Thursday 31 October 2013

A Halloween Request

Please can all the Beaker Folk who have dressed up their children as Richard Dawkins please stop? "Trick or Treat" is bad enough.  "Trick or I'll stand here for an hour, telling you stories of how i said something dreadfully scathing in 1986" contravenes the Geneva Convention.

Also, the vampires in the spinney are getting grumpy. The one night of the year when somebody should surely take them seriously, and everyone is running scared of small children wearing "Michael Gove" masks. If they go back after half term wearing those, there are going to fireworks next week. Although, thinking about it, even if they don't, there will be fireworks next week. It is, after all, Guy Fawkes.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

A Shocking Sermon

Some would say Charlii's method of improving sermons has gone too far.

Gidric's habit of holding on to the lectern while preaching was the problem this morning. Once he had exceeded the boredom threshold of the majority of the Beaker People, the flow of electricity should have stopped him preaching. But his muscles went into spasm, and he ended up being unable to release the lectern.

Since this meant that technically he was still preaching, but was not even saying anything, people pushed more current through him. In the end, Hnaef had to prise him off with a broom handle.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

A Different Journey

Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. 
Took the midnight train going anywhere
Unfortunately the "small town" was Flitwick. And it was actually the 23:52. But the ticket inspector was very alert, and they'd barely got out of  Leagrave before she was having to accept that "anywhere" isn't a valid destination on First Capital Connect.

So technically she was fare-dodging and had to buy a single to Luton. But even people from Luton don't want to go to Luton. So she caught the next train north, but the ticket office was closed and so she ended up having to buy another penalty fare back to Flitwick.

And by the time she got back to Flitwick, all the taxis had packed up so she had to phone her dad to pick her up. So that was two penalty fares, plus her dad was grumpy all the following day and she still had to go to work in the morning.

 After that, she gave up believing. It cost far too much in train fares, and Flitwick's not so bad when you learn to live with it.

The Stages of Ministry

I was thinking about what Eileen said about the stages of the Cycle of Ministry in our little meetings. They were strange, my training / coaxing / mentoring sessions. Sometimes we would take the works of Jurgen Moltmann into the Hall of Mirrors and have a theological reflection. On others, we'd go out on our Pastoral Cycles and visit the poor, needy and sick. Then Eileen would tell them if they didn't get off their backsides and do some real work, she'd report them to the DHS. This was why the Beaker Folk never had a shortage of volunteer workers in the Beaker Bazaar - and also explains the Swine Flu Outbreak of 2009.

But Eileen used to tell me about the way the Methodist 5-year ministry tenure  system would impact the life of the congregation. For a year, she said, the new Minister would do nothing new. They would leave things as they were. Just not being the last one was normally enough, during the first year.

And then the fifth year, she said, was tidying up loose ends, making lists of what belonged to the Manse and what was personal property, and saying goodbye. They would generally leave things as they were, for the fifth year.

But it was years 2-4 when the magic would happen. New patterns of worship, the possibilities of closing down chapels where the balcony was about to fall in, removing pews, replacing the Choir and organist with a hip-hop group - all this tended to happen in years 2-4.

And oddly, said Eileen, it was in years 2-4 that the previous incumbent would start to be revered. In year 1, it was too soon. The way that Old Mr Stiles had declared in Year 2 of his time that Jumble Sales were a work of the Dark One would be remembered. The comparison with new Mrs Jones, who merely left things to go on as they always had, would be favourable to the new woman.  But by Mrs Jones's Year 3, when she had introduced Taize and was talking about Mission, suddenly Mr Stiles's Year 5 - that year of immobility, sweet regrets, way-parting and farewell services - that was all anyone could remember. This timeline kind of sums things up...

The only solution, in Eileen's view, was to break the system. You should leave at ten minutes' notice, and start out like there was nothing to learn. That way you broke the congregations' circles of dependency, and could do something new.

Well, she went out with a bang, OK. And I had my Year 1 while she was still here. So I guess I can start smashing things up and remaking them to my own - I mean God's' - satisfaction straight away. What was it Solomon's son said when they all moaned about him? Eileen gave you Turkish delight, but I will give you acid drops? Something like that. Anyway they'd better all watch out. I don't know what I'm going to change, but I'm gonna change something, That is, after all, what I'm here for.

Monday 28 October 2013

Centuries of Woe Forecast if HS2 does not Go Ahead

A report commissioned by the Government has warned that, if the High Speed train line from London to Birmingham and some places in the North does not get built, Britain faces decades of doom.

The consequences of not ripping up the countryside to build a pointless railway line could include:
  • Weekend working on branch lines for years
  • Trains between London and Birmingham being not quite as fast as they could otherwise be
  • Unfriendly ticket inspectors
  • Leaves on the the line
  • Plagues of locusts in the Clapham area
  • Sky reporters on every corner, hoping to find fallen trees
  • Thomas, Gordon and Henry working on the Marston Vale Line
  • More empty First Class carriages in the rush hour
  • Zombies roaming the East Midlands
The future of transport in Ridgmont

"It's going to be dreadful," said a Government spokesperson who would only be identified as 'David C', "Maggie built the Channel Tunnel, Blair got to invade Iraq. Gordon Brown encouraged a massive financial crisis. And what have I done? Ridden a police horse and watched Boris swanning around at the Olympics. This is my chance to do something big and pointless, and if anyone stops me, that's it - the zombies are being set loose in Nottingham."

Sunday 27 October 2013

Storm Readiness Update

We've checked we have plenty of candles ready for the approaching storm. They're all scented. In case of power cuts, at least we are all going to be very, very relaxed.

Electrifying Preaching

I did enjoy this morning's sermon slot. I have adopted a new method of dealing with the problem of preachers who think they are better than they actually are.

It's a simple method which is based on the "X Factor", the Milgram Experiment and "Who wants to be a Millionaire". So the preacher is wired up to electrodes, and an electric current is passed through them, in direct proportion to the number of  people who press the button marked "Had enough, already". If anyone thinks the sermon's gone on quite long enough, they press the button and add their electric charge to the yoke that the preacher is carrying.

So a shock - in both senses - for Izzi today. I know for a fact she had a 30-minute sermon prepared. I also know she only actually preached 14 minutes of it, before she ran out of the Moot House, screaming. It's been a good start. I'm expecting the quality of sermons to improve in three ways - firstly because people will have to work at being more interesting, secondly because the sermons will be shortened to be on the safe side, and thirdly because the preachers will start to see their sermons as other people see them. And, as the Government like to say about electronic surveillance, anybody who isn't a boring preacher will have nothing to fear.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Black Hole Food

Meanwhile, there were some shocking events at the Beaker Whole-Food Self-Serve Salad Bar this evening.

The rules are simple - each Beaker Person can have as much salad from the counter as they can put into one of the pots and get the top on. It's a great selection of veggies - mixed beans, pickled chillis, couscous. But Rodnie decided he was going to get as much in as he possibly could, within the rules.

First up the cream-cheese-filled peppers, then he filled in with the spicy rice. Then layers of salad leaves. Then he pushed it all down and packed some more in. Then he put as much pressure on as possible, and got some beetroot in. Then he decided he fancied a little bit of shredded carrot.

It was pushing the courgette topping down that did it. Just pushed the salad pot over the edge, to the point where the salad started to collapse under its own weight. Beaker Folk started to be dragged into the gravitational field in a way that hadn't happened since Bogwulf Chapel fell into a black hole. The seafood counter hovered on the crevette horizon. It looked like we were all going to be dragged into a massive bowl of spring onions.

Thankfully at that point, fusion kicked in. Under extreme pressure, the cherry tomatoes merged into beefsteak tomatoes, and the resultant explosive release of energy caused Rodnie's pot to explode in a salad supernova. Beansprouts and mooli were driven out under the expansive energy of the collapsing tomatoes. Chaos reigned as vegetables were blasted across the Great House and into the surrounding countryside.

Eventually we reached a point of calm. There was just one, giant tomato, orbited by shredded lettuce. A kind of salad Saturn. Rodnie stood there, gravitationally locked with his face permanently pointing at the giant tomato. We're hoping to drag him away at some point. But with all those vegetables around, we reckon we're going to need a tractor beam.

Pumpkins and Prejudice

Everyone's full of excitement as the Great Pumpkin Competition reaches its climax.

The main problem with pumpkin-growing is keeping the slugs down. Since the Beaker Folk are an organic community, we have employed a variety of methods. Some used organic (i.e. useless) slug pellets. Some have electrified their plant pots. And Marston has sat up all night, every night, since April armed with a razor blade and a thermos of coffee. He's not looking well, is Marston.

Still, the fruits of their labours are now being seen. Young Keith has a 75lb pumpkin, Marston has been rewarded for all his efforts with a 94lb monster. Burton Dassett has a small butternut squash. Or, at least, that is what the rumour is.

On Thursday, the pumpkins will be converted into the traditional Punkies. Candles will be lit within them to scare off evil spirits, and we will then get to eat soup for the following six weeks. Truly, Halloween is a ghastly time of year.

Friday 25 October 2013

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Keep an eye out for the Vampires down in the old ruins. They're ruing the day they decided to make a few quid by setting up that "Fangs of Fear Experience" centre.

It was a great success, and they had to get extra staff in - especially because it meant they could open during the day. But under the new Government rules, the employees they took on are entitled to Stakeholder Pensions.

It's naturally made the vampires very nervous. We've asked them what they plan to do about it, but they're proving hard to pin down.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Beaker Pub Quiz - some Corrections

Dreadful chaos earlier at the Beaker Pub Quiz. I'm afraid we confused the answers to the "General Knowledge" and "Religion" rounds. So to put the record straight:

The Codex Sinaiticus is a much-loved, ancient leathery object of eastern origin, and does not have the catchphrase "Cheap as Chips".

The "barrier to Roman progress that meanders aimlessly between Lambeth and Westminster" is the River Thames. And "the best place to put Liberal Clergy" is the Church of England.

St Augustine's Confession was not to a series of murders, and Jack the Ripper did not write a popular Latin book about his conversion.

Richard the Lionheart was not the first New Labour Prime Minister. But you can all have 2 points for your answer to the question "Who launched a pointless and bloody attack on the Middle East, wrecked religious relations for centuries, and had no interest in the well-being of England?"

Although both lived in Oxford, CS Lewis never had to drive Inspector Morse home when he was drunk.

Nostradamus was a purveyor of unfathomable sayings in convoluted and incomprehensible language, and not the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

"The Oxford Movement" was not a short-lived and much-publicized outbreak of flashy frocks. And John Henry Newman was not, as far as we know, the founder of the London Fashion Week.

John the Baptist was technically an eloquent, bearded outcast who suffered a sudden drop in popularity, but Russell Brand has never lived in the Israeli desert on locusts and honey.

I have no idea whether Martin Luther really went short on soluble fibre, but constipation is not caused by a Diet of Worms.

Fred Flintstone is the sexist stereotypical cartoon from the 1950s, and not a pastor at Mars Hill Church.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

On Dealing with Children in Church

Churches these days are getting increasingly concerned about the need to relate to children. But they are crying out for help. But how can you identify a Child? And how can you best manage them?

Identifying a Child

Typically a child will be smaller than average. Some care is needed. Putting up a picture of a giant badger with the legend "If you are smaller than  me, you can join the Sunday Club" is going to be potentially divisive. Especially for Old Mabel who is now just 4'9", and may end up in the "Sunbeams".

Just walking up and saying "are you a child?" is never a good tactic. It does have the advantage that you are being direct and straight to the point. But anybody who is not a child will be annoyed. Teenaged girls will be livid. And real children may inform you that they are, in fact, a stuntperson, or a train, or a supernova, or a lion.

Ideally, you should check passport photos or birth certificates. But be aware - children change quite quickly. They may not look much like their passport certificates.

Isolating Children from the Service

Under no circumstances must a child be exposed to a full-length, "adult" service. Remember the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. If your preacher is standing there in the altogether while claiming to be clad in the full armour of God, the chances of a child just pointing out the truth is very high. But more likely, if the preacher is claiming deep spiritual insight and a direct hotline to divine inspiration, having a small person shouting out "this is really boring" will be distracting. Especially if it causes other members of the congregation to join in.

"OK - we can go back in now. But try to be quiet during the Notices"

No, church services are like radioactivity or paracetamol. Children need much smaller doses than adults. And the ecclesiastical equivalents of Calpol are many and varied. The old-fashioned approach is to have Sunday School. This is a direct descendant of the original Sunday Schools, except that instead of teaching basic literacy skills to all ages, we teach simplified theological skills to small people. Then there is the "Sunday Club". This is basically a Sunday School, but with the word "School" replaced with "Club". Or it can have some exciting name like "Scripturesplorers" or "SuperSundays" or ""Dazzlers" or something. Or it can be Messy Church, or - if your children are not naturally inclined to riot and insurrection under extreme provocation - Godly Play.

But the important thing is that you keep them out of the undiluted service. You can allow them back in for ten minutes at the end, or let them start off with you - but whatever you do, don't let them face the whole thing. Who knows where it will end?

Where it Will End

I'll tell you where it will end. It will end in chaos and recrimination. The whole point of keeping the kids out of the main service is to protect that valuable adult-space and me-time. The volunteers who bravely manage children's activities will do so for one or more of three reasons. 
1) A spiritual calling and gifting to working with children
2) Nobody else would do it
3) They can't stand the main service either, but like going to Church.

Allow the children to take part in the main service, and other people's  personal spiritual time will have to be sacrificed to those with shorter attention spans, or a lesser ability to fall asleep during the day. The claim that a Sunday Service is a time when God directly relates with God's people - something extremely exciting, in theory - is going to be tested to the limit. If it turns out that in fact church is just some old bloke going off on his favourite hobby horse - again - from the pulpit, padded out by some hymns in strange meters - then that's going to be pretty obvious. And a precious illusion is going to be dispelled by some shrill voice piping up with "Well, I can't see God. And now I need to have a poo!!!" 


No, the ideal is that you keep the children out of the main service - just potentially serving up a "Family" "All Age" "Fun" "Shorter Service" once a month to keep up the illusion that we are all, in fact, one body. The important thing to remember is that one day the child will stop being a child, and transition into being an adult. The transition has to be managed, and the classic method is as follows:

1) Send them to confirmation classes
2) Have them confirmed
3) Never see them again.

The trouble is, your small person may be transitioning into being a big person, but they are still going to be a young person - someone who has grown up with colour TV, tablets and smart phones. The Church has coped with transition, dealing with - and pioneering - new concepts in media, communication and playing with exciting new ideas, for most of 2000 years. Somehow, however, this all stopped in many circumstances about 1928. No obvious reason for it, just a sudden, seeping, cementation. Maybe it was a reaction to a flood of new ideas, or a response to a suddenly-changing world that decided the best bet was just to hold tight and hope it would go away. But the world just kept on changing, and something stopped.

Still, that won't matter, will it. The threat of the child has been identified, isolated, and transitioned into the outside world. Tthe ageless, ageing bubble has been protected from being burst by a sudden and unexpected incursion of youth. Things are still as they were, as they always were, as they always will be. 

Monday 21 October 2013

Strange Brew

A dreadful fight has broken out!  It is, Dear Readers, terrible to see.

The argument appears to be between the Moon Gibbon Folk and the everyday, standard Beaker Folk.  The Moon Gibbon Folk insisted that, it being Full Moon and - at least somewhere in the world - s lunar eclipse the other day, that everyone should stand on their chairs and howl.

The other Beaker Folk insisted that the era of standing on chairs howling was over. They said that howling at the moon was not a  thing that Beaker People did in these days; and that those who howled at the moon were deeply suspect. They refused even to sit in the seats the Moon Gibbon Folk wanted to howl from, least they be eternally contaminated.

While both sides were refusing to talk to each other, all the chairs went missing from the Moot House; and now nobody will be using the chairs. Charlii blames the Beaker Secularist Movement - says they came along and nicked them. But I reckon it was Charlii who stole the chairs, and has flogged them to spend on those baggy trousers and t-shirts she has taken to wearing. I think the Beaker Secularists are just handy scape-nerds.

Either way, nobody is talking to anybody else. The Beaker movement is not one inch further forward. And there aren't any chairs in the Moot House. It is,  Dear Readers, all a bit of a mess.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Man Utd - An Appeal

A formerly prosperous football club lies in ruins. A theatre of dreams has become the stuff of nightmare.

Under its former leader, Fer-Gie, Manchester United was run with a fist of steel. Such was the absoluteness of his power that he was known by many names - "Flinger of Tea-cups", "Beckham-Basher", or - when refusing to talk to the state broadcaster - "The Great Red Sulk".

Yet under Fer-gie, United was prosperous. Stories were told of the great rooms that Fer-gie filled with silver.

But all has now changed. Although it was rumoured he was immortal, Fer-Gie knew it was no longer possible to cling onto the reins of power. He feared his iron grip would loosen as time took its toll. And so he decided it was time to hand over power to his chosen successor.

Day-Vid Moyz appeared to be the perfect replacement. He was miserable, and Scottish. And he had spent many years training up the youth division of Fer-Gie's "Red Army". But it appears the job may be too big for him. A team club that was held together by the inspiration, vision and fear of "The Beetroot in a Toupée" seemed to fall apart without his brooding presence. Suddenly they were being defeated in battles by the Scousers, the Baggies, and the Cit-eh. And today, ironically, they conceded a goal as near to "Fer-gie Time" as was humanly possible. The empire appears to be crumbling.

Can you help?

  • 20 quid will buy Wayne Rooney a new inner tube to wear round his head.
  • £30 million will buy a decent midfielder who's under 50 years of age.
  • £60 million could buy a foreign striker who actually wants to score.
  • Buying Leighton Baines in January could set Everton up for the rest of the season
Please give generously, to end the misery of the followers of the "devils in red". It's been a hard few weeks.

(We will, of course, stop laughing if, after all this, they recover and win the title)

Thursday 17 October 2013

How the Badgers Moved the Goalposts

Many have laughed at the idea that the badgers "moved the goalposts" on Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, when his cull failed to kill anything like as many of our monochrome friends as he had been planning. And many have been at a loss as to where it all went wrong.

But now, after putting our finest brains onto the matter, we've established exactly how the fleet-footed Mustelids have managed to outfox the Tory cull plans.

As you can see from the diagram, Owen Paterson, as befits a Conservative, has lined up in an old-fashioned 4-4-2. A  formation that might have worked in the good old days, but lacks the flexibility and adaptability of the modern world.

The badgers, on the other hand, have adopted a much more intelligent formation. The overlapping full-backs - dependent on having the sort of fitness you only get by running away from big blokes with guns all day - are able to serve a defensive role, while also getting forward to help in the all-important midfield battle. By comparison, the left wing of the Tories is dreadfully weak, while the right wing is always in danger of running out of control - or even going off to play for UKIP.

The versatility of the badger full-backs means that they can adopt the tactic of reversed wingers. This employs a right-pawed badger on the left side of midfield, and vice-versa. Playing with a traditional "target badger" at centre forward, this would be a bad move - reducing the number of crosses. But in this formation, it enables the wingers to wrong-foot the Paterson full backs, coming in onto their strong paws to shoot.

The top of the badger's attacking diamond is the "false number 9". A "false number 9" is a central striker who lacks the normal attributes of an old-fashioned centre forward. Since a badger is about two feet tall, quadrupedal and good at digging, it has very few of these attributes - hairiness being the only possibility. Instead of crashing into the box and putting his head in where it hurts, the false number 9 badger is more likely to drop off, hoping to pick up the ball from the midfielders and sett up somebody else.

So, in a nutshell, that's the tactical analysis of how the badgers upset the odds, through intelligent tactics and looking a bit like Newcastle United. But as they say, the season's a marathon and not a sprint. We'll need to wait and see what Paterson brings in during the transfer window. Probably the army, we reckon.

Liturgy for laying an Old Bike to Rest

Hymn: Bicycle Race

Charlii: Forasmuch as this old bike was old, and full of years and miles....

All: A goodly innings.

Charlii: And its owner spent more time on it over 16 years than some people spend with their children....

All: A faithful steed

Charlii: And knowing that it has travelled to France and Belgium and Wales, has commuted to London and Leicester and journeyed to every corner of Bedfordshire,  Northamptonshire and Camden....

All: A Ulysses of bikes.

Charlii : And knowing it has carried small children to nursery, sports kit to leisure centres and even, on occasion, 20lbs of cheap apples home from the market for cider-making.....

All: A true workhorse.

Charlii: So now we recognise that, though it has more or less snapped in half through age and overwork and rough handling from East Midlands Railways, yet the soft beggar that owns it is too sentimental to throw it into the scrap metal skip at the recycling centre. So instead we commit it, allegedly as a source of spare parts, to the garage for the duration of its owner's life.

All: May it rust in peace.

Hymn: I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like".


Charlii: Go;  and ring no more.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Nativity of PG Wodehouse

Charlii: What ho!

All: Rather!

Hymn: Hordes of Midian swarm around


All: We have done some rather rummy things we ought not to have done
And done some quite remarkable things we really wish we hadn't done.
We have bet on choirboys' bicycle races
And on egg and spoon races.
And on the length of sermons.
We have stolen Aberdeen terriers
And silver cow - creamers
And policemen's helmets.
We have rung burglar alarms in the middle of the night
And offended French chefs
And we have not honoured our Aunts.
We have pretended chorus girls were American heiresses
And coveted our neighbours' spats.
We have worn hideous clothing
And danced like mating newts.
We have drunk one too many cocktails, one too many times
And there is no health in us.

Assurance that we're all jolly good chaps and young things

Charlii: You're all jolly good chaps and young things.

All: Rather!

Scripture reading: The Kings of Israel and Judah (which Bertie will read from the list written on his arm)

Fresh Expression: The liturgy of the bread-roll fight

Final Blessing

Charlii : Tinkerty-tonk!

All: Did you mean that to sting?

First Class Worship

Times are tight, and the budget's a bit stretched. So we're all going to have to learn to tighten our belts, as the cold wind of economic stagnation blows around our mixedly-metaphorical ankles. It's going to be hard, but we're all in this together.

Which is why we've introduced First Class Worship. This gives the worshipper who wants a little more space, some free biscuits, at-seat service with a selection of liqueurs and a padded leather seat the chance to worship in a relaxed and yet timelessly stylish way.

In the separate First Class Worship compartment of the new Moot House, you can enjoy the peace which the World cannot give - at least, not unless you pay extra for it. If the Beaker Quire is as out of tune as ever, or the sermon is a big pile of pants, you can use the in-seat MP3 system and complimentary headphones to select something more spiritually uplifting.

Although you'd ideally want to book in advance, maybe to reserve the best seat over by the fountain, you have the option to upgrade at any time the appalling din of children and smell of ordinary customers - sorry, passengers - sorry, worshippers gets too much.

We hasten to add that Standard Class Worship remains as it has always been. Dreary, uninspiring, and with a view of the Worship Focus partially obstructed by the First Class Worship VIP lounge. But comfort yourselves, my people. For even the dogs may eat the Bath Oliver crumbs that fall from the First Class post-worship time.

First Class worship. For the discerning worshipper who got lucky with the Post Office.

Monday 14 October 2013

Life of Jesus "Invented by Christmas Cracker Manufacturer"

I now know why Eileen used to get so annoyed with the Beaker Folk. Being well-read but gullible, they leap onto every passing fad like ecclesiastical lemmings. This whole "Jesus was invented to keep the poor quiet" idea - now they're all running around saying where does it leave them?

In one sense, of course, it leaves them exactly where they were. Since Beaker Folk are more interested in feeling good than anything to do with truth, if Jesus were imaginary it actually would make no difference to them. Indeed, even knowing he were imaginary wouldn't - and I cite in evidence the "What Would Emma  Do?" bracelets many of them wear. Basing their moral decisions on the imagined motivations of Miss Woodhouse, a fictional inhabitant of Surrey, doesn't seem to bother them in the slightest.

But I've been delving into the Community Archives and I've discovered the book that Eileen always wanted to keep secret: the true story behind the invention of Jesus. Goodness knows where she found it.

It's a story that goes to the heart of World history, and will turn the world of Biblical history, as Prof Francesca Stavrakopoulou might say, on its head.

Turns out, the whole story of Jesus was invented by a bloke called Josiah son of Deuteronomy of Gath. His brother Matthias is more famous these days. But Josiah was a bit of an inventor, and he discovered a form of explosive sticky paper.

It wasn't terribly useful, to be honest. When they discovered it wasn't even powerful enough to blow a false beard off, the Judean People's Front rejected it as a secret weapon. Josiah was so fed up, he cut the paper into strips and sat there idly pulling it to make it go "crack". His other failed experiment in loo roll cardboard tubes - wiping your bottom with papyrus was no fun - were laying around, and his invention of the paper crown was already threatening to get him in trouble with Herod.

And it was as he sat there, rolling his failed "shiny paper" invention into little rolls around the cardboard loo roll tubes that his friend Gabriel wandered into his workshop.

"Here, Josiah," said Gabby, "here's one - why can't you play dice in the jungle? Because of all the cheetah's! Get it?"

Of course Josiah didn't get it - the joke doesn't work in Aramaic. But he wrote it down on a scrap of ostraca, pushed it with a crown into a cardboard tube, threaded a length of exploding paper through and wrapped it all in shiny paper. He had invented the Christmas Cracker. And this, he told Gabriel, was going to make his fortune.

"Brilliant," replied Gabby. "What's Christmas?"

And so Josiah had to achieve his greatest ever invention - the story of the Nativity. Working backward from "Christmas", he invented Christs's second name, then gave him a more typically Jewish personal name. Then he founded a church, encouraged the dissemination of the story throughout the Empire, and settled back to watch the money roll in. He was the greatest - and, at the time, only - manufacturer of Christmas Crackers the world had ever known.

But all great ideas have a shelf life, and soon everybody in the Empire was making Christmas Crackers. A few years later, he needed more money. His chocolate egg idea had no takers, and the hot-cross-bun concept hadn't really got off the drawing board. There was nothing for it. He reached once more for his pen and wrote the sequel. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Z-List Celebrity Preacher

We've seen very poor congregations this weekend. Everybody's headed to Cornwall for a few days, believing it will make them spiritually richer.

I blame it on our guest preacher, Johnz Alazn Jeromez, who gave us an inspirational message on Thursday night, telling us his recipe for reconciliation with God, a restful conscience and a path to spiritual growth. Or, specifically, it's because he always writes sermons on his battered old Dell Mini. The dodgy keyboard connections mean that he randomly inserts the letter "Z" into all his written communication.

Penance. He was supposed to be preaching on the benefits of penance.

Gove Sans

Exciting news that the British Font-maker's Society has agreed to rename "Comic Sans" as "Gove Sans".

Childish-looking, unprofessional, simplistic, unusable in business and generally disliked, Michael Gove has now had a typeface named after him.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Jeeves and the Crack of Doom

With grateful thanks to the Hon Bertie Wooster, who has allowed us to reproduce the text of his speech to us last night, "There and Back again in Spats"

I don't know about you, but when I've just had to save the whole world, by casting an artifact of great power and intrinsic value into a volcanic fissure, and as a result am sitting on a crumbling ledge over a lava flow, I'm inclined not to be so oojah - cum - spiff as normal. As I suffered from the day's exertions, I felt like the morning after the Drones Club Darts tournament.

"Crikey, Jeeves," I said.  "That was a near miss."

"Indeed, Sir."

"I mean, that time I accidentally got engaged to Arwen Evenstar, and Aragorn son of Arathorn wanted to break my spine in three places, that was close...."

"I believe it was four, Sir."

"Jeeves, we are about to die horribly in the shadow-lands of Mordor, having cast my Uncle Tom's antique cow-creamer into the Crack of Doom - Sir Watkin Bassett having wrenched it from my hand and fallen into the flowing magma with it; just as I had been falling in love with its sconces and gadroon foils and whatnot myself. Is this the time to be overly-precise about the number of breaks in my spine that Strider wanted to inflict on me?"

" Perhaps not, Sir "

"And then there was that time that Eowyn fell in love with me and wanted to mould me."

"A consummation most devoutly to be avoided, Sir. "

(This Eowyn, I should say for the new followers, is one of those muscular, Rohanin girls - never happier than when disembowelling an Uruk-Hai, or sending a Ring-wraith to its eternal doom. Being moulded by her would certainly have been extremely painful, so I made sure I avoided it. Not if I were the only boy in the world, and she were the only Nazgul.)

I realised that Jeeves had shimmered away. When he returned, I was amazed to discover he had managed to mix me up one of his "bracers". I downed it in one.

Now the thing about this pick-me-up of Jeeves is, as the magic works one is apt to reel somewhat. My skull seemed to bounce off the orc helmet I was wearing. But once my eyes had ricocheted off the Misty Mountains and back into my head, I felt much better. Mordor seemed a rosier place.

"Jeeves, " I exclaimed, "you stand alone."

"Thank you, Sir. The egg yolks give much-needed protein. The sherry cushions the nervous system. And the orc blood was an emergency replacement as I could not find any tomato juice in the lair of the Nameless One "

"It's OK,  Jeeves, you can say his name now. Spoderon's power was tied up with the cow-creamer. Now it is broken, his power is no more. See where the armies of Orcs of the Black Shorts return to their foul homeland, the EDL.

"But do you remember Aunt Dahlia's words: Even that loathsome boil, Bassett, may have something yet to do? But for him, Jeeves, I could not have destroyed the Cow-creamer. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Jeeves."

"Yes, Sir "

At that moment I heard what sounded like the words, "Tally ho! Yoiks! Hark forard!" floating over on the vile wind that blew across Mordor. I started, visibly.

"Surely, Jeeves, that's not my Aunt Dahlia?"

"Indeed, Sir. I forgot to inform you that Mrs Travers wished to speak with you."

"But Aunt Dahlia fell into the Pit at Totleigh  Towers while fighting the Balrog."

"Indeed, Sir."

"Bertie, you look like you've been out on the tiles all night," announced the ancestor, from the back of the eagle she'd flown in on.

"Good to see you, aged A," I responded. "The shiny white outfit suits you."

"Never mind that, it's all very well saving the world of men and removing the shadow from the earth. I need you back to scour Brinkley Court. Gussy Fink-Nottle has taken over the place and turned it into a newt farm."

"Delighted to join you, I replied, "will Bingo Little and Tuppy Glossop be there? "

"I doubt it. The last I heard, they were smashing up your Aunt Agatha's place with a bunch of ents."

(This other aunt, I should explain, is the one that eats goblins, and sacrifices elves at the full moon.)

"Well, I shall be glad to assist," I said, as Jeeves and I climbed aboard a handy eagle. "And I shall look forward to enjoying once again Monsieur Anatole's marvellous cooking."

At this, the ancestor gave me the information that turned my heart to ice.

"I'm afraid there won't be any of Anatole's cooking. Elrond Half-Elven won him off your Uncle Tom in a game of cards. He has taken him off across the Sundered Seas to be the chef for the Elder Folk."

"Jeeves," I said, "when we get back to Brinkley, you can burn my white mess jacket with the golden buttons. And my plus fours you can give to the poor. But you can pack my mithril waist-coat and black tie."

"Do I take it that you are planning another journey, Sir?"

"Indeed I am, Jeeves. If Anatole has gone then there is nothing left in Nether Middle Earth for me. Bring me my banjolele - we're off to the Grey Havens "

"Very good, Sir."

Thursday 10 October 2013

Nativity of Kirsty MacColl (1959)

When a talented, clever, feisty, brilliant woman dies at the age of 41, you gasp at the waste of life. You rejoice in the life, spirit and wit she showed. You celebrate the good stuff and pray for those she left behind.

She had all the cutting edge, sadness and sweetness - like a bitter-sweet cider apple.

An empty bench in Soho Square... no more to say.

View from an empty bench

Except.... "I was 21 years when I wrote this song, I'm 22 now but I won't be for long...."

Still looking for a new England.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

On the Eve of St Kirsty

Sad introduction:

Charlii: Your name froze on the winter air

All: An empty bench in Soho Square.

Charlii: Forgotten now, I turn away.

All: Just save me for a rainy day.

Charlii: But don't feel sorry.

All: I don't want to hear it, baby.

A latter-day Lady of the Lamp may wander through the Moot House.

Commination: Don't come the Cowboy with me, Sonny Jim

Diminution: My O my, you're such a big boy, on a Saturday Night 

Sad Reflection: What do Pretty Girls Do?

Recessional: (Feeling) My way Home

God bless you, Kirsty. We hope you felt your way home. 

Final Score: England 2 - Colombia 0. 

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Dorking to be renamed after Richard Dawkins

In a shock local-government coup, the small town of Dorking in Surrey has announced that it is to rename itself after the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins - a move that has attracted concern from the Church, the Plain English Society and the Department of Transport.

"The Council had been looking for something to put the town on the map for ages," explained a spokesman, "well, not literally on the map - because there we are, just below London and above Brighton. But we needed something to make people take notice of us. After all, a lot of people barely know we are here - they just whizz past on the many good road links that make us such a well-connected commuter town, and never stop over to enjoy the many amenities.

"Other towns have been named after people - there's Peter Lee in Durham, Drayton Parslow in Buckinghamshire. But we wanted to associate the town with somebody really famous. And we thought that "Dawkins" was a really good idea. For starters, it sounds much the same - nobody's pronounced the "g" since 1926, and that was a stranger. And Richard Dawkins is an expert in the origins of life - and we've been trying to find some original life in Dorking for ages, so we thought he might be able to give us some advice. Sure, he's a controversial choice. But at least people will know we're a place in our own right - and not just a boring little place near Guildford."

The local faith communities have responded with anger to the idea. The Catholic church has organised a day of prayer, the evangelical faith schools have introduced Creationism onto the curriculum. But the Church of England were more ambivalent. A spokesman for the Diocese of Guildford said, "Of course, we believe Professor Dawkins will suffer in a dreadful place for all eternity - but we're just up the road from Croydon, so we reckon we've got a good idea what it's like already."

But most criticism of the scheme has come from Surrey County Council and the Department of Transport. As the bodies responsible for the roads in and around Dawkins, they will have to replace every single road direction sign in the area. They have made it quite clear that they will be putting the extra costs onto the council tax payers of Dawkins. But the local council isn't worried, as they work to make the entire town an atheism theme park.
Dawkins Town Centre

"We reckon we can tap into a massive revenue stream," said the spokesman. "We have the Dawkins Sea-life Centre, Dawkins Zoo, Dawkins Experimental Ant Farm, the Bertrand Russell Tea Rooms, the Christopher Hitchens Bar, and the "Dawkins Delusion" - a fantastic virtual-reality journey into the mind of Alister McGrath. Which, to be fair, is more interesting than a trip into the mind of Richard Dawkins itself - it has more dimensions, for starters."

And so, nestled in the North Downs, the little town of Dawkins prepares itself for a lucrative future. They have been round the local hotels removing all the Gideon Bibles, anorak shops have opened all the way down the high street, and the local singles' club has doubled its capacity and hopes, one day, to get a woman to join. When the Dawkins fans arrive, Dawkins will be waiting for them.

Monday 7 October 2013

Days of Wine and Rosaries

The celebration of "Our Lady of the Rosary" has been a great success. Charlii says that we have never sold so many.

Beaker Folk like rosaries. Prayer beads seem so spiritual, and Beaker Folk like spiritual.  I personally have nine or ten sets of rosary beads. One day, I hope to find out what to do with them.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Revenge of the Earless Rabbit

It was our own fault, and we should never have taken her so lightly.

Today's "Celebration of the Earless Rabbit" ceremony was meant to reflect the heroic way our earless bunny has overcome her earlessness, lived a full live, and doesn't miss her ears at all.

So we let her gambol around during the service, running wherever she wished, as part of celebrating her life.

Big mistake. Letting a vicious, human-hating rabbit run loose in a community where so many people are inclined to wear sandals.

Those that defend her say that she was merely confused - thinking that people's naked toes were actually carrots. But I say that, in fact, she is very annoyed about her lack of ears, wishes she always had ears, and was getting her revenge for us saying - on her behalf - that she is quite happy without them. Maybe we've all been wrong, to pre-judge her view on having ears. But I guess we'll never know.

Friday 4 October 2013

The Met Office Official Rain Scale

It is a little-known fact that the Met Office has a scale for reporting rainfall, which parallels the Beaufort Scale for wind.  We're glad to inform you ......

1.... Dry
2.... A few spots
3.... Spits and spots
4.... Mizzling
5.... Light Drizzle
6.... Drizzle
7.... Persistent drizzle
8.... Light rain
9.... Nice weather for ducks
10.... Heavy rain
11 .. Cats n Dogs
12... Downpour
13.... Torrential

Inspired by @northantswx

Thursday 3 October 2013

A Better Class of Service Book

It has been a funny recession. Although those in lower-paid jobs have seen pay freezes, and those in the public sector have been working hard to try and keep in their jobs, the better-off have done quite well. Anyone with a large mortgage, for example, has cashed in with low interest rates - especially if they locked into the right rates.

And that is why the Beaker Bazaar is now selling a new worship book. We noticed that the Church of England has a Common Worship, which would fit in with that strange idea that Christianity is for the poor. But since when were the poor the possessors of large amounts of discretionary spending power? So we're going for a plusher version, for upmarket suburban congregations, with high-quality paper and a full-colour liturgy.

We thought of calling it "Not-so-Common Worship". Then we thought about "Upwardly-mobile Worship", then "Workers-not-Shirkers Worship". But we've been inspired by the Tory Conference. We're going to call it "A Worship Book of Opportunity for All".

Tuesday 1 October 2013

An Old-School Beaker Act of Worship

The Beaker Folk await without

Charlii: Who waits without?

All: We wait without.

Charlii: Then speak friend and enter.

All: What's the password?

Burton: Oh! I know this!  It's a riddle!

Young Keith: What's the elvish for "friend"?

Stacey: Quenya or wood-elf?

Burton: Sorry, I could have helped if it was Klingon...

Charlii: Forget it. Just come in.

The path to the centre of the Moot House is marked out with lumps of sandstone and tea lights. Beaker Folk may kick the stones and/or set fire to their (well-named) flares.

Charlii: We light a light against the dying of the light

Lights are lit

Charlii: We drop a stone into the Well of Longing

Stones are dropped, causing ripples, that never come back.

Burton: I thought we'd blown up the Moot House?

Charlii: Yes. But we have been blessed richly by the little random gods of poor continuity.

Burton: Right-o. Just thought I'd ask.

Charlii: We strew Mother Nature's beauty liberally.... because we can

Rose petals and hips, eggs, hazel twigs and elderberries are strowed across the floor.

Charlii: Shouldn't that be "strewn"?


Charlii: OK. Ignoring the fact that the rubric has started answering back.....


Charlii: What shall we build to mark our joyful meeting forever?

All: An eternal cairn!  An eternal cairn!

The band plays "Waltzing Matilda", as the Beaker Folk build an mighty and permanent cairn as a sign to all ages.


Charlii: OK. You're all blessed.  Sling your hooks.

Young Keith: And please take the stones from the eternal cairn with you. Can't leave it there - health 'n' safety.

Godley and Creme Play

We have received some complaints about yesterday's "Godley and Creme Play". Some parents said that re-enacting the plot of "Under your thumb", with its tale of psychological manipulation, suicide and haunting was a bit scary for small children.

But the complaints about  the other story,  "Godley Dreadlock holiday", were twofold. Firstly because a song about mugging and drugs pushing was apparently "not suitable" in some way.  But also because Godley and Creme had left 10cc before the song was made.

I thought that was a real shame. Lines like "Can you see how strangely he's walking, children? That's because he's concentrating on truckin' right" really brought them right into the story.

Next week we will revert to standard "Godly Play". Since we're requested to stick with Bible stories, which are safe and wholesome for the Little Pebbles, Charlii will be leading the story of "David and the mountain of Philistine Foreskins". We hope this is more suitable.