Thursday, 18 January 2018

Death Wish

Dear friends,

I have some sad news to relate as well as being in need of some advice.

An acquaintance of mine has recently died. To call him a friend would be a bit of an exaggeration. He was in his late eighties and lived a few houses down the road. We used to be nodding acquaintances. That is, whenever we met in the street, we nodded at each other and said, "Good morning, Good evening, Hello, Good bye," and such like nonsense more out of politeness, on my part, rather than really wishing him or anyone else a good anything.

You see, normally I am a shy person and I do not partake in pointless conversation with complete strangers, even though they might live a few metres away from my house. If they see fit to nod and greet me in the street, I reciprocate and hope it never happens again.

Anyway, this fellow of whom I speak, died a few weeks ago and I did not know anything about it. I'll admit I had not seen him for some time and had assumed that he moved to another town where he was nodding greetings to someone else.

The first I heard of his demise was when I received a letter from a local firm of solicitors.  

I went to their offices as invited and sat there solemnly whilst an elderly dust covered lawyer read this deceased acquaintance's last will and testament.

To get straight to the point, this deceased octogenarian, with no doubt a pickled brain, did not have much to his name whilst alive, but what he had, he left it all to me.

Namely: His prized collection of Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

At first, I did not know what a Madagascar hissing cockroach was. The aged solicitor explained and said that the collection consisted of some thirty or so wonderful specimens.

In my naivety, I thought that I could take possession of these carcasses and then donate them to the local science museum, or some other entomological association. But when they arrived in their glass tank I became the proud owner of thirty-seven live hissing revolting creatures all running around their glass enclosure wondering who I am.

I will not describe the scene in our household when these uninvited guests arrived. Suffice it to say that relationships have been strained to breaking point. The delivery man was not interested in my dilemma. All he wanted was my signature and then he fled never to be seen again.

The tank was deposited in our entrance hall, on a table, where it still rests to this day. With their arrival was a note on how and when to feed them. Apparently, they eat fresh vegetables and dry dog food pellets.

And that's where I need your advice my friends. How can I get rid of thirty-seven live, uninvited, unwanted, unwelcome, bequeathed Madagascar hissing cockroaches?

Do you want any?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Ben never visited me!

"Now we're in Scotland, shall we visit Ben Nevis?"

"Why? Ben Nevis never visited me ... why should I visit him?"

"Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. It is a tourist attraction. Now we're here we should visit it."

"And Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales. Should we visit that too?"

And therein lies the problem of my life. Having to do things that others think I should do. Why am I, (and countless others), compelled by society, peer pressure perhaps, to do things I don't really care about or wish to do?

If we are in a certain country we should visit the appropriate tourist attraction because everyone else does so. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, the Parthenon in Athens, and other famous places like museums, art galleries, opera houses, famous buildings where certain people lived. If I am in a certain country on holiday why can I not rest in the sun with a large pint of Guinness without having to feel guilty that I have not visited a certain place that other tourists have supposedly visited before me and gawped at inanely?

You know the feeling? "What? You went all the way to America and did not visit the Niagara Falls?" "You were in Switzerland and did not see the Matterhorn?"

It's all peer pressure you see. Silent peer pressure from a sheep-like society that cannot enjoy itself without following in the footsteps of its predecessors. If you are in London you must visit Westminster Abbey, or the London Eye, or Trafalgar Square or ... Why? Because everyone else has done so when visiting London. And if you are in Stratford-upon-Avon you should visit Shakespeare's childhood home, or Anne Hathaway's home, (his wife), or where his daughter lived, or where he is buried. What's the point in that? Will seeing where the man lived enhance my life in any way? Will it make me appreciate the man any more? You might as well send me a photo of his home and save me the expense of going all the way there!

In Britain almost every town and city has some tourist place of interest which somehow you "have" to visit. Be it a museum, a stately home, an arboretum, a zoo or a house where someone famous once lived. In fact we have special blue plaques put up by the authorities to show where such people lived or worked. And of course, as a tourist you must visit these places in order to tell others, (or bore them out of their minds), about all you have learnt when you visited there.

And another thing that gets to me! Why did I, as a child, have to endure learning the works of Shakespeare? And why are countless of other pupils world-wide having to do the same ad infinitum? He never read any of my books, why should I have to read his? And it's not just Shakespeare, but many other writers have been chosen by society as worthy to be read if we are to be considered intellectually superior to a bacteria.

War and Peace by Tolstoy for instance - a must-read book. Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. Dante's Inferno. Hugo's Les Miserables. James Joyce, Moliere, Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Wordsworth and countless other works of literature guaranteed to make me more and more miserable as I live. Actually, I once saw the film Les Miserables with subtitles on, so presumably I can claim to have read it. Do you realise that there are more books in this world than it would take you several lifetimes to have read them all? So why bother? There will always be some books which you have missed any way!

And it's not just literature. Society somehow makes you feel inferior if you have not been to the Opera and marvelled at Rossini's Barber of Seville, (he shaved oranges, you know), or Verdi's Aida. Why can't Verdi keep his Aida private like everyone else?

And don't forget the ballet. Or the arts and the grand master-pieces by famous painters which you just must see; and all the wonderful sculptures by famous people who make sculptures!

And that's how society shepherds us into one analogous mass all following the same path whether it be the places we visit on holiday, the books we read, or what we do for entertainment or even the food we eat.

And that's another one of my rants. Why should restaurants be segregated according to their cuisine? French restaurants, Italian restaurants, Greek, Indian and so on? Why can't I eat what I want where I want?

I once went to a French restaurant and ordered a pizza. The waiter would not serve me. I asked him, "Have you got frogs' legs?" He replied, "Oui, monsieur!" So I said, "Hop over into the kitchen and get me a plate of spaghetti!"

So there you have it. You can visit the Sydney Opera House if you like, whilst reading Sophocles Oedipus Rex, (its' all about a cat anyway). Just leave me in peace with a pint of Guinness.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

A Vision Of Hell

The first thing I noticed as I entered hell is the total and absolute darkness of the place. Not the faintest glimmer of light shone in that bottomless abyss of intense void.

I tried hard to peer into the pitch-black darkness to make out something, but it was totally in vain. I could see nothing. Totally and completely nothing.

It was then that I noticed the full and utter silence which accompanied the extreme blackness of this place. Not a sound whatsoever. It was as if I had gone suddenly deaf. I rubbed my fingers in my ears and concentrated hard but silence reigned supreme. I clapped my hands together but heard nothing. I spoke to myself and could not hear my own voice.

Darkness and silence had partnered together and negated all the senses as I knew them. I could not smell anything whatsoever. No burning fires and brimstone, or the acrid smell of sulphur and burnt flesh I’d expected in this place. I could feel no burning sensation and pain. No cries of help or gnashing of teeth.

In other words; hell was nothing.

Hell was a total void of everything physical as I’d experienced in my previous life.

Yet in this pure nothingness I felt a very powerful and intense feeling of extreme sadness. An overwhelming grief leading to desolation and desperation tormented my very soul.

A continuous sensation of sorrow and anguish filled the emptiness which was hell.

I sensed another soul there too. I could not make out who or where it was but it was there, somehow, sharing the void with me.

I felt a telepathic communication with this spirit in similar torment. Not in words, not in images, but in a mutual empathic sensation, as if the two of us were one.

I shared that soul’s torment which had lasted for … … … an eternity.

There seemed to be no beginning as to when that soul arrived in this eternal void, nor any prospect of when its terrible, terrible, suffering would end. The total and perfect hopelessness of this state of nothingness, this state of wretched emptiness, engulfed the forgotten soul consumed by its everlasting regrets.

For this lost soul constantly and interminably viewed and reviewed over and again its past life on earth; filled with memories best forgotten yet brought to mind with no respite. The inner pain from such memories tortured this forgotten soul left here all alone.

I shared with this soul the deep desire to weep bitterly for its past mistakes and its present solitary ordeal. But this was not possible, for there are no tears in hell. No matter how strong the desire to cry in profound regret, and so gain some temporary relief, this was not possible in a state of total void. So the pain, sorrow and sadness built up within one’s soul and consumed it eternally from within; with no respite or relief whatsoever.

And what was worse, is that the soul’s constant feelings of regret were persistently underlined by another sensation.

For it knew with unshakable certainty of the existence of God.

This tormented soul had been given, on entering hell, undoubted and unquestionable proof that God indeed exists. And somehow, it had witnessed His immeasurable and overwhelming love for His creations.

Yet this soul also knew, without a doubt, that for an interminable eternity, it would be totally excluded from that Fatherly, Divine love.

I realized that hell consisted of complete isolation with ones thoughts and regrets, and the sure knowledge that there will never be an end in sight. No light at the end of the tunnel. For there is no tunnel.

A permanent state of inner pain and sorrow and regrets, coupled with the knowledge that God’s love is for ever out of reach.

“What a terrible state of despair and hopelessness” I thought, “to know for certain that God exists; and to know of His love for us; yet to be excluded from that perfect love for ever. To remain here, in a state of total void, filled with past memories and regrets for deeds long past. Alone, in permanent thoughts of total and infinite exclusion!”

I woke up suddenly from his turbulent dream.

It was then that I heard in my head, clear as a bell, the words: “Go and warn all you get to meet not to come to this place!”


This is an excerpt from the book 
A selection of readings to help you reflect and meditate when praying or when in need of inspiration.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

There was a woman in my bed

It was late in the evening when I entered my hotel room. It had been a long day at work with one meeting following another, and then I had to attend a Conference where they discussed ways to extrapolate sales and costs figures against profits in order to estimate how many paper clips we’ll need five years from now. It was so exhilarating that I could not sleep at all throughout the Conference.

Anyway, I got to my hotel room late and got myself in by using one of those electronic cards you put in a slot and the door opens. I did not bother to switch all lights on. A small light shone from a nearby table-lamp and this was enough. I intended to fall into bed and dream of better days.

As I took my jacket off a man got out of the en-suite bathroom in his pajamas. Why he had an en-suite bathroom in his pajamas I do not know. Maybe he was rich and could afford an en-suite bathroom in his pajamas; whilst the rest of us have to be content with an elastic band or a cord to keep our pajama pants up.

I don’t know what nationality he was, but as soon as he saw me the man said: “Qui ĂȘtes-vous? Que faites-vous ici?”

I know exactly what he said because I remember writing it down at the time. I then took out a dictionary to translate but could not understand a word. It was an Italian dictionary.

The man shouted at me and beckoned me to get out of my room. At which point an enormously rotund woman got up from my bed and she too started shouting at me “Allez-vous en!  Allez-vous en!” and waving her hands in the air. 

I wrote that down too but could not find a translation in my Italian dictionary.

I picked up my jacket and as I turned to get out I accidentally knocked a large wicker basket which was on the table beside me. The top of the basket opened and a flock of pigeons came flying out into the room. They flew everywhere, trying to land on something high up. Luckily the bedroom door was shut and they eventually settled on the wardrobe, hanged from the chandelier, (it was a posh hotel), and one settled on the man’s head.

There was cooing and flapping of wings everywhere. A few feathers floated in the air before settling to the ground. The pigeons did what most animals do when frightened and started leaving deposits everywhere. Including on the man’s head.

I was totally stunned by what had just happened and stood perfectly still. The rotund woman picked up the phone on the bedside table and started shouting in broken English “pee john pee john …”

Moments later a hotel porter entered the room and disturbed all the pigeons which started flying all over again and dropping deposits all over the place.

We waited until they had settled down and then he asked me “Why do you have pigeons in your room, Sir? Pets are not allowed in this hotel!”

I was astounded that he asked me about the pigeons and had totally ignored the fact that I also had a rotund woman in my bed and a man with an en-suite bathroom in his pajamas.

He asked for my electronic card which he tested on the door. It worked. He then took the man’s electronic card. It worked too.

You guessed it. It was a double booking and we’d both been given the same cards.

I picked up my luggage and was moved to another room.

By now you may be asking why there were pigeons in a wicker basket in my room.


I was told the man was a magician and he used the pigeons in his act by making them appear and disappear out of a hat. Apparently his wife, whilst younger and less rotund, was a stripper and she too used the pigeons in her act. For an encore the pigeons used to take their feathers off! 


This was an excerpt from my memoirs "AS I QUOTE MYSELF". A book full of misadventures and mishaps to make you laugh out loud, or at least to smile.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Robin Hood

I would like to tell you about a character in English folklore called Robin Hood and his band of Merrymen.

Robin Hood is believed to have lived in the late-12th-century; at the time of King Richard the Lionheart of England. Now some people believe this is all a tall-tale and he never actually existed. But he really did, because I have seen a statue of him in Nottingham, England. So he must have modelled for the statue, don't you think?

Also, there have been many films made about him - so there! he must have existed all those years ago.

Robin and his Merrymen lived in Sherwood Forest and they robbed the rich to help the poor. His companions were called Will Scarlet, Much the Miller's son, Little John and a monk called Friar Tuck. His girlfriend was Maid Marion. And his enemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Robin and his men always wore green. Some believe it was to camouflage themselves in the forest from the Sheriff's soldiers; but truth be known it was because washing machines had not yet been invented, and clothes do get dirty when you spend your life climbing trees like a monkey.

There have been many adventures written about Robin Hood and his Merrymen and all of them seem to have a similar theme. They lived in the forest, they stopped bad rich men travelling through the forest, took their money and gave it to the poor. Every so often the Sheriff of Nottingham works out a plot on how to capture Robin and the plot always seems to fail at the end and they all live happily ever after.

But reality was far different from what we are led to believe in the cinema or in books. The reality is that they lived in a damp and wet forest which froze them to death in winter and gave most of them rheumatism and aches and pains. One day Robin was in such back pain that Friar Tuck, who was a part-time doctor as well as a monk, suggested he stays away from all dampness. He couldn't even take a bath in the nearby river. So for weeks Robin sat in an empty tub and vacuum cleaned himself.

Many ballads and songs have been written about Robin and his Merrymen being ace swordsmen and great archers able to shoot an arrow through a castle window from a great distance. But again that's an exaggeration.

On one occasion Maid Marion was imprisoned by the Sheriff of Nottingham in a room high up in a tower with her lady-in-waiting Matilda Woodenleg. (They all had rather peculiar names in those days).

Robin Hood and his Merrymen gathered outside plotting on how to release them. The idea was that Robin would shoot an arrow with a string attached to it through the narrow window up in the castle where Maid Marion and her lady-in-waiting were there waiting. The lady-in-waiting was waiting on Maid Marion and Maid Marion was waiting for the arrow to fly in through the narrow window.

I hope you're paying attention to all this; because I'm getting rather confused.

Anyway, in those days windows were narrow vertical apertures in the big thick stone walls with no glass as we have now. The always-open windows allowed air to circulate throughout the castle and enabled soldiers to shoot arrows from the windows down on anyone attacking the castle; without themselves being seen or risking being hit by arrows aimed up at them by the attacking armies.
Robin's plan was to shoot an arrow through the window. Maid Marion would pull the string attached to it, which in turn was attached to a rope, which Maid Marion would tie one end to the bed tightly. Robin Hood would then climb up the rope to the window and rescue Maid Marion and her lady-in-waiting, Matilda Woodenleg, who would both be still waiting in their prison cell.

After he explained his plan one of the Merrymen, Little John, said "You'll never make it mate! The window is too narrow and too high up. No one could shoot an arrow through that from this distance!"

"Except Robin Hood !!!" exclaimed Friar Tuck with a smile.

Robin replied "I bet you a squirrel's leg I could do it blindfolded".

He was blindfolded and he shot an arrow which hit one of his Merrymen in the backside giving him a scar to be proud of many years later when he related the story and showed his scar to anyone interested in hearing about it.

Robin took off his blindfold and shot a second arrow high up, which entered the window and hit the lady-in-waiting, Matilda Woodenleg, in her good leg making her cry out in agony and bite hard on her wooden leg to stifle her screams.

With no more waiting Maid Marion got the arrow out of Matilda's leg, and pulled up the string and the rope attached to it. She then tied the rope to the bed for Robin Hood to climb up to the window.

When he reached the top Robin discovered that the window was too narrow for him to get in or for Maid Marion to get out of; which proves that being a big shot does not stop you from being stupid too.

It is believed that this experience was the precursor of modern slimming diets which we now follow even today to no avail to help us in and out of tight corners. However, since there are no more narrow vertical windows in modern houses and apartments most people prefer eating delicious fast-foods instead which were not invented at the time of Robin Hood.  

And so over the years many more ballads and stories got written about the various adventures of Robin Hood and his prowess as a swordsman and archer. But these were all for the benefit of the book and film industries and their authenticity is often disputed. For example, there is no truth in the legend that Robin once shot an arrow with an apple on his head.

There is some truth however about his burial place; which authenticates the fact that he actually lived.

When Robin Hood got very old, (18 November 1247, about 87 years of age), he lay on his death bed breathing lightly and reminiscing about "olde tymes" when he could climb trees without the aid of an elevator.

His Merrymen surrounded the bed and regaled in "olde tales" about how they got the better of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Maid Marion was there too making endless cups of coffee to keep everyone awake until Robin went finally to sleep.

Anyway, the Merrymen whispered to themselves about where they would bury Robin when he died.

Little John suggested a nice spot in Sherwood Forest.

Friar Tuck preferred a burial in Nottingham itself, to make a political point so to speak.

Others suggested a burial at sea would be more fitting ... there's no record as to why they wanted this, but then we can't assume that those people were either intelligent or logical.

Much the Miller's son suggested cryonics preservation but this was dismissed since the fridge was broken at the time.

Robin Hood tapped his hearing aid gently to hear them better and then said: "I know what you're talking about ..."

They all looked innocently at the ceiling and whistled or hummed silently.

The ceiling needs repainting, thought Maid Marion.

Robin continued: "Give me my bow and arrow. I shall shoot an arrow high in the sky. Where it lands that's where I wish to be buried!"

They gave him his bow and arrow. He put on his spectacles and weakly pulled back the string on the bow with his shaking hand. They all looked silently in anticipation. He raised his arm high, still shaking, and released the arrow.

And that's how Robin Hood came to be buried on top of the wardrobe.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Psychiatric Dilemma

A psychiatrist friend of mine went to see a psychiatrist. Now that is not the same as a doctor seeing a doctor. When a doctor is not well, he goes to see another doctor and explains the symptoms and the diagnosis he arrived at. Then he asks the other doctor if he agrees and whether a specialist's opinion is in order.

Not so with psychiatrists. With them it is all in the mind. As someone once said: If someone thinks he needs to see a psychiatrist he should have his head examined.

Anyway, this psychiatrist friend of mine went to see a psychiatrist. As he entered his insulting room he said, "Help me doctor. People keep ignoring me."

The insulting psychiatrist said, "Who said that?"

"Me," replied the first psychiatrist seeking an opinion, "I said people keep ignoring me and my psychiatrist advice. What should I do?"

"Join them," said the second psychiatrist.

"Is that really your advice?" asked my friend. "To let people ignore me?"

"Who said that?" said the insulting psychiatrist.

"Me ... I just said it," replied my friend.

"Oh do forgive me," said the other psychiatrist, "I have lost my hearing aid and I can't hear you properly."

"Let me help you find it," said my friend helpfully.

"Oh ... thank you. I have looked here everywhere and could not find it!"

"When and where did you last remember seeing it ... or hearing it?" asked my friend.

"Oh ... it was at home this morning. I must have lost it there!"

"You lost it at home?" asked my friend, "why did you search for it here then?"

"Oh ... the lighting in my insulting room is much better than at home. So I thought I'm more likely to find it here!"

"But shouldn't you be looking at home?" insisted my friend.

"Not really," replied the second psychiatrist, "I know exactly where it went. It fell in my corn flakes this morning and I must have swallowed it!"

"You swallowed your hearing aid?" repeated my friend.

"Yes I did ..." replied the other psychiatrist, "now I hear everything as if it was faint and coming from within a cave. And whenever I break wind I answer myself!"

"So you can still hear with the hearing aid within you?" asked my friend.

"That's right," said the other psychiatrist, "what do you say to that?"

"This too shall pass!" replied my friend.

"I hope so," said the other psychiatrist, "in the meantime I have to ask people to talk to me through my navel! Now what can I do for you?"

"Oh ... nothing," said my friend, "I've just been healed. You are the first person not to ignore me and listen!"

"Who said that?" asked the insulting psychiatrist.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Missing Logic

There’s some logic which sometimes escapes us Christians.

We say we believe in God. We also believe in Jesus His only Son. And … hesitantly perhaps … we also believe in the Holy Spirit.

I say hesitantly because most people believe even though they might not know what to believe. And that’s not always their fault.

Sure, they’ve heard what happened at Pentecost, and how the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. They’ve heard of the Annunciation and the Virgin Birth, and the Holy Spirit appearing at Christ’s baptism.

But apart from these and other stories about the Holy Spirit, people are left with a void, a mystery, something or someone to believe in without question. To them, the Holy Spirit is confined to the pages of the Bible, to be believed in and not dwelt upon for too long.

The important questions are rarely asked:

Is the Holy Spirit relevant to them today? Is the Holy Spirit here now?

Of course He is. And what is more, He is here to guide us throughout our lives, through difficult times and good ones, showing us the way, and teaching us what to say and do.

Yet many people, Christians in every other respect, are unaware of this fact.

Perhaps because they don’t understand, they have not been told, they have not been taught. Perhaps too because of their confusion in accepting and comprehending the Holy Spirit in-dwelling within ourselves.

Why is the church sometimes so reticent in proclaiming this – the greatest news and central message of our Christianity?

God, Christ, is/are with us right now. Through the Holy Spirit.
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