. It can't because it's not actually that super. We get full moons every month with no discernible ill effects (apart from the werewolf hauntings on the Ridgmont Road, but I reckon that's a co-incidence). And we get the Moon at perigee monthly also. This one's slightly closer.  So yippee. We even get the "Super Moon" every 18 years or so - and yet, after billions of years of Super Moons, the Earth is still spinning and we're all here. To be on the safe side, I should say that any disasters that do happen today will be a co-incidence.

I'm gonna add this to the "ooh let's get irrationally excited" pile in the Community compost heap. Alongside the "Planets in alignment end the world" scare we get every few years. Though I'd better worry. That pile of compost is getting pretty high. And the Super Moon could cause it spontaneously to combust. It does things like that.

Friday 18 March 2011

The White Horse - A Refutation, and an Emulation

I have the fear that, reading Young Keith's record of something I do not understand, you will think I am one of his cronies with whom he spends his time revelling in the White Horse.
Nay. It will not be so. For is revelling and carousing, of all sins, not ranked alongside the sins of envyings, murders and emulations in Gal 5?

Although I have to confess, I know not why "emulations" would be such a bad thing. I have checked this with Daphne Hnaef - a little inclined to equal opportunities, in my opinion, but still an intelligent and informed woman. And she tells me that "emulation" is a means of, for example, allowing somebody with a laptop PC to open up a "window" in Unix, or Linux, or even - that I should ever mention the word, causing our first parents to sin as it did - an Apple.

Notwithstanding the evils to which an "emulation" may expose one, I do not feel that that of itself makes the "emulation" sinful. After all, objects may be used both for clean and unclean uses. A glass, for example, may contain a sinful concoction of hops and malt solution - or the refreshing water which quenches the thirst both of panting harts and of repentant Samaritan sinners. And so an "emulation" could be a portal to all the filth and laviciousness in the world - or to the wonders of e-sword, a Bible package that comes free with the King James Version (and the opportunity to download all sorts of inferior versions also).

But returning to the subject at hand - the idea that I hang about indulging in drunkenness and revelries. Far from it. Clutching a strictly innocent glass of bitter lemon (for I do not withhold all excitement from myself - nay, Marjorie does that) I was attempting to coax the pool players into the Kingdom of God by explaining how the game of pool is a parable of the Gospel - that even if you break first, and pot from the break, even so the first can be last. That one can only win by descending (as the balls on the table descend to the depths of the table). And that while the white ball - which represents goodness - can be raised once again and come out of the little hole under the baulk of the table, the black ball - representing all evil - is pushed into oblivion by the white as it is potted - never to rise again. Unless one parts with a not inconsiderable amount of one's post-tithing disposable income.

As I say, I was explaining this to the pool players. But they were clearly not open to the Good News. Rather, calling me something I cannot repeat on a family website - they left me to my bitter lemon. And, in the regret and recrimination of my failure, the lemon was truly bitter.

Making theology more fun (or more geeky)

Usually these things come up after a long night at the White Horse, trying to wind up Drayton and confuse Hnaef (well, usually it's less "trying to wind up" and more "enjoying winding up", but you get the idea), but it was followinwatchingg a Twitter conversation that got me started on this one today.  Here are some essay questions that if they aren't set by Cambridge University Divinity Faculty in their finals exams really ought to be:
  • Discuss the development of monotheism in early Hebrew society with reference to Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash
  • Discuss the concept of perichoresis with reference to Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World
  • Discuss theories of reincarnation with reference to Jon Courtenay Grimwood's 9Tail Fox
  • Discuss mind-body duality and the concept of soul with reference to Richard  Morgan's Altered Carbon or other titles in the Takeshi Kovacs series
  • Discuss the the theology of original sin with reference to R. A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Discuss the difficulties that personal revelation presents to established hierarchies with reference to Iain M. Banks' Feersum Endjinn
  • Discuss the relationship between science and fundamentalist Christianity without reference to Carl Sagan's Contact
And believe me, there's lots more where that comes from.

The Perils of "Open Prayer"

It's always a problem, isn't it? I mean, when you have a period of "open prayer" where people can take it in turns to pray. It's not like chairing a meeting - if someone goes off-piste on the subject being prayed for, or goes on a bit, you can't just hit them with a cricket bat. It seems irreverent somehow.

And so last night, when Ozcar prayed for everybody on the Bedford electoral role - in alphabetical order - it just seemed wrong to stop him. It was sincere, it was well-intentioned. It just went on a bit.

Still, I'm glad to say he's just finished. So those who have day jobs will be at work nice and early. And the rest of us can go back to bed.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Giving up for Lent - Day 9

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Brain spotting (until thrown out of the Medical school at UCL)
Young Keith
Easy like Sunday morning
Archdruid Eileen
Does whisky count as port?
Crochet is good
Daphne Hnaef
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Howling at the moon
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Re-creating Michael Parkinson interviews
Drayton Parslow
Asking for it.

Not Celebrating St Patrick's Day

We've left St Patrick's day uncelebrated this year. No ceilidhs, no Kayleighs, no dancing without moving your arms, no Craic.  I feel the following list of reasons is good enough:

  1. I'm not Irish. And neither is anyone else in the Community. Apart from Seamus. Oh yeah, and possibly Roisin and Michael O'Shaunessy. And the Fitzgerald triplets. I reckon they're Irish as well. But at any rate - I'm not. And I make the rules up.
  2. If I'm giving up port for Lent, nobody else is enjoying themselves on Guinness. 
  3. At the World Cup, in the days when England didn't qualify and the Republic of Ireland did, I didn't support Ireland. I supported Holland. I don't regard Ireland as England "B" team, and I think that shows more respect than doing so.
  4. Green beer is an abomination.
  5. I'm not Irish.
  6. I can never remember whether shamrocks have 3 or 4 leaves, and worry that getting this horticultural fact wrong might lead to some serious theological problems.
  7. Have you ever heard Morgwith playing the bodhran?
  8. Have I mentioned I'm not Irish? If we celebrated the saint's days of every nation we'd never stop celebrating. Although, come to think of it...
  9. Irish stereotypes get on my nerves. Although the Irish themselves, as a rule, don't. Or, at least, no more than anyone else. Again, I wouldn't like to patronise anyone by pretending I like the whole nation.  
So begorrah and good luck to yer on St Paddy's Day. I just won't be joining you. I'd wish you a lyrical, Celtic prayer of farewell. But let's not.


Someone phoned and left a message on the Community voice-mail last night. The Archdruid is greatly confused, and has asked me to look into it. She's used to getting messages for "the Archbishop" (if they're not too abusive, she forwards them to John; if they _are_ too abusive, she forwards them to the other one, who apparently likes a good laugh), but this one was asking to speak to "that short web project manager bloke who makes tortoise pies and cycles everywhere". The pies bit sounded like me, but I'm not short, or knowledgeable about the web. Burton cycles, but is also not short. All of the short, web-literate members of the community are either female or have a tortoise phobia (what are the odds?) so we're at a loss.
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Dancing Barefoot in the Spring Dew

It seemed a good idea at the time. Dancing barefoot in the spring dew - sounds romantic, alternative, wild and free.

In retrospect.

Dew is awfully cold, it turns out. And down by the brook the ground's still fairly sodden.

I've taken  a long hard look at this morning and I've got to be fair. Responsibility has to be accepted. That's what leadership is all about. Identifying Aelfine as the cause of this morning's disaster.

I'm off to wash the mud off my feet now I've finally extracted myself from it. I suggest the rest of you do the same. Although it won't be so nice in cold water.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Seek ye first

Thanks to Hnaef for the sums. After all the shouting, I've worked out one further sum. It goes like this.

Guinea Pig Folk(after) = Guinea Pig Folk (before) + 1

Beaker Folk (after) = Beaker Folk (before) - 1

Increase in Heat = Several kJ

Increase in Light = 0

Increase in Kingdom of God = -12 (while nobody was looking)

Moon Gibbon worshippers decimated

First, I believe it is incumbent upon me to point out two things:
1) by decimated, I don't mean that 9 out of every 10 of the Moon Gibbon worshippers have been slaughtered. I'm using the original meaning of the word: only 1 out of every 10 of the Moon Gibbon worshippers have been slaughtered (the Romans exercised brutal military discipline for cowardice, but they weren't stupid).
2) it wasn't Romans doing the slaughtering of the Moon Gibbon worshippers.
3) the Moon Gibbon worshippers weren't slaughtered so much as reduced in number.
4) they weren't actually exactly decimated.

So, it was like this: the Guinea Pig Folk offered any disenchanted Moon Gibbon worshippers a free conversion, very few questions asked, as long as they admitted that the Moon Gibbon wasn't real, that the Guinea Pigs were, that the moon was silly, and that even flying bishops wouldn't convince them to stay (flying pigs, particularly flying guinea pigs, would be another matter entirely). And as long as they brought lots of carrots. And shredded newspaper.

The media jumped on this, declaring (on local radio, no less!) that at least 50% of the Moon Gibbon Worshippers would forsake their existing practices and "go over".

After a couple of months, the media reduced the estimate to "around 900".

After a little more research, the media realised that "around 900" would be at least an order is magnitude over 50%, and reduced the number to "around 9".

Today "at least 1" Moon Gibbon Worshipper is reported to have crossed over to the Guinea Pig Folk, and we should be expecting a service to "bring him [it'll probably be a him] into the True Hutch".

The Guinea Pig Folk are reportedly ecstatic, as they will now be "self-sustaining", as the convert has his [still probably a bloke] own vegetable patch. And lots of old newspapers. And a shredder.
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Gray Day

Some historical events for March 16

597 BC - Capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians
1190 - Massacre of Jews in York
1968 - My Lai massacre
1988 - Halabja poison gas attack

A day that shows humans up for what we are at our worse. Xenophobic, vicious, power-grabbing, murderous.

We will spend the morning in quiet contemplation. It seems about right.

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement."

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Experiments in 20th century French music

To make up for the lack of port, I've been experimenting with 20th century French Music in the Roman Catholic tradition. Seems appropriate for Lent.

So I've been listening to Thème et variationsL'ascension and La Nativité du Seigneur. I think it's been very educational and spiritually uplifting. But Hnaef says I may be focussing too much on one composer. He reckons this is getting needlessly Messiaenic.

Professor Brian Cox - is he all bad?

I'm a little surprised, I'll be honest. My definitely-final comments on Wonders of the Universe yesterday have drawn a couple of unfavourable comments about Prof Brian Cox. Who, apart from his habit of wandering in front of all my holiday snaps, I have no problem with. He knows his physics, he's articulate, and he's telling a good story. OK, he's also a little inclined to adopt the look of "Soul's Awakening", as Bertie Wooster would put it.

But not everyone dislikes Prof Brian.  When the unofficial Twitter mouthpiece of the Beaker Folk made the comment about the first episode of Wonders (apropos said Soul's Awakening look, Epcot-Centre music and professorial silhouette in front of inspiring landscapes) that "This is all becoming needlessly messianic", he got a very rude answer from a "skeptic". Presumably a "skeptic" who doesn't know his/her Douglas Adams.

So I've decided, in a totally scientific manner, to run a poll.

I should say, these Blogger polls tend to prefer short questions (so you can fit them in the sidebar).  So I'm not accusing Prof Brian Cox directly of causing the Iraq war. No, Tony Blair did that, with his American friend. My point is merely that as a member of the pop group D:Ream he provided the soundtrack to Tony Blair's election. And filled with his own certainty that he was ordained to ensure that things could only get better, Tony Blair invaded Iraq. I hope that's clear.

Giving up for Lent - Day 7

Beaker Person
Giving up
Current state
Burton Dassett
Train Spotting
Crane Spotting (avian variety)
Young Keith
Archdruid Eileen
Eating wine gums
Trying to make broccoli soup
Daphne Hnaef
Marston Moretaine
Fruit & Quiz Machines
Mansfield Woodhouse
Watching Television
Humming the "Eastenders" theme tune all day
Drayton Parslow