Monday, 31 October 2011
Having had a bit of spare time today, I - Burton Dasset, Certified Accountant and Member of the British Computer Society, propose to discuss the following subjects in the Moot House tonight.
1. That the Religion which is called Beaker, although it professes to be the original monotheistic religion of the British Isles, illuminated by the Gospel Light, has in fact been made up as Eileen goes along.
2. That the lighting of scented tea lights is not, of itself, a spiritual exercise.
3. Eileen cannot demand by right the obedience of a Beaker Person - such behaviour being clearly in contradiction to the spirit of the Reformation and also, in the way she enforces it, of the Laws of England.
4. Eileen cannot impute guilt to us, no matter how much she implies we are useless failures who have constantly let her, each other, and ourselves down. Although, to be fair, she may have a point on this one.
5. Eileen's preaching of indulgences is in error. You don't get "time off Purgatory for good behaviour" by buying the coasters bearing cheesy spiritual mottoes that she purveys in the Beaker Bazaar.
6. "Salvation points" do not exist - and you do not get one with every pack of doilies.
7. It is certain that when the cash-till jingles, Eileen is slightly richer. Although she prefers clean, electronic financial transactions to the vulgar sound of coins - and will be introducing Contactless as soon we receive accreditation.
8. No spiritual good was ever achieved by singing Coldplay songs.
9. He who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does better than the one who buys Eileen's latest CD of whale-songs. Or "The Beaker Quire sing Graham Kendrick", for that matter.
10. It was wrong of Eileen to sell those people in central London tents. And even worse of her to promise that they were thermally efficient.
11. If this is the last you hear from me, then you won't be hearing from me again.
The co-incidence of the Christian feasts of All Saints and All Souls seems to have introduced, via a tortuous route, the link with death and - via Mexican traditions and Hollywood and US commercialism - produced the ghoul-fest of small children traipsing around the streets dressed as Gary Barlow and Tulisa that we know today. It's truly astonishing how mutable folkloric traditions can be.
But in keeping with our Beaker heritage, we're going to keep Samhain as a serious feast. So we're going to light a bonfire and hope it keeps the darkness away. Pumpkins, swedes and turnips carved in scary faces are allowed. As long as you light a tea light inside them. But ghouls, ghosts, pirates, mummies, giraffes (I don't want a repeat of last year) and Ricky Gervais masks are out. This is a proper celebration. And we don't want to scare the kids too much.
I heard someone complaining last night about worship that had been sung at a service he attended. The song sounds like (for he was finding it difficult to speak properly, this one.
And my complainant was saying no wonder no men go to church. And I guess he had a point. Although, to be fair, this song isn't sung at every service of every church in the world. It's not among the manly and solid lyrics of the Redemption Hymnal, for example, and so my source would be safe at Drayton's church. Safe, that is, from silly music if not from six-hour sermons.
I'm pretty sure that I recognise the source that this song is based on - "Kiss me with your mouth", by - I believe - Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy. It seems odd that modern chorus-writers are going back to New Romantic songs for their inspiration. But still. I wish Stephen well in his new movie career, although he looks a bit pudgier than I remember him.
Sunday, 30 October 2011
"Theoretically the world should be divided into 24 equal time zones, in which each zone differs from the last by one hour"
Should be? That's a strange use of what I am informed is a modal auxiliary verb, whatever that means. It implies that the writer is an expert in time-zonology and has a god-like awareness of what is good for us. Which just happens to kind-of fit in with how we do things round here.
On what basis should we divide the world up like this? On the arbitrary one that we happen to have 24 hours in the day? And that our assumption is that, at the Equator, 6 am is the time the sun happens to rise and 12 is the number we use for mid-day and mid-night? I suppose this sentence may be sound, based on the "theoretically" at the front, which we could interpret to mean "in a theory". There are other alternatives, you see:
"Theoretically the world should all use Universal Time*. Then it would be the same time everywhere, and we'd all know what time it was all round the world."
"Theoretically the world should be divided in 127 randomly-sized time zones, some of which use different number bases."
"Theoretically the world should be divided into two very big time zones, one for the light side and one for the dark side."
"Theoretically the world should have 10 hours in the day, each of which has one time zone."
"Theoretically the world should have evenly graduated time zones so that 12 noon is midday - and exactly midday - wherever you happen to be."
Each of those has just as much validity as the BBC's statement. Which means that their use of the word "Theoretically" is meaningless. And their use of the word "should" is outrageous. I accuse them of cultural imperialism, for deciding how the world should divide up its time, and scientific illiteracy for assuming there is something inherent in the universe that says there should be 24 hours in the day.
I don't know why this niggles me as it does. But it's been a quiet day. I should probably get out more.
Brothers (and sisters, suitably-instructed by a male relative or pastor, for this is strong meat) - I cannot pretend that the exposition of every single number in Numbers, and its meaning, is by any measure a short exercise. Our service started at 10am as normal, and by the time I was reaching the final set of numeric meanings I noticed how late it was becoming.
And so I suggested to my flock that, given the lateness of the hour, we could simply allow our morning devotions to be joined directly onto the evening praise that sanctifies our rest. Imagine my shock and surprise when they stormed the pulpit, ripped my sermon to shreds - the last twelve points as yet unpreached - and ran out of the chapel to find something to eat. Ah me, I will put it down to low blood sugar. Next time I have a serious sermon to preach, I will have to arrange to have caramel crème biscuits (not bourbons, which could over-excite) passed around after every few points, to enhance the congregational stamina.
Hnaef: Peace be with you.
Charlii: And with you.
Burton: Couldn't sleep either?
Hnaef: I just forgot to put them back.
Charlii: Worse than that for me. I followed Eileen's instructions on what time to get up. I've been up for hours.
Burton: So why's she not here herself?
Hnaef: She told me last night that a van-driving Radical and a Roman Catholic had put her right.
Charlii: Some of her "blogging" friends, I suppose.
Burton: Personally I reckon these people aren't real. I think she makes them up to pretend she's got a real "community".
Charlii: Burton, when you put a word "in quotes" please don't do that "quotes" action with your fingers.
Burton: Oh - why not?
Charlii: Because I'll break them.
Hnaef: I see Eileen's discernment was spot-on when she chose you as the trainee, Charlii.
Charlii: Yeah, well. What are we going to do now we're here?
Burton: We could pour out the Beakers.
Hnaef: No, I don't think Eileen would like that.
Burton: or I could preach my 45 minute sermon on "Etruscan number sequences in the book of Ezekiel? It's based on original research, and it would just fit.
Charlii: Let's not, and say we did.
Hnaef: Or. We could pour out the Beakers, to give ourselves something to do - and then fill them up again?
Burton: Sneaky, but fraught with danger.
Charlii: Or we could have a Cafe Church?
Hnaef - What, you mean go back to the Rainbow. Room and just have a cup of coffee? Sounds good to me. There must be something on Kids' TV.
Saturday, 29 October 2011
Pouring Out of Beakers will be at 9am. That's 8am if you're still on British Summer Time. Or, for members of the Prayer Book Society, it'll still be 1662.
I'm pleased to declare today an official Day of Charity.
We're going to be light on organised events today. Instead we will spend our time in quiet acts of kindness and forgiving. If we have disagreements - for, to be sure, we all have different viewpoints - we will deal with them through dialogue and mutual respect. We will not resort to vilification, no matter how much we are vilified.
And who knows? If today's Day of Charity is a success, we may do it every year.
Friday, 28 October 2011
And I would like to say that I hear your concern. Especially at this time when we're all in it together. I realise that Beaker People have worked hard this year. We have increased tithes, decreased rations and had to economise in other areas. Take the window cleaning - instead of paying for professional cleaning, we have resorted to wrapping Beaker People in giant sponges and making them bounce up and down on trampolines to get to the top windows.
And I am aware that Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Ltd has once again shown an operating loss. And people are asking, how can I justify a stonking pay rise when we have performed so dismally? But I should point out that the results were depressed by the depreciation on the newly-refurbished Archdruid's Suite. And by some very large management fees from the holding company, Beaker Folk (Cayman Islands). So overall it was a good, and tax-efficient, set of results, which should pave the way very nicely for my plans next year to go bust and re-start as a "pre-pack" rescue, writing off outstanding debts to my suppliers and allowing the new management (i.e. me) to negotiate some more advantageous rates.
As a gesture of good faith, however, in the meantime I am planning to improve the remuneration for the volunteers in the Beaker Bazaar and the kitchen to exactly the same degree that I myself have benefited. They will all receive 50% rises, as indeed will Hnaef, our Self-Supporting Druid. After all, we're all in it together.
Very malleable, that Man from Nazareth.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
OK. First to say - there's nothing wrong with nearly all the national chains that sell food across our fine country. They mostly sell food of a quality we (and I'm thinking mostly of the English here) could never have dreamed of until recent times. You may think there's other things wrong with some, many or all of them. I'm not saying you're wrong. But I'm not - for legal reasons and also because this is what I think - saying you're right. You may prefer a traditional creperie in a quiet Breton market town, where the eggs come from the flock of hens pecking round the front door, the cheese from the milk of the cows in the field opposite and the Calva from the apple orchard down the road. And who am I to say that you're wrong? Apart from pointing out that they don't make Calvados in Britanny by definition, and there's probably a poodle or similar half-pint-sized French pooch getting its revenge for Agincourt by shedding into the batter. But who am I to comment?
But to get back to the point I was trying to make - and doing quite well, till the French interfered. And it's about out-of-town eaterie megaplexes. They had a bit of a boom time in the latter Blair years, and their legacy is with us still. Normally next door to a designer outlet - whatever that is - or some other American-style "mall", they normally consist of a multi-screen cinema, bowling alley, and a smattering of the usual suspects - Nandos, Wetherspoons, Hungry Horse, Pizza Express - you know the kind of thing. And of an evening or weekend lunchtime, the locals who are possessed of a few bob - but not enough to go somewhere posh - will stroll along and spend a few quid.
And it's not that this is so wrong. What's the problem with eating a calzone pizza followed by three quarters of an hour in the Snow-Dome? Apart from the obvious fact that the other way round is less likely to result in stomach cramps, obviously. And there's nothing wrong with shops stelling stuff that other people have made, to other people who want to buy it. That is, after all, how the world works. And it saves us all schlepping off to India or somewhere every time we want to buy a pair of curtains.
But I guess it's the thought that this - this is the highlight of people's weeks or even years that worries me. My great-uncle laboured for years in a Castleford coal-mine. He kept soul and body together for himself and my great-auntie. And he must have thought to himself that by class struggle and a few tons of coal, he was working towards a better future. I bet he never dreamt that one bright, glorious day when the coal was too expensive to mine, they'd put in a climbing-wall and a shoe shop above where his head was.
Friends, it seems to me we've been sold a pup. Where our fore-parents strove for a better life we've been happy to eat our pre-processed mush. Instead of art we've Johnny English Reborn. Instead of the nobility of physical exertion we've a laser maze. As the great prophet Jarvis might have put it, had he been a coal miner in the last century, "the future that you've got mapped out is nothing much to shout about."
Northampton is - in some respects - lucky. As well as the standards - KFC, McDonald's, all the rest - Sixfields has a football ground. One of the few places where people can still get together and dream of a better future. The rest can just walk through rainy malls, buying Trespass clothing that will never see a field and fighting mock battles which care nothing for the blood and tears of the real ones.
There's a scene in Maya Angelou's I Know why the Caged Bird Sings. They've been to a revival meeting and cried "How Long, O Lord?" And they walk past the juke joint, where the punters dance with the hookers and she imagines the same cry - how long, O Lord? And I walk the concrete malls of our consumer heaven and hear nothing. Is this all it is? Is this why our parents and grandparents struggled? Is this the reason we live - why we get up in the morning and drag ourselves to work? Is this what we live for? And I listen for the echo from the shop windows - How long, O Lord?" And you know what? It doesn't come.
Can everybody please get out and help me extract today's visiting speaker from the duck pond? I don't think he's going to get out of the sack on his own.
A silly mis-hearing on my part. Turns out he was offering to share his expertise in Eschatology.
Time enough it was then - and I remember so long, deep long, rolling waves of time long ago when childhood struggled into confused teenage years when one English lesson was much the same as another in that fading car-making town, and I never remember whether it was that Macbeth was taught to us by Mrs Dickens or Dickens was taught us by Lady Macbeth.
And all the lessons run together now - the day I fell asleep on the dream-dark desk after the previous night's School Passion Play Production when Pilate was late on stage because his servant was round the back of the toilets, drinking,eyes cold, lager from the bottles they'd smuggled in under the hawk-sharp, hook-shaped nose of Mr Challis the Drama teacher.
And I dig down deep, through the decaying detritus of dark days of Dickens and the yellow-stockinged steward, iambic pentameters and cross-dressimg couples and rhyming couplets and put in my thumb and pull out a peach.
Or Peaches. Child-viewed, bright-hued, breathing another's idyll of the long-ago dream-days when you knew the specialness of being you, long hidden through the days of struggle and work and the day-long, dazed, long days of the office stole away the tastes and smells and scrapes and yells of being a child.
And through the haze of days the shady, shallow figure of Gwilym swims through - subliming sex into spiritual sonnets, scribing hymns to girls then changing the names to "God".
And I wonder... would Gwilym be a famous Christian song-writer these days? Only I think I've heard a lot of his songs.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
And yet I read of the oldest living tree - which is a Norway Spruce (albeit one living in Sweden). It is nearly 10 millennia old.
Suddenly I feel in awe, and just a little guilty. Maybe we'll go for pot-grown this year. Who'd have thought, by putting up Christmas decorations, you'd be shortening the life of another organism by 10,000 years?
And let's be honest - you'll never get much tinsel on that.
(Hat tip to Progressive Involvement for the link)
It's not often I have many left-wing thoughts these days. But unlike most of the tents in St Paul's churchyard, I sometimes realise there's a class-warrior lurking in me somewhere.
But still. And I realise this is probably one of those policy kite-flying exercises that Governments of all colours - Red, Blue and the current rather sludgy Brown - indulge in. All "leaked reports" contain radical proposals that never see the light of day.
It's in the Telegaph. The Beecroft report recommends enabling companies to sack employees - with no given reason - albeit with minimum redundancy pay. Which first up makes me wonder why they asked for a report at all, and didn't just wander into the lounge bar of any pub in Dunstable.
Now, it's not going to happen. First up, it would end up with a rash of equal rights legal claims. Nobody would use this process against ethnic minorities, nor against women, nor especiallly against pregnant women from ethnic minorities.
Even Mr Beecroft seems to recognise the silliness of his idea. He recognises that being able to sack people because you don't like them is "unfair". I'm surprised he didn't continue with the reflection "but then Life's not fair. Get used to it."
And in practice this could be a disaster. In effect short-term expediency would be a business rule. People could be thrown out for validly pointing out problems with their managers' pet ideas. Instead of making businesses slicker, they would be at risk of falling to pieces as people were randomly fired at the whim of the management.
There's a passage in Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge where Abel Whittle is always - through no fault of his own, but then also no fault of his employer's - late for work. After a series of warnings that would actually do a modern HR department proud, Mayor Henchard comes down and drags him out of bed and sends him off to work in his underwear. I'm not advocating this as a valid employment method, but it's interesting to note that a fictional 19th Century alcoholic with no people skills has a generally more humane attitude to employment disciplinary methods than a Government advisor. Under the Beecroft proposals the unfortunate Whittle could have been sacked first time.
And there's a practical side for me. If I sacked everyone just because I didn't like them, i'd have no-one running the place. And then I might have to pay their replacements.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
I feel an era has closed. Old things pass away, 'tis true. But her family have lost a grand old lady, and we have all lost our last direct link to the Great Man. The world's a sadder place.
According to Wikipedia, and contrary to popular belief, the horn is not used as an aphrodisiac. Rather, it is used for treating fevers and convulsions. Although there is no serious science to back it up. So a beautiful animal - and the last in its location - has been killed to be used to provide a remedy that is not known to work. It doesn't really give me hope for the future of all life-kind.
Meanwhile, and only tenuously related, the test for a climate-change fix has been put on hold. The plan is to spray sulphates into the sky, in the belief that it will reflect the sun's rays back into space. Apparently the aim is to reduce the temperature by 2K.
You know we'do cock it up, don't you. When did science ever work wide-scale first time? Look at the invention of CFCs. We'd cock it up and acidify the oceans, or it'd all go runaway the other way and we'd be heading for a new Ice Age so we'd have to burn more CO2. And then that would overdo it and it'd get too hot again. So we'd spray some more sulphate up there and chuck a load of lime in the sea...
I don't know, we think we can sort out the temperature of the earth and we can't even protect one blooming rhino. What chance do we think we have?
(From Matthew 5:1-12)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Because that's right isn't it - giving the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit?
Don't get me wrong - I'm not knocking the deserving poor in spirit. You know, the ones who've worked hard to be rich in spirit - or aat least comfortably-off in spirit. The ones who are pulling their weight in spirit, is what I'm getting at. I've nothing against them. Oh no, it's the idle poor in spirit I'm thinking of. The spongers in spirit. No effort, no work-rate. These people should get off the bums and on their bikes and make themselves at least getting-by in spirit, if you ask me.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
But mourning for what? It's no good just sitting around moping when there's a kingdom to build. Where's the can-do spirit in mourning all the time? Sure, the world's in a state and there's people in misery - all things end in death and disease and unexpected disaster are round every corner. Well, that's life. Buck up, pull yourself together - light a tea light, is my advice. That'll soon turn your sorrow into a sense of dulled cheeriness.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
Yes, the meek. Not the prophetic. Not the poets. Not the ones holding out visions and calling people to the promised land. No. The bloody meek. Like they'll know what to do with the earth.
No skin off my nose if the meek get it, mind. We - the people who make things happen - we'll all be safely off to heaven before the meek get it. And just as well. State I reckon we non-meek are gonna leave the earth in, the meek are welcome to it.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
Now, nobody's more peckish after righteousness than I am. Don't get me wrong. If there's righteousness on the table then I'm after it like a shot. Very partial to a bit of righteousness, I am.
But you know the trouble with righteousness? Not always on the table, is it? Sometimes the next decent meal of righteousness is a long way off. And it's very tasty - don't get me wrong - but it's a faff to make. So - and I'm being very candid here, letting you into a few little secrets of the trade. Sometime I reckon it's OK to cheat. And - given a bit of luck - false modesty and an air of piety can be passed off very successfully as genuine righteousness. You'd never know the difference - apart from that slight hint of saccharine rather than honey. Of course, the trouble with false modesty is that an hour later you need to be falsely modest again.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."
They're like that, the merciful.
They'll fall for anything.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
Yes, and seeing God - don't get me wrong, it's great. But if you've got to go getting your heart pure and all - that's tricky, isn't it? I mean, you could probably struggle against lust, let's say. But when you'd done that I think we can agree you'd rightly be proud of yourself. Swings and roundabouts, is what I'm saying. Seeing God's pretty hard, in other words. But it's much easier just to get a rough idea of what he looks like.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. "
And I know where the peacemakers tend to stsnd. In between the warring parties. Caught in the crossfire, in danger of attack from both sides. That's the trouble with peacemakers - even if you know someone's wrong and someone's right you've still got to stand in the middle while the peace is worked out - if you steam in on the "right' side you're not peacemaking, you're just another combatant.
So much better to side with the strong, I reckon. And being a child of God's great, but maybe being a niece or nephew of God's the place to aim? Then you get God coming round two or three times a year, never telling you off and leaving presents at Christmas and your birthday. Uncles are great, and far less demanding.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Which is great, but sometimes people won't persecute you - or not properly - no matter how righteous you are. In these circumstances I recommend behaving unreasonably and then making some ludicrous stand about it. It's got all the benefits of persecution but without all that nasty pain. And if you're persecuted loudly enough, as only a middle-class white Briton could be, with any luck it won't happen again.
Monday, 24 October 2011
Sadly we never really got to the liturgy itself. Just spent an hour trying to work out how to pronounce his surname. And now nobody wants to go to bed, because they'll be suddenly so aware of all the munchkin mini-beasts that will be awaiting them. Could be a long night in the Common Room.
Now I presume by "Full Gospel" they mean not just salvation through Jesus Christ, but also the Pentecostal gifts such as tongues, healing and prophecy. And that's great. Let's celebrate a living Spirit working in her church. What a gift the Pentecostal church was in reminding us that the experience of God isn't only waiting for us on the other side of Jordan.
But if the Gospel is one of healing - then healing of what? Not just individual people, surely - we aren't individuals in any case, we're embedded in families, in friendships, in churches often, in bodies and associations. But maybe healing of society? Healing of personal relationships? Healing of divisions? Healing of unfair work practices? Healing of unbalanced trade relationships? Healing of the way we treat the world?
I reckon that's all going to add up to a bit more of the Full Gospel.
I mean, fancy double-booking the Sealed Knot with the Star Wars Appreciation Society. After that clash with Prince Rupert's Regiment they're busy trying to revive the Ewoks - but I think it's a bit of a forlorn hope.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
She is officially declared our hero. That is all.
So we're introducing a new and rigorous programme for the men in the Beaker Folk. When walking down the "corridor of uncertainty" between the Great House and Moot House, they will in future be sprayed with ice cold water from the corridor walls. If any man is caught looking bored during a sermon, I will lob a conker at them. And we've rigged the television schedule so that, whenever there is a football match on, instead we will be re-showing a DVD of "Truly, Madly, Deeply".
I'm not sure exactly how this is going to help us in our mission to men, but I'm willing to give it a try.
The first thought was that we should all stand in a circle, looking round at everyone else and assuring them we forgive the wrongs they've done to us. But Druzilla said she'd just look straight at the floor throughout as she's already forgiven and forgotten - especially Marfa, who really needed some forgiving. Charlii said she thought it was a great idea, and she'd make sure she got a good view of me for some reason. Aelfride, being an utter wet and a weed chiz said she felt looking at someone to forgive them meant labelling them as needing forgiveness. Which might cause offence - so she would therefore be keeping her eyes closed throughout.
And obviously some of the men objected that this was another example of feminized, relational ritual rather than something cut and dried and full of action and a bit more masculine - like Dryden's suggestion we build a giant balsa-wood "Ark of Sin", set fire to it and push it out into the duck pond. Which sounded great but was rejected as we didn't have time for the Risk Assessment, were worried for the welfare of the ducks (and Duckhenge, our rather tamer tribute to Seahenge) - and in any case where were we gonna get that much balsa in a hurry on a Sunday morning?
Burton Dasset, with his finely-tuned and numerate mind, came up with an interesting idea. He suggested we issue (I say "issue" - I'm thinking "sell" - every Beaker Person a small Black Book. All week you write down the names of the people that have got your goat - then ever Sunday we have the Grand Ceremony of Crossing-Out. I did ask how this fitted with the idea that "love keeps no record of wrongs" - but Burton asssures me that we can flex that for short-term liturgical recording of wrongs, as long as they are destroyed periodically in accordance with the Data Protection Act. And we were reminded that we have actually crossed out that phrase in the 1 Corinthians reading in the Beaker Handfasting liturgy, "for pastoral reasons".
Like unto Burton's idea was the Forgiveness beads idea. This was mine. I suggested that every time you felt aggrieved with a fellow Beaker Person, you could come down to the Beaker Bazaar and buy a special Beaker Bead of Forgiveness. These would be pressure-treated with olive oil of reconciliation. Then on Sundays we would open them up (disposing of the foil wraps responsibly), pile them in a bronze Bowl of Reconciliation - and watch other people's sins that we have harboured burn to ash.
But again, not everyone would buy into it. Mostly on the grounds that there's a Euro crisis and they couldn't afford that many Beads. And Charlii reckoned he'd need a wheelbarrow, for some reason.
Which all brings me to the conclusion we reached. Instead of any of the above effective methods, we're going to try a technique called "repentance, restitution and forgiveness". With the caveat that the forgiveness is not to be dependent on the repentance and the restitution. Nor are the repentance and restitution to be conditional on the forgiveness. The Beaker People I've spoken to generally approve, on the grounds that it sounds nice and cheap. But deep down, I reckon it's going to cost more than we imagine.
Saturday, 22 October 2011
It's not normally something that I worry about. And it's not often I bother to comment on what the Sun says. Normally, like all good Liverpool fans, I boycott the offensive rag, but on this occasion I read the website. And I think that's OK as it means I'm costing them server bandwidth and not buying anything from their advertisers, and I really don't care what Debbie from Dagenham thinks about what appears to be the murder of Colonel Gadaffi. I'm not saying Debbie doesn't have her own views, but I'm not totally sure that the copy next to her bare torso necessarily represents them in all their riches.
But I'm fascinated by this image of the world's electric network. Apart from the fact that the "scientist" who put this together, Felix from Montreal, has just cobbled together a load of stuff from the 'net himself, and remarks that you can't see electric cables from outer space. That doesn't matter. Because he's right - the world is criss-crossed with electricity - electrons surging in all directions, bringing the benefits of fossil-fuel burning to all people that can afford the bill.
But it does show that antipathy to humanity in the mass that some hold. Describes the human "sprawl" - as if the world being filled with exciting, interesting, questioning, captivating people is some kind of mistake.Yes, I'm personally with those who think that it might be an idea, to lengthen the time human beings can populate this planet, to ensure there's not too many of us at one time. But I wasn't thinking of shrinking the number suddenly - rather gradually reducing, through non-violent means, the number being produced at any one time. People are great. We need lots of them. For as long as possible. And by the way, the population growth suggested by the Sun article is massively, eye-swivellingly, people-hatingly wrong compared to the UN's predictions.
But that's not what I'm really interested in. The minute I saw the idea of an "electric planet", I thought of a report I saw 11 years ago. And it told us that ghost sightings had died off in the 15 years since the widespread use of mobile phones. But then you see the maps of the earth with stuff going off and you think - is it really just the mobiles?
Let's pretend for a moment that ghosts can be perceived. I'm not saying they're objectively real. I'm saying they're perceivable. You can know that something is there. They could be an electrical field, they could be a hallucination (or an hallucination, according to Drayton). They could be the spirits of the dead, unable fully to shuffle off their mortal coil and go to join the choir invisible. Let's just assume you can perceive them. An Anglican vicar of my acquaintance claims he saw a Black Shuck once, but is perfectly prepared to accept it could just have been an Alsatian with a growth hormone imbalance - it just looked like a big ghost dog.
So if there's stuff to perceive - then 30 years ago, walking down a quiet country lane or standing around in a country house, you might have noticed it. It might have been a quiet electromagnetic anomaly, it could have been the effect of a pylon overhead - or it might even have been the subtle smile that told you that a young man or woman (according to choice) was interested in you. And with no iPhone, no Nokia, no Android, you might have noticed it. Today, it could have been rattling chains round your head while telling you about the darkness of the deepest pit of the Inferno, and if you were busy with Angry Birds or telling Twitter that there was some rubbish down the sides of the lane, FWIW, then frankly it would be wasting its time. My theory is that mobile phones didn't kill ghosts - the world was flooded with electromagnetic waves before then - it was our interactions with mobile phones that did. Before our current age of social networking, there was an era of yuppies with phones the size of bricks, shouting loudly into them that the signal wasn't up to much.
No, the difference between 30 years ago and now is that the people who might have noticed ghosts then - pallid, sensitive, needy types - are too busy worrying that they've been snubbed by a Facebook friend they met once in Stow-on-the-Wold Market, or wondering why their cutting remark about the woman who was just on the X-factor wasn't retweeted. They're not alert to the outside world anymore. The Wodewose tells me that every day he leads a troupe of 11 supernatural beings across the pelican crossing at Hockliffe, and nobody ever notices. I've asked him why he takes them all the way down to Hockliffe every morning - costing me diesel money and terrifying Jurgen, who drives the mini-bus - but he tells me something about a Roman legionary he was good mates with.
But my point is clear, if you follow it. We don't notice ghosts, whatever they are. We don't notice subtle inter-personal signals. We don't hear promptings from the Still Small Voice. We're too busy broadcasting our views and needs in all directions. Mobile phones didn't kill ghosts. We did.
It's a steely-blue sky out there. The grass is green, the first Woodbine-coughs of the sparrows, breathing as they do air that is infused with the diesel fumes from the M1, can be heard over the quietness of the scattered hamlets of Husborne Crawley.
Morning's a funny time. To the romantics such as Aelfride, who was out betimes skipping around and washing her face in the dew of dawn, it's a time of magic and excitement. As the light increases, things that were spectral and eerie become the old loved and familiar trees and buildings that they always were. She then rushes, energised and excited, into Pouring Out of Beakers to tell us how wonderful life is.
Mind you, she also tells us that the stars are God's daisy-chain, and has been heard to say "hullo trees, hullo flowers." She is an utter weed chiz and we need not dwell on her any longer.
For others, joy doesn't always come in the morning. And I don't just refer to those who've overdone it on the gin-and-winegums the night before. There are those for whom sweet is the night, and dreams bring release - those for whom the morning is an enemy, for whom the day brings emptiness, and consciousness dread. Those for whom the only appropriate response, in the words of Adams' bowl of petunias, is "Oh no, not again." And the relentless cheery chirping of the Aurorophiles will never drown out the dreadful shuddering of the Aurorophobes. It is for those that hate mornings that today we will dedicate our first hymn, "Man of Constant Sorrows".
For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasures here on earth I found
For in this world I'm bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now.
(chorus) He has no friends to help him now.
And when I consider the fate of those for whom the morning is a curse, that's when I see the power in this:
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour." (Hab 3:17-18)
When Jeremiah - or someone with a very similar beard, at any rate - looked out across the devastated city of Jerusalem - its walls broken down, its young men killed, women taken as spoils of war, children murdered or hungry in the streets - he used with these words:
"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope
It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness." (Lam 3:21-23)
The words of a dreamer? Maybe. But words of one who is out of touch with reality? No. Words of defiance, and hope and sheer resistance? Certainly.
Mornings can be bleak, and the oblivion of night preferable. But a bright hope remains and shines for those who cling on to the faith they have.
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
My face you never will see no more
But there is one promise that is given,
I'll meet you on Gods golden shore
(Chorus) He'll meet you on God's golden shore.
And now I really must go and get a cup of decent coffee. I hate mornings.
Friday, 21 October 2011
Not with a bang but a whimper.
As galaxies spattered across the universe gently burn away into nothing - even the black holes will dry out - and nothing much will happen, like a Saturday in Slough forever.
It makes me feel kind of comforted, really. All the hope about building a better world for the future did sound a bit over-optimistic. And if you thought that was the way forward you'd just feel really let down when your planet boiled off into the ultra-violet.
I did not mean St Paul's Underground. I don't care how you got it here - it's got to go back. And claiming "nobody's using it anyway at the moment" is not going to change my mind.
OK, you're all still here.
And I'm still here.
So you've not departed.
Now can you all stop trying to recalculate a new End-day. Learn your lessons. There's a gigantic store of wood needs chopping and the Courgette Patch needs digging over. Summer and winter, seed-time and harvest will still continue, and there's a real world to live in.
And will you all stop moaning. I know that the latest failed rapture means you've all got more work to do. But it's not the end of the world.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Having read up thoroughly on the subject, I can now approve with all my heart of the whole theory. To be honest I did not actually understand a word, and trying to comprehend the impact on the total energy of the universe if the Speed of Light halved gave me a nose-bleed. But that is unimportant. What causes my heart to hop, like unto the hills of Psalm 113, is that my failure to understand any of the concepts means that I have to trust to faith alone.
So I thank the people who have explained the Speed of Light changes that prove the Universe is six thousand years old. They have confirmed it scientifically, and yet increased my faith at the same time. Whoso saith that science and religion are in conflict, they have not examined the evidence.
Two things conjoin, as they sometimes do, to set me thinking.
The first was the story of Hen Browne, unpaid Guardian of Stonehenge and avid creationist. He believed that some gelatinous matter congealed on the stones of Stonehenge was the dried-up waters of the Deluge. More creditably, he walked all the way from Amesbury to the London Museum to present them with his set of models of Stonehenge "as-is" and "as-was", as we would say in these Marketing-driven times. Since poor Hen lived in Victorian ones, he was merely told to sling his hook and take his cork models with him. I can imagine him, standing there in Bloomsbury, looking at his set. Resolving not to take in "Les Mis", then an established West End hit. And then imagine him dragging his way back off to walk back to Wiltshire. A heroic, devout and yet definitely off-beam kind of a bloke.
And the other was Anita's musing on Joseph and the way he could only see part of the story. Anita refers to the light of stars taking tens of thousands of years to reach the earth.
But Hen's story, of course, would shatter Anita's analogy. If the universe were only 6,000 years old then the light from even quite nearby stars was never emitted by those stars. God must have created that light en route.
But light isn't just light, is it? It's not just an eastern glow. Because light is actually carrying information (I am also including X-ray, Ultra-violet etc raditation in this. We welcome radiation of all wavelengths and none). If the light comes from a pulsar, we can tell. If the light is being interfered with by an exoplanet we can see that. If the star whose light we see exploded as a supernova, that information will be passed on to us.
But that means that in a 6,000 year old universe, God must have encoded all this data into the light streams. Including the explosions of stars that never existed. Like Joseph, but in reverse, we have the story of a star that never was.
So either God has lied to us, or the first chapters of Genesis are a poetical and mythical theological reflection on what life's all about and not a scientific theory at all.
I know which one I'm going with.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Yes, we've all had a snigger at Del behind his back over the years. Yes, he should admit he's losing - or, frankly, near lost - his hair. Yes, it's the most implausible comb-over haircut we've ever seen. One that had Shredded Wheat suing for patent infringement. Yes, we've all wanted to tell him that - but never dared. But it's still a shame it had to end like this.
They came back from the Snorbens Abbey pilgrimage. Del was sitting up by the driver, chatting at the front of the coach. The door opened, the wind blew in and Del's hairstyle was blown from its "arrangement" on his head and flicked back across the aisle of the coach.
Normally everyone would have just pretended nothing had happened, and allowed Del to retain his dignity. But on this occasion it's hit Burton in the eye. There's no covering the whole messy business up any more. And Del has an appointment with Mr Shears in the morning.
Ten years ago, many people believed in Ricky Gervais. His comedy of embarrassment in The Office, representing a bungling buffoon who does not understand his own crassness, seemed to be a comedy classic.
It has now become clear that in fact Gervais had merely wandered onto the set under the impression he actually worked in that office. When the other actors came out of character and cleared off at the end of the series, he just carried on regardless.
I realise that for many people, losing your faith in Gervais can be hard. But help is at hand. In our support group you can come to grips with your new knowledge that Gervais does not really exist - it was just a name we gave to David Brent. You can discover that in fact "Gervais", "Bernard Manning", "Jim Davidson" - they're really just names we give to the unknown fear that other people might be as valuable as we are. You can meet other people who've stopped believing in Gervais, and in time you can find a real freedom.
Living Without Gervais - you really can do it.
Combined with all the hysteria over Harold Camping's latest prediction of worldwide annihilation on Friday, we've been consumed with excitement over the discovery of what is claimed to be the Holy Grail. Hidden in a rabbit burrow by Joseph of Arimathea, it has passed the centuries safely until last night, when Young Keith put his foot in that same rabbit hole and wondered what he'd trodden on.
He's doing a roaring trade at a fiver a time charging people to touch the precious cup. But can I point out to you two things:
1) The Normans introduced rabbits to Britain. The Romans gave us many things, including writing, sanitation, roads, aqueducts and edible dormice. But not rabbits.
2) The "Grail" seems to have the kind of bottom that was designed to sit on a Bakelite base.
3) It carries the inscription "ABA - Beds light-heavyweight winner 1961".
I'm sorry but Cardinal Fang is going to have to confiscate it. A bit of light file-work and I'm hoping to rebrand it as the original FA Cup.
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
But mysteriously - and in total contrast to every other Celebration we hold, of course - a bit of a fight broke out. And of course everyone was in possession of remarkably sharp objects - all those flint shards and hand axes we had been making at our Flint Manufactory. It could have got a bit nasty, but we turned a couple of fire extinguishers on them all and that dampened things down.
But what caused that sudden riot? Surely not the disputed football result this morning - where Hnaef, as captain of the Reds, was wearing his walking boots instead of football boots and the Blues had to retire hurt. Nor this lunchtime's "Get in touch with your inner Mink". Nor the cider that people had been drinking during this afternoon's autumnal cider-making. I can't believe that would have created such tension between the Beaker People. No, I blame Outside Influences.
Outside Influences are always the cause of life's woes. No child ever did a bad thing in his or her own right - they've always been led astray by The Wrong Sort. No community in this country ever raises up the people that spark off trouble - it's always Outside Influences. No peaceful demo in this country ever turns into a riot unless there is an unexpected influx of Outside Influences. So my theory is that there's a small town somewhere where all the Outside Influences live. Whenever some people have just cause to get grumpy, the town of Outside Influence loads up a coachload of its inhabitants, and buses them down to Cause Trouble.
The town of Outside Influence itself is either totally wrecked by its own inhabitants, or else immaculate in beauty because they use up all their aggression. If the latter, I suspect it may be Marlborough. I'm not commenting on candidates for the former. Not after the last time, when they torched the doily shed. After all, it's only a 15-mile drive...
So now I've firmly cast the blame outside of the Community, thus absolving all the Beaker Folk and myself from any blame, I'm going to be calming everyone down and concentrating on building bridges, pouring oil on troubled waters and healing the rifts. Obviously we're then going to have a load of oily water with nowhere to flow due to the lack of a rift, but we'll burn that bridge (probably one of the ones we've just built) when we get to it. And I'll be listening very carefully. If I hear anyone betray a hint of an Outside Influence accent, I'm going to hit them with a flint hammer. That will teach them to resort to violence.
This question was brought back to my mind this morning by a correspondent who remarked on a comment from the BBC weather forecaster. The rain around the UK, according to this forecaster (or presenter - I'm never sure about the exact scientific qualifications of people who tell us the weather) was becoming more "organised".
It's an expression we've all heard, sure. But what on earth does it mean? At ground level how would we tell the difference between organised and disorganised rain? Does organised rain fall vertically in a solid block, while disorganised rain shoots across sideways, occasionally randomly shooting up out of the ground instead for a bit of a laugh?
It's some kind of metaphor, sure. To someone from the Met Office, used to radar maps and warm fronts - it might make sense - it's just us it's meaningless to. Rather like when Burton refers to the Community network server as "flaky". I thought he meant it was always "falling over" - and assumed they were both metaphors. But oddly enough when I went down to the computer cupboard (I can't really call it a "room" - it's only about the same size as Burton's office) I found the server laying on its side and covered in fragments of pastry.
But back to the rain, the Met Office's suggestion that the rain is getting organised suggests some kind of controlling intelligence - given rain all on its own is only "organised" in any meaningful way when it's frozen. And rain notoriously has no brain. Perhaps, as with the people that police and community officials blame for riots, the cause lies in "outside influences"? And I think I've found the answer in Psalm 148:
"Praise the LORD from the earth,you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,So we have the organising genius identified. But in that case - if the rain is organised by the Lord, who is the Met Office suggesting is trying to control it (and failing) when it's dis-organised? I think the answer is obvious. It's the people at Number 10, currently wondering why every brewery in the country has refused to let them organise parties on the premises.
lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding"
Powerful things, metaphors. But they're two-edged swords. If, for example, somebody 3000 years ago came up with a metaphor for God - describing God in the terms of the day as the head of a family in a patriarchal society, or as the conquering ruler of a nation - with the normal ideals of kingship and warrior kingdoms - that would be a really great metaphor - laden with symbolism, getting to the heart of something about God's nature. But like most metaphors, you wouldn't want to push it to far, would you? After all, it might break.
Monday, 17 October 2011
And "Read your Favourite Poem" time was superb - Jenny kissed me, the lovely wistfulness of Betjeman's Harrow on the Hill, and then after an hour of this kind of uplifting cheerfulness - the kind of thing poetry was designed for - we had Burton reading, for reasons known only to himself, Hardy's Hap. And yes, in its place it's a powerful piece of work. In its place. But I wanted joy and hearts, romance and flowers. Not a Wessex scream at an empty sky.
And so we turned to Morgwn to pronounce the prayer to close the liturgy of poetry. But in the kind of outbreak of spontaneity that I'm going to have to stamp out, Morgwyn announced that first she'd like to read us her favourite poem.
Stop all the Clocks.
She said it always makes her feel happy because she remembers that Hugh Grant got it together with Andie MacDowell in that film.
Tonight's dinner was a terrible gloomy affair. The Gibbon Moon folk are still somewhere out on Four Acres, sobbing. Young Keith's nipped off to the White Horse for a quiet cry into his beer. And I'd tell you about tomorrow's planned Flint Fiesta, but what's the point? And what's the point of poetry, if it's going to make you feel bad?
A lovely day when we spend an hour for each of our dead poets. Hardy and Betjemann feel particularly autumnal, while we have neglected the lighter side of life.
8 am - Thomas Hardy
9 am - John Betjemann
10 am - Christina Rossetti
11 am - Kirsty MacColl
12 noon (the lunch spot) A Lear and Carroll Miscellany
1 pm - Gerald Manley Hopkins
1.30 pm - Susan Womanley Hopkins (his lesser-known sister)
1.45 pm - Bernard Beastley Hopkins (the brother they tried to keep quiet about)
2 pm - The Scottish Hour: William McGonagall, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott
3 pm - The Welsh Hour: Max Boyce, William Williams, Dylan Thomas
4 pm - The South Midlands Hour: William Shakespeare, John Clare, John Dryden
5pm - Alfred, Lord Tennyson
6 pm - The People's Choice
7 pm - Dinner
Now, I want you all looking very smart and intellectual, and I don't want anybody misplacing the apostrophe in Poets'. Somebody came to our blog the other day having searched in Google for "Pedantry and Distraction". And that's not the sort of reputation I want to lose lightly.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Well. obviously we don't have bell ropes in our Moot House. Where would we hang them from? The roof slides back so we can see the skies on days that are clear but quite windy so we don't want to go outside.
But it was quite a nice idea of Gilgelf to suggest we use hand-bells. Doesn't call attention to the ceremony starting of course - but still nice to hear bells, I thought. Except the job-lot she bought in the Covered Market weren't actually tuned in any way. And we had no music. And nobody knew how to sort out who played when.
So basically every Beaker Person just ran around the place, jumping about and shaking their handbells. For an hour. I tell you what, if that doesn't scare off the local evil spirits then they're braver than I am. I'm going to have a sit down now. I seem to have a ringing in my ears.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
Your first question should be "Hello - are you under the Blood?" This will help you to understand the spiritual status of the visitor almost immediately. If they smile happily, look you in the eye (normally the right one) and say "Oh yes" - you know we have a kindred spirit - or at least one on the way to being kindred. You now merely have to determine whether they are pre-, post- or a-millennial, and whether their church is truly independent or whether their leader is being discipled. After which you can decide whether the visitor can join us in worship or should be thrown in to the outer darkness, where there is wailing and flapping of corduroy flares.
If on the other hand your visitor looks confused you have a more complex and pastorally difficult task ahead of you. I would normally scale your answer back slightly - there is still a chance that the visitor is some kind of Christian, or at least someone who could pass for such in a dark environment. DO NOT be confused, they will almost certainly not be saved. But you will have, at the least, a common language.
It is almost inevitable that the visitor, if they have not run screaming from the building after the first question, will try to strike up some sort of conversation.With prayer and fasting in advance, the Spirit will give you the words to say. Therefore it would be presumptuous of me to give advice. He will be with you. All will be well - and if the visitor still blunders off into the Slough of Despond or Forest of Inevitable Doom, it will not be your fault. God will have decided that one for you.
But if you have fallen into dreadful sin over the prior few days, it is entirely possible that God will leave you to struggle on your own. But in these circumstances I think it is right that you should attempt to engage the visitor in godly conversation, and attempt to recover your own salvation later. Since you will at this point have no inspiration available, I will assume that that the visitor will first make a comment, which you will then be able to respond to according to my set of answers. You never know when you will fall into sin and depravity just before this kind of encounter. So I suggest you print off this list of responses, laminate it and keep it with you at all times - perhaps you could hang it round your neck?
|Visitor||Godly believer, fallen temporarily into backsliding|
|"That's rather odd green crockery. What's it called?"||"Beryl. I had an aunty Beryl*. But she died and now she'll be in hell because she was an Anglican."|
|"This is an old chapel, isn't it?"||"600 years old. Doesn't it make you humble, thinking you are in the presence of God in a building a whole tenth of the age of the Universe?"|
|"So does your pastor always preach sermons that long?"||"Shh. He's just finished the first point."|
|"I just popped in to try and find the way to Woburn Safari Park?"||"Wide is the road and easy the path to Woburn Safari Park. But narrow is the path that leads to salvation. Oh - you really do want to go to the Safari Park? Left at the White Horse and it's on your right."|
|"You going to watch the football later?"||"Not much point - the world's going to end. We may not know the day or the hour, but we can be assured that it will."|
|"Oh, I see you serve coffee after the service. I used to worship at a church in London where they used to give you sherry."||"Coffee is stimulant enough, my friend. Trust not to the juice of the sherry-bean, which stimulates the wilder passions and causeth the behaviour of maiden aunts to become completely unsuitable - especially at Christmas."|
|"It's rather cold in here, isn't it?"||"Yes - but don't worry, it's much warmer where you're going, if you don't immediately repent!" [This is a joke**. You should indicate this by smiling at the end of the sentence. Smiling can be achieved by turning up the corners of one's mouth.]|
|"You've two rather lovely young ladies singing in the Music Group. What are their names?"||"Kylie and Kayleigh. But lust is of the Dark One. I suggest you repent immediately, lest a tower should fall on you on your way home"|
* You may not have a deceased Aunt Beryl who was an Anglican. To claim this would be a lie, stoking up the fires for you even more. So I recognise you tweak the name of the female relative, and her denomination (or none) to suit your own circumstances. Of course, it won't really help as the crockery is Beryl.
** Actually, it is not really a laughing matter. But we must aim to keep light-hearted in some of our exchanges with unbelievers - "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor 9:22)
Young Keith has found out that the Archdruid is feeling a little insecure. I think it's highly unlikely, myself, given her extreme ENTJ proclivities, but he says that he wants to make her feel more valued, so next time she's leading worship, he's going to "provide a pyrotechnic display worthy of a Pink Floyd / U2 / Spinal Tap combined gig."
I've begged him just to encourage people to download a lighter app to their phones, and to get them to wave them above their head during the sermon, but he's not having it.
I have, at least, convinced him to wear high-viz and carry out a risk assessment.
So we should fine.
I've been thinking about our rather ambivalent attitude to worship leaders. And coming to the conclusion that I'm ambivalent about our ambivalent attitudes.
Just reflecting, it seems to me that some people can have a hero-worshipping view of worship leaders. Which I accept is wrong. Because if you're hero-worshipping a worship leader, whose worship is the worship-leader leading?
But I shall leave that to one side and concentrate more on the other aspect of the conundrum. That's the one where worship leaders are criticised for having a pop-star attitude, or effectively criticised for enjoying leading worship - if they're musicians, for performing, and if they're not, for getting a power-trip from leading.
And it strikes me as a little unfair, that. Well, actually it strikes me as a lot unfair. You don't get people referring to the pastoral visitors and saying "well of course they'd do that - after all, they get a being needed buzz out of it. And they like visiting people." You don't hear "well, of course the flowers are well-arranged. They don't do it for God - they like arranging flowers. They get a real kick out of a nice setting of Michaelmas Daisies." You don't hear people complaining about the people that made the cakes for the cake stall, that they like baking.
And maybe it's because the worship leaders are so obviously out the front. But it strikes me that they get more of that than anyone. And then it strikes me that no-one works as hard for their rewards - if any. A singing worship-leader will spend time practicing their singing. And the guitar-playing worship leader will spend their time wearing callouses on the fingertips of their left hands, relentlessly playing the same four chords, and holding chord charts upside down wondering how to do which diminished seventh. While an organ-playing worship leader will typically spend a lot of time under the machine, up to their knees in dust and spiders wondering why the contra-trombone's a bit low this morning.
And if the worship leader is part of the worship group, it gets worse. All those evenings spent practicing segues between songs. All that time explaining to the guitarist that it's written "segue", not "segway". All those count-ins and intros to practice. All that time spent explaining to the bass player that if you hold up one finger it means "back to verse one", whereas two fingers means "back to verse two". And all that comforting the bass player and telling him that really, it's OK - he can count that high.
So you can see that, while you may think it's a breeze being a worship leader and all about getting the praise of men and women - it's not. It's about pain and sacrifice and prayer - about having the humility to lead others into a place of worship and trying to step back. Of being a performer, sure - but one who, when you step back from the performance, will so often not allow oneself to ask the question all performers want to ask - "was I any good?"
So be kind to your worship-leaders. They're just ordinary people. Thank you very much, Husborne Crawley. You've been great. Good night.
Friday, 14 October 2011
I remember when I went on my Data Processing Conversion Course after my first few years as an accountant. And I like to think that those two skills, Finance and IT, forged from the need to develop a new Invoice Passing system, are what have made me the well-rounded individual I am today. And in those days, Dear Readers, there was a myth. And that myth was that programming was easy enough even for Systems Analysts. The COBOL language was sold on the belief that it could be written to look like English - instructions such as "GO TO PUB DEPENDING ON YOUR-STATE-OF-MIND". Databases such as DataEase and later Access encouraged even end-users and Marketing people to believe that they could write computer applications.
But time of course has shown that if you allow someone in Supply Chain to write an Access database - for load planning, or perhaps for order forecasting - then that simple, easy-to-understand table rapidly becomes a mess of badly-normalised tables, views upon views and inadequately optimized SQL queries. Eventually, the Access guru will go down under the strain of all those sub-optimal joins and unwise Excel hooks, and set off for a new career as a baker or a Feng Shui surfing instructor. At which point his formerly grateful colleagues will discover the amount of manual effort with which he kept his edifice going. They will then pay a consultant a grand or so a day to recover the database and try to restore it to something approaching maintainability.
No, Dear Readers, it is clear. End users lack the discipline and logical reasoning ability to construct proper computer systems. Which is why the inventions of C, Java and Unix were so important. They make the point quite clearly that normal people can't be trusted with these things. Computers, even today, are hard and to be respected - to be programmed in hushed tones by experts with white coats. Let the world play with its Tweetdeck and Word for Windows and think it is computer-literate. That is like driving a car and thinking you are a Ferrari motor mechanic. We know that, underneath, it is all very hard and very confusing. And we like it that way.
Now, they're probably right. Albeit their claim that icepocalypse isn't round the corner is more hedged around with caveats than a software contract. But I'm intrigued that in trying to defend their forecast (which they seem to deny was a forecast, but defend anyway) last year, they claim "Last year there was some confusion between our longer-range outlook which provided good advice over the whole winter - as January and February were relatively mild...."
Which is interesting. As the Met Office's report for January 2011 tells us that the temperatures that month were "somewhat below" the 30-year average for 1971-2000. So "relatively mild" means in comparison to December's wildness - not in comparison to a normal January.
So come on Met Office. Put a sock in it. We know you were wrong. And now you've admitted that the best you can forecast about the coming winter is that it's going to be vague - we're all going to wait for the weather to be really specific.
Here's a suggestion to resolve the current Church of England dilemmas over women priests and bishops, and respecting people's integity while ensuring that all bishops are genuinely equal.
It's relatively simple, and it also gives power to the grassroots. And it fits in with my own ideas on how the Early Church might have worked - but that's just a happy co-incidence.
And it comes out of the reflection that in many ways the Church of England is the sole relic of the mediaeval patterns of governnment and land-ownership, with its earldoms and local baronies echoed by dioceses and archdeaconries. So let's deal with that while we're at it.
Let parishes choose their own bishops.
Now, I'm not suggesting some kind of free-for-all here. Bishops would still be properly chosen and consecrated when they were down on numbers. But all the suffragans and assistant bishops would be made equal to the diocesans ensuring that every diocese had a good selection of them. In some of the smaller dioceses a bit of merging might be required - but I'd suggest four or five bishopes, like the European constituencies.
Parishes could then choose which of their regional bishops they wanted to follow. If they disagreed strongly with their current bloke (or bloke-ess) they could pick another one from the available pool. And when a bishop retired or decided they wanted another posting, that bishop's parishes would get a say in the successor.
You can see the advantages. When bishops were showing vision, they'd get extra parishes opting in. (I'd suggest a certain amount of performance-related pay in this, but I realise that's not very Anglican). If any bishop dropped below a certain threshold - say 20 parishes - they could go "on the bench" until somewhere else wanted them. And no parish would have to accept a bishop whose liberal, conservative or agnostic views, or gender or sexuality they didn't agree with.
Had terrible problems with my PC. Generally running slow, overheating and the disk light flashing on and off at a strangely regular rate. But on running some analytics, turned out the computer was getting clogged-up with low grade muppets. Trying to deal with their amusing and wistful daily adventures was putting a lot of extra load on the CPU.
Young Keith helped out and it's all fine now. Just needed a de-Fraggle.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Quite a fraught Moot this month. You know how these meetings are - those people who want to grandstand tend to blot out those of us who have something important to say. But thankfully we managed to come to some conclusions in the end.
The first motion was "That this Moot grants the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley an extra 5% of everyone's income, to enable Eileen to fend off the banks who want their money back after ill-advised investments in non existent olive groves." And I'll be honest, I was saddened at the "No" vote. Especially as Hnaef was forced to resign from the Olive Grove Inspection Team, who have had many exciting fact-finding expeditions to the Greek olive groves (and beaches) over the years.
Still, Motion 2 was "That this Moot grants the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley an extra 5% of everyone's income, to enable Eileen to fend off the banks who want their money back after ill-advised investments in non existent olive groves. Or else."
And I'm pleased to say that the Motion was carried. Now we can go out to bark at the moon, knowing the Community is safe. Till next time.
Just been speaking to a secret source at RIM. He says it's unfair to say they've not been keeping their customers informed. Apparently they sent them all an email.
What with Blackberry users left stranded while Apple devotees are left bricked for hours by an OS upgrade, it's a reminder of how fragile we are. We put our trust and a lot of our status into these devices - create them in our own image, choose their skins, select the way they talk to us, personalise them with our own choice in apps...
And then they let us down. An old hymn used to tell us that the pagan in his blindness bowed down to wood and stone - and we do the same with our mixtures of silicon, plastic, cadmium and gold.
Well not round here. For me a phone is a convenient communication device, not a plastic pal who's fun to be with. Android Archdruid Andrea better keep in her place, that's what I say.
From the back of the Moot House can be heard the sound of stomping. Turning around, the Beaker folk see that it is Morgwyn and Marston, wearing safety boots and yellow hi-viz. It's very important that it is yellow.
Morgwyn and Marston's Boots: Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp.
They reach the worship focus area.
They stop clomping.
They stare straight ahead.
Morgwyn, or as it may be, Marston: Clomp. Clomp. Clomp.
Morgwyn and Marston: JURGEN MOLTMANN!
Morgwyn and Marston's Boots: Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. Clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp.
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
I went up to Town today for the William Stukeley Approval Society AGM. It doesn't really do much, to be honest. We just sit around, think about William Stukeley and approve. Not about everything he did, of course - we're not into uncritical hero-worship here.
But I came back after an agreeable dinner to find that schism has broken out again. This time, unlikely as it may sound, a row broke out over the desserts were served. Raughrie, normally a competent if unadventurous assistant chef, had really gone for it with a courgette cake. Several Beaker Folk declared that courgette cake was an offence unto the nostrils of the Lord, and demanded "some proper cake". Black cherry cheesecake was apparently mentioned as a food fit for Beaker People. Raughrie, in umbrage, declared that if people weren't with him they were against him - and accused carrot cake fans of being wishy-washy liberals. Some of the more progressive cheesecake people said that blackcurrants were acceptable, while others said that courgette cake may have been produced from the kitchen of the Dark One, but they would defend the rights of the vile degenerates that liked it to eat it. While yet another bunch said that all cake produce was wrong, quoting the verse "blessed be the quiche-makers".
Another group said that they should encourage the consumption of multi-coloured sponges - or to put it another way, some have entertained angel cake.
And others broke away completely, eschewed cake-based products of all kind, and vowed only to eat processed pork products. They're calling themselves United Reformed Ham.
Drayton Parslow wandered in at this point and got into a deep discussion as to whether quiche breached Old Testament food laws, while a courgette-cake-fight broke out between the different sects and the walls ended up smeared with it. It's amazing how that man's deep interest in all things spiritual make him completely oblivious to what's going on in the "natural" - if you can call people being knee-deep in gateau "natural", that is.
So I've come back to this absolute shambles and of course all these muffin martyrs and croissant crusaders won't be clearing up the mess. Oh no. As usual it will be down to Yours Truly to tell Charlii she's got to do that. And in the morning I guess I'll just have to start banging heads together again. We've a lot of bad blood to shed - if I've not got my metaphors a bit mixed there. Let them eat cake? Not after tonight.
With thanks for inspiration to @thirstygargoyle @sjcoltrane @wombat37 @rosamundi @sallysjourney and @catherinestead.
I note the popular #Romcomrules meme currently being played on Twitter. And it makes me reflect on the breakdown of the institution of marriage in our society.
Let us take a Hugh Grant fim, for example. You know, the one where he's a self-interested and rather boring repressed bloke who gets the girl. I believe those films have encouraged - nay, imposed - the current situation. All over the country, attractive, wacky, imaginative and funny people are hanging around in groups - knowing that the boring beggar who hangs around with them and contributes very little but the occasional wry quip is the only one who will ever get married.
And these films don't do much for the concept of extended family either. No parents, nieces or nephews anywhere to be seen - the parents being left to decay in Dorset or Northamptonshire or wherever. Sure, the boring one will occasionally have a wacky sister. But when the wacky sister starts a doomed relationship with a Welsh kitten-juggler or whatever, the boring one doesn't take a horse whip to him as any decent older brother should. No, instead he clasps him to his bosom - which may be good news for the solidarity of the group, but it's bad news for the kittens.
No, roaming the streets of London (or New York, for our American friends) - rootless, parentless - with no family structure as provided, even in Bertie Wooster's day, by a network of aunts - it's no wonder that they instead turn to their gangs - eight wacky people, one boring one who will eventually marry - for love and self-esteem. It's no wonder they turn to rioting and driving around London too fast.
So I have a simple test for you today. You may find this a bit distressing, but I can't help that. Look around you. Are you in London? Now think about your friends. Are they all wacky individualists who make your life a joy? If the answer to both questions is "Yes" then the good news is that you're destined to marry. The bad news? Well I reckon you can figure it out.
If the answer to the first question is "Yes" but the second is "No - one of my friends is boring, albeit with aa wry sense of humour" - congratulations. You're one of the interesting ones.
And if the answer to the first question is "No", and you're aged between 20 and Hugh Grant - sad news, I'm afraid. You're not cut out for Rom-Com.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
But then I saw this.
And yes - it's a bit bright. And a bit camp in the background, I'd have to agree. But neither camp nor bright are bad of themselves.
But then I saw this....
And do you know - I think I'll go for the shiny and the authentic-camp over the manly-camp. At least you know where you are.
As you will all know, the Beaker People are a group unafraid to celebrate the breadth of our religious heritage. Oh yes. Although we mostly settle for stones and tea lights.
But this morning's Puritan Worship was a challenge for many of us. We eschewed the colour, vibrancy and - let's be frank - lack of spiritual discipline that we're familar with. And instead we embraced the simplicity and austerity that is Puritan worship.
I'll be honest. We didn't really enjoy it. And it made the Puritan pretty anxious as well. Which is a shame. After all, it took us weeks to find a proper Puritan - and to have him disappear screaming into the woods like that and screaming that we all idolaters when we started worshipping him was quite alarming. Perhaps we hadn't explained the distinction between dulia and latria to him properly?
Monday, 10 October 2011
I've got this idea from Matthew 22. Or possibly Disneyland. Or both. In any case.
I'm pleased to announce the release of Beaker Beads. They're the special currency you can only buy at the Beaker Bureau de Change! Every bead is worth £5.27 and contains a holographic image of Dale Winton in a smock, to eliminate the danger of forgery.
Beaker Beads are now the only form of payment now accepted at the Beaker Bazaar. Except for all major credit cards, of course. Although even then we'd rather you used Beaker Beads, as it gets us round all that unpleasantness with the credit card companies when you try to return something.
What could be more fun than shopping with Beaker Beads? You can use them to buy that pebble you've had your eye on, a soothing pack of scented tea lights or - if you're feeling ironic - a nice string of Beaker Beads.
And at the end of your pilgrimage, if you've not spent all your beads, you can return them at the Bead Exchange* for real money. Although we will charge a handling charge. And a "returns" charge if you bought them with a credit card - do you think we were born yesterday?
* Beaker Bead Exchange open alternate Tuesdays, 8.00-8.15. Beads exchanged only in whole strings of 10. No change given for part-beads.
All: Seven times in seven days
I've sat and wished my life away
I know the greyness comes and goes
But the sun don't shine
And the snow don't snow
Call to confession
Archdruid: Say sorry to the boys and girls
you’re sorry for this bloody world
Sorry for the sick and old
And sorry for the lies you told
Sorry for the things I did
The things we should have left unsaid
And walked away instead of
Rubbing salt on all those open sores and wounds
We should have left to heal.
All: Don't be sorry. I don't need your pity, baby.
Archdruid: Oh innocence has passed you by
A long long time ago
The Grand Gesture of Defiance
But one day you'll be waiting there
no empty bench in Soho Square
And I'll be painting stars up in the sky
Before I get too old to cry
before my birthday.
Archdruid: For you and me baby
This is journey's end
Beaker folk leave - Dancing in Limbo
And don't forget, kids - it's wrong to wish on space hardware.