Monday 31 August 2020

Festival of Tin Hattery

Well, what a strange bank holiday weekend it's been. In the absence of Greenbelt or the Notting Hill Carnival, what was there to do but watch T20 cricket?

We realised the best way to respond to this changing world was to start our new "Alternative Truths Centre".  It sounds better than "Conspiracy Theories Symposium" but has much the same effect. And we can house them in very small shared rooms in the Stable Block, as they don't believe they're at risk. 

This weekend we've been encouraging the conspiracy theorists seekers after alternative truths to indulge in group hugging sessions. It's a win-win. They get to feel like they're showing the World Government of Newts that they're not fooled. And we get to test our latest scientific theories around gullibility, entitlement, and of course the infective rate of Covid-19 among foolish people. Which I'm going to be writing up into my seminal paper "Impact of Gullibilty on the Spread of Covid-19", and publishing without peer review on Facebook.

But today being the bank holiday Monday itself, we've been holding our special one-day Festival of Tin Hattery. Every one of our gullible victims radical free-thinkers has been issued with a special Beaker tin hat. Proven to ward off 5G, 4G, the thoughts of Janet Daley of the Telegraph and acid rain. Which isn't a thing. We put a kettle out in the rain and it hasn't dissolved at all. Acid rain, it turns out, is scientifically proven to be just an MSM hoax.

So this evening's events...

At 7pm we've got the famous actor, Gilles de Tonkington-Tonkington, telling us about the discoveries he's made about immune responses against Covid-19 in goldfish infected with swim bladder disease. And moaning that he never gets any jobs because he's white and posh.

8pm it will be Toby Young and James Dellingpole, telling us how being posh white males have held them back in life.

9pm it's a West Ham fan, with his slide show of war memorials he's accidentally urinated next to while protecting them.

10pm is a special Conspiracy Banquet containing only foods that definitely have no GM, non-organic, gluten-derived or 5G enabled ingredients. Basically, it's apples from the Beaker orchard. 

Midnight and we've got Nigel Farage's Immigrant Hunt. Where we get  random racists running round the woods looking for unfortunate people who have been conned into thinking they can build a better life over here. What they don't realise is, we've actually got a team of trained badgers out there who hate racists. And you can't reason with them. That's the thing with badgers. They're very black and white.  

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Thursday 27 August 2020

The Mysterious Height of Boris Johnson

A curious anomaly. 

Back in 2014, the Western Independent blog did some investigations into the Body Mass Index of then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. And based on assorted sources concluded he was 5'9" tall. And it has to be said, on a wide reading of sources, I would conclude he was indeed between 5'8" and 5'9".

Boris Johnson some other people and a bus
"Ideal for throwing the heads of civil service departments under"

Imagine my surprise then, when reading a Telegraph article (now suddenly behind firewall) on our chubby PM, to discover the claim that he is 5'10"

Now I know that Mr Johnson doesn't do much work. So maybe from a lot of lying down he has gained some height? It's a scientific fact that people shrink while standing up but then grow slightly when sleeping or hanging from a zip wire. But a whole inch in his mid-50s seems a tad unusual. So there are two possibilities. Either the Telegraph or Mr Johnson has decided to nudge his height up, or..... he has been regraded by an algorithm.

Investigations have now revealed that this is exactly what has happened. A review of heights by school attended have now shown the following, "normalised", heights for politicians and famous people.

Famous PersonSchool AttendedNew height
Boris Johnson
AdeleThe Brit School
Richard OsmanWarden Park, Cuckfield
David Cameron
Theresa May
St. Juliana's Convent School for Girls6'9"
Peter Crouch      
Drayton Manor School
Priti Patel
Watford Grammar School    
Davina McCall    
St Catherine's School, Bramley

As a result of this discovery, the Government has already made a U-Turn. The chair of the body that supervises celebrity heights and weights, OfScale, has resigned. And Gavin Williamson has now said in future all celebrities will be 6'6". 

After a tweet by @lizzi60t

Boris Bus - Used under Wikimedia Commons. Created by Snowmanradio.

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Tuesday 18 August 2020

Overhead Protectionist

Unfortunate typo. I was hoping to recruit a new overhead projectionist, as our old one Gnarlsley, who was always tech-obsessed, has joined a totally virtual congregation and doesn't want to attend in bodily form. Obviously, the ability to meet together via assorted conferencing and social media platforms is an immensely good thing. It enables people whose mobility and ability to get out are restricted to take a full part in the life of the church, and also means I don't have to worry about the Moot meeting up in the White Horse before meetings to hatch plots. On the other hand, while I know Gnarlsley's plan to upload himself to the Cloud is in a way what we all ultimately want, it doesn't help when I need the latest Rend Collective up on the Moot House wall.

So I advertised for a replacement. But instead of a "projectionist", I accidentally asked for a "protectionist". And Grizmella actually had the gig before I realised what I'd done.

She's been in the Moot House moving the tea lights stand backwards and forwards to try and find the right place. Thrown out our "Beaker Common Prayer New Extended Standard Forever" edition and replaced them with some 35 year old copies of "The Wee Worship Book" from the Iona Community. I did get her to do the job I thought I'd hired her for, but she insisted on putting the laptop and data projector back into the Cupboard of Oblivion and replacing them with the old steam-powered OHP and acetates. So the first song tomorrow is going to be "We have come into this house and gathered in his name to worship him". A self-defeating song that I thought I'd got rid of 30 years ago.

And now she's up in the West Gallery (when did we get one of those?) insisting that we put back the old Quire and get rid of the organ that Hnaef so surreptitiously installed over Lockdown. He was really looking forward to playing that complex, dramatic modern organ music. But Grizmella says he needs to stop Messiaen' about.

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Saturday 15 August 2020

Praise Him on the Shiny Mandolin

We're busy digesting the latest advice from the Government on safe, Covid Secure worship, especially as it might relate to the Beaker Worship Group. Obviously, given this Government, the results from a different focus group will be in by tea time and all the advice will change. So for reference if that happens, and this no longer makes sense in the context of the Government website, we're particularly concerned about the following paragraph:

Led devotions

  • Small groups of professional or non-professional singers will be able to sing in front of worshippers both outdoors and indoors from 15 August. Singing in groups should be limited to a small set group of people and should not include audience participation
  • There should be no group singing by worshippers. Places of worship should take account of the Performing Arts guidance.
  • Where music plays a big part in worship, and recordings are available, we suggest you consider using these as an alternative to live singing.
  • Any instrument played during worship should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.
Now, obviously we want to take it seriously. So we've been thinking. There's no definition of how big a "small" group of singers is. I mean, I sang in the Albert Hall once or twice with the massed choirs of Bedfordshire and to paraphrase Michael Caine: "Altos. Farsands of 'em." So would 48 be a small group? If so, given there is no definition of how big the congregation should be, we could nominate everyone except Burton Dasset and Young Keith as the choir, with a congregation of two. And given what those two sing like, frankly we wouldn't really want audience participation.

But that may take a while to sort out. There's probably a register somewhere. Or you've got to scan a QR code in Nando's to set it all up. So in the meantime we thought we'd go with an invited singing group. But then we hit a snag. 

You have a group of singers. But there should be no group singing by worshippers. You see the catch? If the singers are singing, they're fine. But if they should accidentally cross the line into worshipping, they have to stop. And given most church quires include at least one or two people who believe in God, it won't work.

So we've invited a local atheist singing group, the Christopher Hitchens Singers, to lead us tomorrow. Obviously, we still have an issue. Firstly, because if we choose some decent Charles Wesley songs, they might realise the emptiness of their pointless lives, find out that there is a God that loves them, get accidentally converted, and then they'd be worshipping and have to stop. So whatever happens, we must not convert any choir members. That would be a disaster. Secondly, what happens if they're singing some really decent worship song and a member of the congregation joins in? Against the rules, is congregational (or as the Government puts it, "audience") participation.

So they've got a very strict playlist to stick to for tomorrow:
  • God is Dead (Nietzsche) 
  • I'm too sexy for my Books (Dawkins)
  • Imagine (Lennon)
  • PZ Lover (Myers)
If that doesn't kill any joy in the Beaker congregation and stop them singing, I don't know what will.

Our other issue is around the advice to clean instruments "thoroughly before and after". And obviously this makes sense. Goodness knows what havoc has been wreaked in the past  by dirty harmonicas. But it's harder to clean some instruments thoroughly than others. Cymbals just need a bit of Mr Sheen front and back and they're sorted. Whereas you can polish up the bell of a brass instrument, but how do you thoroughly clean the insides? We've been using vats of home-made sterilizing gel. But not all worshipping communities have a Chemistry graduate on the team, and it would cost them a fortune. And even as it is, all the lacquer has come off Grinwald's euphonium. Or that's what Mrs Grinwald tells us.

And then what about the pipe organ that we discovered Hnaef had surreptitiously installed during Lockdown? He has high hopes of performing "Livre d'Orgue" in place of congregational worship. Though I worry it's needlessly Messiaenic. But how does one thoroughly clean a pipe organ? After all, some Covid 19 virus could easily have floated down a pipe and then be blasted back out during some major chord.

We've gone for training woodland creatures to crawl through the pipes with sponges strapped to them. It gives them something productive to do rather than faffing around on Aspley Heath all day, and we get a thoroughly cleaned organ. So very much a win-win.  We use shrews for the highest-pitched pipes, through voles and rabbits to badgers for the really big ones. You've got to be careful with dormice, though. They tend to fall asleep on the job. We had two went missing last Wednesday, and it was only when Hnaef cranked up the old Trumpet Voluntary that we found out where they were.

It's murder cleaning mice off the Moot House ceiling, I can tell you. And as a result the RSPCA have heard about how we're cleaning the organ. And they say they're gonna put a stop to it.

Meanwhile, Banjelika has been asking how she's supposed to clean her mandolin. It's tricky thoroughly cleaning all 8 of those fiddly strings without taking them all out and putting them back. And what about the inside? So I've dipped it in a pail of Lysol solution for 24 hours. On the down side the instrument has become unglued and unplayable. But on the up side, for the rest of us, that ain't a down side.

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Friday 14 August 2020

St Kirstie of Property Values

It's a mixed morning in Husborne Crawley. The earth still damp from yesterday's storms renders a coolness in the air. From my Archdruidical Study, I look across at the Socially Distanced Garden, where individual 2m square areas of decking enable Beaker Folk to enjoy the scent of wild herbs and garlic in safety. It's not a herb garden as such, but we had Piri Piri last night in the Refectory and it kinda lingers.

I see Burton Dasset on his personal staircase, resplendent in his checked pseudo-silk accountancy systems developer's kimono, enjoying his beans on toast and dishwater-weak tea before the rain returns. Before The Event, at this time he would have been on the train into London from Flitwick, trying to read his phone while some assistant merchandiser at Arcadia had her elbow jammed in his ear. But no more. Burton's employers have noted that he and his colleagues were just as productive at home, and terminated their lease on their office in an iconic office development in Clerkenwell. And Burton is now working from home forever. A situation that suits him, as you can see, even if I live in fear that at many moment a stray gust of wind around the kimono might reveal sights no middle-aged archdruid should see.

St Kirstie Allsop, patron saint of property values, isn't very pleased with Burton's new life. Like the Government, she thinks it's important he gets out and puts himself at risk of Covid 19. Unlike the chancellor, however, this is not because she thinks he needs to eat at 2 for 1 in 'Spoons and keep Pret going, so their employees and profits can be taxed - in lieu of taxing the companies owned by members of the Government and their friends, who so wisely keep they money offshore, but we pass over that for a moment.

No, St Kirstie's tweet (a week or so ago, but I've been busy) is concerned that:

Which instantly puts St Kirstie into the same realm as Telegraph columnists who, safe from their ancestral piles in Norfolk, Somerset or wherever, want to impose something else on the people who traditionally drag themselves out of bed at stupid o'clock, and squash themselves into a tin can to go London.

Old bloke with tea pot and breakfast table
Burton hears accountancy calling

And she's right. The wages in many places abroad are lower.

But do you know what? They were lower before the novel coronavirus, or as people are calling it, "Trump Flu", came along. People already knew that. Burton's employers certainly do. They keep him around for his knowledge of a far-ancient tongue called "COBOL" which no young IT graduate in India apparently wants to learn. And his ability to remember obscure accountancy laws that only apply in Hemel Hempstead which no-one from Bengaluru is likely to be aware of. But all his colleagues have long since gone off to try and eke out their remaining careers as contract project managers, while all the funky jobs in Java and Ubuntu and I don't know what have departede to India, Poland and the Czech Republic. 

If anything, working from home for Burton, in the declining quarter of his career, is an act of mercy. And yes, it's tough on the people in the coffee shops of Islington and Moorgate, and the tenants of pubs in Soho and Dalston. But if you were going to build a working model of a country, would you really make the livelihoods of a million people in service industries dependent on them servicing the needs of another million people who every day travel an hour in each direction in contagious air, crammed against their fellow human beings like members of the Bullingdon Club having a "how many brain cells can we fit in a phone box" competition?

The only salvation I can see really for not sending high-tech and desk-based jobs abroad is Brexit. OK, we may have to live on beans on toast. If we can afford the beans or toaster. But at least, once the sheer horrors of No-Deal or even a "barebones agreement" are faced, the pound should drop so much that we can offshore jobs over here.

But for Burton, for now, he's safe from virus, resplendent in his kimono, ready to do a full day's work, saving a fortune in sandwich shops and Tesco Metro, and soaking wet. Because the rain's kicked in. I wonder what mysterious person locked the Great House door?

* "Burton" is played here by Brian Murphy as seen in Last of the Summer Wine, "Will the Genuine Racer Please Stand Up". BBC.

Thursday 13 August 2020

Grade Inflation is a Disaster

In one of those pieces they presumably hope only true believers read, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is in the Telegraph. We should not amend exam grades, he says, as if people got higher results than they deserved they might be over-promoted and fail in future life.

His Prime Minister would probably never have got to Oxford if he hadn't had loaded parents who put him through Eton. This PM is running a country despite a career that consisted of writing articles that were racist, homophobic or simply untrue - with a sideshow of hanging from a zip wire, buying illegal water cannons and inventing an irrelevant and useless bus.

We have 65 thousand excess deaths in six months. The worst fall in GDP in the developed world. The biggest fall in the economy in history. A shambles of a communications strategy. And at the height of that, a laser-like focus on hunting down a few hundred desperate people who launch themselves across the world's busiest sea lanes in dinghies in the hope of better lives.

You know, Gavin Williamson might have a point.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Traditional Artisan Beaker Chutney Recipe

It's that time of year again, even in a year as weird as this. It's the warm weeks after Trinity. The cherry tomatoes are hanging red on the vine, the early apples have come in crops greater than anyone could feasibly eat. And people are asking me "do you have any traditional, folky recipes for this time of the year? The sort of chutney the Beaker Folk would have made, 3,000 years ago, while recovering from Summer Solstice and wondering what to eat with roast pork at the big YuleFest?

And I say of course. This is precisely the sort of summer-made chutney the Beaker Folk would make ready to eat with their annual hog roast. High in brown sugar, rich in tomatoes and robust enough in cider vinegar to make the journey from anywhere in Great Britain to Stonehenge, to add a bit of a kick to the midwinter revels.


  • 2 kg Discovery or Katja apples (or some other apples), red as a setting sun and sweet as lovers' first kisses
  • 1 kg tomatoes. Ripened on the vine in the Neolithic sun, washed by the soft rain of the early Bronze age, picked by Beaker maidens and crushed by hand. These aren't just any tomatoes. These are Beaker Folk tomatoes.
  • 350g (about 17 pebbles) of soft brown sugar, grown in the Amesbury sugar fields
  • 8 red chillis, ripened on the vine etc etc
  • Pinch of artisan salt, panned from the Doggerland seas. Or just table salt will do.
  • Minced garlic - about a teaspoon
  • 500ml (about 18 fl oz) of cider vinegar


  1. Prick the sun-ripened, rain-washed tomatoes individually and put in boiling water for two minutes. Ideally the water will have been boiled in authentic beakers on large stones removed from the camp fire. But failing that, just use a bowl and some hot water from the kettle.
  2. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, scalding your fingers, and reflecting you should have used a couple of forks or something.
  3. Add the sugar in the cider and stir till dissolved. Use hot rocks and beakers or a large saucepan according to availability.
  4. Chop the chillis and tomatoes. Peel, core and chop the apples.
  5. Add everything to the mix and boil for a couple of hours until it's starting to burn.
  6. Ladle into one small jar.
  7. Wonder what on earth happened to the concept of "conservation of mass".

Small half-filled salsa jar

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Wednesday 5 August 2020

Not Going into a Church for Private Prayer

Had a slightly sad experience today.

Out in the country, walking Arthur Smith, the Beaker hound. We got Arthur Smith a while back, when designer cross-breeds were very trendy. And he's an Alsatian/German Shepherd cross.

We were following the footpath through a church I visited years ago. On the front gate was a sign telling me that they were now open for services on Sunday mornings. On the south wall, a sign telling me it was closed till further notice. And the door was open. 

As I say, I'd not visited this church for a few years, so I was happy to see the door was open. I popped my head round the door. There were two people there on "watching private prayer" duty. Both fully masked. So I stayed there on the porch and chatted across to them.

I asked if they'd been there all afternoon. Yes. I asked if they had had any visitors. No. I asked what the point was them sitting there all afternoon, if they had no visitors. And wouldn't it be better to just leave the church open and leave people to follow their own common sense. And they said, no - they were there to make sure they knew where to clean, after their non-existent visitors had been for private prayer and left.

Now I don't know about you. But I don't like going into a church for private prayer, while being watched by two people. Feels less private, somehow. And I was only popping in from curiosity.  And they were of an age when they were both venerable and, likely, vulnerable. So I wasn't going to enter the church while they were there, in case I was unknowingly infected, and passed it on to them. 

But I asked them the question again before I left. Given that by being in the building to watch it, they were exposing themselves to risk of infection, what was the point of them being there? And they told me you can't be too careful. And what would be the alternative - locking the church up?

So I left them. I didn't rest awhile on the bench in the churchyard (which was not sealed off and, according to the logic used in the church, was a potentially contaminated surface which nobody was watching or cleaning). Instead I opened the gate that leads from the churchyard out into the field next door, where the footpath leads. I opened it with my hand so had to remember not to touch my face (since there were no masked guardians of the gate either), and sanitised when I returned to my car.

And I know they're doing what they think is for the best, and I know guidance has been terribly muddled. But I do think it's a shame two people gave up their afternoons to sit in masks, in an empty church, to put off the one visitor the church had in in all that time. I do think it's a shame that, due to their and my different perceptions of the concepts of "risk" and "private prayer", they were right - they might as well leave the church locked. And I'm not saying my view is right (though I think it probably is), but I'm just a little saddened that we're in this situation.

Please note for Sunday's worship in the Moot House, all Beaker People are now expected to sit in their bubbles, in the hastily-erected Georgian box pews we have "borrowed" from another church. I don't think they're planning to re-open for a while, so with any luck we can get them back before anyone notices. 

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