Saturday 27 February 2021

Mr Potato Head Has Had His Chips

 I had forgotten, if ever I knew, that the original Mr Potato Head was just a collection of the bits - nose, eyes etc - that a child would require to personalise an actual potato.

Now, of course, Mr Potato Head comes with his own plastic body. And much excitement has been caused by the suggestion of a new, gender-neutral marketing approach to "Potato Head".  Which among other things makes me wonder - why is the sort of people who shout so loudly about "snowflakes" that get so upset about things like this? Is it possible that the sort of person who shouts "snowflake" is basically just a bit thin-skinned? Like a Yukon Gold potato? Which would probably be eaten by Stinky Pete if he were prospecting in the far North-West.

That Mr and Mrs Potato Head are married asks all sorts of questions. Before they married were they Mr Potato and Miss Head? Or has he always been Mr Potato Head and she was formerly Miss Spud or something? Should Potato-Head be hyphenated? Are they related to the Somerset Potato Heads?

And since they are married - were they matched by the Reverend Potato Head, as Michael Moran suggested? Or in a registry office? If the former, is he married or could be a monk or - indeed - a Friar?  Presumably wherever they married, they will have had excellent witnesses as they will have had so many eyes.

If they have children will they be sprouts? 

Either way, here's a bit of basic biology. Potatoes, like many plants, are hermaphroditic. They can act as male - producing pollen - or female - being pollinated. So there is no Mr or Mrs Potato Head. They are all whatever pronoun and title they like Potato Head.

Not only that. Potatoes are capable of reproducing asexually, by the use of the tubers (or potatoes, as we tend to call them) that they produce every year. No need for lipstick, top hats or bushy moustaches. Potatoes can just produce new potatoes without needing to get all lovey dovey. No need for Father Potato Head, little bridesmaid potatoes or the Father of the Bride giving away Miss Spud while the Mother of the Groom says that Mr Potato Head is a chip off the old block.

Not only that - but even in the world of Mr and Mrs Potato Head, the couple's facial parts and limbs can be mix and matched (or Mx and matched if you prefer) between the two. They are plastic toys. They don't have to fit your stereotypes. Let's face it - they don't even have bodies, just giant heads which the limbs stick out of. How are they supposed to digest their food? And what do they eat with no teeth? Mash?

Maybe it's time to move beyond anthropomorphic members of the nightshade family for children's face-based fun activities. Let's consider the possibility of smaller members of the vegetable clan being able to adopt their own expressions and limbs. In the interests of the planet - using less plastic and yet achieving the same objective - let's try a tiny veg-based toy.

All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

Monday 15 February 2021

Liturgy for the 50th Anniversary of Decimalisation Day

Hymn: Money

Archdruid: Coor it's cold enough to freeze yer tuppenies.

All: Why are you pretending to be a Cockney? And failing so badly?

Archdruid: It's how they all spoke in the 70s.

All: All?

Archdruid: All.

All: Name them?

Archdruid: Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Babs Windsor...

All: You've confused the Carry On films with history again.

Archdruid: Anyone lend us half a dollar?

Burton: Got two bob.

Marston Moretaine: And a tanner.

Archdruid: Can you get him back to work? That new yurt's not gonna cure itself.

Boring Bill: Ah, the good old LSD. The Gold Standard. Remember you'd get 4 and fourpence farthing on a Friday, have a night out, fish and chips and still enough for the taxi home.

Archdruid: Bill, you weren't born till 1974.

Boring Bill: We'd beat the Germans in another war, hammer the Aussies at cricket. You could leave your house unlocked and when you came back the burglars had done some cleaning for you and picked up a pint of jellied eels from Castle's.


Boring Bill: The telly stopped at 9 o 'clock. Then we'd all stand to salute the National Anthem. And you couldn't go to bed till the white dot had completely disappeared.

Archdruid: Someone carry him off.

Jacob Ree Smugg of Smugg Hall: Surely it is not enough merely to go back to 1971. A forward-looking England would be one where trade was conducted in groats and crowns. The handsome young squire of, for instance, a Somerset village would scatter largesse from his jalopy to the deserving starving poor, before attending the local magistrate's sessions to arrange a witch ducking for the local crone. Illnesses were taken on the chin. Especially fossy jaw.

Boring Bill: And now we're free from Europe we can go back to the good old pounds shillings and pence! Up yours, Delors!

Archdruid: Here, Bill. Lend us two guineas, a sov and three and six?

Boring Bill: Wot?

Archdruid: So let us go forth into the world, regretting we don't still have ha'pennies. 

All: We don't even use cash.

Hymn: Price Tag

Sunday 7 February 2021

Modern Jobs for a Post-Modern World

 Here at the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley, we're realising that in the new world we're not as well off as we used to be. So we're reducing the number of frontline druids. Thanks to Arquan, Jezwell, Rodquil and Geremy, who are now on "House for Druid" terms. Without the houses.

But the exciting news is that we've found the money from somewhere for four exciting new posts at Enabling Druid level. These Enabling Druids will be reporting directly to our Executive Deputy Archdruid (Hnaef), and helping the team with the forward envisioning of the druidic experience in these trying times.

 Job descriptions are below.

Mission Consolidator Druid

The Mission Consolidator's role is to see all the mission going on, and consolidate it. The successful candidate will have a role across both vertical and horizontal sectors - with the possibility of working on the diagonal after year 1.

Mission is like a messy garden - the weeds of new life can spring up anywhere, messing up the patio and levering bricks out the wall like a rampant buddleia. The Mission Consolidator will be expected to apply the oversight metaphorical weedkiller on the growth in the margins, to ensure the mission is safely contained in nice big raised beds, and keeps the missional garden tidy.

The ideal candidate will have a hatred of things getting out of control, and ideally some kind of bull terrier cross.

Coordinating Druid

With a wide-ranging vision over the scope of our stewardship, outreach, inreach and top-down revitalisation activities, the Coordinating Druid will be tasked with coordinating whatever they see. Anything uncoordinated is to be rationalised, organised, restructured and generally coordinated. The Coordinating Druid will have a dotted line into my Assistant Executive Archdruid (Charlii), a diagonal line reporting into the Archdruidical Executive Assistant (Young Keith) and a desk next to Burton Dasset (sorry).

The ideal candidate will have experience in leading small start-up religious groups, providing drive and energy, and giving them the dynamic impetus to grow them while maintaining strong discipling disciplines. Failing that, some experience in Microsoft Office, especially Access.

Dreamer of Dreams Druid

The Dreamer of Dreams Druid will be charged with the dreaming of dreams. Imagining the impossible, seeing visions and generally coming up with those off-the-wall strategies that could change the direction of the House of Druids.

Since that's all basically a waste of time, they'll also be running our Mailchimp account and writing begging letters to local authorities if we think they might have any spare cash.

The successful candidate will have a track record of failed ambition and broken dreams. This job might be suitable for a former Liverpool manager.

Oversight Druid

The role of the Oversight Druid is to keep an eye on the other three, in case they get above their station and start thinking they might make an Archdruid.  Meantime, they'll be drawing up exciting transitions for slides in PowerPoint.

The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley are an Unequal Opportunities Employer. 

The Light, and Not the Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

Doesn't the introduction of the Baptist in the middle of the Prologue of John's Gospel jump out? 

There's a deliberately mythic message worked into a rhetorical structure there - Ian Paul works it through very nicely.  All the Genesis echoes, and the Greek "Logos" overtones. And right in the middle of the works of creation and salvation - here's John the Baptist. Kind of jars, suddenly bringing a mere bloke into it. And then putting him to one side for later.

I does break the poetic flow. But then I think it's done for a very important reason - to emphasise Christ's origin against everyone else's.

John's "sent from God" - and we know Luke fills in some detail of John the Baptist's birth, whether or not the Fourth Evangelist knows. John is the latest in a long line of men who were sent from God - the prophets. A fine and noble tradition, and he's the latest witness. He gets a privilege over his predecessors. Theyto witness directly to the light. He introduces the light, sets the scene for the light, and ritually drowns the light before it rises again to the surface.

Sunrise over Pitsford Reservoir, Northampton

But you know he's not the light. He's witnessing to the light. He's reflecting the light. But he's not the light.

Jesus Christ is also sent from God. But the Evangelist is saying - but this is the light. He is coming from a different place. They're both alike - both preached, both came to nasty ends at the hands of authority. Both men. But - one was just John. And the other - the other was there from the beginning of time. Made everything you are. Made everything that is. Shone light all down the ages. And then - we - we blessed people - we saw his glory when he came in flesh.

And where John came and bore witness - Jesus makes us God's children. This is the critical difference. Listen to John. But be changed by Jesus. And you will be caught up into the story of eternity, a singer of the music from the beginning of the world, a part of the story of how the whole world is saved.

Saturday 6 February 2021

Prayers for Deodre: By Tradition

 Prayer Book: "And so, immortal and all-powerful God, even remembering that Thou art almighty and we but poor sinful worms, deserving only to be crushed under Thine eternal feet - we bring before Thee thine servant Deodre. A sinful and failing maidservant but still Thine own creation - humbly petitioning that Thou in Thy great mercy might heal her and not rush her suddenly into her departure from this vale of tears - but if Thou dost not heal her, at least offer her in Thy great kindness chance for repentance so she departs not into the Pit but rather through Thy great act of redemption....." 

Mid-80s Charismatic: "And so God we just want to say that we just want to ask you for Deodre, that you just heal her, Lord, and just make her well, Lord, and just give her so much healing, Lord, and that she just will feel just so held up in your arms, Lord, and so we just hold her up to you, Lord, so you can just hold  her in your arms, Lord, and just make her well, Lord, and in your loving arms, Lord, we just pray that...."

Pre-written Prayers Led by Member of the Congregation:  "And we pray for Deodre, that you will heal her. I'm not allowed to share what she's got, for reasons of confidentiality, but you know what it is. And we pray also for the bloke she caught it off." 

Celtic: "God of the sea and sky, and all the other less elemental elements like the trifold rock, scissors and paper  - may the road rise up before Deodre - but maybe not as fast as when the sun on her face dazzled her, the wind on her back spun her round due to her over-large backpack, and she tripped over the kerb." 

Methodist Extempore Prayers: "And Lord we pray for Deidre. I mean Deodre. Lord, you know who I mean. Heal her from her blisters. Oh no, that's Mairhe. Her acne."

Beaker Folk: *Lights a tea light, thinks nice things about Deodre* 

Sea of Faith Tradition: "Shame about Deodre, isn't it? Hope she can reconcile herself to it."

Friday 5 February 2021

Tweet in Haste, Get Mercilessly Trolled at Leisure

 Everyone's had something to say about the tweet of Reverend Jarel Robinson-Brown.  Which no longer exists. And I'm not reproducing it but I'm sure you can find a screenshot.

My view for what it is worth:

  1. Racism and homophobia are wrong. The hateful atracks on Robinson-Brown are far worse than anything he said, or might be inferred to have said.
  2. It was a poorly-thought-through tweet, and factually wrong. Some people might disagree with my view here. And that's fine. Though they'd be wrong, but we can disagree respectfully. 
  3. Most people who clapped for Captain Tom Moore just wanted to say thanks to a bloke who had put his heart and soul into helping out the NHS.  The man lightened some very dark moments.
  4. Sometimes, whatever nefarious motives their opponents put on them, Prime Ministers have to do something that speaks for the nation. Think Tony Blair with Diana. They'll still get the blame for bandwagon jumping.
  5. See (1) above, in case you forgot. 
  6. Some people have leapt onto Jarel Robinson-Brown because they're so pleased to have a young black man they can hate who isn't Marcus Rashford. They've been hating Marcus Rashford and haven't dared say it out loud.
  7. Some people actually have dared to hate Marcus Rashford out loud. 
  8. Those people also hate Lewis Hamilton by the way. If I could only work out what the connection is. But I know you can get away with a lot more if you don't share a certain characteristic with the three people above. See (1) above.
  9. Jarel Robinson-Brown needs a lot of protection and care from his bishop now.
  10. Don't make living or recently deceased human beings saints. It doesn't always work out well. This is saying nothing about Capt Sir Tom. Just a good general principle.
  11. Some people blamed Capt Sir Tom and his family for his death. Because some people are capable of vile things whatever age or colour you are.
  12. If you go on Social Media complaining that other people haven't been clapping on doorsteps when you have, that is a bit cult-like, don't you think? Bit Orwellian?

In the light of (12) above, Young Keith will be collecting the names of everybody that did not stand on the doorstep and clap either the NHS, Captain Sir Tom, or Boris Johnson over the last 12 months on at least 5 occasions. Nothing sinister in this. It's just in case it's something I need to know if anyone calls up about it.

Monday 1 February 2021


It's an odd thing, dealing with deniers. 

Al Cotton, our resident sceptic, has been doing some of his own research into Covid, and has come up with a lot of reasons why it's all a hoax, no such thing exists as the Covid virus, and we're all currently hammering the economy to keep an epidemic that doesn't exist under control.

He's found a site that tells him that the virus that causes Covid-19 doesn't exist, has never been isolated, and therefore the whole thing is a myth. That you can't catch Covid. And that fundamentally, what you need to avoid the disease is positive thoughts - because it's negative ones that do the damage. Also that Covid is really influenza, which is why there is so little 'flu about this year.

I explained to him that I actually studied the influenza virus, and I've seen the crystal structures of the influenza protein that equate to the "spike" on Covid-19. I've explained to him how scientists can isolate viruses, sequence the RNA, and so know that 'flu isn't coronavirus - that they are in fact different things, even to look at under an electron microscope. He doesn't believe me. He's read a webpage.

I explained to him about the Soho Pump which John Snow chained up, and proved that cholera is passed on by drinking dirty water - thus showing that diseases can be transmitted from person to person. He told me he'd seen Game of Thrones, and that definitely never happened.

 I told him about the eradication of smallpox. He said the virus, if it ever existed - which he doubted - had probably evolved not to infect people any more. He says that's what evolution does - encourages viruses to die out. I told him that's actually the opposite of what evolution tends to do, but he saw a picture of James Delingpole not wearing a mask and that's convinced him.

I pointed out that influenza was first passed between species in a lab by deliberately getting the snot out of one animal and spraying it up the nose of another (a ferret, as it happened).  Thus proving how respiratory diseases get passed on.  He said he's not a ferret. Which, to be fair, he's not.

You'd have thought he'd have learned from when he told us that if lockdowns worked, we wouldn't need another one. We just refused to feed him. Told him if eating worked, the Sunday roast he had should suffice forever. But the funny thing is, he still got hungry on Monday. He tells me that's different, because Julia Hartley-Brewer said.

I don't understand why he has to believe everything that people with degrees in PPE tell him about science, yet not what people with actual practices and qualifications in medicine, virology and epidemiology say. Although, as an exception, he believed Sunetra Gupta when she said we had nearly reached herd immunity. Last spring. And again three weeks ago, when she said lockdowns had delayed the onset of herd immunity (which of course she'd said we already had).  To be fair, Professor Gupta is a theoretical epidemiologist. And I'm sure just as soon as we have a theoretical pandemic, she'll get a prediction right.

So ultimately, I reckon Al thinks he's being clever. He wants to believe he's seen through us all. He likes being "in" with the contrarians. He doesn't like the sad truth - that we need to hack our way through a pandemic until we get through the other side with vaccines and a lot of social distancing. He wants wishful thinking and happiness. He knows Brexit was done through magical thinking - so how can it not cure a virus? If the virus exists. 

Basically, he's just hunting down stuff that makes life look happy, and easy - because an invisible virus, which some people carry even without knowing it, is really scary. And he's not had a scary life. He wants a nice safe one, where good people don't have bad things happening to them. He wants me to open the Moot House for worship because why would God let bad things happen to people just because they were worshipping him?

He doesn't want the real world. He wants a fake one. Because, deep down, he's scared.

Imbolc / St Brigid's Day / Norman Clegg's Birthday / Saint Sally's Eve

Hymn: Candle in the Wind

Archdruid: Ow do?

All: Top of the morning to yer!

Archdruid: Ah, a true Celtic liturgy using authentic Celtic language.

All: To be sure.

Archdruid: On this holy morning, we remember the words of St Norman of Holmfirth: "It'll be dark by nightfall".

All: And when nightfall comes we shall light the holy Sheep of St Brigid to celebrate Imbolc.

Archdruid: How many times? You don't set fire to a sheep. 

All: Says here that Imbolc may be associated with "lactation of ewes".

Archdruid: Lactation. Not incineration. Lactation is the onset of milk, ready for the little lambs to be born.

All: Aah. We'd better let Flossie go then.

Hnaef: And do something about the Wicker Lamb.

Archdruid: Let us remember that in the ancient Beaker calendar, this holy cross-quarter day was halfway through winter - equally distant from the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.

Charlii: Hang on. That doesn't work. That would be later this week.

Archdruid: Erm... the ancient Beaker Folk were never very good at numbers. Let's turn to St Brigid.

Charlii: Co-patron of Ireland.

Archdruid: Brewer of beer.

Burton: Maker of blueberry jam.

Archdruid: Midwife to Our Lady.

Charlii: 500 years before Brigid was born?

Archdruid: Yeah, seems a bit odd. OK let's do Norman Clegg.

All: You mean Peter Sallis?

Archdruid: Same thing. Sayer of wise sayings.

All: Friend of the poor and smelly (Compo).

Archdruid: Avoider of stunts.

All: Walker of dales.

Archdruid: Inventor of Play Doh.

All: You just made that up.

Archdruid: Yeah. Shall we go to the hives to steal wax for the candles?

All: To be sure. We're going need the a lot of tea lights for Sally's Fifty-Ninth.

Archdruid: We're gonna need a bigger cake.

Flossie: Baaaah.