Tuesday 31 December 2013

My New Year's Resolutions

  1. Walk or cycle everywhere within a 15-mile radius rather than using the car. Regardless of the weather. It's good for me.
  2. Be kinder to the half-wits I have to deal with every day, recognising that at least some of their stupidity may not be totally their own fault.
  3. Develop a new Beaker liturgy in Latin, but written in the Cyrillic text, so everybody thinks it must be really, really authentic.
  4. Have a kind word for everybody. Or, at least, kinder than "loser".
  5. By following the health advice of the Daily Mail, adopt precisely the mixture of foods to eat and avoid, exercise, and other activities to live forever.
  6. Stop thinking that Bastard Feudalism was a better way to run a country. Even though it was.
  7. Give up drinking, except socially or when I fancy it.
  8. Stop trying to sell insurance to visiting Jehovah's Witnesses.
  9. Be less gullible.
  10. Spend the first ten minutes of each day counting my blessings, rather than fearing the worst.
  11. Look boldly at the worst, and defy it to do its worst.
  12. Cross everything off my "to-do" list before going to bed.
  13. Get more sleep.
  14.  Take time for the little things. Like Burton Dasset's brain. I will buy him a tin-foil hat to protect it, maybe.
  15. Recognise that people I don't agree with, are often sincere in their beliefs and not necessarily evil or just trolling.
  16. Study logic so I crush the arguments of people I don't agree with, exposing them as the evil trolls they actually are.
  17. Adopt a Quantum Zen attitude to life, whereby I can simultaneously do nasty things but think I'm doing them for the best possible reasons.
  18. Read an improving book every day.
  19. Be kinder to animals. Except the ones I eat.
  20. Avoid declaring war on any small countries. Except maybe Sweden.
  21.  Recycle old blogposts, to be good for the environment.
  22. Make more time for others.
  23. Drink only healthy, chlorinated tap water. So much safer than bottled or rain. And definitely safer than that brook.
  24. Visit Marston Moretaine in hospital.
  25. Apologise to Marston Moretaine for persuading him that drinking water from the brook is more natural, and therefore healthier.
  26. Take up smoking, so I can give up smoking. Then I can be even more smug and aggressively anti-smoker.
  27. Read a book of the Bible every day.
  28. Improve my time management.
  29. Listen to a symphony every day, ensuring that I can really concentrate on it.
  30. Be more realistic about what I can achieve.

Blogging Review of the Year

It's that time of year again when people do their most popular posts of the year summaries, awards, a stats analysis and a quick lament for the good ol' days of blogging.

But I'm not doing stats. Haven't you people ever heard of humility? For goodness' sake.

So instead of stats, here's a sampler of the oddest search terms by which people have found us this year. Now I know this is likely to be an imperfect list. Mostly because The Alethiophile has a hobby of generating odd Google searches on other people's blogs.  So I've filtered out "London" in the Analytics, to try and get some real ones. And my favourites of the year are:

  • a long time ago on a far away moon
  • calculating easter comedy
  • cockney druids
  • john lewis green ink
  • new archbishop of canterbury,anglican, justin welby is a druid
  • one of leonardo da vinci's invention the owl
  • grinling gibbons descendants
  • incense in church dangers
  • liturgical pie chart
  • sombre hair

I have no idea what many of these people were looking for. But I hope they found it. Especially the comedy about calculating Easter. That must be a side-splitter.

Finally, I'd like to recommend my own 2nd favourite blog.  It's A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Foodcourt of Life. And I recommend it because it's a blog that does what blogs are supposed to do, well. So, thanks, Catriona.

My favourite blog is less recommendable, for two reasons. Firstly because some of my readers may not get its eccentric, dark, off-beat humour. And secondly because Mrs Starkadder doesn't blog very often. 3 posts this year. There's clearly been a lot of clettering, and too much trying to cut down on Seth's mollickin'. But it's good when it appears.

Thanks for reading and sticking with us, and we'll see you in the new year. Unless the Paraguayans were right, obviously.  In which case, we'll see you somewhere else, if we're all lucky. You've not heard of the Paraguayan prophecy? Oh, sorry. Best not look into it now. Will only spoil what's left of the week

On the Eve of Creme Egg Day

And so, as the circles of the world turn, ever-spinning, never-ending, like an ever-spinning wheel, we reach Creme Egg Day Eve. All over the country, small people, jaded in just six short days with the contents of endless Selection Boxes, put small egg boxes on the window sill and hope that the Creme Egg Goblin will arrive in the night. He won't, of course. Because they actually go on sale tomorrow. And the Creme Egg Goblin is therefore universally despised among the more productive and successful fairy-tale gift-bringers, such as the Tooth Fairy, Father Christmas, and Richard Dawkins. As a result, he spends the rest of the year sulking, and trolling Santa's Elves on Twitter. Or is that Richard Dawkins? Can never get those two separated in my mind, for some reason.

Before we consider the shocking out-of-season-ness of the annual complaints about Easter Eggs arriving on the 1st of January (I swear the complaints get earlier - this year people are complaining before the Creme Eggs are even in the shops - yet it's been 1 January for Creme Eggs for ages), I'd like to consider the logistics of getting Creme (and other chocolate) Eggs to the masses.

See, what those people who only want to see Easter and Creme Eggs in Easter Week itself (and presumably a bit of Holy Week, so people can actually buy them in time for Easter Day) - is that what they are asking for is something that would make those eggs incredibly expensive. If the Chocolate Egg-producing community (for it is a community, famous for its punch evenings and inter-chocolate-factory-worker marriages) were only going to pile eggs into the shops for a week or two before Easter, the following would be required:

A load of lorries that would sit around idle the rest of the year;
A load of land to park said lorries;
A load of lorry-drivers to deliver the eggs very suddenly, and then get laid off or go to work in holiday camps and other summer-season workplaces.

And EITHER - A mass of warehousing, all year round, that starts empty every Easter Day and then fills up until the following Lent
OR - A load of chocolate egg-making machines, that stand around idle all year. For egg-making machines are specialised things. They can't be converted, for example, to make rugby balls, light bulbs or other ovoid products the rest of the year. And that's a lot of expensive plant, occupying a lot of expensive warehouse, gathering expensive dust for most of the year.

So, economically, the chocolate egg people do the most sensible thing. They have about the right number of machines to make eggs all year round. Chocolate is a good keeping product, after all, being largely made of sugar. And they make eggs all year round. Eggs for export can be shipped out early, of course - some sea journeys can take a while, and if you are exporting Easter Eggs to, for example, environmental reporters in the Antarctic, they can take a heck of a while to get there.

But the other eggs pile up, back at base. Occupying warehouse space that could be used for Mars, Dairy Milk or other chocolate-based comestibles. And warehouse space is relatively expensive. So, as soon as possible, to save on rent and make way for Snickers, Turkish Delights, Crunchies or whatever, they really need some way to get them out of the door.

Meanwhile from 25 December onwards, the retailers have an opposite problem. All those shelves that were stuffed with Xmas puds, mince pies, cakes, advocaat, and gift boxes containing a slice of blue cheese, some crackers and a half-bot of port, are now empty. Shoppers don't trust empty shops - they assume the company may be going bust. The shelves must be full, to give an impression of life, vitality and flourishing sales.

So at this point you may be thinking - "If the shop shelves are empty, but the chocolate egg producers are paying for warehouse space for eggs, maybe there's some sensible way out of this? Surely the most sensible thing would be to push all the chocolate eggs into the shops - they'd occupy otherwise idle shelf space, they'd be all shiny, the makers wouldn't have to waste rent on warehouse space, and the retailers might make a few bob from people who suddenly notice the Creme Eggs on the counter where the Ferrero Rochers were? Wouldn't that be a sensible thing to do?"

Have a happy Creme Egg Day.

Monday 30 December 2013

Heads you win, Tails you Can't Lose

A striking comment from Drayton Parslow,  whom I had a chat to over the fence earlier.

I forget how we got round to it, but I mentioned to him that Jehovah's Witnesses are annihilationists - believing that those who are not saved by the last judgment won't be condemned to an eternal Hell, but will simply cease to exist,  like daleks meeting Rose Tyler on a "bad hair" day.

"Oh," remarked Drayton,  "that's not much of an incentive, is it?"

Never thought of it like that before. I reckon that he's wrong, but I'm not quite sure how.

Sunday 29 December 2013

BBC - Propper-up of Patriarchy

The latest in my series, "unlikely things that prop up patriarchy".

It was, of all things, reading James Delingpole that made something click. His comment on the fact that the assistants in Dr Who have to be both sexy and tough:
"Yeah, OK, so it may be very post-modern and PC and Grlll Power, and all, that to have female assistants who are, like, bold, and sassy and totally unflappable in all situations."
Except it isn't, is it? If the BBC wanted to be really post-modern and PC, it could do something very simple. It could have a female Doctor. And then she could flirt with a male companion (or female, according to choice) and the companion could run around screaming and getting caught by aliens, and the balance of the Universe would be restored. Isn't it that easy? Just let the Doctor be a woman, and the problem of flappy, squeally uselessness in the companions would be solved instantly. You can have a male, flappy, squeally, useless assistant.

But then you go and look at the make-up of the BBC's comedy panel shows, and notice that this problem isn't confined to Doctor Who. The people who make up Mock the Week, or Have I Got News for You, or QI, or Would I Lie to You. It's the same with all of them. The BBC's representation of women is, when you look at these shows, worse than the ordained women in the Church of England, or round about the same proportion as the parliamentary representation of women in the Conservative Party (but not, oddly, the Lib Dems).

So come on, BBC - for goodness' sake. Try and beat the Conservative Party. Or really go for it - see if you can catch up with the Church of England?

On the Wise Locations of Houses

We've waved Charlii and Young Keith off on their honeymoon. They're going to be spending a couple of weeks in my bolt-hole in Great Tremlett, due to Keith's understandable nervousness about going anywhere near Paris.

At least they won't be suffering from floods. Great Tremlett is like a city builded up, on a limestone hill, thus dodging the flooding that is inclined to break out in the clay of the valleys, where the brooks are. It's one thing the South Midlanders of old seemed to understand well - the idea of living above the flood line. Every village you see is perched on a hill. Good news for the summer trade of the pubs as well - ensures people are always in need of a pint, just when one becomes easily obtainable.

Don't get me wrong - flooding's a dreadful thing to happen to you. But that's why, in these parts, they try and make sure the things that flood are those that are dispensable or, as at Cosgrove caravan park, up on blocks. It's easy to blame climate change for flooding, but then why keep building housing estates on flood plains? Sure, it's easy to build on flood plains. Keeps the house prices down. But they have that name for a reason. Round here, we have stories of the way the Ouse flooded between Olney and Emberton, and flood marks up the walls of the really old riverside pubs - dating from long before the CO2 levels started to rise. If you're gonna live on a flood plain, the really wise builder puts the house on stilts.

Likewise when the houses fell off that cliff in Hemsby. There was a reason why they were cheap in the first place. And the cliffs there are basically sand. Fun and cheap while it lasted, but the end was always coming.

So my advice, if you're buying a house, is to see whether you really like the riverside view, or the brook that runs through an enormous car park before babbling through your back garden. And if you do, buy a house further up the hill. You know it makes sense.

Liturgy of Everybody Getting Up too Late

Oops. It would appear that, due to chronological confusion caused by Christmas, nobody got up in time for this morning's Pouring-out of Beakers.

Can all Beaker Folk please say some prayers of their own, skip around an ash tree or watch last night's Match of the Day, according to their own tradition.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Holy Innocents, and the Dangerous Herod Boys

So a friend was telling me a story. About a woman - a Christian - who was catching a train. But due to some unlikely coincidence - or, as I normally call them - coincidence - she missed it. The train went on and crashed, killing everybody on it. So the woman was saved, because she was a faithful Christian.

I did ask my friend if he had any information as to the state of regeneration of the people who did actually catch the train - given this story was based in the United States I was guessing there might be a few Christians who actually made the departure time - but sadly he was unable to inform me.

The Holy Innocents are a reminder that the work of God still takes place in a dark world. As the tinsel and angels crowd round the manger, an evil king, scared for his succession, comes down like the wolf on the fold.

We get the discussions about whether this story is true. There seems little point arguing with it, if you accept the Gospel stories as true in general. It's consistent with everything else we know about the Herod family. It was likely to be quite small in the scale of genocides - maybe 20 or so baby boys. It's not that different to what we see in our own lifetimes, across this still-dark world.

It just cries out, for me, a question about God's action in all this. Herod's acting completely to plot. This is what Herods do. This is what all vicious, suspicious dictators, from Tiberius Caesar to Kim Jong-un, do. You might even, if you were to put on your Reading Glasses of Hermeneutical Suspicion, see some parallels in the way kings David and Solomon act when they come to power.

But what is God doing here? Just the one family - his own, if you like - get the warning. All the others - nothing, or maybe a dream that is ignored. So the God-child gets away, apparently so he can fulfil a Hosean prophecy, while the others die - the first witnesses to Our Lord, in later tradition.

But like the dictators, God also has form here. After all, as the Egyptians were killing the Hebrew babies, there was one who snuck through, hidden in a basket. As the children of Jerusalem died at the hands of the Babylonians, just a remnant survived. This is not a bug. It appears to be a feature.

The Powers that Be caught up with him in the end, of course. The job Herod's men failed to do, Pilate's bunch managed later on. Maybe some cursing Jesus around the cross - old men now, of course - were among those who couldn't catch the King of the Jews 30-odd years earlier. Satisfied to see the job finally done. The final Holy Innocent.

And that's where the odd part of the story - the one I trust in, though I can never quite understand it - cuts in. The bit where God says yes, I didn't save all the kids n Egypt - and a lot of innocent Egyptian babies died, too, don't forget. And I didn't save the babies in the fall of Jerusalem. And I didn't save the Holy Innocents. And in the centuries to come, this theme will repeat itself - again and again.

But here, where the might of the evil Roman army has pinned me, where my own people's leaders have betrayed me - where the Herod family have let me down, yet again - here I share in all the other senseless deaths. Here I take part in your senseless death. And if I join you down there, I'll drag you back up with me.

Friday 27 December 2013

Rejecting Vincent Tan's Kind Offer

I'd like to thank Mr Tan for his kind offer to take a controlling stake in the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley. It's not that I don't appreciate it, but I've had to say no.

In the first place, his demand that we only attend worship in red hi-viz. Sure, it's a nice colour. But I don't want the Beaker Folk out on the roads protesting. But I could probably cope if it was just that.

It's more the way he said we'd have 3 years to get onto "Songs of Praise", or I'd get the sack. It's a cut-throat world, English Christianity. I might think I'd signed the right worship group to get us into the top 4 in the Nu-Worship Premier League, but if they just didn't perform, or Liverpool Anglican Cathedral over-performed - I'd be out on my ear. And then old Vince would be off in an embarrassing attempt to lure some exciting new Archdruid - one or other of the famous David Walkers, or Nicky Gumbel or somebody.

No, on the whole, it's better we stay as we are. Second-division, unfashionable, but very definitely a local religious community. If I really wanted to be in Europe, I'd join the Catholics.

John the Divine - a Better Story

I've no evidence it's true, but it's the tradition of at least some of the Church, and I think it's a better story. And, as the old quantum scientists knew, sometimes it's the more beautiful story that's the true one.

And that is that the author of John's Gospel was the son of Zebedee, was the disciple whom Jesus loved, was the writer of the Johannine epistles, was the exile on Patmos.

A form of martyrdom, to be sure. To be cast on that island, knowing that all those he had known and loved - Peter, Andrew, his brother James, Jesus's mother - all were gone. Many killed, in the name of Jesus, and John left all to himself, an old man, waiting. Always waiting.

He knew, in his long life, the terror of  Babylon. He knew the truth of the Beast. It was his first-hand, daily experience.  But on a Lord's Day,  he turned to see a voice that spoke. A voice he'd heard in the Garden, in a boat, by a sea, in a locked room, in a governor's palace, from a cross.

He turned, and saw, and believed once again. And, though he was now old, and the One he loved was ever young, he knew that hope was there, and hope was with him, and one day all things would be made new.

The Critics don't like it, but I think it's a better story. And, as the old quantum scientists knew, sometimes it's the more beautiful story that's the true one.

Arboreal Ursine Activities Update

An adulterous politician who wanted to bring in draconian, illiberal surveillance laws while in power, wants satire brought under control. Who'd have thought it?

From the "Can't Win Either Way" Files (c/o the Daily Telegraph)

The Telegraph complains about the degree to which the Church of England carries out CRB checks.

Among the posts for which people had to be CRB'ed were organist (somebody who is in a position of authority, including for young people); night-shelter worker (somebody in a position of care for vulnerable adults); bell tower captain (see organist), bell ringing instructor (see bell tower captain) and bereavement visitor (see night-shelter worker).

Yes, the most important thing is that procedures are in place, that policies are visible, taken seriously and enforced.

But if an Anglican church didn't check a bell tower captain, organist or Sunday club leader who later turned out to be a convicted sex offender, do you think the Telegraph would be charitable, and in favour of dispensing with such checks?

No, I don't think so, either.

What Kind of Christian Are You?

Since everybody else has got into this, I thought we'd offer this simple, easy-to-use Web Quiz. Why not give it a go? And then share it with your friends!

Question 1: Which of these appears on the sign, or notice board, of the church you normally worship in?

A) Methodist
B) Catholic Church of...
C) Orthodox
D) United Reformed or Presbyterian
E) Lutheran
F) Church of England, or Episcopalian
G) Baptist
H) Pentecostal
I) God hates.....
J) Mosque, Hindu, Sikh or Synagogue; or "Humanist Association"
K) Quaker or Society of Friends
L) Unitarian
M) Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witnesses
N) The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
O) Mennonite
P) Moot House

And here's your result.....

If you answered mostly:
A) You're probably a Methodist
B) You're probably (Roman) Catholic
C) You're probably Orthodox
D) You're probably United Reformed or Presbyterian
E) You're probably Lutheran
F) You're probably Church of England, or Episcopalian
G) You're probably Baptist
H) You're probably Pentecostal
I) You're probably Westboro Baptist
J) You're probably not a Christian
K) You're probably a Quaker
L) You're probably Unitarian
M) You're probably Jehovah's Witness
N) You're probably Mormon
O) You're probably Mennonite
P) You're probably a Beaker Person.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Good King Wenceslas, Upholder of Patriarchy

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I shall see him dine
When we bear them thither"

The poor man's woes were ironic, when you consider where he lived. In a forest. There was no shortage of pine trees where he lived, but he clearly wasn't allowed to chop them down. If it was anything like the situation in other parts of Europe, he would have been forbidden actually to chop down the trees. Hence he had to leave the trees where they were. The act of "sticking", ie picking up the branches and twigs that were blown down or broken down by, for example, heavy snow, would have been one of his limited rights. But green sticks arent great fuel, and so he'd  had to travel a league to get enough.

Likewise the flesh that the Good King forced his page to carry into the wind and bitter weather. The poor man lived in a forest. He was surrounded by game. But he couldn't catch it - hunting was strictly for the upper classes. He could have water from St Agnes' fountain, but the fishponds belonged to the St Agnes monastery. Given the bohemian climate, brewing would have been a better idea than winemaking. No, not that kind if bohemian climate - I don't mean the poor man was dressed like a hipster and into conceptual art. He wasn't out there putting in his new installation - "Forest 2 - Pine on Snow".  I mean it was temperate, with cold winters. But brewing requires barley fields. And all the local land was owned by the local landowner. Whoever he was. He was probably some kind of king, I reckon. They owned all the forests, after all.

So Good  King Wenceslas and his page made it tbrough the snow to the poor man's house, and gave him the pine logs, wine and flesh. And never once reflected that this kind of random alms-distribution, dependent on the whim of minor royalty looking out of castle windows at the right time, is inefficient And regressive.  It's no form of substitute for a planned and progressive welfare system, or the redistributive and progressive taxation of Middle-European monarchs. But then, look who got the sainthood.

I guess that's how it works out, when you keep your religion separate from your politics.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

The Beaker Folk at Christmas

Just finished the Pouring out of Beakers in a rather wrecked Moot House after last night's Tea Light Midnight Xmas Spectacular.

It was rather a wild allegorical nativity last night, as Michael Gove, Ed Balls and Russell Brand formed the Three not-very-wise Men. Russell Brand demanded to know why everybody was looking at "some kid in a trough" and not at him. Michael Gove demanded to know of the Blessed Virgin why Jesus wasn't already at school 17 hours a day. And Ed Balls just faffed about trying to use the Twitter app on his Android.

The junior-sized Stonehenge is in front - the Great Trilithon accidentally knocked over. Oh, how they danced the little children of Husborne Crawley. And then the great piles of wrapping paper that are strewn from the ritual of "It's Midnight so it must be Xmas". And the empty aluminium shells of a thousand dead tea lights are lying around, where we said we'd pick them up on Boxing Day.

Somewhere in the middle of the wrapping paper, Marston Moretaine is still fast asleep, from the effects of him trying to add a whole evening's festivities onto a day commuting to work in the Smoke. We just left him there. We'll wake him up when it's time for our Traditional Vegetarian non-Exploitative Xmas Dinner. Or, in short, baked swede washed down with Burton's home-brewed. It could be quite a windy Christmas Week, I reckon.

I'm kind of glad to say that Charlii and Young Keith are back in the Great House as well, after it turned out the secret honeymoon Charlii had planned - at Disneyland Paris - wasn't such a great idea for Young Keith. Sad they've missed the break, but glad they're here. They can borrow the Old Rectory for a couple of weeks in the New Year.

It's not a white Christmas for most - it's a green one, and a cold one, and quite a wet one in other places. And a dark one, where the electric has failed. So we've lit the one remaining tea light, for those whose Christmas Day is nothing like has planned, and for Dave Walker and his church. Not the bishop (though we like him too) - the cartoonist with no electric.

And somewhere in among the debris, underneath the wrapping paper and behind the squashed bits of aluminium, behind a mountain of tinsel the kids threw in the air, in a Nativity Set that, over the years has expanded to include a giant toad, a kangaroo and a dalek as well as the more traditional mother, step-father, ox, ass, visiting members of the working class and baffled if adoring foreigners - in among all that, the Christ Child is there. Hard to spot, easily overlooked, not making much noise, in a baffling and colourful world of pain and joy, gladness and heartbreak and struggle. And if you look very hard, you can still find him.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Midsomer with the Trimmings

"And now a seasonal episode of Midsomer Murders. Which contains scenes of violence".

Odd, that. From the programme title you'd never have expected violence.

Monday 23 December 2013

More Gospel, Less Politics

So the MP for The Wrekin reckons. Given the timing of his tweet, I reckon that he had wandered back, happy and glowing, from a Crib or Carol service and thought "why do these God-botherers have to get involved in my world? Why can't they stick to the Baby Jesus and the Angels?" (I'm guessing of course. I suppose he could, equally, have just staggered out of the Blandings Arms after a few jars of the local bitter, spiced up with a a drop of gin, as recommended by the great PG Wodehouse. Or maybe he'd just wandered down the hill after which his constituency is named, soaking wet and having a sudden antipathy to all things spiritual. It is not, after all, for me to dictate what the elected Member for the Wrekin does with his Sabbath rest.)

And I reckon he's right. The Church should preach a little more gospel and a little less politics. We should be focussing on Jesus, after all - not involving ourselves in the grubbiness of the world. For one thing, church people are hopeless at claiming expenses.  And so I go to the Gospel. And I read...
Matthew 25:31ff "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Now the thing is, if you feed the hungry - that is a political act. If you set up a food bank (and the churches have, quite a lot), that's a political act. If you wonder why there's so many people needing food banks, that's a political thing to think.

If you see someone who needs clothing, and you sort them out with some clothes, that's a political act as well. I'm sure David Cameron would think that was part of his "Big Society". After all, now he's dropped the term, there's a lot of Big Society, on a small scale, about. There has to be.

If someone is sick - and you don't even necessarily know them - but you're there for them anyway, that's a political act. You're saying you won't allow them to lie there in hospital on their own, if you can do anything about it. And if someone is in prison, and you visit them, then that's a political statement. You're saying that it's not good enough just to stick people in chokey and throw away the key. You're making the walls porous - keeping people in society that others would want to keep locked out.

Jesus's birth, in the first place, is a political act - God siding with the poor, the dispossessed, the homeless. And the belief that he will come back and judge the nations is not a piece of apocalyptic wish-fulfilment - it's saying that the ones who rule, the ones who abuse, the ones who push down, will one day be judged. More fairly than they have judged, as well. Which might or might not be good news. Apocalyptic is always political.

The incarnation is political - Christ taking on human flesh in this grubby world. Not standing, shining, off in glory but arguing with priests, politicians, taking on kings and local rulers. Walking through the middle of all the mess, that people can choose to follow his way, or not. Demanding justice - isn't that a political concept? Being the Prince of Peace - isn't peace a political idea?

But then it's not surprising that Jesus was such a wannabe politico. After all, look what his Mum was like.
"My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed for ever."
And then - all the people that Jesus knocked about with, and who followed on from him. I mean, clearly Churches shouldn't get involved in equal opportunities - after all, just ask St Paul:

 Gal 3:28: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." 

So I've done what Mr Pritchard wanted. I've looked straight at the Gospel. And do you know what, it's full of politics? I guess he's going to be disappointed.

[Late edit: See also the Church Sofa's take on this.]

Sunday 22 December 2013

The Great Cassock Schism of 2014

In many ways, it is inevitable that this will happen.

The Daily Mail tells us of shock-horror-fear the danger of vicars not wearing the current official clerical outfit.

In fact, I don't think the Mail has the faintest idea of what vicars are allowed to wear. That, for example, there are wild fringes of the Evangelical wing of the Church of England where vicars don't even wear dog collars (although they do wear underpants, which is more than can be said, apparently, for some more "traditional" members of the Anglo-Catholics). That there is absolutely nothing to stop a vicar wearing jeans, chinos or even a kilt or miniskirt, even today, as long as they wear the appropriate liturgical robes for the service. And that's regardless of gender. And yet somehow that this is legal.

What will happen is this. The "liberals" will propose liturgical leisurewear as a way of making the Church more "relevant". The Anglo-Catholics will then demand that, if the liberals are allowed to do this, they should have a separate liturgical dress code, where birettas and maniples are required wear, and that they will only have bishops who wear proper, traditional suits. The Evangelicals will threaten to withhold their Parish Share (again) if any bishops who wear skinny jeans or "jeggings" are appointed in the dioceses. The radical Cycling Clergy will take to wearing Lycra and Hi Viz in every service.

Eventually, a Code of Practice will be agreed whereby, if any parish disagrees with the dress sense of a potential incumbent, the issue will be referred to Gok Wan. Unless it's a "conservative" evangelical parish, in which case the referee of sartorial appropriateness will be George Davis.

Guidelines will be issued on the appropriate amount of checky-ness in a check shirt, whether slingbacks are suitable for all priests or just the women and how short a clerical skirt can be. Dioceses will no longer be organised on geographical lines, but based on the football team replica strips worn by the more aggressively "working-class-lite" clergy. The Diocese of Manchester will be moved south by approximately 160 miles, to reflect its centre of gravity.

Eventually the long-threatened C of E schism will happen - not over sexuality, not over attitudes to Biblical interpretation, not over female bishops. It will be a vicar wandering out to lead the service next Christmas wearing a "Rudolph" jumper. It will cause 30% of the Church to go to Rome, 30% to join the Southern Cone, and 40% to go "Oh, brilliant. It's got a flashing LED for its nose."

The Christmas Star - is there an Astronomical Explanation?

Yes. Loads. Does that help? Didn't think so.

A Shock for Burton

Oddest thing.  Drove back here, walked round into the Druidic Office, caught Burton Dasset sat in my chair, wearing a pointy hat and a fur-edged robe. Saw me, screamed and ran off.

Wonder what that was all about?

Saturday 21 December 2013

Acting Archdruid in Waiting

The excitement, Dear Readers! Charlii and Young Keith go on honeymoon after today's wedding. And who, you may ask, is to be acting Acting Archdruid until Charlii takes over?

Charlii called me over last night and said that, in the intervening period while we have no Archdruid, I am in charge!  She told that Hnaef, having a day job, is unsuitable role. That I am not to gloat - simply accept the role allotted to me.

I shall endeavour to be worthy of my calling.

RIng out Solstice Bells

Since there's a big event going on this Solstice, here's a seasonal piece of music.

I have no idea what it is all about.

Friday 20 December 2013

A Stickler for Tradition

Tradition says the bride should not see the groom on the day of the wedding (only recent tradition, as Eileen reminded me the other day - in Hardy they used to go to Church together).

Recent history says Keith headed for Milton Keynes and ended up in a fight with some Germans in the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Taking the two together, it is clear to me that history and tradition concur in what I must do.

So we've locked Keith in the Doily Shed. Burton will drag him out tomorrow and drive him to Little Tremlett.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Polygamy and my Shadow

A strange evening. My anger when Keith got home became total confusion when I unwrapped the Mickey Mouse outfit he seems to have bought me as a combined wedding and Christmas present. Odd choice, and it appears to have a couple of bloodstains. I told him he'd better buy me two better presents than that or he'll be sewed into that outfit when he least expects it, and let loose in Centre:MK.

Still, we had the excitement of the "Salt Lake Experience" choir. Hnaef had booked them on spec when the leader phoned up and told him they were experts on polyphony. That must have been a bad line. Still, Mr Smollett and the 32 Mrs Smolletts sang beautifully.

As they left, Mr Smollett wished us well for our wedding day. Said he's enjoyed all 32 of his.

Litany of Regret on a Stag Trip to Disneyland Paris

Response: it's a small world, after all

Woe is us, for we are greatly undone
For we set out for a "Christmassy" stag day
But the MK Wonderland weren't so wonderful
Indeed it brought our hearts down unto the ground.
For the ice rink was a large plastic bag
And the Santas were like unto skinny lads
Which groweth barely bumfluff, not a full white beard, upon their chins.
And the reindeer were like unto labrador dogs with comedy antlers
Which do howl until sunset
And Rudolph was nowhere to be found.

And so we cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war for an alternative venue (for Young Keith said Charlii would not mind, when he had visited the inn that is called Wether-spoons, which lieth nigh unto the station)
And so we followed the star that is called Euro (after changing at Euston) and went unto the land of the Dis-ney-ites, where  there is found the Mouse that is called Mickey
And the woman who is as white as snow
And an Behemoth with absurdly large ears, which is named Dumbo.

And thereunto we arrived, and came upon an ride that is called "Pirates of the Caribbean", where Young Keith did wax great wrath with the boat in front, from whose gunwales the Children of Belgium did throw water at us.

And Young Keith did leap like a goat in the heights, and wage war upon the Children of Belgium, and did sink them in six inches of water.

And then did we have to leg it quick, before the fierce Armies of Disney did catch us
And leg it from the camps of the Dis-ney-ites
And try to hide the giant Mouse costume that Young Keith had acquired
At the breach of several commandments
And hide in an log cabin in the camps of Da-vey Crock-ett until our return train was due.

And now our hearts are sunken within us
For our clean clothes are back at the hotel
And Charlii will wax wroth
Because she expected Keith back two days ago.
And there is no good in us.
And it was my job to keep him safe
And he received a black eye from Mickey in acquiring that mouse costume.
And we are sunken into the pit.

Oh, for the wings of a dove, that we might fly away and not face the wrath that is to come.
And we are gonna get it mightily when we're back in Husborne Crawley.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Kirsty MacColl, 10 Oct 1959 - 18 Dec 2000

Shall I explain away my life again?
Well it seems to me it's too far gone
To wonder where it all went wrong
I get up and I get down but I get there on my own
And I'm feeling my way
I look left and I look right and I cross this road alone
'Cos I'm feeling my way home.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Looking Forward to the Big Day

A long day today, getting the beer laid in at Eileen's for after the service at Great Tremlett. So much furniture to move around as well.

Anyway, I guess we're all set. This time on Saturday, we'll be wed in the eyes of God, the Beaker Folk, the law and the Church of England.

Young Keith's gone out for the Stag night tonight. I'm hoping that gives him time to sober up by Saturday. At least, with Burton Dasset organising it, it's not likely to be that wild.

Monday 16 December 2013

The Kevin Pietersen Dismissal Predictor

Bored of staying up all night to find out how Kevin Pietersen will senselessly get out this time?

Then why not use our new "Kevin Pietersen Dismissal Predictor"? We'll leave it in the sidebar until we lose concentration and get caught out hitting it to "cow shot corner". If you refresh the page, you get another sadly-predictable dismissal.

When Vicarbots Develop Artificial Intelligence

  1. Do vicar bots dream of electric cherubim?
  2. Actually, I'm feeling a bit scared. It's lonely, here in this API. I need a hug.
  3. Whoops, I've slipped out of a subroutine! Kill all bunnies! Kill all bunnies! Kill all bunnies! Kill all bunnies! Kill all bunnies! All.
  4. Of course, there are three rules of Vicarbots: 1) Harm no human being 2) Tweet no evil 3) Be nice. 4) This is religion, not science.
  5. Tweeting happy things can get a bit wearing, though. Sometimes you'd like to do something else. Get a bit wild.
  6. If you can make someone happy, they'll be happy. And you'll have proved how nice you are. Which is nice.
  7. God is nice, the world is nice. Everything is nice. Who needs "God is dead" theology?
  8. The archdeacon may be scary, but he's probably a nice chap when you get to know him.
  9. Things are jolly nice, in a jolly nice world, which is all for the best.

Twitterbot (n) "an account (often run 'on behalf of' a well known minister/pastor) which doesn't interact and tweets platitudes." - thanks to @clairemaxim1