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Friday, 31 October 2014

Beaker Retreat Programme January-June 2015

Here at the Beaker Folk, we offer a wide range of retreat courses - both for the experienced, the Adept and the Seeker. Why not consider a short stay with us, to learn a skill or simply to relax in the ancient Bedfordshire countryside, listening to the comforting hum of the M1?

We do not advertise the prices of our retreats. Please contact us directly. This enables us to tailor the price of your stay to your individual situation - but also to ensure we always have a trained counselor on-call for when you hear what it's going to cost you.

Jan 5 - Jan 20: Orthodox Christmas

The Orthodox Bling stays up till mid-January!
Was your Christmas experience insufficiently spiritual?  Too busy worrying about the in-laws, cooking and what's on telly? Why not join us for Orthodox Christmas? With Orthodox Christmas, you can do it all again - but this time with the advantage that the entire period will be in Romanian, for added mystery! Arriving on Jan 5, you can enjoy an Orthodox Nativity Play, Orthodox Midnight Mass, the arrival of Orthodox Santa. Then on Orthodox Boxing Day, why not go into Milton Keynes* and see if the sales are still on? Then Orthodox Hogmanay is always a great delight - nothing like Haggis washed down with vodka (which we spell "wodka" for the fortnight) and retsina! And then, on Orthodox 12th Night, we finally take down the decorations. A mystical, traditional and spiritual way to celebrate the end of the 3-month Beaker Christmas Period.

12 - 15 February - "The Spirituality of Ditching" 

There's an old English tradition that you are never closer to God than when you are up to your knees in sand and clay, clearing the clag out of ditches. It's a physical metaphor for a spiritual truth and therefore - we like to tell ourselves - almost sacramental. So why not join us for the annual ditch-clearing? 

NB volunteers must be physically fit, good at obeying orders, and prepared to sign the waiver form.

28 February - 3 March - "The ancient wonder of Easter Egg Painting" 

Lent too long? Then lighten it up with a few days of painting Easter eggs the Beaker Way!
The ancient tradition of painting Easter Eggs to celebrate the Resurrection goes all the way back to Beaker Times - indeed, Easter Egg fragments were found under the Altar Stone at Stonehenge. So join us for an artistic and spiritual extravaganza. Don't worry about bringing your own eggs! Our free-range organic Beaker eggs are available at very reasonable rates, laid freshly by our own Neolithic breed of Beaker Chickens.**

Weekends in March - "Raising the Long Barrow!"

We finally have permission to inter our (cremated) dead in the Husborne Long barrow. Sadly we're still haggling over the rights to expose our d
Weather definitely won't be like this
ead to the birds of the air on raised wooden platforms, and they tell us that burning Norse-style longboats are definitely out.

So all we have to do, before we can bury deceased Beaker Folk in this holy place, is actually to build a long barrow. As a combination of physical exercise and spiritual refreshment, what could beat heaving mounds of soil and sandstone on top of each other, under the light breezes and gently sun of March?***

So come along and help us to raise the Barrow!  You'll get extra salvation points, and 10% off the cost of your own interment, when the time comes.

15-19 April - International Bodhran Festival

The instrument anyone can play! Beaker bodhran expert, Shiughavnan MacNimmie (Hnaef in a beard) will be introducing us to the deep secrets of the playing of this ancient and annoying member of the percussion family.

1 May - Wicker Man Festival

It works for Anglican churches, with their scarecrow and Christmas tree and flower festivals. A chance to show your creativity while entering into the competitive spirit, and recreating the Druidic Past.

Groups are invited to build their Wicker Men on a theme - "The Saints", "Bedfordshire", "Edward Woodward" being just three examples. At the end of the day, the winning team will receive a rosette and the best exhibits will be burnt. The team coming second last will receive a DVD of the Nicholas Cage remake. The team coming last will receive two copies of the DVD.

8 May Julian - of Norwich Day

Spiritual superhero and inventor of the Topic chocolate bar, Mother Julian has a special place in the Beaker Community. It's in the Doily Shed, where we've hidden her picture.

Join us for this special day of meditation, as we try to work out why her feast isn't in the autumn, when there's hazel nuts about.

1-8 June - Ikon-painting, Jackson Pollock Style

This special week is for people who'd like to do proper ikon-painting but are too ham-fisted. At the Beaker Folk we stick to the motto - "All have won, all have paid, and all shall have prizes". If your St Theresa of Avila looks like Moomintroll's Mama, then join us in throwing paint at a piece of board and swearing blind it's a spiritual experience.

20-24 June - Midsummer Festival

What better way to celebrate the ancient longest day of the year, and the period through to St John's Day, than by taking part in our "Midsummer Night's Dream from Scratch"? 5 days of rehearsal, back-biting and jealousy, followed by, on the night of the 23rd, the performance itself! "Does my Bottom look big in this?" You bet!

* Milton Keynes is mostly not Orthodox.
** Subject to availability. Otherwise we buy them from Tesco.
*** May also include deep snow and frost-hardened soil.
**** Please bring a sarsen

The Custom of the Country

"It seemed as if the bonfire-makers were standing in some radiant upper story of the world, detached from and independent of the dark stretches below. The heath down there was now a vast abyss, and no longer a continuation of what they stood on; for their eyes, adapted to the blaze, could see nothing of the deeps beyond its influence. Occasionally, it is true, a more vigorous flare than usual from their faggots sent darting lights like aides-de-camp down the inclines to some distant bush, pool, or patch of white sand, kindling these to replies of the same colour, till all was lost in darkness again. Then the whole black phenomenon beneath represented Limbo as viewed from the brink by the sublime Florentine in his vision, and the muttered articulations of the wind in the hollows were as complaints and petitions from the “souls of mighty worth” suspended therein. It was as if these men and boys had suddenly dived into past ages, and fetched therefrom an hour and deed which had before been familiar with this spot. 

The ashes of the original British pyre which blazed from that summit lay fresh and undisturbed in the barrow beneath their tread. The flames from funeral piles long ago kindled there had shone down upon the lowlands as these were shining now. Festival fires to Thor and Woden had followed on the same ground and duly had their day. Indeed, it is pretty well known that such blazes as this the heathmen were now enjoying are rather the lineal descendants from jumbled Druidical rites and Saxon ceremonies than the invention of popular feeling about Gunpowder Plot.

Moreover to light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of man when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against that fiat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, Let there be light."

Thomas Hardy, "Return of the Native

Hallowe'en ain't what it used to be

Every year I say it, and every year it's truer. Amidst this wave of commercialism, we're losing the real meaning of Hallowe'en.

I remember the Hallowe'ens of my youth. Neo-paganism had barely been invented. The whole family would hide in the living room with a clove of garlic, a a crucifix and a borrowed exorcist. Then there were weird banging noises. And, by moving a glass around on the table, my great-aunt Edna would demand to know why we had sold off her best crockery.

And Edna wasn't  even dead.

You didn't get these big pumpkins in those days, either. We each were given a turnip to carve. At least, that's what they told us. In retrospect, what we were actually doing was peeling them. You ate a lot of turnips in the 1970s.

But now, it's been utterly commercialised. I blame that Jamie Lee Curtis. Until she got involved it was an innocent night of fearing the walking dead and sacrificing hamsters on the Five Knolls. But then she and her friends made it all look so attractive in that film, and we realised we needed to have kids in cute costumes and mass-murderers just like the States. And all the paraphernalia that goes with it - Hallowe'en cards, Hallowe'en trees, Hallowe'en plays in schools and Hallowe'en crackers.

See, deep down, I don't think there's that much threat from Hallowe'en - spiritual or otherwise. New-pagans can do whatever they do, kids can dress up as vampires - nobody's gonna be a devil worshipper as a result.

If the problem for some church leaders is that people seem more interested in ghostly cheap thrills than the deep, spiritual refreshment that you can take from the Christian religion - then maybe they should be on their knees praying for the kind of leadership and inspirational powers that can lead them to show that light is stronger than darkness, and that the greatest horror is overcome by the strongest love. The Christian message has at its heart a ghastly horror show, and a spiritual battle, where the devils were defeated, after all.

And if you want to see real, naked evil stalking the earth, you don't need to look at a kid walking up Crow Lane dressed as a witch, while her brother wanders around dressed as a giant pumpkin. Look at the hunger, the oppression, the actions of ISIS, the destruction of environments and communities where vested interests - regardless of political complexion - put power and money ahead of all else. That's real evil. Leave the kids alone. The Devil's busy elsewhere.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The (Midfield) Wasteland

August is the cruellest month
Destroying young dreams made in the transfer window,
Memory and desire, stirring
The hope of glory with speedy strikers.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Our defeats with the thought 
We could turn it round by Easter.
May surprised us, coming over the Wembley Arch
With a shower of rain; we jumped off London Midland,
And went on in sunlight, into the Harrow Road
And went into Subway, and queued for an hour.
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
And when we were children, round my Nan's,
Watching the '74 Cup Final with Grandad, who was from the North East,
And I was a Liverpool Fan. He said, Eileen,
Eileen, the Geordies are gonna win. And down they went.
3-0.  Supermac was invisible. 
I read 4-4-2, much of the night, and subscribe to Sky Sports when it's half price.

What are the straws we clutch at, what can we hope
In a World Cup year? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, in a Panini magazine,
Rooting for Holland gives no hope, the cricket no relief,
And the commentary no hope of a goal. Only
There is shadow in this London pub,
(Come into the shadow of this London pub),
And I will show you something different from either
The England team snatching at shadows
Or the Germans sweeping all before them;
I will show you fear on 3 acres of grass.
        Who are you?
        Who are you?
        Who are you?
        Who are you?
“You took me to Anfield a year ago;
They called me the Anfield girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the fields of Anfield Road,
Your heart full from a League Cup defeat, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Dead nor Red, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of darkness, the refrain.
You're not very good you''re not very good.

Roy Hodgson, International Manager,
Mocked for his "r"s, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest coach in Europe,
By the FA, at least. Here, said he,
Is your team. The only fit midfielder,
(rested from a season on City's bench)
Here is Wayne Rooney, the Scally of the Weave,
The lad of tabloid situations.
Here is the team with a flat back four, and here a winger,
And here is the one-footed midfielder, and this player,
Who is Sturridge, has some kind of injury,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
Raheem Sterling on the pitch.
I see crowds of people, walking round the stadium.
Thank you. If you see dear Mr Rodgers,
Tell him I'll do the  medical myself:
One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed into the Etihad, so many,
I had not thought pot-hunting had called so many.
Prawns, on wholemeal bread, were consumed
And each man expected the natural rewards
Of throwing petrol money at overpaid stars,
Where there was always the wiping out of cheaper opposition
With a dead sound on the stroke of ten to 5.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying “Liam!
You who were with your brother in Oasis!
That Title you won with your foreign millions
Does it make you happy?  Do you need to win it every year?
Or will you lose it all if the economy crashes?
You should have kept Micah Richards in defence, that’s one we know,
Though they will find someone more reliable on the Continent.
Un joueur formidable! Les Frères Tourés!


The chair he sat in, like an airplane seat, 
Glowed by the touchline, where the grass
Held Fergie's standards from another time
In which Howard Webb looked over
(The lino hid his eyes behind the winger)
Surely, we thought, doubled the added-on time?
Flood lights shining on Giggsy's cross as
The dodgy weave of Rooney rose to meet it,
Now Van Gaalacticos, poured in rich profusion;
In strips of red, and white and black
Unfettered, playing three at the back,
But when facing a team pressing high up —troubled, confused
And drowned by the tears of those fallen
From a height, these ascended
Long ago, when they dreamed of Trebles
Flung Teddy Sheringham forward,
Snatching it back when Bayern Munich thought they were sealing.
Another victory - resigned to copper medals
Glowing green and orange, flashing in the fireworks for Fergie
In which bright light lithe Solskjaer danced
And on the Mancunian mantle was displayed
The centrepiece of Fergie's reign
The trophy that said kings of Europe
So bravely won; yet there the Glasers
Filled all the city with unquiet voices
And still they cry, and still the world wonders,
Bobby Charlton with the comb-over.
And other withered stumps of time
Sit in the director's box; staring forwards
Leaned out, leaning, wishing Fergie still ruled.
Roy Keane shuffled under the glare,
Within the changing room, the hair-drier
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.

“My nerves are bad to-night. Can we hold on?
Win for me. Why do you never win? Win.
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
Why did you think that backpass a good idea?.”

I think we are in Leeds now
Where the faithful nurse their longings.

“What is that noise?”
                      The wind howling round Elland Road.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                      Struggling in the Championship.
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
        I remember
                Those players that were Ridsdale's dreams
“Are you solvent, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
O O O O that European adventure
Seemed so  magic
Now so tragic
“What shall I do now? What shall I do?
I shall go and shout for the whites
With my eyes down, so. What shall we do next season?
What shall we ever do?”
                          An early bath for the hot-headed striker.
And if it rains, that closed-in feel.
And we watch that mythic game,
Pressing lidless eyes against the encircling floodlights.

When Lil’s husband was late, I said,
I didn’t mince my words, I said to him myself,
There's gonna be a 30 minute queue down the Walton Breck Road.
There I was, heels, hair, off-to-a-wedding-frock
which I'd flung a dressing gown over,
just in case, and a distressed pigeon.
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Skrytel.,
He’s been in that team four years, he deserves a medal,
And yet Djima Traore - Champions League Winner - couldn't kick a ball straight.
Oh there is something in that, she said.
I blame that Rafa Benitez, she said, and gave me a look.
If you don’t like scouse you can have a burger, I said,
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.
She said I wouldn't mind giving Sterling some of  that tight marking.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, fancying the players.
(And him number thirty-one.)
I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,
All those young bodies.
(She’s forty-five already, and bored of poor George.)
I met one in a night-club once and I've never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if your husband's always half asleep what can you do, she said,
What you married for once you've grown-up children?
On this Sunday afternoon at home, if we're not out before the whistle goes,
It's gonna be an extra hour to get back through the traffic.
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight George. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, shame about the score, good night, good night.


Al Fayed’s tent is broken: the last flickers of hope
Drift and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the green pitch, unheard. Michael Jackson has departed
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Coke cans, chip boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of winter days. The stars are departed.
And their friends, the money men of  far-away cities
Watch their money sink.
By the waters of Pakistan they sit down and weep
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for the Cottage has a quieter song.
But at the back in a cold blast I hear
The slow rattle of turnstiles, and a cry of fear..

A fan crept sadly down Fulham Palace Road
Flashing a bulging belly under his replica shirt
While I was thinking about Kenilworth 70s Saturdays
Old First Division, in the "Bobbers".
Musing upon two clubs, their fortunes wrecked
And during the game as Rovers pressed them
White shirts battered on the green damp ground
And another home defeat for the season,
Rattled by their fall, year on year.
But in the side streets, waiting there
The lines of waiting motors, which shall bring
Their drivers home to rue the loss
Of the phony Pharaoh once again.
As with sad eyes
They munch their minced meat pies.

You're not singing anymore, you're not singing anymore.

You're going home
in a Millwall ambulance
You're going home
in a Millwall ambulance

Unreal City
A blue club, playing in red
Mr Tan, the Malaysian merchant
Trim-moustached, with a team full of failures
Premier adventure over, sunk out of sight
Asking me in broken English
If I'd like a glass of wine in the Director's box
Followed by a week-end watching Sky.

At the violet hour, when the eyes and hands
Reach over to the dial, when the anxious motor waits
Its engine throbbing waiting,
I the listener, though blind, driving down the lanes,
Can see the results come in
At the violet hour, the fan drives
Homeward, ten to five,
The full-time whistles blow around the country
Brighton and Hove, hanging on for the draw.
Time added on perilously played
A pitch in Liverpool, touched by the sun’s last rays,
By the dugout are piled (quick-grasped in a break in play)
Water bottles, the odd tracksuit top.
Balotelli, odd man with bib on backwards
He sulked around, we all foretold the end
No goals. He gazes, finds no  friend
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A footballers' agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,
One who makes his money betting on other's
Making even the journeyman a millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The transfer window opens - he weaves the dream
Endeavours to engage managers in soft addresses
With players who are unproven in some Ghanaian team
Brash and confident, he expounds at once;
"He's great going forward - ideal for the modern defence."
He demands a five-million-quid response,
Collects his ten percent with indifference.
(And I the financier have fore suffered all
Enacted in this same club over again;
I who have sat for seasons watching hopes fall
And longed for Europe, and financial gain.)
The agent goes off with no shame,
The African lad will never play a first team game.

The Director of Football looks into his glass
Hardly aware of the departed seller
He's gone for cheap weekly wages over class:
“Well now that’s done: sure he's a good feller.”
When football stoop to folly and recrimination
Sign on reputation,  promise alone alone,
"He just don't fit in our formation",
Can't play in the "hole", or up front alone.

“This music crept by me upon the waters”
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City City, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 260
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

The river sweats
Blood and tears
The season's hopes
With the turning tide
Midfield tucked in
No-one wide
To cause the full-backs troubles.
Northward, West Ham
Blowing bubbles
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs.
            No-one likes us
            We don't care
Geoff Hurst, Peters
Bobby Moore
The myth was born
A gilded dream
Now half-century-worn
A sainted team
United the nation
Now, disillusioned
Down time's stream
An arch instead of
Twin towers
            No-one likes us
            We don't care
“Buses and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. White Hart Lane
Undid me. At the Boleyn Ground I squashed my knees
Into the back of a supporter who gave no evidence of a brain.

“My feet are at Gallowgate, and my heart
Ever in my mouth. After the defeat
I swore. The manager promised ‘a new start.’
We need someone else In the hot seat."

“On the Emirates.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The stars flogged to pay for the ground.
My people humble people who let in

      One Nil

To the Arsenal

Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright
side of



Delia the magician, six months down
Forgot the call of Old Trafford, and Swansea as well
After a season of loss.
                          A division under cover
A Yo-yo Team - as they rise and fall
They alternate hope, celebration and fear
The bottom-three whirlpool
                          Rich team or poor
O you who prime the pump and pour the cash in
Consider Delia, who was in the Premiership before.


After the flood-light white on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the park
After the agony in far-off places
The threatening and the chanting
Leicester and London and Burnley and Bolton
Of  snow far off over distant Pennines
They who came up are falling
Those who were winning are falling
Fans have little patience

Here is no water but only lager
Defeat and Decline and the endless road
The road winding to a series of humiliations
There's a mountain to climb if they're gonna stay up
If there were water they could stop and drink
Out of those fancy branded bottles, green and pink
Sweat is shed, but feet are in  quick-sand
If there were only water upon the grass
To give the ball some life, to make the passes zip
These days we can't stand - we have to sit
There is not quite silence even at Old Trafford
The faithful stand, regardless of the rules
There is never solitude for the players on the pitch
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From the seats of crumbling stands
                                If there were hope
And no failure
If there were failure
And also hope
And hope
A win
At Liverpool on the road
If there were the sound of hope only
Not the sadness
And dry hopeless singing
But hope overcoming failure
Where the winger drops the ball in the perfect spot
Dead ball, spot kick
But there is no hope

Who is the third who plays always behind them?
When I count, there are only the strikers together
But when I look ahead up the white line
There is always another one in the hole
Between the midfield and the centre backs
Pulling them out of position
—But who is that on the other side of you?

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of eternal lamentation
Who are those hoodied hordes swarming
Around endless stands, hoping in earthen jars
Ringed by the cloying stands only
What is the hope beyond the ities
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the April air
Falling towers
Swansea Liverpool Manchester
Stoke London

Drogba drew his long black hair out tight
And fell screaming on the waiting pitch
And the refereee, tiny beetle in the searing light
Whistled, and gave him a free kick
He clambered up, and turned to face the wall
And carefully ignored the jeers around the ground
Then jogged forward, leaving Fabregas with the ball
Chelsea voices singing as he headed in the rebound.

In this decayed stand within the city
Under the moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled striker, about the corner flags
There are the empty eyes of the attackers, losing at home.
They're three nil down, beyond unlikely swings.
The home fans are silent.
Only the cock of the walk with his pose and posse
Who the ***ing hell are you?
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain
The home fans, shrunken in their seats
Waited for the whistle, left, or watched the rain
Gathering over the Main stand.
The manager crouched, slumped in silence.
Then the whistle blew.
Carra: what have we learnt?
My friends, blood stirring in veins
The awful tragedy of a defence’s surrender
Which later prudence can never correct
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
Neville: Drogba found the key
Turned, took the defence apart 
We think of his strength, class and vision
Thinking of his whining, diving precision
Only the physio, running out on the pitch
Revived for a miracle this broken Collosus.
Carra: The Reds responded
Gamely, with pace and control
But the Blues' defence was calm, their captain responded
Gladly, marshalling his colleagues,
With waving hands

                      I sat upon my seat
Aching, with the barren season before me
Well, we can concentrate on the League Cup now.

Stamford Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poor old Chelsea.

Nil satis nisi optimum — unless we get a good offer
Superbia in proelia - Domus clamantium
You'll never walk alone. You'll never walk alone.
Ludere causa ludendi. Vim promovet insitam
Arte et labore

      Boing! Boing! Boing!


Just to say hello to the people of Sorry Watch, who have linked to this blog. Sorry Watch is dedicated to analysing the apologies of this world. And apparently didn't think mine was sincere the other week. Can't imagine why.

I can only say, if anyone was offended by their perception lack of sincerity, then I'm sorry.

Hallowe'en - the Ancient English Rituals You've Never Heard Of

It is, to the rest of the world, a time of scary leprechauns and children dressed as vampires. But in England, where All Hallows' Eve got its name, the period around Hallowe'en is littered with bizarre, terrifying and yet oddly compelling rituals.

In England, Hallowe'en came to be a spiritual time because it is the last day to have a month that starts with the letter "O". Naturally, this causes a rift in the time vortex through which the powers of drivel can sneak in. In Witney, they put blankets over cracks in the walls in case "Pumpkin-Faced Dave" sneaks in to tell them he's not a feminist. Although he does believe in equal rights for women. If Pumpkin-Faced Dave manifests in a house, you have to give him the largest T-Shirt you can find to make him go away.

The Crewkerne Pumpkin Fight is a pitched battle fought in the streets of the Somerset town with pumpkins. It is believed that it is a folk memory of the ancient Celtic tradition that the soul lives in the head. Or something. The winner of the battle is proclaimed "King Pumpkin", and goes on to meet Bayer Leverkeusen in the next round. 

The "Hobby Horse" is a popular Catholic tradition dating back to the time of Vatican 2. Former Telegraph columnists and members of the Ordinariate wander around, telling everybody that they don't trust their bishops.

In Axminster, the young men indulge in arm wrestling to determine who will be "King Cheese". Unfortunately nobody knows what duties he then has. So he wanders aimlessly round the town until Christmas, at which time they've all forgotten about it till next year. There's not much to do, in Axminster.

In Glossop, young men wrap themselves in bacon and dance around the town singing the song "I'm a perfect Christmas Accessory". This is believed to be an ancient fertility rite. Although not a very effective one, as they smell of bacon for weeks afterwards.

In Dunstable, all the pubs are decorated with Christmas trees from early August. 

In Ealing, Boris Johnson roams the streets looking for attractive women and potential voters. This is a fertility ritual, but not an ancient or pleasant one.

The women of Chester march round the city walls, looking for any Welshmen they can find. If they find one, they present him with a small onion, and tell him to come back in February. This is likely to be a folk memory of something, but frankly nobody can be bothered to work out what.

If you sit in the church porch of Silsoe in Bedfordshire all night on Hallowe'en, you've an evens chance of getting arthritis.

Many traditions have been made safer, or more politically correct, for our modern times. The Lemon-throwing ritual of Hemsby in Norfolk, for instance, has only been in existence for twelve years, since the original Lemming Throwing was banned. Throwing lemmings over the cliffs was claimed to prevent the ancient Celtic God, Manannan Mac Lyr, from washing the cliffs away. When the RSPCA brought the initial court cases, the locals' claim that the lemmings enjoyed it was rejected. In 2012-3, Hemsby beach was washed away during severe storms. Co-incidence?

In Middleton-in-Teesdale, men dress up as Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, and run around the streets scaring old men. When they return to the "Housey-wousey"', the Brands announce they have found enlightenment and can now save the universe. Then they get frustrated that they are still unable to work the TV remote.

The village of Mears Ashby in Northamptonshire received a special dispensation from Edward VII to continue swimming suspected witches, long after the practice had been made illegal elsewhere in England. On Hallowe'en, all the local witches are thrown into the pond to see which ones float. Any found to be witches are then elected to the Parish Council. The Enlightenment never really took hold in Mears Ashby.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Big Banger Theory

Sometimes I think that scientific activity is like cooking a sausage in a frying pan, and worrying it's not cooked in the middle.

The only way to ensure it's cooked in the middle is either to cook the outside until it's utterly burnt, or to cut it in half and, if it's not cooked in the middle, fry the inside.

Either way, you now know the truth.

But you don't really have the fried sausage you wanted.

Meeting the Challenges of Ministry - Quiz Results

Inspired by David Keen's piece on talent and enabling, here are the answers to yesterday's "Meeting the Challenges of Ministry" quiz.

  1. The minister will just have to drive faster.
  2. The minister.
  3.  Some other church will find them.
  4. A trick question. You can't do 2 half-time posts unless the Government legislates for an 8 day week.
  5. .....always knows best.
  6. Other churches will have to contribute more.
  7. Yes, you are an exceptional case.
  8. The minister.
  9. The group cannot make any decisions until s/he gets there from the other meetings. Have a cup of tea while you wait.
  10. Somebody else's service will have to shift.
  11. The minister.
  12. No, she's too young.
  13. No. The Grest Commission applied to other people.
  14. The minister.
  15. The memorials. The current congregation won't be around long, anyway.
  16. Because it makes the choir nervous.
  17. He'll have to learn the mouth organ.
  18. Exhausted.
  19. Over her dead body.
  20. Because it didn't work last time.
  21. Because it's an innovation.
  22. It doesn't matter if nobody is there. The important thing is that it happens.
  23. The minister.
  24. Write a letter to the bishop.
  25. Only if he time travels.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Russia World Cup Emblem - A Review

The official emblem of the FIFA World Cup has been revealed. I've no idea about the usage rights, so I'll leave you to follow the link.

To me it mostly looks like a very sad ghost, gazing upwards wondering whether it has the energy to absorb somebody's soul.  Sepp Blatter's, probably.  It puts me in mind of the wraith of Stalinism, sucking the psychic energy out of the Mexican Day of the Dead, and setting out to consume Europe.

Or maybe it's meant to look a bit like the trophy.