Breaking news...

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Budget U-turns - a Theory

Great outcry in all directions over the latest Budget U-turn. After the pasty tax and then some concession over static caravans - I've no idea why we don't use the tax system to drive the ghastly things over the cliffs, personally. I'd rather spend a fortnight in a pasty than a static caravan. Although, to be fair, at least they mostly stay off the road. And now we have the obviously right restoration of the abililty to claim tax relief on charity donations, no matter how large.

Now I have a theory as to how these stupid ideas got into the Budget in the first place, before public ridicule and charitable protests got them removed again.. Go with me on this.

You immediately see in these stupid, rather pointless, annoying kind of tidying-up regulations the hands of Civil Servants. I bet George Osborne has no idea what a static caravan is - anymore than he's ever consumed a cooling pasty. Some flunkey with another 20 years to go before he gets his totally undeserved "K" has come up with these tax schemes as part of the agenda of the Civil Service Committee for Tax Tidying and Paperclip Servicing.

Now let me take you back to the incomparable oeuvre of PG Wodehouse. The gormless master, Eton and Oxford educated and lacking in the chin department, is totally dependent on his manservant (not a butler) Jeeves - intelligent, wise and always right. This tendency (or dependency) is not even confined to Bertie Wooster. Lord Blandings (and an assortment of young men with large reserves of love but impoverished amounts of chin) depend upon the sagacity of Beech the Butler. 

So you see what's happpened? George and Dave have been sitting around. Some lower-middle class oik in a suit has come up to them and suggested something about pasties to them they didn't understand. They, presuming it must be Jeeves, have assumed it must be brilliant and put it in the budget - no doubt asking him to whip up one of his "specials", only last night they were at a Bullers' reunion at the Drone Club..

But we know better.  That wasn't Jeeves. That was Bernard from the Pasty Tax Office. And now that pasty taxes remain unharmonised with battered cod roe, he's seeking revenge.

Now I know my theory depends on our rulers being blithering upper-class twits who can't tell a valet from a middle-ranking Civil Servant. So can anyone else see anything wrong with it?

Archdruid Eileen and the Dodgy Parody


Inflamed by Eileen's constant complaints about his relationship with Charlii, Young Keith is ruder than anyone with any sense would be to the Archdruid. Her Slazenger V400 cricket bat flies into her hand. There is only one outcome.


Young Keith and Eileen duel - Young Keith's "laser umbrella" clashing against the Archdruid's Slazenger.

Young Keith pursues Eileen down the "Corridor of Uncertainty" leading to the Moot House. As he reaches his hand out to grab her shoulder, she turns and whacks him over the head. Keith gasps, and reels back.

Eileen:  You are beaten. It is useless to resist. Don't let yourself be demoralised as your Uncle, Ben Connolly, did.

Keith answers by rolling sideways and thrusting his brolly at Eileen -  catching her on the pointy (but steel-lined) hat. The hat explodes, and the Archdruid seems to be hurt, but immediately recovers. Keith backs off along the corridor as Eileen comes back at him, slashing at the young idiot with her bat. Keith makes a quick grab towards her. Eileen's bat comes slashing down, giving his hand a nasty bruise and sending his umbrella flying. The wind subsides. Keith stands immobile. There is nowhere else to go.

Eileen: There is no escape.Don't make me destroy you.

[ pauses ]

Eileen:  Keith, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to Husborne Crawley.

Young Keith:  I'll never join you!

Eileen:  If you only knew the power of the Beaker Way. Your Uncle Ben Connolly told you what happened to your mother.

Keith:   He told me enough! It was you who killed her!

Eileen:   No. Keith, I am your mother.

Young Keith: Aaaarh!

I the Lord of Sea and Sky

Just remembering all those times (about every evening) when, while at Archdruids' training college, we sang "I the Lord of sea and sky". A hymn that has many advantages:
  • It sounds quite hymn-like. 
  • And yet it's quite modern.
  • It's stirring.
  • It's very challenging, and sounds quite evangelistic.
  • And yet it's got very little actual theology at all.
I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
 
Now is it just me, or is the rational response - "Not that I'm ducking out of this in any way, Lord, but given the qualities you've just listed - do you feel maybe there's a better person for the job than me? Would it be more sensible if  I just stewarded or something?


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Curry Church

See, typical. This is what you get when you pander to the macho "church is for men too" brigade. Holding hands in circles and skipping round the sundial to the song "Teach me to Dance" not good enough for them. No, they had to have a manly religious activity, didn't they.

And in theory the Curry Church was such a good idea. The concept of sharing a rich mixture of meat, veg and spices - like the multi-coloured People of God - all different, yet forming one vibrant fusion. The breaking and sharing of naan bread. While Hnaef gave his Powerpoint presentation of "No-one keeps his tea-light under the warming tray". (The clever twist being, that that's what they're there for.)

But having men and curries involved, meant manly behaviour. A kind of macho auction ensued, with all the blokes ordering phalls.

Let's just say there was very little of the spiritual, gently-probing conversation I was hoping for. Instead a short-term introduction to the pains of Purgatory. I'm hoping that tomorrow, round about tea-time when they can stand upright again, I may be able to sell some Indulgences. Or, at least, some ice.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Bronze Age Religion

It's one of those weird jibes that some make against the Christian faith - that it's the religion of a bunch of Bronze Age shepherds.

It's a strange thing to say. First up because the New Testament was written in Roman times. Not the Bronze Age at all. In fact given that the majority of the Old Testament is reckoned to have been written from about the 9th Century BC on (albeit often based on earlier stories) - the vast majority was in fact written in the Iron Age. It's a shame to start such a jibe based on a historical inaccuracy.

It's also weird because it begs the question - so what? What's so great about the Plastic Age that means a philosophy that allegedly dates from the Bronze Age (which it doesn't) can be laughed at? How can the Age that has given us such countless horrors think previous Ages were so philosophically impoverished? Of course, we've got iPads and Britain's Got Talent and stuff - but why, as the bard asked, must we suffer each race to believe that no race has been grander? It makes no sense at all.

And another reason why it's weird - the people at whom it is aimed don't give a pair of foetid dingo's kidneys whether it's a Bronze Age religion or not. They wouldn't even bother to point out that it's not. Most real fundamentalists are too historically illiterate to believe such a time existed - as the acceptance of modern archaeological dating schema would put most of the Stone Age before the beginning of the world. Such a jibe is as the idle wind, which they regard not. My expectation is that the number of people who would think "ooh - Bronze Age religion" and promptly give up their faith is around about the same number of fingers on the average foot.

And then, of course, the Bronze Age had much to commend it. Mass slaughter on a 20th or 21st Century scale was pretty well unheard of - largely because  there weren't masses of people. But the Bronze Age saw no nuclear vaporisation of cities. If one bunch of Bronze Age people did have to kill another bunch, chances are at least they ate them - so much more environmentally friendly. There was no Tesco. The M25 did not exist - and neither did Manchester CIty. People lived in peace with their environment, except when burning down all the forests or wiping out the megafauna that had survived the Stone Age or eating their neighbours.

And it was the culmination of the Megalithic Age. Sure, the Beaker Folk of the Neolithic had got the basics of Stonehenge, for example, in place - but it was their Bronze Age successors who continued it. In medicine, they could carry out trepanning from which some people even survived - albeit I reckon there'd be a lot of screaming in Beaker Tongue going on. They had a good idea of astronomy - they had to have, as it told them when to sow and when to hunt. In fact, I reckon if you asked 100 Bronze Age folk and 100 moderns, the Bronze Age people would be the ones who knew which way the sun went round each day.

In fact, I've a suspicion that most modern people, on a day-to-day basis, couldn't start a fire, tell the time or kill an auroch if dropped into the middle of the Bronze Age. All our modern scientific sophistication is blotchy - just a few people know how to make the bits that make up a smartphone, while the rest of us struggle to programme a TV remote, and think milk comes from chickens. Give the average 21st Century person a lump of ironstone, some charcoal and some chunk of chalk and they'd just bang them together to see if they could make fire, I reckon.  And we think the Bronze Age people were so backward because they couldn't make iron.

So enough of the sneers about the Bronze Age. People lived and died, just as much then as now. They knew the joy and fear we do. They wondered about the world as we do. They fell in love and mated and brought up kids just like we do. Sure, they didn't have Facebook.

So I rest my case.

Heysel - 29/5/1985


Rocco Acerra29
Bruno Balli50
Alfons Bos
Giancarlo Bruschera21
Andrea Casula11
Giovanni Casula44
Nino Cerullo24
Willy Chielens
Giuseppina Conto17
Dirk Daenecky
Dionisio Fabbro51
Jacques François
Eugenio Gagliano35
Francesco Galli25
Giancarlo Gonnelli20
Alberto Guarini21
Giovacchino Landini50
Roberto Lorentini31
Barbara Lusci58
Franco Martelli22
Loris Messore28
Gianni Mastroiaco20
Sergio Bastino Mazzino38
Luciano Rocco Papaluca38
Luigi Pidone31
Benito Pistolato50
Patrick Radcliffe
Antonio Ragnanese49
Claude Robert
Mario Ronchi43
Domenico Russo28
Tarcisio Salvi49
Gianfranco Sarto47
Amedeo Giuseppe Spolaore55
Mario Spanu41
Tarcisio Venturin23
Jean Michel Walla
Claudio Zavaroni28


(Names from Wikipedia)

Oak Apple Day

Having popped in to Mad Priest's blog yesterday, I was left wondering why our own Oasis of Fuzzy Thinking never attracts trolls.

And I've come to the conclusion that it's because we don't really believe in anything much. Nobody ever went to the stake for contemplating a hazelnut in honour of Mother Julian - and wrapping the "worship space" in voile is generally seen as a colourful and attractive activity, rather than a dangerous and subversive challenge to the ruling authorities.

No, we are dedicated to making religion as unchallenging, unthreatening and generally fun as possible. If we give people world-changing insights - and it can happen, though I've no idea how - we'd rather they went off quietly to rejoice in their own closets, than go and shout it from the rooftops.

Thus we turn to Oak Apple Day - the celebration of the Restoration of Charles II. One of our favourite days, and definitely our favourite monarch. Not least because of his fondness for Stonehenge. It is in his honour that the Beaker maids will today be wearing oak-leaf garlands.

It is not that we admire Charles for his roster of fifteen mistresses - surely too many for any man, especially the Defender of the Faith. Although if it were not for the mistresses, the roads in Fitzrovia would have no names.  Rather that his return saw the passing of the most joy-hating, self-righteous, interfering bunch of bossy-bootses before New Labour. But as I say, to have 15 mistresses - even with no more than two on the go at any time - is surely wrong.

Where was the gutter press in those days? Surely the threat of being half-hanged and then slowly disembowelled outside Newgate would not have kept them from their research? Or was it that in those days being the "gutter press" meant that people were constantly pouring effluent on your head from a height - thus rendering you pretty well incapable of carrying out an undercover operation? Obviously there was the famous "carrier pigeon tapping" scandal - but it doesn't matter if you smell of raw sewage if you're trapping flying messengers.

No, we celebrate Charles II because he returned joy to England. He re-erected the Maypole in the Strand. He would not let even plague and fire dim the joyous round of his court. He invented the spaniel. And, above all else, he wasn't Cromwell.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The "Phases of Water" Heresy

As Trinity Sunday heads our way, I've had to slap Young Keith down hard. He was planning to carry out an illustration of the doctrine of the Trinity, using the concept of ice / water / steam. I've told him he's heading smack into Monarchian Modalism.

Ever inventive, Young Keith has now pointed out that a better picture for the Trinity might be the Triple Point of water - the combination of temperature and pressure at which all three phases exist in equilibrium. Ice, water and steam - each distinct, each interrelating, each of the same substance. I'm pretty sure it's heretical as well, something to do with dividing the essence and therefore heading for Tritheism. But because working that through is giving me a headache, instead I'm banning this one on "Eileen's Rule", which states that if you need to explain your illustration before you use it, you might as well do without it.

This Sunday's motto is henceforth to be "It's a mystery - get over it". We're going to project The Hospitality of Abraham on the Moot House ceiling and leave everyone to puzzle it out for themselves.

Richard Dawkins' Victory on Pasty Tax

I may have become completely confused by the issue by now, but I'm still backing Michael Gove's attempts to put  Richard Dawkins into every school in the country. Although I'm not sure whether Dr Richard will be so keen when he finds out he has to have Gove's name printed on his spine.

Still, a further twist in my understanding of the whole affair comes in this BBC news story.  It would appear that Dr Richard has managed to get the pasty tax reversed - at least that's the only explanation I can think of for why he appears to be posing in front of a huge cheese & onion slice.

Job the Obscure

I've never quite got my head round the book of Job.

Sure, at the end of the book he's got his camels back and the sores have gone and the riches are rolling in.
But he's still lost all his sons and daughters in Chapter 1. If it's saying that you eventually get a reward for goodness in this life, there's a heck of a downside to get there.

It's like a multi-part Dr Who episode. At the end, the Doctor and his companions are generally joking around, safe in the knowledge that they've averted the latest threat to the Universe or, as it may be, Cardiff. But there's scant remembrance of the piled-up bodies of red-shirts it's taken to get to the happy ending. Oh no, it's back in the Tardis and off to Jagulon Beta.

All I'm saying is, if Thomas Hardy wrote the book of Job the ending would be more consistent with the beginning. Accepting that God is indeed able to snare Leviathan, tell unicorns what to do and generally boss the weather around, Job would say his piece and crawl under the shade of a rock to die. Obviously there's a good Wisdom-literature tradition to maintain here - so I'm not saying that it would be better, and clearly it would be less inspired. I'm just saying it would be more consistent.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Design and Universal Constants

I was much struck by this article on the 13 Most Important Numbers in the Universe. And it makes me realise how beautifully fine-tuned this universe is. So fine-tuned, indeed, that some look to the concept of multiple or even infinite universes to try and explain why this is a Goldilocks Universe. As we have left behind the idea that this particular place and time is God-favoured, we seem to have gone from a geocentric model of the universe to a heliocentric one. But beyond heliocentric, we are now rejecting a  cosmocentric one - even this entire universe is not particularly special.

But still, I'd like you to consider the way that the constants that drive our universe are just the right numbers - and the way reality would change (and the universe even cease to be) were they slightly different. It makes you think.

If the efficiency of the fusion of Hydrogen were just 10% lower, the sun would never have got properly started and the evolution of life on Earth would have stopped at round about Millwall fans. If 10% greater, it would already have burnt away, but on the bright side we'd all have fantastic suntans.

Planck's constant determines the size of quanta of energy. If h were just 20% smaller, the acting in Eastenders would be 3-dimensional.

If π were 3.3, circles would never be truly circular.

Hubble was wrong. All the other galaxies actually are just running away from us. They're trying to outrun the radio waves carrying Fame.

If the Speed of Light were just 5% faster, male drivers would beep their horns to complain you were hanging around at junctions, before the traffic lights had even changed to green.

If the Universal Gravitational Constant were 40% higher, fashion models would be a healthy weight.

If Boltmann's Constant were negative, teenagers would have the tidiest rooms in the universe.

According to the Theory of Relativity, if a space traveller left the earth travelling very fast on a return voyage, when they returned they would think very little time had passed - while on earth, ages could have gone past. This is why when somebody preaches on something that has no connection to earthly life, the preacher thinks the sermon's flown past and everybody else think it's lasted forever. In fact, unknown to all concerned (or possibly not that unknown) the preacher has been on another planet.

Absolute Zero is claimed to be an unreachable universal constant. A bit like the perfect amount of time for neighbours to stay round of an evening. But it can be achieved under very rare circumstances - such as on the surface of a middle-class mother whose daughter brings a Goth home. If it were possible to find temperatures colder than Absolute Zero, Anglican Church-goers would need to wear more vests in the winter.

If Avagadro's number were 20% larger, there would be even bigger mounds on my croquet lawn.

Pentecost

I've had my eyes opened this morning.

We were all gathered together in one place in the Moot House, for the holding-of-hands ceremony prior to the Pentecost Extravaganza. I'm not so keen on the holding-of-hands - ensure everyone uses antibacterial soap before and after - but it does amuse me the way it makes the more uneasy-with-their-feminine-side squirm.

Then there was the rushing of a mighty wind, and tongues of fire appeared. It was all thanks to Young Keith and his industrial wind-machine. Turns out it goes up to "11". Blew four panels out of the Moot House wall and shorted the circuits. At which point the electronic dove cage failed safe and all the doves flew out through the roof lights to safety.

Of course, we'd shut the sluice to make the brook rise, and the Beaker People were standing in half an inch of water when the electrics went on the fritz. Everyone's hair stood on end (except Burton's, who is follicularly challenged) and remained so until the whole circuit tripped.

I walked out of the wreckage of the Moot House and across to the Room of Viewing. I find when things go spectacularly wrong, a bit of telly can calm me down. But saw the news from Syria. And then considered that the celebration of Eurovisual harmony and humanity on telly yesterday - nearly everyone singing American English, like a latter-day Pentecost - was broadcast from a country with a dreadful record on democracy and treatment of its people. Figured the tame Holy Spirit we'd be hoping to encounter isn't the angry hurricane the world actually needs, who lifts up the weak and blows away the powerful.

Walked back outside and the doves have messed all over the 4x4s in the car park. I think maybe it's a sign.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Preparing for Pentecost

It looks like we're all set for Pentecost then.

The flame-throwers will be fired into the Moot House at a height of nine feet. This will enable us to provide that authentic "tongues of fire" effect without incinerating the inhabitants.

Meanwhile the doves will be released from their basket in the centre of the Moot House precisely 30 seconds after the tongues of fire are extinguished. We don't want any quick-roast doves. Not after last time. Of course, the doves will fly upwards, out of the windows in the Moot House roof. We realise that this may be a very bad metaphor for Pentecost, but have you ever tried getting a dove to fly downwards? We did a couple of years ago, but it was murder trying to fix all those breadcrumbs to Hnaef.

We will also be closing the sluice gate on the brook that runs under the Moot House. We expect that the gentle rippling will give a suitably spiritual feel to the event. And it may put out any doves that we accidentally incinerate should we get the timing wrong. We have the doors set to fail safe in the event that the Moot House fills with water, as happens on occasion.

Then at the end, when the Beaker People are terrified by the fire, confused by flapping doves and paddling around ankle deep in muddy water, we're going to pump the dry ice into the Moot House to represent the divine presence. If cognitive dissonance doesn't make the whole mob of them think they've had a religious experience, I don't know what will.

Editors of King James Version Apologise for Inappropriate Language

Oh most mighty Prince, joyful were our most humble hearts when we saw Your Glorious Majesty enthroned throughout this most Bountiful Land. And knowing whereof our Blessings flow, most Noble King, we undertake unto thy Munificence our most grovellingest apologies.

For five or even six times in the Most Noble Work which thou hast set us did we use the expression "pisseth against a wall". This expression we know will now be in Print for evermore, and appointed to be read in the Churches of thy Glorious Realm.

We promise this won't happen again, guv. And we would draw your attention unto Mr Coverdale, and Mr Cranmer who "liked" Mr Coverdale's use of the phrase "a-whoring with their own inventions."

But we wouldst defend ourselves, O Great Panjandrum of Droitwich and Lord of the Western Seas. In Deut 23:2 we useth the word "bastard" in its strictly technical sense, and meant no Offence.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Life the Universe and Everything

It's been a busy Towel Day. We don't often get involved in social campaigns, but it's a special day so we thought why not think universal, act local, as the saying has it?

So we wrote a number of grumpy letters to the local planning authority complaining about their potential destruction of the Earth to make way for a  hyperspace by-pass. Admittedly they needed them in triplicate, and buried them in compost prior to recycling them as firelighters, but at least we tried.

Then we campaigned for a fair pay for a fair day's work for the Dentrassi. Far beyond the clutches of the nanny state, these hard-working caterers are appalling oppressed by their employers. No 48-hour week rule for them - they have to work as hard as many Anglican clergy, and for less pay. In fact Burton Dasset went so far as to write a protest song. But Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz made him stop, since Burton had reduced him to only the fourth worst poetry in the world. And Nancy Millpond Jenkings wasn't too happy either.

Our protest against Disaster Area crashing their stunt ship into the sun fizzled out, rather. Turns out that Burton is their accountant, and it is he who advises Hotblack on his tax status.

So in the end we figured if you can't beat them, join them. So we've burnt down all the forests. Well, somebody's got to do it.

Nativity of Douglas Adams (Towel Day)

Liturgical Colour: Pink (so we're Somebody Else's Problem)

Beaker Folk wandering out for this morning's worship are astounded to see the Moot House hanging in the air, in just the way that bricks don't. Above it, the Universe is dying. Using Electronic Thumbs they are teleported up to the Moot House - except Molvern who crashes into an exploding star, and Burton who ends up in the Car Park.

Archdruid: As the force-shielded dome above us slides apart, revealing a dark and sullen sky, hung with the ancient light of livid swollen stars, I can see we're in for a fabulous morning's apocalypse!

All: This must be a Friday. I never could get the hang of Fridays.

Archdruid: A time when men were real men.

All: Women were real women.

Archdruid: And small pink creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small pink creatures from Alpha Centauri.

All: Has anybody seen my mice?

Archdruid:  Don't Panic!

All: Who said anything about panicking? This is still just the culture shock. You wait till I've settled down into the situation and found my bearings. Then I'll start panicking.

Burton: Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to add up the doily invoices.

Lamentation

All: You know,it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.

Archdruid: "Why, what did she tell you?

All: I don't know. I didn't listen.

Archdruid: Hnaef, you seem to be changing into a penguin. Stop it.

All: I seem to be having a tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle.

Archdruid: Dudes, you've gotta know where your towel is.

Sending out

Archdruid: Go out from this place to return home to your own eras and raise families, and strive for new and better societies and fight terrible wars for what you know is right. It gives one real hope for the whole future of lifekind.

All: Except of course we know it hasn't got one.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Tunnel of Sin

Some creative worship ideas are maybe better left as ideas, and never translated into reality. The "Tunnel of Sin" being one of them.

The idea was kind of good - like a theological Tunnel of Love. Young Keith put the tunnel up over a dip in the land. As you went into the tunnel, heading downhill, you noticed that on the sides of the tunnel were painted (in luminous paint) the words of various sins - "Gluttony", "Avarice", "Vertigo" and so on. (I think "Vertigo" was a mistake).

And then when you hit the bottom of the tunnel, you could look ahead and up. And beholding the light at the end of the proverbial, you would walk upwards into sunlight and celebrate your restoration to the land of the living! A truly enlivening worship experience, in which you would literally re-create your regeneration.

After the tunnel had been up for an hour or so, we had to send in a search party. Three blokes were stood around the word "Lust", stroking the sinuous curves of the letter "U" and refusing to leave. Burton Dasset was stopped in the tunnel at the point where it said "Fussiness", arguing that Fussiness isn't a sin but a sign of belief in godly order. And Marston was stood shouting that there was nothing wrong with "Anger", as it could be righteous Anger - which is a good thing. He told us that if we didn't rectify things immediately, he'd rip the side out of the tunnel.

Let's not do this again.

The Curse, Reversed

Gen 11 (NIV) But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

 Acts 2 (NIV)  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken

  And the story continues.

Quiche Day

Now the Beaker Flock is in full production, I'm glad to announce today is Quiche Day.

As the Good Book says, "blessed are the quiche-makers", and so Bernie is going to be cooking the Giant Quiche Feast. Since Warrington Farm is finally in full production, we'll be nipping up to the wilds beyond Olney first thing to pick up the sparrow grass to go in it.

Of course, there are those that don't like prawn + asparagus quiche. So for these we are providing their own quiche. Mostly ham and pepper, although some like pepper + ham.

And for those who don't like meat, we're producing an asparagus + pepper. And for those with a gluten allergy a crustless quiche. And for those with an egg allergy, a crust with asparagus. Unless you don't like asparagus.

Those allergic to other people will be able to sit in the Rainbow Room. Although, for obvious reasons, only one at a time.

All quiche is made in a nut-free environment. Ingredients: cannot guarantee nut-free.  We do not use celery products, although we can't guarantee that a freelance celery-lover might not sneak into the kitchen with a pot of celery salt. You know what freelance celery-lovers are like.

No dairy products are used in the Beaker Quiche, except the milk and butter. Oh yeah - and cheese. If you've a dairy allergy and a nut allergy, we recommend you don't go vegeterian. It would be a very dull life.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Spiritual Gift of Overhead Projection

And a strange evening was had by all.

We were delighted to invite Gerd Shrübberie, whose seminal work "God and Festschriften - The Persons and a Person" was probably better in the original German. As I don't speak German.

Gerd was good enough to preach us a two-hour sermon on "The Spiritual Gift of Overhead Projection." Needless to say, given the subject, he used a rather marvellous Powerpoint presentation to illustrate his case. Flow diagrams, pictures of valleys in the Holy Land, touching family scenes, the orbital structure of the Ruthenium atom, PERT diagrams - they were all in there. We left astounded with the power of his images, the way that a picture can speak a thousand words. Truly Overhead Projection is a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately I've no idea what he said.

At the Ikon Market

It's been a bad time in the "retreat knick-knacks" world. Trouble is the market in painted pebbles, small icons and carved hazelnuts is firmly "discretionary spending" when the chips are down. And the doily market is practically underwater.

So in an attempt to put a bit of a spring in the step, we thought we'd run an "Ikon Market". The chance for people to pitch their stalls and, for a reasonable rent, get the chance to sell ikons and other religious symbols to a grateful and spiritually-aware public.

In a stark contrast to Beaker tradition, it's been a massive success.This is partly down to the untapped springs of spiritual longing that lie along the ethereal waterline of our post-modern scarp slope. Partly down to my ability to mix dreadful metaphor in a way that some specially sensitive - or, as I think of them, "susceptible" - people find convincing. And partly down to the completely brazen way in which Young Keith fooled a great chunk of the neighbourhood into thinking that the Olympic Flame was going through the grounds of the Great House today.

Never mind that the real Olympic Flame is currently somewhere off beyond the Cotswolds. Keith justified this lie in his own mind by persuading himself that it's a bit like all the Santas in shopping centres come Christmas - they're all acting in loco Santa, and therefore are every bit as good as the real one.

So in an attempt to maintain this falsehood, poor Marston had to run through the grounds this afternoon, dressed in a tracksuit with a headband and carrying aloft one of Young Keith's Olympic Torch desserts - a giant brandysnap cone filled with ice cream, fruit salad, the top two inches soaked in brandy and set on fire.

So the good news is that we made a fortune - turns out there's nothing the people want so much as a triptych ikon of Steve Redgrave, Beth Tweddle and Andy Murray. Rolling in it, we are. And all without a stain on my soul - though I can't speak for Young Keith's.

Women Bishops - Alternative Press Coverage

I haven't read the Daily Mail yet today. Or this week. Or, indeed, this year - apart from the odd article online. And when I say "odd article"...

But on this official Second Day of Summery Weather, I can imagine what headlines are finding their way in. Warnings of smog due to the combination of diesel particulates would be prevalent, I imagine. Skin cancer rate statistics. Warnings that global warming will cause Harry Redknapp to migrate northwards. It's the usual stuff.

The Sun's photographers will be down on Brighton sea-front, taking photos of students from the University of Sussex on the beach.

The Telegraph will be hoping something vaguely newsworthy will happen near large numbers of "fruity girls", as Private Eye would call them. The O****** Torch would seem to be the perfect opportunity here, as it will be vaguely newsworthy for weeks to come and carried by a fair number of attractive young people.

And the Independent will presumably cover something uplifting like the tractor production numbers in Cuba.

And it strikes me that for all the excitement it causes to minor sections of the Telegraph, and to some parts of the Church, the fuss about women bishops in the Church of England will be largely ignored. It's dull, it's hideously complicated, and it's dragged on too long, and it's irrelevant to nearly everyone. It all seems so 1960s - everyone else has got over this kind of thing.

And it's sunny.

But then, look at the alternative...

The Telegraph: "18-year-old Suzie and her friend Jessica Ffitz-Stanley celebrate her selection as suffragan bishop of Keighley"

The Mail: "Global Warming could cause Flying Bishops to migrate to Sweden for cooler temperatures, Forward-in-Faith scientists warn."

The Sun: "When I heard the Church of England was ordaining women bishops, I though they mitre remembered me," - Zoe, 19, Aquarius.

The Guarndia: "Why won't everybody think like me?" - Polly Toynbee

The Express: "Princess Diana told me she would have made a great bishop", says butler.

The Mirror: "My sympathy for brave women who become bishops" - Fiona Phillips

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

On the Notice Board

Weekly Programme

Yesterday's Coffee Morning raised, after expenses, 37p. Congratulations to Hierome on the vast improvement.

The Men's Group will be meeting at 7pm on Wednesday. The theme will be "manliness and Christianity - not necessarily incompatible". We'll be adding bromide to the post-meeting tea to be on the safe side.

Thursday at 8 will be the Eeling meeting. Please bring your own eel.

Barking at the Moon will be Friday at 11.15 pm.

The Julian Meeting will be Saturday morning at 10am. Since there's only person called Julian, it shouldn't last long.

Squonk Racing will be in the Lower Meadow on 3pm Saturday. Young Keith will be running a Tote. All funds raised will go to the refurbishment of Hilda. Goodness knows she needs it.

Session 1 of the Assertiveness Training Course will be Sunday at 4pm. It should have been last Sunday, but I'd shut my study door and apparently nobody liked to knock.

Health & Safety

Please note that the following "worship aids" have been banned:
  • Air horns
  • Copies of "The Wee Worship Book"
  • Copies of "The Great Hulkin' Worship Book"
  • Didier Drogba
  • Water wings
  • Laser key-rings (especially when directed towards the Readers)
  • Pogo sticks
  • Hockey sticks
  • Rhubarb sticks
  • Metal Detectors
The Fountain of Salmacis has been capped off. We felt it was safer. Especially with the Men's Meeting.

Please do not feed the stewards. They have a carefully-controlled diet, and get all the food they need.

First Summery Day


Today being officially the First Summery Day, please can Beaker Folk note the following:
1) You're not allowed to say. "Soon be Christmas" until June 22.

2) Now the Orchard has dried out so well, we will be Pouring Out Beakers out there rather than in the Moot House. Given we still have drought conditions, we will be doing the Rain Dance again. But please wear wellies, as it's still boggy in places.

3) Anyone reading Hnaef's text on "Organisational implications of male Archdruids" will almost certainly feel the unmistakable sensation of their heads imploding. Now I'm not going to translate it into English for you, but in short - Hnaef's allowed to be a druid because I say so. And I own the Big House.

4) Given the latest set of ozone layer warnings, combined with the latest news about the dangers of suntan lotion, please ensure that your summer clothes include a knotted hanky and an all-over garment that covers you from ankle to ears. The Beaker Code forbids men wearing shorts - not so much for modesty or UV protection, as because nobody wants to see Burton's knees.

5) Yes, Pimms is nice. But not till the sun's over the yard arm.

6) Rosebuds are in short supply, so don't go gathering them yet. I'll tell ye when ye may.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Statement by House of Bishops on Women Bishops in the House of Bishops

Thanks to Ruth Gledhill for posting up the statement by the House of Bishops on Women as Bishops.

Now these kinds of statements are not always totally clear to the lay man or woman on the Cranfield omnibus. Or possibly even to lawyers in the Church of England. So I felt it was my duty to explain it in language as simple as possible.

Basically, I think it's in Swedish.

I'm not sure yet whom it will annoy but my guess is that, in the classic Anglican Via Media, it will be everybody.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Running the Race

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1)

How often it is truly said that you cannot preach from a restricted view of the Gospel. And, brethren (and your womenfolk, to whom I expect you to explain the more complex parts of this sermon), I am therefore preaching from the whole verse this week. Last week's sermon, in which I preached from the word "quail" alone, may have been more suited to the theological specialist.

So we will see what we have in this verse from Paul's letter to the Hebrews. But first, if I may, a short diversion - the self-styled "Archdruid" next door claims that there is no evidence that Paul wrote the epistle. But she is clearly deluded. Because it says so in the Bible. Although not in hers, which is further proof of how far she has fallen.

But let us see what it says. We have a race set before us - and the end of that race is salvation. But there are hurdles - for truly it is an hurdle race. And Paul maketh it clear what some of the hurdles are. Being compassed about with a cloud of witnesses, saith the Apostle, let us lay aside every weight. Clearly the witnesses are that very weight of which he speaks.

And immediately we see what he means - imagine, if you will, the Olympic Stadium as it will be in just a few short weeks. Let us forget for one moment that the Olympics are part of the religion of idolization of the human body and spirit. And let us forget that the International Olympic Committee is part of that godless World Order that will put the Nameless Thing on the throne, as all bow down to the power of the sponsors, and none will trade without approval from the IOC that the product they are selling has indeed the symbol of the Olympics printed thereon.

But let us imagine a pure and noble race. And as the athletes wait at the start of the 400m hurdles, one of them becomes aware of the crowd or audience - that "great crowd of witnesses" with which he is compassed. And instead of viewing only the finishing tape - and the hurdles which he must overcome - he becomes aware that there exists a crowd - ostensibly to "cheer him on" but actually to distract, to confuse and to overwhelm.

Surely he will forget his objective, take his eye from the goal, and trip over the first hurdle. And as he lays there - his face a bloody mess and his feet still lodged on the top of the hurdle - he will know that the race is already lost.

But suppose in the next lane, there is a godly and focussed man - one who does not take account of the crowd of witnesses around him - one who hears only the starter's pistol and sees only the tape ahead (taking due account of the hurdles). And suppose as he runs along, he noticeth the man in the adjacent lane  tripping over the hurdle and smashing to the ground. Then what will that man do?

Surely, brothers and sisters, the answer is clear. He will ignore that fallen man and run on. For to stop, to bind up the fallen - that will mean that he himself loses the race. His job is to get to the end first - to win the eternal prize. For surely this is a race, and not a woodland dawdle, wherein one mayst attend to those companions that trip over holes and divots, or become attached to barbed wire while escaping rampaging bullocks or geese.

Surely, brothers and sisters - ploughing on, leaving the one that is fallen to his fate - for he has fallen already. This is the way forward. For there is no room for losers in the Kingdom of God.

And now we sing our closing hymn - "Over the Mountains and the Water Jump".

Beating the Bounds

Such Larks! If you're going to beat the bounds, I say - do it properly.

Yes, I know what you're going to say. We should have beat them Thursday. But we're keeping Ascension today. Which is partly to recognise modern-day patterns of working. But mostly, to be honest, because we forgot.

Now the "bounds" we're marking are not the Parish ones - those are enormous, and go either side of the motorway, and don't necessarily cross it at convenient places. No, we're not having to retrieve terrified Beaker People from the central reservation again.

No, these are the boundaries of the nominal "thin place" within which the Community stands. Which is great. Since the "thin place" exists for ceremonial and theological reeasons, it can go where we choose - or where a suitably acute dowser can lead us with her or his plumb-line.  Conveniently, this morning it led 50 of us in through Drayton Parslow's door, up the stairs and across his bed. And while it is true that Drayton was sleeping in it, it's also true that he wasn't sleeping in it by the time we'd all stomped across him. And hit him with sticks as a recognised boundary marker.

Doubling back and rounding the Orchard and the Duck Pond, we stopped for a moment at Duckhenge to recognise the beautiful way the trilithons framed the rain clouds and the Amazon warehouse. Truly the ancient Druids can have known no greater wonders than these.

Then back to the Moot House to sing "Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise (three days late). A rousing experience.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Geoff Shreeves Through The Ages

Alexander the Great - ruler of the world by 30, cities named after you all over the Mediterranean - yet dying after a binge.  Any regrets?

Julius Caesar - Any thoughts on Brutus and Cassius?

Harold Godwinson - an easy victory over the Vikings at Stamford Bridge - but it was one in the eye for you here, wasn't it?

Richard III - There's never a horse when you need one, is there? Where do you think you'll go from here?

Anne Boleyn - From quiet country girl to Queen of England. Would you say your head's on the block?

Juliet - How ironic was that?

Charles I - If you're God's chosen - he's not doing you any favours is he?

Capt Cook - Would you say you've learnt anything about the idea of "friendly natives on paradise islands"?

Adolf Hitler - Berlin's in ruins and you're moving imaginary tank regiments around on a map. How do you rate your chances?

Reality Check

Young Keith really very grumpy with me today.

He claims I'm unduly biased against Charlii, the Trainee Druid, with whom he is an "item". Not at all. I think Charlii is a diligent, hard-working trainee. She does suffer from rashes from time to time, but I can't blame her for that and it makes her in no way less of a decent human being. Not least because they're probably allergic reactions to the squirrel costume she has to wear as part of her responsibilities in children's work.

I tried to explain to Keith - he's a good lad - a promising young man. He's got a comfortable house, living with his uncle Ben Connolly, the Police Officer. And he has the potential for a good life. But if he marries a Beaker Druid, there's going to be hard times. Charlii's not going to progress too far if she stays here - or at least she will over my dead body - so she'll be moving to pastures new. And constantly having to be an outsider in your own community, being the bluff host when it's the other half who's the boss - it's not easy. Your house isn't your own - well, mine isn't. But then, on the bright side, I do rent it out to the Community at a very lucrative rate. And then I'm afraid that, in these still-discriminatory times, there's still that implied question - if you're the husband of the Druid, then what's the matter with you? Who wears the pointy hat in your house?

Young Keith has suggested I'm getting a bit ahead of things here, and maybe he's right. I just wouldn't want anyone to get hurt. Young Keith's a lively, intelligent lad. I really wouldn't want him to be in a situation where he can't let off giant fireworks, fall head-first into a ditch while tipsy or or accidentally burn down the local Doily Shed while carrying out an experiment into hydrogen fusion, just because it might embarrass his wife.

The Mythology of Cricket

Forgot to mention in all the excitement over that flame appearing in Cornwall yesterday, but I actually had rather a marvellous day at the Test. I say "marvellous". It was a slow old day's play - England quite cautious against a very average West Indies attack, taking a long time to get up to the Windie's score. It was an utter delight to see Strauss get a ton, though. The real resilience of a true fighter and sportsman. And a quite ferocious delight in the extended ovation he got.

Personally I was sat in an interesting position. In front of me were two posh boys, who consumed four bottles of champagne in between going off to see people called "Rupert", "Eliot" and "Tarquin". While behind me was sat a man who appeared to be channelling the spirit of Geoffrey Boycott. Although as the day wore on I realised that he was listening to TMS on the radio, and merely repeating every word that Boycott said. On the occasions that Geoffrey went off to be recharged, the chap behind e continued with his own dull comments such as "Trott always scores so slowly" and "with a right and left-hander we should be farming the strike". In some ways it was a relief to stagger off the train at Flitwick - although until up to the point when I realised that the "lift home" I'd been promised was Burton Dasset turning up with his tandem.

But I realise that to our American cousins (among whom I count several readers), cricket is a bit of a mystery. A test match can last five days and end in a draw - how can this possibly work as a sport, they may ask? And the answer is that cricket is actually not so much a sport as a religion. The accountants, restaurant workers and motor mechanics who throw leather balls at each other of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon on a dog-dropping-covered municipal rec are as the village churches to the cathedrals of Headingley, Lord's or The Oval. The figures of past cricketers are as the great demi-gods and heroes of the pantheon of Cricket, while the great god Earnshaw watches over those of the Chosen People that are born within the ancient boundaries of Yorkshire. So I hope this explanation may help.

Cake - The food of the gods. The people of Tunbridge Wells, Chippenham and Droitwich hope to achieve blessings on the England cricket tea by sending offerings to the priests of the Cricket religion, the "TMS". The offerings are consumed by the priests, who must all have adopted names such as "Aggers", "Jonners" or "Bumble".

"All in white shall wait around" - Mrs Alexander was inspired to write "Once in Royal David's City" by the realisation that the experience of heaven will be like watching a Test Match. Only shorter.

Old Ladies with Sticks of Rhubarb - Cricket can be played by men and women, of course, with appropriate modifications to the protective equipment. However the ancient Wise Women of Yorkshire needed no such namby-pamby equipment. Using a stick of rhubarb they were able to ward off all evils, including head-high full-tosses and bouncers. The last of these Wise Women was old Mrs Boycott, who so memorably saw off Lillee and Thomson at the Oval in 1975.

"Beefy" - mythical hero in the line of Cu Chullain and Samson. Wielded a tree-trunk as a bat and bowled exploding cricket balls. "Freddie" was a latter-day hero who was never quite so good, incapable of pedalling the simplest pedalo.

DRS - Proof that video technology doesn't necessarily help get decisions right in sport.

"Not cricket" - Given a sport that includes illegal tampering with the equipment, rigged betting and occasional attempts physically to hurt the opposition it's hard to imagine what this might mean.  

Gower - An angelic being cursed, as all such are, with one great weakness. In his case, outside the off stump.

The Bodyline Series - An example of relative morality, given the whingeing from the Poms when the Windies and Australia learnt how to bowl fast.

Farming the Strike - A ritual in which the "tail-ender" always ends up facing 5 balls an over. A kind of meditation on our fallen nature.

Jonners - Ancient sage of great wisdom and immense ability to eat fruit cake.

Middle-Order Collapse - The Fall of Civilisation between the Ancient and Modern worlds, which the England cricket team ritually recreates 20 times a year. 

"The batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willey" - ancient spell of laughter-making. Still used as a counter-spell to rain during boring periods when the covers are on.

Nine-Ten-Jack - People whose ritual role is to be "knocked over". If they "wag" this means they aren't happy with the allotted fate.

Reverse Swing - Witchcraft.

Uncovered Pitches - Proof of how we have fallen from our true nature since early times. In the 1960s, cricketers would trust the gods to give the good weather. Today, we trust in metal and plastic to keep the pitch dry.

The Yorkshire team of the early 60s - a race of super-heroes, incapable of weakness of any kind. 

Pigeons - The spirits of old cricketers are still believed to hover around their former homes in the form of pigeons or seagulls . I reckon. That's the only reason I can think of why they are considered so important.

Blofeld - Evil arch-villain. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Flame Arrives

I'm not quite sure if we'll be prosecuted for mentioning what this has to do with, but a flame has arrived in Great Britain. Because of the economic situation, it's the first time that Greece has asked for a receipt. The torch relay from Olympia is of course a venerable tradition, going all the way back to Nazi Germany. At the time, people wondered why the route was unexpectedly taking in parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Belgium. They found out why in due course - but Adolph thankfully never took the hint from the problems they encountered when trying to take the flame to Paris and Moscow at the same time.

On this occasion, in an attempt to evoke summertime visits to Greece back in the days when they had the drachma (and in the hope of summer holidays to come when the drachma returns) the torch itself appears to be designed on the basis of an ice-cream cone.

Or possibly, suggests Young Keith, it's actually a retro-torch, reminding us of the "Horn of Plenty" desserts that were popular in Harvester restaurants in the 1980s? Inspired by this thought, he has created the Don't-Mention-What's-Happening-This-Summer-Cornucopia - carefully branded for legal reasons. It's a foot-long cornet made of brandy-snap, filled with fruit and ice cream and with the top two inches soaked in supermarket own-label whisky. You light the whisky and run round the garden holding the cornet aloft. If you're lucky it's a marvellous evocation of this summer's celebrations, followed by a festive pudding. Whereas if you're unlucky the burning whisky runs down your arm and sets your sleeve on fire.

Jubilee

Worrying noises from the camp.

The Beaker People are asking, if it's Jubilee this year, does this mean they don't have to work in the Doily Shed any more as the loans they took out to pay their (voluntary) joining fees are cancelled?

I've explained to them that the concept of Jubilee enshrines the rights of normal people to the land, states that, ultimately, one person cannot belong to another, and discourages a system of excessive lending as being against the best interests of society - as well as remembering that the land itself is precious, and cannot be exploited to the point of exhaustion.

Of course, Jubilee belongs to the Old Dispensation. These days we have been set free from all that.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Guest Preacher - Geoffrey Boycott


The Parting of the Red Sea  (Ex 13:17-14:29)

Eee I remember that tour of the Middle East with t'Yorkshire squad. Brian Close were t'captain and Moses were team coach.  Well, people from Yorkshire have allus been the chosen people.....

The "Largo" from the "New World Symphony" may be played.

And you hear people today complaining about pitches favouring batsman - well, too right. It's all too easy in my opinion. In my young days we had to play on uncovered pitches. But that 1st Sinai Test - if tha's never played on a sea bed straight after a miraculous parting o' t'waves tha's never seen a spinning wicket.

Still, there were a bit of life in it for the quickies and all. Fiery Phinehas Truman made mincemeat o' the Egyptian lower order. And when it were our turn, Closey told me what with the sand, quails and manna about the place, I 'ad to try and 'ang on in there.

It's not everybody could play a forty year innings. Carried me bat. When Moses went for 120, there were only me left at the crease. And it's a shame the England youngsters can't manage that sort o' thing today.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Noah's Ark Scientifically Proven

There are few things that cause myself and Eileen, the arch-heathen next door, to disagree more than the interpretation of Holy Writ in relation to the early years of the history of our world.

And I can tell you a great example of the near-atheism that she espouses. She has been quoting to me Steve Borthwick's blogpost in which he points out that all the water in the world could be gathered together into a ball 860 miles in diameter.

That being the case, says Eileen, how could the whole world have been covered in water to a depth of several miles, as the story of Noah's Ark tells us?

Both blind and foolish. Clearly, all of the people of the world in those days were gathered together in what is now the Middle East. And so all God had to do was gather up all the water in the world into one place. By creating, as Steve Borthwick has illustrated, a ball 860 miles in diameter, the whole known world would have been flooded - and Noah's Ark would have been raised up spectacularly above the face of the earth. Once the giant ball had dispersed back into the seas and ocean beds of the world, the people and animals could have begun their journeys out to their current locations. By attaching the kangaroos and wombats to surf boards while the waters were still receding, Noah would have ensured that these and the other marsupials were rushed off to Australia at high speed.

I sometimes wonder why people bother distorting science in this way.

Kieran Dogleash - A Statement

It is with regret that AFC Beaker Folk have immediately terminated the contract of our head coach, Kieran Dogleash. Kieran has of course been totally useless, but we look forward to building on the strong foundations and good work he's put in over the last 4 days since he took over.

You may remember that we hired Kieran after his predecessor, Rory Hedgeson, turned out to be completely useless and only fit to manage England. Rory Hedgeson, in turn, replaced Ralph A Bennet Esq, who was completely useless and probably only fit to replace Kieran.

Kieran Dogleash has many great properties. The support he gave to Louis Starbucks after that "piece of light-hearted banter in the Star of India" only showed how well he combined total loyalty with a complete lack of awareness. While winning the Mid Beds Nearly-Pagan Para-Church Knock-Out Consolation Cup at least meant our outlay of nearly £450 million on players was rewarded. Albeit we only beat a bunch of Brownies from Luton on penalties - but they can be pretty vicious, Lutonian Brownies.

And so having sacked the Director of Football, Communications Director, Managing Director, Chief Executive and head coach, the good new is that AFC Beaker Folk isn't such a top-heavy organisation any more. In fact, our sponsor, Mr Dwight D Linebacker from the Good Ol' US of A, is now personally responsible for picking the squad, team tactics and laundry. Sadly the new stadium on that strip of grass by Junction 13 is now even less likely to  materialise, but on the bright side we look forward to hiring a new manager, in whom we will have total confidence right up to that moment when we realise we have to sack him because he's totally useless.

Talking During Worship

I first noticed this phenomenon many years ago in a Methodist chapel near Milton Keynes. Chatting during a service. I'm not talking about whispering furtively at the back.Two people just broke off from paying attention and started talking loudly about a young female villager who was "no better than she should be." During the reading of the Gospel. With only twelve people in the congregation.

And I fell to wondering what to do about it. I believe the more mainstream denominations suffer from this most with people who've received communion, while others who've received. It can't be great, kneeling to receive Our Lord's gift to us while in the background you can here Elsie talking about her rheumatics, or Brian spelling out how many pints he had last night.

And we have the same problem during our more sacred moments. Lifting the Great Tea Light for all to wonder at the dancing flame the other day, I heard "So I've tried TCP but I might need to try that Arsenal instead." Distracting, irreverent and possibly dangerous.

So we've been experimenting with some possibilities. One is getting the Beaker Band to play so loudly that nobody can hold a conversation. But this can only work during moments of silence.

Or there's the "naming and taming (but not shaming)" method. This is where the leader stops the whole thing, points at the chatterers and accuses them of possessing a spirit of gossip. Ideally at this point a few big blokes will remove the people with a yacking problem and remove them to a soundproof booth to await the arrival of the local exorcist.

Then there's the possibility of wiring sound-detectors  into the sprinkler system, and dumping a gallon of water on the offenders. Of course, when we tried this we ran into a problem during the "cream cracker service". It's no fun as it is getting a dry cracker sticking to the back of your throat. But getting a bucket of water over your head when you try to attract help is adding insult to injury.

But in the end, you can't beat fitting ejector seats. Any gossip goes on these days, we just deposit the offenders in the field outside. One of these days we really must fit a retracting roof - it's costing us a fortune in tiles and plaster.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The 1631 Bible - Go-No Go Meeting

In the "Scrum area" at Barker + Lucas, printers.

Barker: OK. Have we finished all the testing?

Firkin: Yes Sire. We've completed all unit testing, integration testing and User Acceptance Testing cycles.

Lucas: You mean you've read the proofs?

Firkin: Yes, Sire.

Lucas: And are there any bugs?

Firkin. Yes.

Barker: Any show-stoppers?

Firkin: Well, I've got the list here. Can we go through them? Firstly - there appear to be a number of references to unicorns. Shouldn't that be rhinoceroses?

Barker: Probably. But that's no more than a cosmetic bug isn't it? Does it affect any functionality?

Firkin: No, Sire. The unicorns are merely for descriptive purposes. At no point do they do anything that depends on them being unicorns, where a rhino might have a different effect on behaviour.

Lucas: OK. What's next?

Firkin: Well, you might regard this as more about detail rather than actual functionality but... isn't the language a bit archaic? I mean, this is 1631, after all. We're not all Lollards.

Barker: Have you actually read the "Tone of Voice" document, Firkin? It's supposed to sound archaic. This is God's word. It's not meant to be contemporary.

Firkin: OK. Right. The first chapter of Genesis appears to describe the world being created in just six days.

Lucas: And your point is?

Firkin: Well, it's a bit unlikely, isn't it? It looks a lot more than 6,000 years old to me.

Barker: Tell you what, we'll skip quickly past, pretending you didn't say that. Anything else?

Firkin: The Magnificat seems to imply that rich people will be in trouble and God loves the weak and powerless. Now I know that's what it says in the spec, but are we sure that the original requirements were right?

Lucas: I reckon you've got a good point there. But King Charles wants this Bible to ship today. So is it a cast-iron, drop-dead showstopper? What do you think, Barker?

Barker:  I reckon we'll live with it. It may make no sense to us, but it's what the Sponsor requested. And it's much the same in Revelation, so the user experience should be consistent, at least. We'll iron it out in Bible 1665, the next release, if need be. Anything else, Firkin?

Firkin: Well, just the one. It's a missing word in Exodus...

Lucas: An important word? "Moses", or "God" or something?

Firkin: Not like that, no. Just a little word. "Not".
Barker: Well, we'll go with it, I reckon. The presses are waiting, we'll just hit the deadline - and if you start putting words in who knows if we need repagination? I vote "Go'. Lucas?

Lucas: "Go".

Firkin: You're the bosses. I'll tell the boys we're going live.

"The Wicked Bible"

End of Season Clear-out

Sometimes it strikes me that football managers have it easier than the leaders of small religious fellowships.

Apart from the risk of sacking of course. That can't be fun. The fear that if things don't go your way the fans will be on your back, and next thing you know the people in dark suits will be tapping on your shoulder. It must be like being a Baptist pastor, only without the wild lifestyle.

But no, I was thinking more about our inability to "rebuild".

Now for a football manager, "rebuilding" means getting rid of all the dead wood that the last manager brought in when (s)he was "rebuilding", and bringing in people whom you believe to be better. I've heard references to Liverpool "rebuiilding" this summer - in which case that's the 20th successive glorious summer of rebuilding.

But wouldn't it be great? Recognising that Gertie doesn't "link up" well in the tea-making circle, ship her out to the Unitarians and replace her with a cheap youngster from Poland.

Or if the Lay Preacher is causing trouble? Obviously you'd need to leave her on the "bench" kicking her heels till the transfer window is open.  But then you'd be looking for whether you could exchange her for an organist for the reserves (i.e. one who gets to play on Low Sunday and Christmas 1 - awaiting his chance when the regular organist breaks his wrist).

Personally I'd be looking to strengthen the "front four". Daphne's worth her weight in gold, of course. And Hnaef, like Didier Drogba, has been an absolute war-horse. But the constant going down on the slightest contact is annoying the fellowship. And when he's near the front of the procession it can be quite distracting. He only has to be nudged by a tea-light bearer or boutrosifer and he's rolling around clutching the allegedly affected part. Then the whole procession is inclined to trip over him.

Then there's Charlii. Obviously we brought her in for her potential. And, like Jamie Carragher in his youth, she's been happy to fill whatever role is needed - dressing up as a squirrel, sweeping out the doily shed, being (as Trainee Druid) by definition an instant expert in children's work. But her off-the-field activities have been distracting her. I don't mean she's been setting fire to her bathroom or driving around Woburn handing out tenners. But I've pointed out to Young Keith that if footballers' Wives and Girlfriends are WAGS, a Druid's Other Half is a D'OH.

And it's the same throughout the squad - sorry, fellowship. All the way through I can see weak links that could be strengthened if I bought wisely and shipped out before the all-importan Lammas Deadline.

And it's not like God's not given us a precedent on this. Remember how, when Saul was only maintaining mid-table obscurity, he was shipped out and replaced by David - the "Chosen One" with a good track record in Philistia, who went on to great things. But then, David and Saul were both gaffers, so maybe I don't want to go too far with that reasoning.

And then I remember Our Chairman, when he was a head coach. Even though the squad was a bit thin - back in the days of only one substitute - he knew his people's hearts. He knew who was the Mario Balotelli, who the reliable Gareth Barry or Stevie Gerrard. James and John, those hard-working wingers, were always arguing about who was going to play on the right and who on the left. And he knew that one of his team was going to be making a big-money transfer after being "touched up" by another club. But he backed them - weak and strong as they might be - to get into Europe.

So as I look around the Beaker People, with their foolishness, their irrationality and their stubbornness - I figure that maybe if Our Chairman would have stuck with them, perhaps I should as well. I'll give them one more season.

Though if I could swap Burton for a treasurer with a personality, I would.  But it might break my payscales. That is, I might have to pay for one.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Love's Young Dream

The two of them are starting to irk now.

Young Keith and Charlii, that is.

I got fed up of them sitting there holding hands and whispering through all the Occasions. So I've separated them. Young Keith is now officially i/c Audio Visuals, and therefore has to sit at the back in the half-light, looking moody. The Leadership Team have been told to abandon all pretence at being on the same level as the punters, and have to sit up the front on their demi-druidical bean bags at all times.

Of course, that didn't initially stop them texting, did it. All the way through the singing, the liturgy, solemn lighting of tea lights, pouring out and filling up of beakers. No matter what we were doing, the lovey-doveyness never stopped.

So Hnaef's done a bit of techie magic for me and now we're broadcasting a scrambling signal on all frequencies. The Powerpoint's a lot sharper on its cues now. And all the Beaker People who had been claiming to "take notes" on their Smartphones during sermons have mysteriously discovered that their memories have improved. Amazing what a bit of electronic white noise can do to improve the worshipful atmosphere.

Choosing Matthias

You know, you've got to feel sorry for Barsabbas.

Everybody's been up for a job they didn't get. And you can normally blame it on the way the HR person clearly didn't like you. Or the Head of Tea-Cakes isn't a good judge of character. Or maybe you shouldn't have callled the MD "Fishface". Even if he did have a face like a fish.

But poor Barsabbas. I can see those pocket funsters, James and John, doing their comedy double act while Simon Peter chairs the judges:

james: so the votes of the Judean people are in, and Herod - it's not you. Mary Magdalene - clearly it's not you. Matthias and Barsabbas - it might be you. Let's go to the judges' vote.

Matthew: We've all been on a journey. And I'm going with my heart. Barsabbas.

Andrew: Matthias, you really nailed that reading of Psalm 109. I'm putting you through to the final of "Disciples Got Talents."

Jude: Ooooh (cries)  this is so hard. Trying to decide between them is a hopeless cause. I'm going to go for.......... Barsabbas.

Simon Peter: You know, this is too much for me. I'm not going to be able to send anyone home. I'm going to send it to the Judge's decision. I'm voting for Matthias.

John: so with the panel's votes equal, you know what means. Barsabbas and Matthias - God has voted. And the new apostle is...... [absurd dramatic pause] Matthias.

I mean, poor old Barsabbas. He can hardly do a loser's speech where he tells James and John that he's gonna prove God's got it wrong, can he? He's gonna shuffle off to waiting on tables, reading God's Word, helping others, losing himself in obscurity and service. He may not be one of the Apostles - but he can still be a disciple.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Last Post

It's a nice old pub, the Last Post.

Of course, nobody's had a drink there in years. It wasn't that people made positive decisions to give up drinking. They just found they couldn't raise the energy to get down the pub in the evening. Some of them said it wasn't that they had gone teetotal - rather that they felt they could have a drink perfectly well at home. Drink, they said, was a personal thing.

For a while, the dwindling numbers of regulars struggled to keep the old place open. Not least because the people who stayed at home made it clear that they wouldn't let it close. It made them feel good to think there was a pub in the village - even as they opened a can of Stones in their own homes. The tenants tried to keep it open, of course. They were always coming up with new ideas for attracting the punters in - quizzes, barbecues, darts tournaments, egg-throwing. But the writing was on the wall - and I don't just mean in the Ladies'.

Unable to afford any help, the landlady and landlord worked absurdly long hours - up with the lark when the dray was due, off down the Cash & Carry, doing their own cleaning and running the kitchen - their day would start before 7 and often end after midnight, seven days a week. But they had to put the price of the beer up every time the Chancellor raised duty, or the brewery had to jack up the costs. And they were steadily undercut by the supermarket. Some of the villagers even got into exotic tastes like Rioja, or Chardonnay.

Eventually, of course, it had to close - a victim of changing drinking patterns. But the council wouldn't let anyone do anything with it. After all, the history of all that little village was associated with that pub. It was the heart of the community. And what is a village without an inn? The villagers suggested that maybe it would be possible just to open it up a few times a year - Christmas and bank holidays - but it was clearly never going to work. But who did the brewery think the pub was for, they asked, if not for the villagers?

The brewery wanted shot of the place. But the council won't let them knock it down, or build houses in the garden or convert it to flats. After all, the village is in a conservation area. And the villagers won't let the inn go. So the brewery has to keep the place intact, pay for its maintenance - but they can't do anything with it.

But the villagers are happy, because they've still got their inn. It's a nice old pub, the Last Post.

On the Spiritual Benefits of Mid-Table Obscurity

Warning - turn away now if you are not interested in football (or are trying not to hear the progress of the game).

There seems to be much excitement among those who support football teams such as Man Utd and Man City, Tottenham, Arsenal and others today. A Manchester team will win the Premiership - and at the moment I'm not quite sure which yet. Although it would appear that by getting sent off for attacking the entire city of Manchester just now, Joey Barton has unexpectedly strengthened his own team as QPR are now leading Man City. Maybe Joey should get sent off more often, for the benefit of his team - if he ever gets the opportunity again.

The majority of the Beaker Folk leadership are watching all this (or, in some cases, not) with a sense of total equanimity. The Official Team of the Beaker People, Liverpool, are not going anywhere as a result of today's games. We can't win the League. We can't go down (and you'd never have believed, in the last 45+ years, that that would ever be a concern). We can't get in the Championship. We're safely in mid-table obscurity, clutching our League Cup, going into the Europa League, where next season we get to play teams of Belorussian boiler-welders and part-time Slovakian eel-farmers. Though what a part-time Slovakian is when he's not being Slovakian, I'm not quite sure. Czech, maybe, or perhaps one of the people of "O" - the little, landlocked state that was also involved in the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

In any case, none of this matters. The pomp, the glamour, the shiny shields and baubles - none of it matters. We have a place safely reserved in the European equivalent of the Autowindscreens Shield, and that will have to do. There are no heart-stopping moments for us today.

(2-2, by the way. Surely Man city can't come back and win this?)

Obviously, it's better for the mental health. And the blood pressure. No heart palpitations, and no sudden urges to elbow Man City players. This is much better for us. A kind of Zen thing. Our prize - such as it is - is safe. Why get over-excited? That is what we tell ourselves.

I'd like to draw the analogy with knowing we have a reward safe in heaven - that, secure and safe, we can watch the excitements of  those who chase worldly rewards, promotions and the chance to chair exciting meetings. But if you can find any way of making the Europa League sound like Heaven, you're a better man or woman than I am.

Man City just won, by the way. Poor old Fergie.

An unfortunate mixup

I am afraid we made a mistake in our booking today. Wanting to make our Sabbath devotions more friendly to children, we hired somebody who was described as an "alternative worship leader".

I can promise you that we will not be calling on the services of Snoop Dougie Doug Doug again.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Martyrdom of St Pancras (with annotations for those lacking in irony)

Living as we nearly do on the old "Bedpan" line - what is now the northern part of "Thameslink", we Beaker People have a special fondness for St Pancras.

Went to a special service this afternoon in his honour. Organised by Burton and his mates, of course, due to him being the patron saint of trainspotters1. (Unlike other saints, Pancras is normally represented in an anorak2). It's a shame because we'd have liked to go to the station named in his honour, which closes on his feast day for special celebrations3. It's said4 that at sunrise on St Pancras' day, the sunlight shines straight through the engine shed windows and lights up the champagne bar.

So we went to the celebration, and first up we were told that the service was half an hour late, due to a Steward shortage in the Harlington area. Then we discovered that the organist wasn't working. So we had an alternative bus service.

1 No he's not
2 No he isn't
3 No it doesn't
4 It's all just a joke

The Campaign for Redundant Church Blogs

England has a great history of Church blogs. And many of them remain in use - reminders that, at heart, we are still a Christian Blogging country.

But times change, online communitiies move away. Or formerly keen Church Bloggers discover other things to do with their time - washing their car, perhaps, or taking the kids to football. Or even engaging in an alternative hobby, like Real Life.

In surveys, we find that although fundamental beliefs in Church Blogging remain, it is patterns of behaviour that change. The Church of England now counts as "Church Bloggers" those who may only have visited a blog once in the last twelve months - whereas traditionally the expectation was that there should be, ideally, a Morning Blog and an Evening Blog - or, more typically, a blog on Sunday mornings at 9.30.

So today we have the situation where many Church Blogs have fallen out of use. Some have completely vanished, with no traces remaining. Others are used for occasional postings.

But mostly they just stand, alone in the electromagnetic fields of our beautiful English internet, a memorial to the blogging faith of previous generations. The anathemas and special pleading, the carefully constructed arguments and appeals to Scripture, the unbridled and often embarrassing introspection of previous times are still there, but the new posts are no longer being written. This is where the Campaign for Redundant Church Blogs can come in.

Can you help us maintain our Church Blogging heritage? Just one hour would be enough to bring a blogroll up to date. If you have some design skills you could give the top image a bit of repointing (we do not redesign old blogs, as we respect their heritage - no matter how dated the colour scheme). A couple of hours going through the comments archive could weed out the links to dodgy pharmaceuticals. Or perhaps you could join a team preserving a Times New Roman font?

Or just send a cheque for £20, to "The Campaign for Redundant Church Blogs", c/o Archdruid Eileen, The Great House, Husborne Crawley. I'll make sure it's well spent. Obviously, we encourage you to gift-aid, but if you're seriously loaded we'll find a nice efficient way to make sure George Osborne doesn't get his hands on the dosh.

Squonk Infestation

You see, this is what happens when you let a bunch of blokes sing about mythical beasts and furry creatures, just up the road.

Thanks to Husborne Crawley's designation as a Place of Outstanding Thinness, the spiritual wave function has been disturbed. Hermaphroditus, son of gods, lurks around the brook thinking he's in for a quiet day and there's an infestation of squonks in the Orchard.

Young Keith tells me he's always wanted to make the Squonk Pie recipe that his uncle, Ron Connolly, taught him. So he's gone out for a day's hunting, armed with a sack, a stick and a stone.

Mark my words, this will all end in tears.

Doug being brilliant

This is very, very good. Go here.

Not losing my ticket

It has been, Dear Readers, a wonderful concert, although not without stress in getting there and being there.

I had left my ticket, attached by a fridge magnet (an amusing sheep, if you are interested), on the fridge since it arrived. But today, in case I was detained outside all day, and then had to rush off to the Stables, I thought it better to transfer it to my wallet.

But you know how it is with wallets and concert tickets. The tickets kind of stick out a bit at the top. And I was becoming worried that I might pay for something with a £5 note, dislodge the ticket, drop it and not notice.

So I kept taking the ticket out of the wallet every few minutes to check it was still there. But then I worried that I might only have the address slip part, and not the actual ticket. So I pulled the ticket off the address slip part, and put the address slip in the bin.

But I was concerned that I might have put the wrong part in the bin. So I checked the ticket in my wallet. It was definitely still there, and definitely still the ticket part. So I relaxed.

Until I wondered whether I had the right day. Sure, the ticket said Friday 11 May. I knew it was Friday. And the PC sad it was 11 May. But was I sure the PC was right? Maybe I had a ticket for the wrong year. And so I asked Eileen what day it was, what month, what date and what year. They all checked out. I had the right ticket.

But had I mis-remembered the date, I wondered? So I took the ticket out of the wallet and checked the date again. It was the right date. I put it back. Then put the wallet in my pocket. But I worried that it might have fallen out as I put the wallet back in my pocket. So I took the wallet out and checked. Put it back, and worried again.

I set off for Wavendon three hours early, in case I had a fake ticket. They assured me it was fine, but I wasn't coming in just yet no matter how safe it made me feel. So I put the ticket in my wallet, put my wallet in my pocket, and drove back to Husborne Crawley. They don't have real ale at the Stables, so I was not worried about drinking later on - driving was fine.

I found Eileen, told her that how worried I was about losing my ticket. She suggested putting it in my wallet, and then putting the wallet in my pocket. I explained that was what I had done. She said that was all right then - but I explained that was my point - how could I be sure it was still there and hadn't dropped out? She suggested that was unlikely, but in all honesty I couldn't be sure without opening my wallet and thereby collapsing the wave-function of ticket location. I checked it out. It was there. I put it back in the wallet, the wallet back in the pocket. Eileen watched me do it - promised me it was definitely there.

I walked round the corner, and it occurred to me that she could have been lying.

So I put the ticket in a glove, and put the glove on my hand. Realised that I could easily lose the glove, so put a wicket-keeping glove on over the ordinary glove. Taped the keepers' glove round the wrist, so nothing could possibly fall out.

Then I realised I wasn't sure I had rightly remembered putting the ticket in the glove.

In the end, I got to the concert. It was brilliant. But I did not take any notes of the lengths of the songs, or consult my notes as to precisely when a Mellotron noise was required for perfect accuracy, to check that G2 were a valid and accurate Genesis tribute band. Instead I was worrying too much that an any minute the Wavendon Ticket Police would realise that I was there with a false ticket, that I was the only person at a sold-out gig sitting in a seat that was fortunately vacant (and even more fortunately had the same number as the fake ticket I had accidentally purchased) and they would drag me off and I would miss the rest of the concert.

So as I say, it was a marvellous concert. G2 are a wonderful band.

I just wish I had enjoyed the day more.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Quick Aztec Joke

It is the curse of liberal modern Christians that we may believe that we know the truth - or at least we are the ones with the objective truth that all truth is relative - and yet other religions seem closer to deeper Truths. That is why we borrow the symbols and religions of other times and cultures, after all - everybody else just seemed to be closer to nature and the divine, even though we've got it right.

And what a pain was last night's "Spirit of Meso-America".

What really did for me was the mask representing Quetzalcoatl that they asked me to wear. It had been thrown together rather badly, and the glue wasn't great, to be honest. Halfway through, in the heat of the sacrificial fire (used strictly for toasting marshmallows), the glue started to melt and the mask came apart.

Angry? I was spitting feathers.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A Definitive Genesis Experience

Such excitement, Dear Readers!

Tomorrow I and Eileen are going to watch G2 Definitive Genesis perform at Wavendon Stables.

G2 are a group who work very hard at what is, after all, very complex music. They practice diligently (I know for a fact that keyboard practice was going on till late last night in the G2 household) and tomorrow they are going to be doing something which Genesis never did.  Playing the whole of A Trick of the Tale and Foxtrot live. These men are lovers of progressive music, and travel the country for the joy it brings to our ageing ears.

In recognition of their dedication and workmanship, I shall be timing the songs carefully to ensure they are authentic and accurate representations of the originals. Obviously it would be fairly easy to get a whole song the right length and so, to ensure there is no nasty cheating by speeding up or slowing down at the end, I will be taping the individual parts. I will be making sure this is particularly the case during the instrumental in Mad, Mad Moon. I played this once myself and it was note perfect. Well, to be exact I coded it into my computer and played it through a MIDI interface into my electronic keyboard. Which is, on a functional basis, exactly the same thing.

I do however have one cloud on my horizon. I referred this afternoon to Eileen and myself going on a "date". Once she had recovered from that unexpected outbreak of retching and choking, this led to me being hit with her cricket bat of doom. Eileen would like to make it very clear that she separately bought her own ticket, has a seat at the other end of the Stables and will be travelling independently. She has also declared that I will get another thump with the cricket bat if I encroach within the 30 yard "personal exclusion zone" she has declared around herself.

Which isn't that romantic, I agree. But it's still better than some dates I have been on in the past.

I'm not saying we've had a lot of rain...

...but the koi carp have developed Trench Fin

...but the Welsh people have stopped singing about going home

...but there's a duck struggling, out of its depth

...but I hear a word telling me there are too many TV Talent Shows, and I must build an ark.

...but we've all started speaking with Mancunian accents

...but we've officially renamed Spring as "the Monsoon Season"

...but the people with 4x4s have finally discovered what they're useful for, apart from blocking streets.

...but the bloke from the Met Office just canoed past to tell the 4x4 drivers that this is all their fault.

...but we can now identify every roof in the county that's had its lead stolen

...but Camping only has one meaning now - the older meaning being obsolete.

...but the drought order has stopped being a laughing-stock and is now a sad indictment of everything that is wrong with the country

...but the weather is now coming after the Lib Dems in the Opinion Polls.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Downloading my Religion

I've been intrigued by Linda Woodhead's piece on the "dereformation of religion" in the Guraniad. It has attracted the usual plethora of Dawkinian Dinosaurs, of course (unlike the pleasant, friendly and intelligent atheists who occasionally visit these shores).

But I feel she's missed out on the impact that the big Religion-sharing sites are having. Like the peer-to-peer sites of a year or two ago, and the various sites where one can download music and video with little regard for legality - the Religion-sharing sites are undermining the old, corporate religions by enabling people to download Religion without payment or any respect for the central organisations that try to run these faiths.

Let us take Gordon. Gordon is just an ordinary quantity surveyor by day. But at night, thanks to the faith-sharing site "FaithSpottiBookStream", he is able to download megabytes of any belief he chooses. Last Monday, when I spoke to him, he'd just download Jesuitism and was looking forward to educating the masses living in darkness. However on Tuesday he'd managed to install the belief system of a tribe of frog-worshippers dwelling in a remote Amazonian forest, and spent the rest of the working week in a trance caused by licking frog-skins. He dropped me a note on Saturday to let me know he was working on a mash-up of Liberal Anglicanism and Inca religion. That's where you rip the beating heart out of your living sacrifice, while assuring him that he will still be alive and his spirit will be with us "in a very real way".

The Corporate religions, of course, are struggling to know what to do about this. In the same way that video killed the radio star, and  the download is seeing off the CD - what does one do when, instead of making a 200 mile pilgrimage to Walsingham, your potential visitors are downloading the "Catholic Lite" app onto their Android? Especially when you never quite know which of the various belief and behaviour options they're ticking under the "Custom Installation". If the commands and instructions of your denomination are starting to look a bit irksome and your devotions aren't starting so quickly - bloatware, if you will -  there's nothing to stop somebody downloading something open-source like neo-Paganism, and just getting to work with their own development environment.

And then there are the ever-present dangers of malware or software corruption. For didn't even the operating system of this planet suffer early corruption thanks to a Worm? I heard about one poor chap, who was trying to download Buddhism. Unfortunately he'd been suckered into downloading a viral YouTube video at the same time. and now he's terrified he's going to be reincarnated as Rick Astley.