Monday 27 December 2021

Christmas and Easter - A Proposed Revision

It's been the worst-case Christmas this year from a church service perspective. Same every time Christmas Day falls on a Saturday. You go from Advent on Friday morning to crib service / Christingle/ other crowd-pleaser at 4 pm. To Midnight Mass at 11.30. To Christmas morning on Saturday. And then suddenly it's Christmas 1 on Sunday and clergy and lay ministers and stewards and wardens and elders are dragging themselves back into Church while everyone else votes themselves Sunday off because it's Boxing Day.

There is a simple solution to this.

Move Christmas Day to the nearest Sunday to 25th December.

Then after Sunday/Christmas Day, everyone can have Boxing Day off. Except those really dedicated traddies who like marking the very important feasts that follow Christmas. Clergy and preachers can enjoy a drink without worrying that they have another service in the morning and doing a Dibley.

The Sunday after Christmas will always be the Feast of the Holy Name.

Epiphany will then always be a fortnight later than Christmas Day. On the Sunday. To avoid more clashes. This will give us 14 days of Christmas. So that's not bad.

It also means that you don't have that weird liturgical timing issue like this week, where Jesus is born in a manger, gets lost in Jerusalem, and is then praised by the Wise Men.

But what of Easter, I hear you cry. Well, I propose similar. Fix Good Friday as the nearest to 25 March. This means that the link of 9 months before Christmas is always kept, reflecting the old tradition that the Annunciation and the Crucifixion were the same day. This would mean that they do in fact coincide in our calendar every 7 years, giving us the chance to use John Donne's most poignant poem more often. 

Aha, you say. But then Easter Sunday will be the day the clocks go forward in the UK, six years out of seven. What about those people that attend 6 am Easter vigils? They're doomed to very early rising nearly all the time. 

To which my response is threefold. First of all, move the UK permanently to GMT and be done with this ridiculous rigmarole. Are we children that we have to lie to ourselves about what time it is?

Secondly, if you really think you need to move the clocks - do it on the first Sunday of April instead. What difference would that make?

But thirdly - the sort of people that like to get up for a 6 am service are just the sorts of people that would like to get up for effectively a 5 am one even more. The sleep deprivation is even greater, the dawn experience even more mystical. So they'll be happy.

Outside the world of Church, there are other advantages. With Christmas and Easter the same distance apart every year, retailers will be able to have consistent promotional campaigns and supply chain plans. Thus making planning simpler and thereby giving us happier and more efficient retailers.

So - a revised Christmas and Easter that will keep everyone happy. I commend it to Christendom.

With thanks to this tweet from @FrPsiChi for the inspiration.

Sunday 26 December 2021

Last Sunday of the Year

 Last Sunday of the year.

The really determined have one more Sunday service to go. 

The really sensible have been asleep for an hour or two this afternoon.

20 months of risk assessments, Government advice, Government not-advice, Government information and mis-information. Earnest scientists, vaccine conspiracy theorists and lockdown obsessives.

The people who don't want to leave the house, and the ones that think it's all nothing.

Whoever you are - stewards, wardens, ministers, choristers, organists, Methodists, Catholics or Pentecostals, pew-sitters or Bible-bashers - in God's strength you've done your best. Without being virologists, epidemiologists, biochemists, or bioethicists - you've done your best.

Don't count the numbers. Of course they'll be down. Don't count the Facebook views - they don't count for much. Don't look back two years. Nobody was terrified then. You can't compare anything to anything. 

So don't judge yourself. You've done your best.

You may need to mourn. You my not have done that when you really should have. That's OK.

Give it a few days till you buckle up. We go again in the New Year. 

But meantime, take it easy. You've done your best.

And it's the last Sunday of the year.

Friday 24 December 2021

The LFT Before Christmas

LFT before Christmas and all through the manse 
Not a person was moving. All were in a trance. 
The minister's hands quivered over the kit 
and watched it. And watched. And scrutinised it.
The red control line showed up valid and clear 
and the minister knew that the truth would appear 
And mamma in worry looked over his head 
For fear that another line would show up red. 
For how could they cope with a positive line? 
They needed a void - an invisible sign 
that nothing had lurked up the minister's nose 
to lock him inside as the Yuletide cheer rose. 
For what would they do, at this late Christmas hour 
should the minister fall 'neath the Omicron power? 
Replacements were  few in the villages round
As the positives piled up like snow on the ground.
Christingle, the Crib Service, Songs 'neath the tree
Were now all at risk from this cursed LFT
And Midnight, and Morning, and Boxing Day too
would go out the window if this didn't come through.

So they watched and they waited, till minutes passed by
and they knew it was safe, and gave out a great sigh.
And the minister said, as he turned out the light
in the bathroom, "at least we are safe Christmas night."

Thursday 23 December 2021

Glimpses of Angels

Got the Archdruidical mid-Yule day off. Took the chance to get out to where I feel most connected to the wild, a two-hour journey out to where the Fens meet the sea.

Little plug, by the way. The Rising Sun at Gedney Drove End. They only have one real ale on (Abbot Ale) but Burton Dasset tells me it was beautifully kept. Looked after by lovely people. If you're anywhere near that (unlikely, I know, but you could be going from Nottingham to Kings Lynn or something) then well worth popping in.

So anyway. Just my kind of day. Not actually raining, but slightly misty. You couldn't see the sea from the sea-bank. The flag was down at RAF Holbeach, so you knew you wouldn't accidentally be blown to pieces. And I, who prefer the times of dying light and gloom at tea time, felt that sense of Northern European satisfaction that, though things may seem peaceful and dull, Ragnarok is coming. 

There's a brooding presence out there. The skies are, of course, huge. Even when they just hang there, gray. The sea - behind the mist and beyond the marsh - can be sensed rather than heard or seen.

All in all, a time and place to reflect on things. 

And out there, you reflect on those Old English saints, Guthlac and Botolph. Famed for taming the marshes, and thereby taking away the powers of the ignis fatuus or "Wills of the Wisp". So famed as exorcists. The ones who tamed the rogue lights.

And that ancient presence - hanging in the sky and the skies and the gloom and the silence - can we give it a name? People have tried enough. Lit fires. Put up stones. Shaken their fists at the sky. 

In a manger in Bethlehem, a young woman lays her son. The most ordinary thing of all. Down the ages, billions of mothers will take care of billions of children.  The light in that child's eyes shines with the light of the start of the universe. Outside, some scruffy shepherds have seen the glory of heaven. In here are just the glimpses of angels. The wide-eyed cherubim that saw the bang of the Big Bang are bowing down as they realise that God has done something they could never imagine - second-born as they are, and first-born in time. The Logos - the Word that holds all time and space in place - has become a point in time and space.

And the hopes and fears of all the years meet here tonight. Where the flickers from the fire give warmth to the mother and her careful, proud, still-worrying husband. And the one that first nudged the comets into their orbit lays there, so still, flickering in the firelight that throws shadows where they can see glimpses of angels.

And we, in twenty-first century England, whether in fenny wastes or the sulfur glow of cities. Whether chasing deals or wondering where the next fiver will come from. Tear yourself away from your phone or laptop or tablet (after reading this post, of course). Clear your head in the cool air. Look out at the dark or the light or whatever your house, flat or alternative accommodation is bathed in.  Look. 

Maybe in the shadows. Maybe in the face of someone you help. A homeless person or a foodbank client or someone you can't stand, but tolerate because that's what you are meant to do.

You may see glimpses of angels.

Toby Young Did PPE

Toby Young in full-on bullish mode in the Daily Mail. 

"At Long Last Boris Johnson has placed his faith in the British people, not in the Cassandras in lab coats".

It doesn't seem to have occurred to Toby that scientists don't only produce models of epidemics, they also produce vaccines. 

Toby did PPE. He didn't do life sciences.

In fact, the sorts of people that model epidemics don't need to wear lab coats for the most part, as they use computers to do the modelling. 

Toby Young did PPE. He didn't do computer science. He probably thinks that people programming computers wear lab coats.

Toby has previously told us that the epidemic would fizzle out. The virus would disappear into thin air. He doesn't seem to remember that his previous forecast was useless, and potentially dangerous.

Toby Young did PPE. He didn't do history.

And of course - the comparison with Cassandra is awesome. The whole point about the prophecies of doom that Cassandra came out with is that she was right. Troy was doomed. She was ignored by the Toby Youngs of Troy because they preferred good news stories.

Toby Young did PPE. He didn't do Classics.

I feel we have reached the point where we have to ask - apart from being supremely pleased with himself, what is the point of Toby Young? Like wasps, he appears to have no good function to fulfil on earth.

Actually, wasps kill all sorts of bugs that damage crops. But Toby Young did PPE. He didn't do zoology. So he won't know that.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

The Ghost of Solstice Past

Quite a let-down, the grayness of the Solstice sunrise. Still, at least to ensure greater accessibility, our stream of "Great Solstices of the Past" was brilliant. To be honest, we may not bother with actually watching the sunrise in years to come. We have enough "in the can" to last us years. And the rate Marston Vale is being built up, I worry we may have to watch the real sunrise over a distribution centre in future.

Still, being the Winter Solstice, at least it wasn't too early. I'll be honest, I was suffering after a sleepless night. Wracking my brain over all those good reasons we need to give for why the Druidic Synod meeting on 20th June 2020 lasted until 4 am, and ended with Young Keith serenading the Community with "Knees Up Mother Brown". 

So, re last June: 

  • It was a standard meeting. All appropriate safeguards were in place.
  • We always drink at Synod meetings. It is a deeply Beaker tradition that we bless each agenda point with a hearty "wassail", a cup of good mead, and a jug of good ale.
  • We were 6 feet apart, in the Rose Garden, at all times. Apart from Stacey and Brunwild, who photographs have revealed had what we could best describe as a developing social support bubble. Funny how we didn't notice them grappling on the chamomile lawn at the time. I suppose that's because we were all engaging so deeply with our discussions.
  • All summer solstice Druidic Synods go on till 4 am. That's so we can watch the sun rise. Which is the official closing point of all solsticial Druidic Synods. And is work, not worship. Because we are being paid to be druids. A bit like C of E priests, maybe. And worship was banned at the time. So of course we weren't worshipping. We were working.
  • It was an essential meeting.  We had to discuss what mitigating actions we could take to ensure distancing in the worship that definitely wasn't happening.
Now we just have to resolve the ongoing problems with Herne the Hunter and the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. They're really grumpy at turning up to solstices where no worship is happening. What is the point, they ask, of them being all ancient and mystical if we're all in bed or still holding - ahem - meetings? Hardly in keeping with their essential eeriness.

And I wouldn't disagree. But Herne and Piper are getting on a bit for deities these days. So they're living in a nice little house in Furzton, Milton Keynes instead of wisping around in a preternatural kind of way. Are we going to be that in awe of a couple of demigods who live in a nice little 3-bed semi with a view of the lake? Especially now Herne has a WFH job in logistics planning?

These days have done strange things to us. 

Saturday 18 December 2021

Herod Antipas Announces A New Enquiry

Press release... Galilee, 38AD

There has been a lot of interest in the alleged party that definitely didn't happen in my palaces, at which I didn't get drunk and nobody did a striptease or anything like that.
And in particular there have been allegations that I was implicated in the death of St John the Baptist.

In the light of interest in the fate of the "People's Prophet", in particular stirred up by the gutter press such as St Luke, St Mark, and other members of the so-called "Good Book Project", I am therefore instigating an investigation into what definitely didn't happen.

To this effect I am appointing my step daughter Salome to head up the investigation. As the wife of my cousin, I can guarantee she'll come to the right conclusion.

Herod A. 

St Kirsty's Day (18 Dec 2000)

On this St Kirsty's Day we remember, in the light of recent events, what her view of Boris Johnson might have been. 

And, to that effect, we offer you the tantalising possibility that somehow the song "Freeworld" may have been prophetic of his particular "Titanic Days":

I thought of you when they closed down the school
And the hospital too
Did they think that you were better?
They were wrong
You had so many friends
They all left you in the end
‘Cause they couldn’t take the patter

Rest in peace Kirsty. We'll see you when the clans rise again.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Praise the Zorb - A Guide to Worship in a Time of Omicron

A lot of people asking how we're gonna change our rules for worship now Omicron is here.

Now I'm not one to need to show we take things seriously by rushing out to make changes- quite often irrelevant and performative changes - every time Government advice changes. And we already have everyone in airtight Zorbs for worship so we're going way beyond Government regulations. 

Quite a thing, airtight Zorbs. If the service lasts more than 30 minutes everyone has to leave to get re-gassed.

Anyway, as I say. I'm not going to make cosmetic changes just to look like we're doing something.

So from this Wednesday can all Beaker Folk please wear the new T-shirts that read "Careful Now". They're conveniently colour-coded according to vaccine status: Red for no jabs, yellow for one, amber for two and green for boosters.

Anti-vaxxers get special T-shirts with an image of St Sebastian on them. Since they strangely seem to think they're the victims in all this.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

The 2020 Druids' Christmas Party That Definitely Didn't Happen

 A lot of Beaker Folk have been asking me why, at a time when we had locked them in their rooms and they had to get their food by leaning out the window while Burton Dasset threw cans of lemonade and croissants at them, there was a Druidic party last Christmas.

I would like to reassure all Beaker Folk of the following:

  1. None of the Archdruidical Executive was there.
  2. At the Druidic Party that didn't happen.
  3. Even if we were there, it was socially distanced.
  4. And we were wearing masks.
  5. Except during the snogging.
  6. Which of course didn't happen.
  7. Because we weren't there.
  8. And the mistletoe was just a decoration.
  9. For the party that didn't happen.
  10. Which we weren't at.
  11. And the tins of Camden IHL that filled up all the recycling bills the following day were just the ones I'd been saving up to claim the deposit for 25 years, until someone pointed out there wasn't a deposit so I thought that day was a good one to get rid of them.
  12. The cancellation of all the Zoom worship sessions the day following the party which didn't happen was because all the Camden IHL cans interfered with the WiFi, not because all the druids had hangovers.
  13. Which we didn't have, because we were very careful how much we drank.
  14. At the party which didn't happen.
  15. Even though it could have as we had all worked closely together since March. 

I hope this makes it clear.

Sunday 5 December 2021

A Voice in the Wilderness - and a Wilderness for a Voice (Luke 3:1-6)

 We of course associate St John as being the voice in the wilderness. When he's asked who he is, he denies being the Messiah, or the "Prophet" promised by Moses, or Elijah returned to earth. He's just the voice in the wilderness.

But he's not the first messenger in the wilderness, even in this passage. Having set John so precisely with so many rulers and high priests - having ensured we know this is happening in the real world of history, not in timeless myth - Luke then tells us that the word of God came to John in the wilderness. The first voice in the wilderness here was not John, crying out - it was the still small voice of God, which speaks through earthquake, wind and fire.

In our tidy minds, used to efficient and mechanical agriculture, maybe the wilderness - the desert or deserted place - has negative connotations. It's no use for ploughing, it kind of doesn't belong to anyone, it's not productive. The Bible told the Hebrews not to harvest or glean to the very edges of fields, but to leave them for the poor to glean. In the Fenlands of England, the response of course was to make the fields so huge they barely have edges let along corners. With our attitude to agriculture, how could we ever imagine a wilderness, a deserted place, a place un-owned and un-tilled and - as we would see it - un-cared for?

And yet the wilderness is the place where the prophets met with God. Where Israel became a nation and learned its laws. Where Elijah ran for sanctuary and where he and John heard God's word and where Hagar was comforted. 

The most wild - as in deserted and weird - places I know in England are the Wash coast in Lincolnshire, and the Bristol Channel coast in Somerset. Both places where you can get far from other people. Both places which tell us of the fragility of life - the fossils tumbling from the rocks of Somerset, the Nene outfall at Sutton Bridge, so artificially created, so hemmed in with the banks that humans have made, so defiantly threatening to turn the fields of sugar beet back into saltmarsh when the day comes. For me they're places of great creativity - the cry of birds, the beauty of sea and sky and the shifting borders between sea, sky, and land. They're places to wonder, and to fear slightly, and to hear how great God is.

And I wonder, in these dark days of Covid, whether the old churches of our scared and tired land, are called to be wilderness to our times. Places that nobody quite owns. Places that, in the terms of the 21st century, are unprofitable wastes of space. Neutral zones where people can come with all their fears and hopes and all the things they have unexpressed.  Places that contain awe; where the living confront the truth of our coming death; where in stillness and quiet we can hear in the wilderness the word of the Lord. Telling us that the way shall be prepared in our hearts for the Lord, and all flesh together shall see God's glory and salvation.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Litany of the Futility of Leaf-blowers

Woe am I for my lawn is covered in leaves

Behold the leaves of the ash are scattered freely across the greensward.

An offence that causes my heart to sink in distress

and a sight to cause my spirit to weep.

Tell it not in Wimbledon, whose manicured lawns are of old

or in Anfield, where St Virgil strides its field with a grace like unto the gazelle.

And so I said in my heart, I will get a leaf-blower

and then there will be no more leaves on my lawn

for they will be scatted unto the four winds

and go where nobody can find them.

But behold as soon as my lawn is clear of leaves

the four winds bring them all back.

And as soon as I bag them up

some more fall off the trees.

And so I sink down in a pile of sycamore keys 

and weep like those that go down to the pit.

Where now are the clear lawns of July?

For what did I put on fertiliser to make it grow

and then use the mower to cut it short again?

Vanity, vanity.

Even the edges that I edged so edgefully

are now blurred in damp leaves.

And my leafblower, of which I was so proud

in whom my hopes were fixed

has failed me

and mocks me in its futility.

To whom should I look for help?

Surely I will cut down all my trees

and put down Astroturf for a lawn.

And my garden shall be tidy, maintenance-free and easy to keep

But maybe just a little bit sterile.

After an idea by Claire Maxim 

Saturday 27 November 2021

The Non-Real Vicars of Holmfirth

Got me wondering, this did. When Justin Welby commented on vicars on TV being fools or rogues, and Bryony Taylor did her piece on the subject on Jeremy Vine.

Now, I don't have the breadth of knowledge that Bryony does on this subject. But I do have one bit of depth - my specialist subject, Magnus, being "vicars in Last of the Summer Wine, 1973-2010".

Now, there's a lot of vicars in Summer Wine. Partly I suppose because there's a lot of funerals (they're old blokes, whose mates keep dying), and a fair number of weddings. But, intriguingly, as far as I can remember, no baptisms. Roy Clark don't write about Kids.

So.... here we go.... 

1973 "Of Funerals and Fish" Michael Stainton

5* Definite favourite. Stainton's vicar is superbly written and played. With a regional accent - appropriate to the much more "kitchen sink" nature of the early episodes. Witty and pastorally concerned for Clegg, who tells him, "Me bowel's playing up. God moves in mysterious ways." Having a crafty fag before a funeral, he reflects to Clegg: "I'm supposed to be giving them up. But I can hardly be seen trying to live forever." Then he sweeps off in what Clegg calls his "heavenly commissionaire's outfit".  Which is an appropriate one for the occasion - cassock, surplice and black stole. 

Clarke really started with the best.

1976 "Going to Gordon's Wedding"  John Dunbar

3* Posh as you like. Properly vested for a wedding in cassock and white stole. Uses the archetypal vicar words, "Dear me". But in control of the situation, demanding a replacement best man even as the original best man goes off to hospital.

1977 "Green Fingers" - Uncredited

2* Just says "Bless you, my son" in response to Clegg's lie that the old boys are rescuing a wounded chaffinch (they're actually stealing a giant plastic carrot, obviously). Hopefully, given the colour of stole, it's in a festal season.

1977 "Jubilee" John Horsley / Gwyneth Owen

4* First of 2 from Horsley. Posh as only a bloke who's been playing stiff-upper-lip types in war films for 100 years can be. He's trying to put on a good show for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. His wife - Lydia  - haunted by the interminable production of tea and buns - will be replaced for Horsley's next outing by Dilys Hamlett. We don't know whether Lydia died of a surfeit of buns, or a divorce and remarriage happened (unlikely in 1970s  Yorkshire vicar-land) or whether it's meant to be the same Lydia. This Lydia certainly shows great versatility- not just making tea and buns but also driving a tractor.

1978 "Small Tune on a Penny Wassail" John Dunbar

3* Dunbar's Back! This time getting on the wrong end of Foggy's comically mishandled walking stick. No wonder he looks stern. Right colour stole for Christmas. Extra star.

1979  "Deep in the Heart of Yorkshire" - Uncredited

3* Vicar has a great time meeting the old boys who are dressed - in a manner that would now be regarded as dubious - as Native Americans. As well as Big Chief Corporal Singwriter, the tribe includes "Little Gaping Fly".  Extra star for the official "casual vicar" straw hat.

1983  "The Three Astaires " John Horsley / Gwyneth Hamlett

5* The rating is for Hamlett, brilliant as a vicaress on the edge, ranting about tea and buns through the glass of the vicarage door. While Horsley has moved on from Jubilee celebrations to organising the grand show. His nerves are in shreds as he grasps for shreds of "pizazz" while the scenery collapses.

1985 "Woollenmills of Your Mind" Steve Collins

3* Just a tiny cameo here. All the vicar has to do is walk towards the church in a very upright manner, hear Ivy's yell of "exposing his [Crusher's] foreign bodies in a catering establishment," look inquiring and also judgemental, and move on leaving a chastened Ivy. This vicar clearly had moral clout around town. 

1987 "A Short Introduction to Cooper's Rules" Nicholas Smith

4* In a transfer from "Are You Being Served", Smith plays a brilliantly feisty retired priest, who hates going for days out, and survives being kidnapped by the police and locked in a car boot.

1987 "Go with the Flow" Richard Vernon / Ann Way

4* Yet another church putting on a show - "The Tales of Beatrix Potter". This time it's Richard Vernon, who really just wants to be left alone to play with trains - a proper male-vicar stereotype- while Ann Way is his put-upon wife, worried that they've started having "poor people" (Compo and Clegg) delivered. Sharp stuff from Ann Way, pointing out that the vicar's pursuit of Christian perfection is meant to be for himself, not her.

1988 "Dancing Feet" Dennis Mawn

3* A very odd tradition at the church tea. Ever saucer has a raffle ticket attached to the bottom. That's all the vicar has to do, just read out the number - before Compo's wellies start smoking and the vicar goes from jolly master of revels to mild alarm. Gets the third star because in the service beforehand, he's correctly vested - surplice and black scarf.

1989  "Happy Anniversary, Gough and Jessie" James Beattie

3* A very upright vicar. Clearly one of those ESTP ones, as he passes around tea and buns with the best of them, and takes Gough's sudden disappearance in his stride.

1991 "Pole Star" Tony Nelson (wife uncredited)

2* "Probably the most stereotypical of stereotypical vicars, this. Gazing on a tranquil scene, he remarks upon the perfect Englishness of the view. Then tries to avert his wife's gaze as she gawps at Howard and Marina, dressed in deep sea fishing gear, leap into each other's arms.

His wife being uncredited seems a terrible injustice, as her reaction to the fishy frolics unfolding before her, while wordless, speaks volumes.

1992 "Phantom of the Graveyard" Uncredited

2* Very young clergyman looks very baffled after Howard has confused him with Marina.

1995 "Brushes at Dawn" Keith Smith

3* Lots of shouting "chop chop!" and general middle-class pushiness as he tries to - would you believe - put on a show. Again. Do these people ever do any real work? Do they never wander round church to rearrange hymn books randomly, like the vicars of Midsomer? Good to see a vicar in a cassock during the working day though, gaining the extra star.

1998 "The Only Diesel Powered Saxophone in Captivity" Martin Benson

2* Posh, with a slip-in collar.As the vicars are increasingly not in worship-related situations, you can't help but feel their standards are slipping.

2000 "Last Post and Pigeon" Gerard Hayling

3* Being a Summer Wine vicar, he wouldn't be doing anything actually religious or pastoral, would he? Instead he's organising a filmed history of the area - including roping Billy Hardcastle in as a woad-daubed Ancient Briton. But Gerard did well enough to get the gig for more episodes than any other Summer Wine vicar. He's certainly got the inoffensive pluminess off to a T.

2001 "Hey Big Vendor" Gerard Hayling 

3* Does a good job of opening the fete while Wesley's coffee machine makes farting noises. 

2002 "A Musical Passing for a Miserable Muscroft" Sean Robertshaw 

3* Plucky young vicar continues with the interment despite Billy Ingleton's steam organ kicking off halfway through.

2005 "Who's that Mouse in the Poetry Group?" Gerard Hayling  

3* Nice bit of work from the vicar as he assumes that, if Marina is in front of him, Howard is probably hiding in the hedge.


So what, if anything, have we learnt?

All the vicars are white. All but one are pretty middle-class. There is a range of ages. And all are male. Just the type of vicars you would expect from a series that, although it continued till 2010, was always stuck in a world that was suspended somewhere between in the time between the Goons and the Sex Pistols. And while the maleness was written by Roy Clark, I expect the casting decisions were ultimately with the producers.

There are, as far as I can remember, no noncomformist or Catholic ministers in the series at all. Which is odd, as Clegg is formerly chapel. But, in an ecumenical vein, Martin Benson ("Last Diesel-powered Saxophone" was Jewish, and played Fr Spiletto in "The Omen".

None of the ministers seem to be idiots - though Clegg hints that the one in "Green Fingers" is more gullible than Baptist ministers. None of them are rogues. So maybe Justin Welby ought to watch Last of the Summer Wine.

In a very real sense.

All pictures from the BBC Situation Comedy, Last of the Summer Wine. Believed to be fair use as small, low-res screenshot images to illustrate the text.

Friday 26 November 2021

Black Friday Ain't What it Used to Be

You know, I remember the good old Black Fridays when we were kids. Back when I was young, it used to mean something. The ruddy faces of the shoppers, as they recovered from the slaps and ear-pulling in Curry's. The Tamagotchi fights that used to break out. I tell, you there was one year I saw a Cabbage Patch Doll dismembered before my eyes because 4 people grabbed the last one.

And how the little children used to wake up in expectation in the early hours Black Friday morning, clapping their hands in the hope of queuing in the dark until Debenhams opened, and Mum could get that spangly dress she'd been promising herself for the Christmas Do. The one that Mum would return two days after the Do, swearing blind it got the smell of sweat and Bacardi just when she tried it on. And then she would buy it again at 70% off in the Blue Cross at the end of January.

And the stories of the mythical IT Elves. And how they worked all night on Black Friday Eve, anxiously watching their servers for signs of strain, checking the orders were flowing through, sacrificing pigeons to the Most High Yantra, the patron deity of all those that haven't invested in their sales order processing infrastructure lately. Many is the tale of IT Elves, after a ninth pint in the nearest pub to the office, realising the app had crashed on their phone and rushing back to randomly restart services until something worked.

Happy Days.

Whereas today, Black Friday has become so spiritualized. People agonise over whether it's good for our souls, this frenzied pursuit of a few pence off something you may not really want. And it lasts a week - which is good news for the IT Elves, as they now have to spend the week in the pub, checking in case anything has gone down, but the strain has been spread.

The ever-increasing worries about whether we have given our souls for consumerism tend to dampen the fun. And the environmental damage of all those computers supporting such a brief peak, the congestion as all of Amazon's Little Helpers hit the road at the same time, the endless packaging around tiny gifts - it's quite taken all the meaning out of Black Friday.

So this year, I feel we should all consider the real meaning of Black Friday. Then get out and spend, regardless of the consequences.

So Merry Black Friday. And a Happy Cyber-Monday.

Friday 19 November 2021

Can't be Too Careful

Message from Norag.

She says she's still not coming to the Moot House for services, as she's a bit worried about Covid still. She says it's too soon to be feel like you're safe. So better to give it a miss. 

She is still joining on Zoom to the Virtual Pouring-Out-of-Beakers. But she tends to switch off video, and not because she's asleep or actually out the back.  Just because she feels a bit self-conscious. So don't worry about that.

And she watches all the Facebook recordings of sermons. Sometimes a few weeks late. But she always catches up. So don't worry about her. It's fine. She's still alongside us, via the screen, and in her prayers all the time.

And if you do want to catch up with Norag, best bet is Friday at the White Horse between 6 and 11. She's normally there. Or the Brewhouse and Kitchen in Central MK. She likes to get over on a Saturday as they're open till 1am.

So don't worry about Norag. She's fine. She's just not coming to the Moot House for services. For now. Nothing wrong with the Beaker Folk. Just making sure she stays away because of the Virus.

You can't be too careful.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Normal has been Cancelled

Our apologies.

Normal has been cancelled.

We can't go back to normal.

The people that used to do normal are older

most are more tired

some aren't interested in what used to be normal

and some are dead.

So normal isn't normal any more.

We'd like to do you a new normal

but it's too soon

and things aren't normal.

We will let you know when things are normal

and then we'll find out what the new normal is.

But the new normal won't be normal.

Or not the normal you think is normal.

In the meantime, here's something not normal.

It's not normal

but it's the best we can do.

Our apologies.

Normal has been cancelled.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Mask and it Shall be Given

I've received a lot of comments about the pictures of the Great Moot in session. Apparently people were shocked to see that barely anyone was wearing a mask, even though we had 100 Druids from around the country packed into the Moot House.

I would like to reassure everyone who has raised concern that we have implemented faith as an antiviral system. Faith is a tried and trusted system that was used by, for instance, the Flagellants during the Black Death and American protestant missions during the Spanish Flu outbreak.

Yes, it is true that after the event we will be returning to our diverse communities. Where druids will then be going out to meet vulnerable people. But then many people who are at the Great Moot are vulnerable. And so we are caring for those in exactly the same way. 

Some say this might be a super-spreader event. But wasn't the rise of the early church, in a very real sense, a super-spreader event?

But we have faith. Faith in the infallibility of the Lateral Flow Test.

At the end of the day, it's about setting an example. If we don't start behaving like everything is normal, even if it isn't, how are we going to persuade people to return to their local Moot House, and sit next to someone who's been at the Great Moot, and is sure that sore throat is just a bit of acid reflux? 

So have Faith. Everything is normal. Everything is as it should be.

Keep Calm and Go to Church.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Not at All Sleazy

I'd like to thank everyone for attending the Neo-Coenobitic Communities Conference on Climate Change over the last few days. There's been many exciting discussions about the ways in which our more nature-focused, world-affirming attitude to the environment can really show a lead in the challenges ahead of us.

The agreement on recycling at least 10% of all tea light packaging was a real achievement. We burnt some midnight oil, ironically, as we overcame the American delegates' inability to be able to spell "aluminium". But we got there. And our objective to ensure that 50% of all wind turbines be solar powered was warmly approved.

But mostly I would like to emphasise that the Beaker Folk is not a sleazy community. There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that the holding company for the community, Beaker Folk (BVI) Ltd is just a way of dodging tax and giving Young Keith a few weeks of sunny consultancy every year. And I definitely haven't given Deputy Archdruidships  to people just for the amount they have paid into Community funds. 

Just before I chase everyone out with the trusty Slazenger V400, can I assure you all that there is absolutely no reason for anyone to check out whether the Ming vase in the Library is in fact a fake, and the real one was sold off several years ago. 

No reason at all.

I am definitely not apologising for all the things I definitely haven't done wrong. 

Until tomorrow. 

Sunday 7 November 2021

Let's Hear it for Zebedee

 I think, just for once, we should think about Zebedee.

Not exactly a major character in the Bible. But in the Gospels, he's there in the background.

Succesful small-to-medium enterprise businessman, by the look of it. Not only has he got his sons in the business, but he's also got hired men. So trade is brisk at the moment. And, if times get hard, he'll let the hired men go. And he and his sons will pull together to weather the economic storm.

Until today. 

Jesus comes along. Makes James and John not so much an offer they can't refuse as one that Zebedee can't even understand. "Stop catching sardines and start catching people." What on earth does that mean, Zebedee thinks, as the lads jump out the boat and head off after the young prophet.

Still, he's a successful businessman. It seems he has contacts - or contracts - with the people at the Temple. As much later John will use those contacts to slip into the high priest's courtyard during Jesus's show trial.

And in theory he now has two fewer mouths to feed. As the lads are off across the country.

In practice, not so much some, I suspect.

There's a woman mentioned fleetingly in the Gospels named Salome. Not to be confused with Herod's famous stripping step-daughter, who got John the Baptist killed. Salome is there at the crucifixion. She's there when they go to treat Jesus's body with spices on Easter Sunday. And it appears, comparing the accounts of the crucifixion, she's also the mother of James and John. And one of the women who followed Jesus from Galilee, and "ministered" to him.

So the odds are, Zebedee has quietly been funding a fair chunk of Jesus's mission.

And while it's all going down in Jerusalem, there's Zebedee, at the lake, fishing with the hired men. Making money that the family are spending on this Jesus. 

After the Resurrection, there seems to be a bit of a lag during which James and John and Peter decide they might go back and do some fishing.

And you can imagine Zebedee. "You're back then? Is everything normal again now?" 

And after that encounter and the miraculous catch of fish, and Jesus restoring Peter and all the rest of it, James and John are like - nah, not really. And Salome's, you'd never believe what we saw in the garden. Don't see why you should - neither did all the others we told.

And Zebedee, quite likely, will have known the grief of his son's martyrdom - St James was killed by the sword, at the instructions of Herod, in about 44AD. And if he was still alive then, he will have wept to have lost his son, and maybe mourned those simple days when they were just catching fish and sending them off to Jerusalem.

And maybe he will also have rejoiced through his tears that his son was counted worthy to suffer like their Messiah, and known he would see him again at the Resurrection.

So let's hear it for Zebedee. In a world of people who make themselves great by puffing themselves up, pushing themselves forward, trying to make things happen their way - he didn't. He's like someone who privately supports the church, but doesn't want to make a fuss. Someone who knows his gifts, and sticks to them, even though they're not showy and nobody wants to praise him and he doesn't want praise. Someone who quietly carried on fishing for sardines. So his sons could go and catch people for the Kingdom.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

A Beaker Guide to Lucifers

 News in from the States (where else) that a reporter with Newsmax (which else) has claimed Covid vaccines contain luciferase, which she says is being used as trackers. The clue that this is evil being that Lucifer is a name given to the Devil, in the King James version of the Bible. 

"How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!"

 I mean, where to start, really? First up - in the Hebrew the name just means Morning Star. Which we would call Venus. But Latin name means "Light Bearer" - hence lucifer. There's likely all sorts of mythology around this in the Canaanite background.

But that brings us to the chemicals that fireflies etc use to power their glow. Luciferins. Given the same Latin derivation, of light-bearer. 

But luciferins aren't used in the day time. That would be a waste of energy. So to control their glow, they use enzymes called luciferases. Which like all "ase" enzymes actually break down the things they're named after - amylases break down complex carbohydrates into sugars, proteases break down proteins into amino acids and so on. So if luciferases were really in anyway related to Old Nick, they would break him down. Which is a good thing.

It also means that if luciferases were to be used to track you, you'd glow in the dark.

So a quick guide for you:

Lucifer: A name for the Morning Star, boxes of matches, or possibly the Devil. Also more popular than Nigel.

Luciferin: The power source chemicals for a firefly.

Luciferase: Enzymes that oxidise luciferin to create light.

Luciferade: What to make if life gives you Lucifers.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

The King Returns - In Accordance with the Prophecy

 A rather mystical Burton Dasset has just burst into the Beaker Bar, proclaiming "he's back! He's back! The prophecy is true!"

A bit of background. Young Keith had a prophecy in the Moot House earlier that Elvis was going to return to earth, bringing peace and harmony and large hamburgers.

Now Burton's always been a bit of a fan of the King and Rock and Roll. And this news, while unlikely, gave him hope. Within a couple of hours, the Latter-Day Aronites had formed and gathered on the drive to welcome the coming King.

And there he was.

There's some very happy Aronites wandering the Community this evening.

In other news, I'd like to welcome the Elvis Presley Impressionists' association for their 3-day convention. We've renamed the Old Stables as Heartbreak Hotel.

In other other news, Burton just met the seven of them in the corner of the Beaker Bar drinking Blue Hawaii cocktails. Young Keith never mentioned that in the prophecy. You could say Burton's all shook up.

Ceremony of Remembrance for People Whose Relatives Have Unreadable Handwriting

 Archdruid:  And so we remember before the Source of All Being, those who we no longer see but who are beyond the veil:

Mavis Davis

Jefford Clingfilm

Bartram Bagpuss

Morag... is that Morag? Mornay Sauce? No, that can't be right. Morag Smith?

Mornington Crescent

That cannot be Morning Crescent.

Oh.... poor Mornington. 

Rancid Poland.... nah, is that Randolph? Rudolph?

.... And all those people whose names we cannot recognise, and which are known to you alone.


Monday 1 November 2021

All Saints / All Souls / Samhain Clarification

 Look, we try to hold a lot of traditions in balance here at the Beaker Folk. And I'm aware that with the multiplicity of overlapping and mutually enhancing festivals at this time of year, it can be confusing. 

And the "All Saints / Halloween" melange of Occasions yesterday was a bit of a disaster. People dressed up as martyrs getting mixed up with those dressed as pumpkins, witches, vampires and Nadine Dorries. Unless, of course, that was just our local MP dropping by to join in the fun. Still, scariest costume by a mile either way.

So to help everyone out after that here's a quick ready reckoner of this week's dates, and what the weekend should have been:

Sat 30th: Halloween (transferred from Sunday)

Sun 31st: All Saints Sunday

Mon 1st: All Souls' Eve

Tue 2nd (am): All Saints (transferred from Monday, transferred from Sunday)

Tue 2nd (pm): All Souls

Wed 3rd: Halloween (Matinee)

Thu 4th: Samhain (transferred from Sunday due to clash with Halloween, which was held on Saturday)

Fri 5th: Bonfire Night

Sat 6th: 4th Sunday before Advent

Sun 7th: 1st Sunday after Bonfire Night

I hope that sorts everything out.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Boris Johnson Saves Christmas Again

 I was going to write a "Boris Johnson saves Christmas" blog post. 

But then I remembered. I already had.

Gets earlier every year, doesn't it?

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Doing What it Takes to Keep Covid Down

 I'd like to thank all the Beaker Folk for coming here today to hear about what we're doing to keep the rates of Covid down.

And to cut a long story short, we're doing whatever it takes to ensure we don't infect people. And also keep producing doilies, which is a major source of Community funds, through the Beaker (British Virgin Islands) trust. Which has just branched out into viral infection testing.

To that effect, while we think masks are a good idea, we won't be insisting that anyone wears them. Obviously they're shown to reduce the transmission of Covid. And co-incidentally they keep doily lint out of your lungs. But also, wearing them might imply there's a reason to wear them. Which of course there isn't as we're totally back to normal. So please wear a mask to keep yourself safe. While not wearing one, so as to make it quite clear there's nothing to keep yourself safe from.

And while working from home might seem like a good plan, those doilies won't bang the holes out of themselves. And sure, all that doily lint in the lungs might make it seem like you've got Covid. So not much point testing - it's probably lint.

Regarding ventilation - well, doilies are made of paper. Which is notoriously lightweight. So of course we need ventilation. Just not in the doily shed. Where everybody is working. And coughing because of the lint. With all that going on, the last thing we need is any additional draughts.

So I think the message is clear. Keep doing everything as if there's nothing going on. Which of course there must be as otherwise I wouldn't have called this meeting.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Cross Keys Enterprises Announces the Jesus in The Holy LandTour 27-30AD

 St Peter is proud (but not too much, as that would be a sin) to announce the Jesus in the Holy Land Tour, 27-30AD. Although we're not sure what the AD means. Precise dates can be confirmed when he actually turns up.

  • Capernaum
  • Bethany-Across-Jordan
  • Judean Desert
  • Cana
  • Capernaum
  • Jerusalem
  • Judean Countryside
  • Samaria
  • Jerusalem
  • Some hill in Galilee
  • Capernaum
  • Nain
  • Gadarenes
  • Capernaum
  • Nazareth
  • Bethsaida
  • Gennesaret
  • Tyre
  • The Decapolis
  • Magadan
  • Bethsaida
  • Caesarea Philippi
  • Mt Tabor
  • Jerusalem
  • Bethany
  • Ephraim
  • Perea
  • Jericho
  • Jerusalem
  • Bethany
  • Mount of Olives
  • Calvary

Also available the Premium Jesus Experience

For the low price of everything, you can experience Jesus's difficult explanations of parables. Get called "Satan". Be told you will be persecuted and die. And then be persecuted and die. Benefits include:

  • Pre-show bread and wine before this is opened up to the general public
  • The chance to be rejected by your loved ones
  • Selling all you have and giving to the poor
  • Having to love people you don't like
  • Being dragged before your persecutors
  • A place in heaven
  • Souvenir lanyard

Merchandise available

  • One pair of sandals
  • No extra T-shirt
  • 5 loaves and 2 fish
  • Palm leaves



Sunday 17 October 2021

Post-Covid Post-Conference

 We've loved having our pilgrims with us for this first conference post-Covid. According to the Government, at any rate.

Please to allow us time to sanitise everything, can pilgrims ensure they have left their rooms by 7 am. Please drop your bedding into the portable incinerator which we have provided in every room. Please pour all unused shower gel and shampoo into the sink, and then drop the recyclable plastic bottles into the incinerator with your bedding.

DO NOT return to your room. The antiviral fog will be pumped into every room at 7.30. Anybody oversleeping, the best bet is to put your pillow case over your head, run out screaming, and then please drop your pillow into the portable incinerator in the Rollright Lounge.

Please drop your room keys into the Vat of Dissolving in reception. Best to stand back. 

This morning's Pouring Out of Beakers will be held in the Lower Field. You're glad you helped drain it now, aren't you?

Please fill in the online Course Review forms. We don't want any nasty contaminated ones coming back to us for reading on paper.

If you contributed to the cairn in the Orchard, please take your stone home with you. We don't want to touch them, and if we left all the cairns ever built in the Community, we'd be knee deep in flint.

We hope you have enjoyed the training. Have a good journey home. We look forward to lighting tea lights with you again when it's safer. 

Saturday 16 October 2021

"Realistic Church Training Course"

 Well done to everyone on their second day of Estates Ministry yesterday. Especially to Nordrick, who bagged a brace. As if that even means anything. The peasant beating was particularly enjoyed by all devotees of old jokes.

Today's "Realistic Church Training Course" has been seriously changed from our original plan. It was a realisation on our part. All this time the Church has been doing programme after programme about growth - and yet growth did not happen. Mission Action Plans - yet the actions and plans and mission did not produce as much fruit. Alpha upon Alpha upon Alpha - yet decline.

And we thought - should we continue to put on growth-focused strategy training? Or train ministers in what was actually useful? How many plants might be planted and flourish for each church closed?

And so we put our energy elsewhere. You might call it defeatist. Or maybe more efficient.

Starting timeOld courseNew course
8 amBreakfastComplaining about the hierarchy
9 amMorning Prayer
Mourning Prayer 
9.30 amAction plans for growthManaging decline 
11 amChurch planting Church closing 
12 noonLunchStaring into space over your soup
1 pmFree timeDealing with emails from home about the South Aisle falling down
2 pmFree time
Dealing with emails from home about the school's latest Covid stats
3 pmChildren's ministryDealing with dying trees
4 pmMinistry modelsMinster models
5.30 pmEvening Prayer (CW)Evening Prayer (pebbles)
6.30 pmDinnerDinner followed by calling parishioners or they'll want to know why you're not really working
8 pmNight Prayer
9 pmBarHowling at the moon

Thursday 14 October 2021

Estates Ministry Day

It's really great to have our first group of pilgrims in 18 months back for a course. It's been so long.

Today in "Realistic Ministry in Modern Times" we'll be focusing on Estates Ministry.

The programme:

11.30 Arrivals and complaints about the traffic on the M1

12.00 "The Land and the Gentry" - understanding Rural England 

1 pm Lunch

2 pm "The trouble with camels" - how to build a really big needle 

3 pm The Enclosure Act - Still relevant today?

4 pm Blessing of Beagles - For Life or Just for Boxing Day?

5 pm Draining the Lower Field

6 pm Supper

7 pm Monetizing Heritage - a Guide to Inheritance Tax and Charitable Status

8 pm Night Prayer (in the Private Chapel)

9 pm - Midnight Port

Wednesday 13 October 2021

A Celebration of Blitz Spirit

Beaker Folk Gather Under the Stairs

Archdruid: The Spirit of the Blitz be with you.

All: And also with you. 

Hodges: Put that light out!

Archdruid: We celebrate the Brexit deal which means we need to have the Blitz Spirit.

Hodges: Put that light out!

Doris: Dig for Victory!

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Build back, butler.

Butler: Very good, young Mr Rees-Mogg.

Archdruid: It was a brilliant, oven-ready deal.

Lord Frost: Which we were conned into signing by Anna Soubry, Marcel Proust, and Michel Barnier.

Archdruid: Lord Frost did such a great job.

Lord: And also a terrible job. Which wasn't my fault. It was a brilliant deal and an awful one.

Archdruid: So we gather together to celebrate the famous Blitz Spirit. Which carried us through the Second World War and will carry us through the self-inflicted woes of Brexit. Which is going completely to plan.

Norris: It's brilliant. Queues everywhere. I nearly passed out with joy in the Post Office yesterday.

Doris: Dig for Victory! 

Norris: If we start now we'll have beaten Adolf by Christmas.

Charlii: I light a candle to celebrate the Blitz Spirit.

Hodges: Put that light out!


Archdruid: Is that really the Blitz Spirit, Keith?

Keith: Turns out, yes. Along with outbreaks of looting, theft, and murder.

Charlii: I light a candle in this confined darkness.

Hodges: Put that light out!

Doris: Dig for Victory!

Archdruid: The Brits. Plucky, independent people. Not seduced by simple slogans and cheap propaganda.

Hodges: Put that light out!

Doris: Dig for Victory!

Norris: Takes me back to the good old days. 3-day weeks, power cuts. Bodies lying unburied in the streets. No bin collections. Angst and despair.

Archdruid: Aren't you conflating 1973 and 1979 there, Norris?

Norris: No. This was last week in Bedford.

Charlii: I light this candle to the plucky spirit of the Brits.

Archdruid: Who farted?

Burton: Oops.


Beaker Folk are blown out of the cupboard under the stairs

Norris: Now, that's more like the Blitz!

Doris: Dig for Victory!

Sunday 10 October 2021

Nativity of Kirsty MacColl (1959)

An empty bench in Soho Square

Beaker Folk assemble on a mountain top Under the stars, on a big hard rock

Archdruid: In these shoes?

All: I don't think so.

Archdruid: I was 21 years when I wrote this song. I'm 56 now but I won't be for long...

All: Was it that long ago?

Archdruid: Give or take a bit of artistic licence.

All: Wow. What do pretty girls do?

Archdruid: Get older, just like everybody else. 

All: Shame that didn't happen to Kirsty like everybody else.

Archdruid: Would love her here today.

All: Truly these are Titanic Days.

Archdruid: And she'd see Boris for what he is.

All: A Big Boy on a Saturday night.

Archdruid: Spends hours in the mirror

All: Trying to look informally ruffled.

Archdruid: Did you know New England is a suburb of Peterborough?

All: Well, we're certainly not looking for it there then.

Archdruid: So let us console ourselves that Kirsty is an Autumngirl, flying over London

All: All the trees on fire. It looks like home.

Archdruid: You sure the trees aren't actually on fire, as opposed to metaphorically?

All: Ahh.... 

Archdruid: But the sun don’t shine 

All: And the snow don’t snow

Archdruid OK. We gonna cheer this up? We're celebrating  a Nativity, after all. Am I right?

All: Absolutely! And if we don't finish soon it will be Halloween.

They do the Mambo de la Luna off to the Chip Shop

Saturday 9 October 2021

Liturgy of Misty Mellow Autumnal Unfruitfulness

Archdruid: The mellow mist flows fruitfully.

All: The Husborne Brook flows dutifully.

Archdruid: The summer is gone.

All: The plague is officially over.

Archdruid: And yet we are not safe.

Charlii: Little Celestine's brought it back from Little Pebbles.

Archdruid: Then why are you and Keith here?

Keith: We're on the Zoom.

Archdruid: Ah, yes. I forget sometimes what is on-site and what online.
But in the silence of the morning 
My mind becomes confused 
Between the online and the onsite
And the mode that I must choose.

Archdruid: Harken to the sound of falling apples in the Orchard.

All: We must turn them into chutney to feed us during the Great Shortage.

Archdruid: A reading from the Beaker Annals:

During that bloodiest of Blood Months, the Beaker Folk realised there were no pig-killers in the land. For Archdruid Haystax, in a spare moment between cavorting with his many wives, had banished all the butchers back to Scythia.
And the Beaker Folk did lament and built a great burnt offering of pigs to the high god Brexit, who eats his children and yet never gives them any blessing. And there was a famine of crackling in the land.
And the crops rotted in the field because the Beaker Folk knew not how to harvest them. And the true believers in Brexit said, "It is because the young are lazy. And go to Druid School and do degrees in Woad Studies and Nephromancy."
And the young said, it's because we're all too busy working in warehouses. Because you sent all the fork-lift chariot drivers back to Samothrace.
And so the Beaker Folk waxed wrath with one another. And Brexit was never satisfied but destroyed everything. And Haystax counted his children and looked for another wife.
And then the Celts took over.

Archdruid: What a terrifying tale. Thank goodness that sort of thing doesn't happen today.

All: Amen.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Lament in the Queue at a Motorway Services Petrol Station

The time has come when the Lord has sent a famine on the land.
Not a famine of food (apart from the food which rots in the land)
Nor a famine of water (apart from the bottled water in supermarkets)
but a famine of petrol.
The people wander from town to town
and drive very slowly from sea to sea
but there is no petrol to be found
not even a drop.
And we lament the greediness of those 
who fill up with no need
who put jerry cans in their boots
and tell granny to be careful not to spill
the petrol they have poured into the kettle she is holding on her lap
and they'll try not to go too fast over bumps.
For they fill up their cars with no need
panic buying even though there is no panic to be bought.
Like that bloke in front.
Bet he voted for Brexit.
And I bet he goes in to pay without a mask.
Not so us. 
For we need to get to Coventry next Tuesday
and it's best not to take any chances. 
So we thought we'd get out and get a tankful
before the panic-buyers get there.
Swines that they are.
You can't be too careful can you?
But lo the queue is 4 miles long
full of selfish beggars
who have no need for petrol at this time
nor diesel when Grant Shapps said there's plenty of it.
They should have stayed at home
and then there'd have been plenty for everyone.
Especially us.
And so we wait 
like unto Job scraping his sores, we listen to the Best of Wham
which is unaccountably the only CD in the car.
We suck on wine gums and hope 
that when our bodies are found
in six week's time
still in the queue at this services
they'll know we had a real reason to come out for petrol.
We need it.
You can't be too careful.
Can't go taking chances.
We really do need to go Coventry next week.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Lament for the death of Robert Fyfe ("Howard" in Last of the Summer Wine)

The last of the summer's gone
A little chap, all woebegone
Whose bike was always out too long
in search of summer wine.

He raced to find some quiet lane
While Pearl demanded he remain
To clean that dirty window frame
And not sip summer wine.

He never quite got it right
in search of bliss
Marina's hot, but she got
barely a kiss.

So now on this autumn day
the fleeting summer's passed away
and Howard will no longer stray
to drink his summer wine.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Liturgy for the Last Day of Summer

Hymn: Summer Night City    

Archdruid: Nights are drawing in.

All: Yeah, we did that already.

Archdruid: We consider the lost dreams of Summer.

All: We started it hoping we didn't all die of Covid. We've ended it hoping we don't all starve due to lack of CO2.

Archdruid: So, at worst, a mixed result?

All: The worst summer in history. 

Archdruid: Worse even than last summer. 

All: Last year we at least accepted we had a problem. This year we have to pretend everything's normal.

Archdruid: Tim Martin's not happy.

All: Yeah, there is that. 

Archdruid: Liverpool top of the league.

All: That is also good.

Archdruid: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness coming up?

All: What?

Archdruid: All the joys of autumn.

All: Giant spiders, gas shortages, no gifts for Christmas.

Archdruid: These are a few of my favourite things?

Hymn: Last Day of Summer

Archdruid: Soon be Christmas.

All: Yes, we did that.

Thursday 16 September 2021

Noah's Ark - A Children's Tale

At "Little Pebbles"

Archdruid: ...and so the Lord put a rainbow in the sky. To tell Noah that he would never judge the earth in that way again. And Noah...

Little Eric: So that's it?

Archdruid: Sorry, Little Eric?

Little Eric: So that's it? God killed everyone....

Archdruid: Apart from Noah's family.

Little Eric: Apart from Noah's family.

Little Angelica: And we don't even get to hear what their wives were called. Don't you think that's a bit patriarchal?

Archdruid: Well, of course it was patriarchal. It was in patriarchal times.

Little Angelica: So what was Noah's wife's name?

Archdruid: Nelly.

Little Angelica: Is that in the Bible? 

Archdruid: It's in... later translations, let us say.

Little Eric: Forget Noah's wife! She's not important!

Little Angelica: She's very important!

Little Eric: Not to my point! So God puts a rainbow in the sky. And he's killed literally everybody apart from Noah, his sons...

Little Angelica: ... and four nameless women.

Archdruid: Well, yes. But they were bad.

Little Eric: How bad?

Archdruid: Well-bad. 

Little Eric: That bad?

Archdruid: Yep. So you can see God was well within God's rights to...

Little Eric: Wipe out the entire human race without giving them the chance to repent.

Archdruid: I'm sure he warned them.

Little Angelica: Where does it say that?

Archdruid: Well, the Bible is silent on that.

Little Eric: And then having killed an entire species

Archdruid: Apart from Noah.

Little Angelica: And his sons. Who have names, I notice. And all their wives. Who don't.

Archdruid: Apart from Nelly.

Little Angelica: Which is made up.

Archdruid: Well, let's face it, this is all made up.

Little Angelica: WHAT?

Archdruid: Nothing. Nothing. Yes. God killed everybody except 8 humans and either 2 or 7 of every other species, except the unicorns. Because God hates bad people.

Little Eric: And the eunuchs.

Archdruid: What?

Little Eric: Nothing. Just something I heard.

Little Angelica: And Methuselah drowned.

Archdruid: What?

Little Angelica: Do the maths. Methuselah - the granddad of Noah, who lived to be 969 - died the year of the flood. So he must have drowned. What sort of man must Noah be to let his gramps drown?

Archdruid: Maybe God waited for Methuselah to die of natural causes and then sent the flood?

Little Angelica: So God's great plan to annihilate all the evil people had to be delayed because Methuselah had stayed on the high-fibre diet and kept off the lager?

Archdruid: I don't know. I guess.

Little Eric: So God put a rainbow in the sky - which, being a natural phenomenon, was probably happening all along. And what did he achieve?

Archdruid: There was no more sinful behaviour.

Little: Eric: Apart from Noah promptly got totally plastered, and Ham saunters in and goes, "Oh look at Dad in the nud" and everything's back to square one?

Archdruid: Good point. Didn't really work, did it?

Little Angelica: So the eunuchs died for nothing?

Archdruid: Look - is it song time?

Sunday 12 September 2021

We are the Winter People

I only do plugs for selected people. So here's a plug for friend of the Beaker Folk Jenny Rowbory, and the YouTube launch for her book of poetry - "We Are the Winter People" - in aid of her hoped-for treatment in the USA.

Saturday 11 September 2021

A Warning on "Ride and Stride" Day

 The sad case of Cycling Cleric of Maxey.

Be careful out there.

"Henry Horne Selby Hele. Cl. He was instituted to the Benefice of Maxey by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough at the private Chapel of the Palace on Friday 31st May 1901. He was inducted by Canon James, Rector of Peakirk in St Peters Church on Saturday 15th June 1901. Rev Hele left home early in the morning of December 31st 1901, cycling through Barnack and Wansford falling in a fit of apoplexy at the foot of Ailesworth Hill. A subsequent inquest determined the cause of death as accidental. "

Friday 10 September 2021

Liturgy for The Nativity of Colin Firth

Alison Steadman: Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
Oooh! Mr Darcy!
All: And also with you.

Liturgy for 50 Years of "Imagine" (Transferred due to "Buy a Priest a Beer Day")

Elvis Costello: Was it a millionaire who said "imagine no possessions"?

Archdruid: "Lennon finished composing "Imagine" one morning in early 1971, on a Steinway piano, in a bedroom at his Tittenhurst Park estate in Ascot, Berkshire"  (Wiki)

All: Oh yeah. Good point. 

Archdruid: Never liked its whinging self-righteousness.

Piers Morgan: Wokery! Wokery! All is wokery!

Archdruid: What's that written on your hand, Piers?

PM:  Nothing. Nothing.

Archdruid: "I ❤ Meghan"?

PM: Hate. That smudged shape means "hate". It's not a heart that smudged because I've been kissing it. Anyway. What about "Imagine"?

Archdruid: Oh, we're done with that. Terrible hippy bilge.

The Ghost of Malcolm MacClaren: Never trust a hippy.

Burton Dasset: Has anyone seen Bambi?

Neil from the Young Ones: Not me. I'm strictly lentils.

Archdruid: We know. That's why you have to stay in the garden. Right. Altogether.

Imagine there's no Devon
I wonder if you can
Cornwall an island 
Like the Isle of Man.
Imagine all the people 
Looking for Teignmouth.
You may say I'm a weirdo
And that I'm all alone.
I hope one day you'll join me
Then there will be more than one.

Imagine no possessions 
I wonder if you can.
I can't because I'm loaded 
And I love it, Man.
Imagine all the people
Singing this utter tosh
You may say this is meanness 
I won't say you're wrong
But I'd like to say don't listen 
To such a drippy, whiny song.

Thursday 9 September 2021

The Minister is Tired

If you could just give the minister a moment.
These times have been hard
Reading regulations 
Installation of sanitisation
Adding things 
Cancelling things 
Changing things 
Exchanging things 
Putting things away 
Taking them back out - we know more today.
Studying virology 
Crowd psychology
Hybrid services
With cameras overheating 
The odd virtual meeting 
While half say "it's nice doing face to face"
And others refuse to be in the same place 
As anyone who's not triple-vaxed
In HazMat
suits. You
wouldn't believe the scenes 
Looking at countless Zoom screens
Then remembering on the third Wednesday it's Teams
Because Zoom fails to work 
On Jenny's  Chromebook.
Holding virtual hands
With the dying. Checking the latest rules 
On hospital visiting.
Uncle Jim's funeral by the graveside
Because Aunty Joan won't go inside.
Wedding guests that won't go masked 
No matter how nicely asked
Even with Grandma's condition 
And the bride's dad's only in remission.
(And the changes to the Wedding Regs
Have left the minister running on the dregs
Of energy 
And sanity
And stability
And mental agility.)
And no chance of rest 
from the Lateral Flow Test.
Communion in the hand? On the tongue?
In the garden? Bring your own?
And the inside, outside, all the sides
In Covidtide.
People who worship in masks
Those who focus on irrelevant cleaning tasks 
Those who are scared stiff by the news
Those so reckless, they're licking the pews.
Trying to discern 
what is this normal to which everyone wants to return 
So if the minister looks a little gray 
at the Zoom Communion today
please don't think 
it's  your screen needs adjusting - 
it's her colour balance on the blink.
It's been a long time.
And the minister is tired.