Saturday 31 October 2020

Halloween in the Reformed Tradition

I'm really looking forward to this year's combined Samhain/Reformation Day activities. What we call "Halloween in the Reformed Tradition". So this evening all the little children will be going round the Community wearing Martin Luther masks and telling each other that sweets are bad for you. And offering people the choice of "trick or thesis"?

They're gonna have such a great time going round, splitting into smaller groups every time they have a disagreement. Complaining about persecution while simultaneously rooting out witches and Catholics.

Of course, in this Community we do not suffer a witch to suffer. Instead I rescue them from the grips of the teeny engineers and give them a small allowance to live in the Haunted Mansion. This former dower house is actually incredibly warm, cosy and free of infestations of the supernatural. But they make me quite a living knitting woollen spiders for the Beaker Bazaar. And oddly enough, most of them work in marketing.

The Catholics we set free into the wild, having tagged them so we know if they turn up again.

Meanwhile the Punkies are coming on well. We have the traditional pumpkin ones, all the way down to the little middle class ones carved out of ghost chillies and garlic cloves.

Please note that due to inclement weather, the burning of the Wicker Man will take place indoors. Please bring your breathing equipment. Which is now mandated for all indoor Beaker worship in any case.

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Thursday 29 October 2020

Rock on in Peace: Rock on to Glory. RIP Bobby Ball

The Beaker Folk may twang their braces

Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.

Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.

Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.
Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.
Hnaef: I'm unfamiliar with this Northern Working Class humour. Is that all he did?

Archdruid: Hnaef, Hnaef, Hnaef. O deprived posh boy. This is all that is necessary. But let me tell you that Bobby Ball will now be the Patron Saint of Preachers' Nightmare Dreams. I refer you to the Chronicles of Last of the Summer Wine 22:7. In which Bobby plays "Lenny from the Pickle Factory" and Tommy Cannon plays "Man in the Boat". Lenny is convinced that he is receiving messages from Above. The news spreads. A crowd gathers to hear his prophecies.... 

...and nothing comes. Lenny's "voice" has left him in the lurch. 
At 4am in a preacher's mind, this scenario plays over and over again. And so we remember Bobby today. Mourn the passing of a Northern legend. And pray to avoid the fate of Lenny from the Pickle Factory.

Hnaef: OK. Then... Rock on Tommy!

Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.

Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.

Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Tommy.
Archdruid: Rock on, 

All: Bobby.

Archdruid: Rock on in peace.

All: Rock on to glory.

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Wednesday 28 October 2020

Liturgically Appropriate Resting Places for Church Creatures

There has been a certain amount of animation - some positive, some negative, as ever - over the little ceremony for the interment of the earthly remains of Doorkins, the Southwark Cathedral cat.

Cats are among many creatures that can be associated with churches. And the problem naturally arises - where is the appropriate place to bury our dumb chums? I know the tradition is to quietly smuggle their ashes into the funeral caskets of their human companions when they follows them over the Rainbow Bridge. But church animals are sometimes effectively ownerless - they may be wildlife, or stray livestock - or the owner doesn't want to end up lugging suitacases full of animal ashes around the place.

Looks like a lion's head on a gravestone (it isn't really)


So here is your guide to the appropriate places to stash the ash of our former furry (or feathery or scaly) friends.

AnimalEternal resting place
RabbitEaster Garden
CrocodileSouth aisle
Church MouseGod's House
GnusUnder the yews
SwallowIn a hollow
Squirrelled away
Buried deep            

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The Delusional World of Julia Hartley-Brewer

As yesterday's alarming figures for deaths from Covid in the UK sank in, it was Julia Hartley-Brewer, the Katie Hopkins for the Waitrose shopper, who summed up exactly what the last nine months have been all about.
There's some really weird stuff going on in that tweet. Obviously, there's the lack of consideration for the deaths of many people. The UK is now averaging over 200 deaths per day being announced - ahead of the supposedly apocalyptic warning of the Chief Scientific Adviser, who said this might be what we faced by mid-November.

There's the blame-shifting. If a lockdown happens, Julia Hartley -Brewer is implying that it's not because the government isn't managing things properly. It's not the Establishment that is at fault. It's because a poorly-defined "you" wanted it. The implication is that the "you" involved aren't Julia's loyal followers. This is some disembodied group of people - presumably Remainers, Progressives and Liberals, who - far from being "owned" are able to impose the lockdown that they wanted to causing people to die.

Then there's the inability to understand motive and balance. Attitudes to Covid-19 are on a spectrum. At one end are people who think it's a hoax, or caused by 5G, or no worse than flu. At the other end are people who a are genuinely terrified for their lives and haven't been out of the house since March. Who routinely spray everything that enters their house, and wash their hands every thirty seconds. Everybody else is somewhere in between. And according to how you prioritise public safety against public liberty, you will conclude there is a right course of action whether lockdowns, or mask wearing, or being James Delingpole. All these options are available to you. But to Julia HB, it's more polarised: you either agree with her, or you're a snowflake who really likes everybody being locked down.

Then there's the magical thinking. If this is the lockdown "you" had been hoping for - then clearly a load of people dying is caused by "your" wish for a lockdown. Julia HB's causality works differently to everyone else's. If we wanted to stay out of lockdown, according to this logic, we should have acted as if lockdown was not a possibility. We should have just gone along with the Hartley-Brewer magic-based attitude to science.

The thinking can be seen all the way through this epidemic. When it started, Boris Johnson told us we in the UK would resist it like Superman.  Which it didn't, because it's a disease and not Lex Luthor. In the same speech he also told everyone the UK didn't need to worry about a Brexit no-deal and we already had an oven-ready one. Ah, how times change.

As the disease started across the world, it was no worse than flu and we just had to sing "Happy Birthday" while washing our hands. Sunetra Gupta told us we already had large degrees of herd immunity. Daniel Hannan told us Sweden was just fine. Then as we got it under control for the first time, the cries went up that the reopening was too slow. That mental health was suffering - which it was, but it's a balance, again. 

Then as the autumn came in and cases rose, it was due to increased testing. As they rose further, it was false positives - as there was no increase in deaths. Then as deaths rose it was people dying "with" the disease, not "of" it. Currently it's the claim that there are currently no UK excess deaths. But there's never a reflection that, if all the people who died in Spring of Covid were really as sick already as the deniers claimed, there should have been a massive fall in excess deaths in the late summer. Which never happened. No reflection that it's a bit odd all those people died "with" the disease when people weren't normally dying in those numbers.

And now Sunetra Gupta tells us that herd immunity is the way to go - a turn round from the spring, when she told us we were already largely immune. And the deniers leap on that, although there is no evidence that the immunity lasts. At every stage, actual events are denied with pseudoscience and wishful thinking.

And now, the climax of wishful thinking. People are dying because "you" wanted a lockdown. Well Julia Hartley-Brewer must hope you're ashamed of yourself, whoever "you" are. You brought the disease back through your lockdown obsession.

Beaker Folk, we know what works with diseases. Separation, hygiene, properly tested drugs (untested drugs might work but you'd have to be lucky and get the right one) and vaccines. And we know what doesn't work. Wishful thinking, blind faith and libertarianism. 

In Jeremiah 28,  there  is a confrontation between Jeremiah and the prophet Hananiah. Hananiah tells the king that God's going to wipe out the Babylonians and it's all easy street. Jeremy's message is that the Babylonians are gonna win, and the best thing to do is mitigate that. 

You don't need to be Jeremiah to know which prophet Julia Hartley-Brewer and her friends are. People, be more Jeremiah.

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Monday 26 October 2020

How to Feed your Family for 50p a Day

There's been a lot of nonsense talked about how to feed children. Many going on about the need for free school meals to be extended into the holidays. As if it's expensive.

But with a bit of imagination, a bit of work and some careful scrimping, you can feed your family for 50p a day. I've managed to make it work for the Beaker Folk and I can let you have the method below. This recipe is for Beaker Artisanal Wood-Fired Pizza. And it's no secret - this is how you do it... 

Feeds 50 Beaker Folk

  • Pizza bases: £25
  • Tomatoes: Free from the Beaker greenhouses
  • Mushrooms: Free from the mushroom cellar
  • Cheese: Artisanal Beaker Cheese made from the Beaker herd
  • Fuel: Beaker Charcoal hand-charred from wood from the Beaker Forest. 
  • Olive Oil (extra-virgin) - hanging around in the herb cupboard
  • Herbs - see Olive Oil
Obviously, this is just the adults. We've put in an order for KFC for the Little Pebbles.

Why can't everybody else be as ingenious as us?

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Sunday 25 October 2020

The Christmas Truce: 2020

The Bishop of Paisley has called for a "ceasefire" of Covid restrictions for 24 hours at Christmas Day.

  "A 24-hour lifting of restrictions on gatherings and celebrations, a break in the war on Covid, just like the pause in the First World War on the Western Front in 1914, when the British and German troops laid down their guns and met in no man's land to celebrate Christmas."

There was a breathless hush in the ward as the sound of immune responses fell quiet. The hospital staff ceased from their  battle and listened.

On the breeze they heard a reedy music. Gradually it drew nearer and louder. It was "Silent Night" sang in the Covid language.

Scrabbling beneath a bed, a trainee nurse pulled out a football and kicked it over into No Man's Land. The viruses drew up in a 4-4-3 formation.  And for the first time in 12 months, as that game of football was played out along the hospital corridor, there was peace between viruses and humankind.

As Christmas Day drew to an end, the nurses and doctors, cleaners and porters and caterers went back to their jobs. As snow fell outside, they could hear a virusy rendering of "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" and the letting-off of virusy party poppers.

 Before New Years Day, the rate of infection had risen and an increased number of deaths was already on its way for mid-January.

Because viruses don't do truces. And they don't know about Christmas. And they don't respect British national myths of exceptionalism. They've never even heard of World War One. They're just viruses. They do what they do.

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Tuesday 20 October 2020

Anne Wetherspoons is Disapproving

The leader of the Disapproving Beaker Folk, Anne Wetherspoons, has been to see me - socially disapproving, of course - to have a bit of a disapprove.

Anne doesn't approve of the same-gender dancing we saw at the Strictly Liturgical Dancing event yesterday. She doesn't like us calling it same-gender instead of us calling it same-sex. She also doesn't want us calling it same-sex dancing, as she doesn't really like us using the word "sex".

She basically thinks that this kind of dancing is immoral, lascivious, prone to sin and a moral danger to the young. 

And I'm not saying she's wrong. 

But it's still only Morris Dancing. 

Morris dancing. Good old Morris.

Thursday 15 October 2020

50 Reasons Why the Church of England is Declining

Church with no roof
This church is always open
I  always say there's no such thing as church decline. Only negative growth. That
way it just sounds like a natural variation, rather than a freefall. And the Church of England does it as well. Redefines things to sound better, I mean. Not decline. Though yes, also decline. So they go with"Statistics for Mission". Or, to put it another way, "Statistics for how badly mission is going." And of course, with the Church of England, the term gives everyone the chance to start to argue about what they mean by "mission". In a very real sense.

And so, with the turning of the years, the Church of England Statistics for Mission are in and David Keen at Opinionated Vicar has the annual job of  telling us how bad they are. But why?

I mean, not the right answers. Which answers can you give that reassure yourself that it's all somebody else's fault?

Here's the Beaker List of Reasons why the Church of England is Declining. Normally I'd knock up a bit of Javascript or do a Bingo Card. But I can't be bothered. So instead... feel free to choose your own. Then find someone else on Twitter who thinks it's another one. And let Armageddon commence.

Sunday 11 October 2020

Towards a Beaker Future

I've heard there's a lot of rumours around the place about the new initiative "Towards a Beaker Future". Well, there's no conspiracy. We just noticed that, taking a leaf from the Dom Cummings "Move fast and break stuff forever because we're rich and entitled and it won't hurt us" agenda, the good old C of E has been having a bash and why not us? Because let's face it there's nothing like a good pandemic to let you reorganise anything you like - including Public Health provision apparently - and if it doesn't work we can blame the virus

So the "Towards a Beaker Future" initiative will be changing everything, in lots of ways, all at once, and for no apparent reason. I'm not saying nothing will be worse. Or indeed better. But it will be different. Unless the normal human tendency to put everything back where it was cuts in and we come up with lots of radical-sounding stuff and nothing really changes.

Anyway. Enough of the blurb. Here's what you were all waiting for... the Powerpoint slide.

Lots of meaningless shapes, icons and pictures with words like "envision" and "governance". The bottom up group is led by the leadership. You know the kind of thing

Good old C of E ©The Church Mouse

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The Complete A to Z of Modern Heresies

Much excitement as the Bishop of Reading manages a short sermon on the Care of Creation which has been accused of heresy - either pantheism (the belief that the divine is the universe) or panentheism (the belief that the divine is the universe, and a bit more besides). For myself, I think she just went for a striking image and missed. I'd always blame poor communication over heresy. Just look at the Charge of the Light Brigade. That wasn't heresy caused that. But in these strange times, what other heresies can we expect among the plagues and the strange men who claim to be able to cure the plague with their own cleverness? Here's the modern A to Z of heresy.

AntandecianismBeing prepared to forgive what you would otherwise think was unforgivable, because the person is famous.
AryanismThinking God's image is more white than black.
BorisismLike Antinomianism, but only for one bloke and his mates.
CollieridianismObsession with posting pictures of your dog on Facebook
DoggietismLike Collieridianism, but with other, lesser breeds
MacedoineianismGiving posh French-sounding names to normal English food like mixed veg or fruit salad
ManicheesismThe belief that having the best selection of cheeses on your cheeseboard marks out your spiritual superiority
MonarchianismReading the Royalty columns of the Daily Express and hating Meghan Markle 
MonotellyismNot having a TV in every room, and expecting all the family to gather round for Coronation Street
Pantenetheism*Idolatory of a worship leader with good hair
PassivaggresivismWell, you would say I'm a heretic. (see also: Whataboutism)
PastypassurianismObsession with eating at Greggs, with resultant suffering
PricillaismBelieving heaven can be achieved if you watch enough feel-good films
PantenetheismIdolatory of a worship leader with good hair
PantheismIdolatory of celebrity chefs
Hemi-Demi-Semi-PelagianismAdmitting the possibility of a very slight active involvement of the human will in salvation, but only if you're a really good musician.
WhataboutismI heard your sermon last week and you didn't really understand the historical context of Nehemiah so why are you picking on my heresy?
ZoomoastrianismBelief that online worship isn't "real" worship as real worship has to be embodied (by people with fully-functioning bodies) in a real building.

* with thanks to Rachel, who inspired this thread with "Pantenetheism" beyond which all other heresies are as merely human imaginings.

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Friday 9 October 2020

St Kirsty's Eve

In honour of St Kirsty we are dancing the Mambo de la Luna this evening. There's no moon just yet but Mars is burning red overhead, so it'll do while we kick around waiting for moonrise.

Unfortunately, we will be unable to find "a bar that stays open all night", in accordance with the sacred lyrics of "Until the Night". Boris Johnson said they all had to close five minutes ago. This is also bad news for anyone planning to see in Christmas with the Boys of the NYPD Choir. Even if the NYPD Choir existed. Which it doesn't.

So we mark the 61st anniversary of St Kirst's birth. And wonder what vitriol she would have poured on ageing lotharios and fading lovers in these titanic days. We will never know. We do know what pretty girls do. They grow older just like everbody else. Though not this one.

 Somewhere Terry is doing his Marlon Brando act. Another useless bloke is claiming he's Elvis, and tomorrow a Big Boy on a Saturday Night will be feeling a bit rubbish cos the pubs are chucking out early.

 God bless you, Kirsty. Somewhere there's sun on the water.

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Nativity of John Lennon

A reminder to all Beaker Folk on this the anniversary of the birth of John Lennon.

Anyone heard singing or whistling "Imagine" will be subject to an on-the-spot fine of £200.

This will be doubled for each subsequent event, until the number of digits in the fine are more even than the sands on the seashore. 

Happy birthday, John. I hope you discovered that there wasn't only sky above us.  But I'm still not forgiving you for that terrible song.

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Thursday 8 October 2020

End of Season Sale

It's been, if nothing else, a good summer for sitting in the garden. So Young Keith was really pleased to snap up some last minute bargains we can use next summer for what I am sure will be another socially-distanced worship season. And we've been looking forward to receiving our bulk buy of cut price rattan garden furniture.

Shame he can't check the descriptions.

Anyone want to buy a lorry load of rotten garden furniture?

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Tuesday 6 October 2020

The Miraculous Healing of Trump

On the third day after he had gone into hospital (or, as Dr Conley put it, after 72 hours), after he had miraculously recovered from the illness that had laid him low, Trump appeared to his believers in a motorcade. And he declared to them, "Behold for I have conquered the flu! You need not fear, little ones. Apart from the few that are unfortunately no longer with us. And they have passed beyond fear."

And the well-meaning people that did not believe in Trump asked themselves, "What can we say? Or what are we to think? We didn't wish death upon him. But we do kind of wish he'd been ill a bit longer. Not ill ill. Just - you know - enough to set an example to his followers." Then they felt bad about their thoughts and went off to think hard about their true feelings for a few weeks.

And the wise said to them, "if 200,000 dying has not convinced them, will one old man staying in hospital longer cause them to repent?"

 And those that hated Trump said to themselves, "The drugs are messing with his brain. Behold he labours to breathe. Was not Herod eaten by worms? He'll be back in before you know it."

 And his believers said to themselves , "What miracles have been wrought among us? For he was as dead to us - we thought he was a loser. And yet he has won bigly! He was like unto us - except with the best medical treatment in the world. Truly it is a miracle." And they cast of their masks. But some died, as the plague still spread among the 'Mericans.

And so the people of 'Merica were troubled among themselves. But Trump took in a deep breath, and felt the pain in his ribs, and hoped it came off. Not the mask, the risk.

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Sunday 4 October 2020

"Fearlessly, But With Common Sense"

The Prime Minister has announced that the British public should react to the ongoing Covid epidemic by behaving "fearlessly, but with common sense". An expression that ranks alongside a classic line from another comedy adulterer, in Last of the Summer Wine. Where Howard and Marina are discussing the state of their affair. Howard wants to tell the whole world about it - apart from Pearl, his wife. Marina wants him to throw caution to the wind. Howard agrees that he would love to throw caution to the wind. But carefully.
And in this mood of cautious heroism, so it is that the authors of the New Tory Bible have new paraphrases to introduce. 

Joshua 1:9 - "Act fearlessly, but with common sense."

Acts 4:31 - "They were all filled with the Spirit and spoke fearlessly, but with common sense."

2 For 3:12 - "Therefore since we have such great hope, we speak fearlessly but with common sense."

Prov 28:1 - "The foolish flee with no cause. But the wise are fearless, but with common sense."

 So the Beaker Band, already a bit shaken after Laurence Fox materialised to them in the night and told them how downtrodden he is, have had to rewrite today's children's song - "Be bold, with common sense, for the Lord your God is with you."

 Now the thing is, Johnson kind of has a point. For many people, fear of this virus is not quite the right word. Caution is. Common sense, I believe, is not the right words ever to use. As someone cleverer than me may once have said, the trouble is that common sense isn't all that common, and it's not always sense. There are people alive in this country who grew up at a time when measles parties were regarded as common sense. In the virology and epidemiology of a new virus, common sense is most useful for accepting that when the science changes - as it does - we need to accept it. At the moment, scientific evidence is swaying from contact as a form of transfer to the belief that it's predominantly aerosol and droplet transmission. Well, as St Paul nearly said, let us not give up washing our hands. Because common sense tells us that the science can change again.

But let's carefully consider what we mean when we say a shop, workplace or place of worship is "Covid secure". We don't mean it's 100% safe. We mean the risk is mitigated. And that's fine - we mitigate risk when we put a lightning conductor on the tower, or say you can't go in a building on your own, or wear a seat belt while driving to church, or look both ways when crossing the road. Mitigating risk is what we do instinctively all the time. But we're not very good at understanding the residual risks after those mitigations. And that's why some people are, despite it all, not fearless about this virus. Whereas others are completely so. Each in the belief that it's the others that are wrong.

The problem with fearlessness is that it can look a lot like recklessness. Fear is a handy thing when confronted with a lightning storm when you're outside in flat countryside. It's a natural reaction to a deadly disease. Whereas if you're so fearless you shake hands with people in Covid wards, or meet hundreds of people that are neither distancing nor mask-wearing during a pandemic, that's generally a bad idea. That kind of fearlessness is also uncharitable, as you are also putting other people at harm.
So let us be neither fearful nor reckless, lacking in sense nor under the impression that common sense is all it takes. As St Matt of Lucas said, let us bake in tents. But do not bake in a tent. It all makes sense. Keep calm and carry on, now.

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Saturday 3 October 2020

Fox Populi

Our newest breakaway group, the Vox Laurentians, are getting on my  nerves now.

Half past 10 and from the potting shed, aka the Shrine of St Laurence the Martyr, I can hear the mournful sound of white middle aged men playin' the blues. Lots of songs about how, due to a world that didn't care, they had to become chartered accountants and derivatives traders. Songs about how they're not allowed a voice, and nobody's listening. Well, apparently they do have a voice and nobody really wants to listen. Because that ain't really the blues.

In an attempt to deal with this blight, I'm pleased to announce we're moving the location and format of tomorrow's Pickled Onion Competition. Back last autumn everyone made the strongest-tasting, firiest, spiciest, most chilli-infused pickling vinegars they could, and used the most perfectly sized of pickling onions and shallots. We were going to judge it outside in the Orchard, for social distancing purposes, in groups of six at a time.

But now we are changing this to the Ceremony of the Tasting of the Holy Onion. Each competitor, together with a judge, will proceed to the Laurentian Shrine with three pickled onions. They will enter the shed, and eat two. Bowing to the statue of Young Laurence, they will then utter the mystic salutation, "that shallot". They will then eat the last onion, and leave.

If that doesn't winkle them out, I don't know what will.

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The Chapel of St Laurence Fox

It's been a stressy week. Caused even more by the splinter group of Beaker Folk who have now decided to worship Laurence Fox as a saint.

They wanted his image - pierced, St Sebastian-like, by the arrows of snowflakes - to go up in the side chapel of the Moot House. This was of course an impossible demand. Firstly, there was no way a picture of a naked Laurence Fox with metaphorical snow-arrows piercing his lily-tender skin was going in the Moot House. Secondly, the Moot House doesn't have any side chapels. It's round. It has always been round. Through every incarnation of the Moot House, no matter how many have blown up or been dropped into black holes, the Moot House has always been round. Its roundness shows the democratic nature of the Beaker Folk, with no official end where all the important people sit. We have to have a raised dais with the Archdruidical Throne on it instead.

And there was no way Drayton Parslow would let them put it in St Bogwulf's Chapel. Even St Bogwulf doesn't get a statue in therre with that bunch of iconoclasts.

So they've created the shrine of St Laurence the Martyr in the old potting shed. His statue stands resplendent on a pile of old copies of the Spectator and Telegraph. On his right hand is a representation of Toby Young claiming that it's hard to be posh. To this chapel people go to lament the death of white privilege, and wail that it is impossible these days for a posh white bloke like Toby Young, Laurence Fox, James Dalrimple or Boris Johnson to get their voices heard. 

To the side of the potting shed - I mean shrine - has been erected a lean-to containing a statue of Julia Hartley Brewer. Nobody ever goes in there. I reckon it may mean something, but I don't know what.

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