Saturday, 30 April 2016

TRUST

In every situation of Trust there is always the risk of betrayal. Whether it is a friendship, a business partnership, a marriage or whatever; in every circumstance where two or more people trust each other there is always the risk that someone will betray that trust.

We all know about the greatest betrayal ever – Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss.

So what are we to do? Not trust anyone ever and go through life suspecting everyone. This would be impossible and would jeopardize our every relationship.

We have to accept that with trust we become a little more vulnerable and susceptible to abuse of that trust. It’s a risk we take as we journey through life.

With one important exception:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1 NIV.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

To Memoir Or Not To Memoir

There's no denying that sadly the world has become more materialistic; and people put much importance to what they have, like a big house, good job, fancy car and so on, rather than who they are and what good they do in life.

Be that as it may, it set me thinking the other day to simpler times when perhaps we were more innocent and life was a little different. Sure, in them days people worked just as hard, if not harder, and they faced great difficulties and hardships; yet, somehow, or so it seems, they were a little happier than they are now. At least they did not have to wait a whole three minutes for the microwave oven to go "ping" to announce that their ready-meal, which was produced some weeks back and kept frozen since, is now ready for consumption.

I remember as a child things were different. For example, we did not have air-conditioning or central heating at home. To keep warm we just sat in a circle and sucked extra strong mints. That's central heating. To cool-off we just sat on blocks of ice. Do you remember when ice was delivered to your door and you put it in a metal lined container to cool your foods and drinks? No? Perhaps you're too young to remember. I don't remember either; I was told about it by a friend who used to deliver the ice. He said he had a special pick to grasp the ice with.

As I recall, we didn't have many luxuries when I was young. As a child I used to be made to walk the plank every day. We didn't have a dog at the time.

I used to like eating Alphabetti Spaghetti. But I was a slow learner and could not read. So my parents gave me ordinary spaghetti instead.

We also had a parrot in a cage. If you pulled his left leg he would hum the Offenbach Can Can music. If you pulled his right leg he sang "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas". If you pulled both legs together he would fall off his perch.

In fact we had two parrots. A male and female. We could not tell them apart. So someone told my parents to creep up on them at night and check who was doing what to whom; and the one that was doing is the male.

So my dad checked on the birds at night and when he saw them enjoying themselves he put a white collar on the male so we could tell the birds apart.

A week later the vicar visited us. The male parrot said to him: "So they caught you at it too?"

Talking of singing birds and music. Do you remember those old record players which you had to wind-up with a handle and you had to be very careful in case the needle scratched the record? As I recall they had a big trumpet shaped contraption to increase the sound.
My parents had an old one which they had inherited as a family heirloom. It was never played. It was used as a decorative piece in the living room. It was also good for us kids to play basket ball with it. We used to roll up pieces of paper as a small ball and throw them into the big cone. Sadly, my parents had no sense of humour at all.

Why is it that grown-ups have no sense of humour?

I remember as a child my parents used to play with me hide and seek. I used to lean against a tree and count to 100 and they would hide. Then I had to find them in London ... Edinburgh ... Glasgow ... Cardiff ... Birmingham ... They spared no effort to hide from me and make the game real fun.

I used to come home from school and find that they had moved. The new owners of the house used to shoo me away. This happened several times. I did not know how it felt like being wanted until the day I saw my photo on a police notice board.

Anyway ... what is all this leading to, you may well ask.

Well, it's my way of introducing this video which I have just made. Hope you like it.




Monday, 25 April 2016

Don't Maths With Me

Mathematics is the very first type of education in the world. It all started when God said to His people to go forth and multiply. Of course, He meant go and learn the multiplication tables because they will serve you well in life. But the Catholics took Him too literally and had plenty of children.
 
Oh ... Oh ... I foresee a reprimand from my priest. He reads this Blog, you know; and often tells me off at Confession.
 
Anyway ... God told all creation to go forth and multiply. A year later He came back to check, and sure enough, every one had had a good time and there were plenty of baby everything everywhere. Baby people, baby animals, baby fish, birds and so on. And God was pleased. 
 
However, He noticed that there were only two snakes. So He asked them: "Did you not have a good time? Why did you not multiply as I said?"
 
 They replied: "We are adders. We need logs to multiply!"

Get it ... ??? No???

It's a mathematical joke. Logs means logarithms. And you need logarithms to multiply ... Forget it. It comes to something when I have to explain my own jokes. It made me laugh anyway.
 
Let's go on. Pay attention now.
 
Mathematics is all about numbers and the relationships of numbers to one another. For example, do you know that there are more stars and planets in the universe than all the grains of sands in all the beaches and deserts in the world?
 
Without telling you the number of stars the mere image I have depicted has conjured in your mind how many stars exist.
 
There are indeed many grains of sands in the desert. I should know.
 
I was once a member of a research team in the desert and my task was to count the number of grains of sands. I counted up to 23 and got tired. So I can categorically claim that there are more than 23 grains of sand in the world and more stars than that in the universe. Just look up to the sky at night to prove it.
 
The Ancient Greeks were great mathematicians. Pythagoras for instance used mathematics to work out the measurements of shapes, especially triangles. He found out that the square on a hippopotamus is bigger than two other squares in the bush. He also had great respect for flava beans as he thought they were the source of life itself. One day he was chased by his enemies and he came across a field of beans. He stopped and refused to go through it and was killed by his enemies. It's true, I tell you. Check it out for yourself.
 
Archimedes was another mathematician of sorts. He was having a bath one day and the water in his bath overflowed. He ran in the street naked shouting “Eureka” and was arrested for indecent exposure. That's true too. Who are you going to believe? Me or what you have been taught at school?
 
One day I was traveling on a train with my college professor of mathematics. The train was going fast and we passed a field full of sheep. He remarked: “Look over there, 134 sheep!”
 
I was impressed and asked him how he counted them so quick with the train traveling so fast. He replied: “Easy … I counted their legs and divided by four!”
 
A bit later we passed another field full of sheep and I tried the same trick. I counted the legs and divided by four; but I had a remainder of three. Which means there was either one sheep with three legs, or three sheep with one leg each!
 
The Ancient Romans, unlike the Greeks, used letters instead of numbers. The letter I meant one, II meant two, III meant three … they then got tired and tried something different. IV was four, V was five, X was ten … and they also had L, C and M as numbers.
 
All this suddenly stopped when the Emperor Claudius received a text saying – I LV CLAVDIVS – and he didn’t know whether it was an amorous message from his girl-friend or his wife’s new telephone number.
 
Einstein too was a great mathematician who devised Einstein’s Theory of Relativity without the use of a calculator. According to him, the richer you are the more relatives will attend your funeral.
 
Also, according to Einstein, if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to see it then it will remain upright.
 
He was once asked, is it true that sound does not travel in a vacuum, and if a man shouts in a vacuum then his screams will not be heard?
 
He replied: “It depends whether the vacuum is switched on at the time and how much dust is in the dust bag.”
 
Which all reminds me of the skunk running through the forest as the wind suddenly turns direction. He stops and says: “AAHH … it all comes back to me now!”

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A HAPPY BLOG

 The other day was a beautiful sunny day. Not too hot with a slight fresh breeze every now and then.

Once again I was away from home with time on my hands. I decided to sit at an open air bar and read a newspaper. Having looked at the various headlines on offer I felt it was too nice a day to be spoilt with negative storylines and bad news.

So I sat at a table nursing a long cool drink and looked inside my attaché-case for something to read. There I found an old copy of “Prison to Praise” by Merlin R Carothers. I must have read it several times. So I took it out for a quick read.

It’s one of a series of Praise books by the same author, in which he teaches we should praise God at all times, even when times are bad and things go wrong. Worth a read!

I was still reading when the waitress came to take my lunch order.

So I sat there with nothing much to do – and I was good at doing it too.

The restaurant was busy and the service very slow – but no matter, I had time on my hands and it helped me contemplate about the past, the present, and what may happen to me in the future too. Hopefully with God at my side.

Eventually, the waitress asked me: Have you had your dessert sir?

Actually, no.

What was it you ordered?

Well … it was so long ago I really can’t remember.

She smiled and said she’ll check and bring it to me straightaway.

Moments later she brought me something which I’m certain I didn’t order.

I looked at the menu and it was described as: A freshly baked waffle covered in maple syrup and fruits of the wood and garnished with a raspberry coulis.

I’m sure I never ordered that! I’m far too unsophisticated to know what a coulis is.

I checked my pocket dictionary and it said: A thick sauce made of puréed fruit or vegetables.

Oh well, I thought. This isn’t the safe vanilla ice-cream I normally settle for. Let’s try it anyway. After all, the waitress has hurried away to serve someone else.

It was delicious I tell you. Exceeded expectations.

Which brings me to another thought.

Sometimes, like this waitress, God answers our prayers by serving us something we never expected and far better than what we asked for.

So there you have it. A Happy Blog with a book recommendation; and a reminder that sometimes God’s answers to prayers exceed expectations.

P.S.

You will note I am far too polite to suggest you read my own book "VISIONS". If you want to know more about it check it out HERE along my other books.

I’ve read it several times. I’m sure you’ll like it!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Vic on stage


Years ago I was a member of a group of entertainers. I presented the variety acts on stage and did a bit of stand-up comedy and chat with the audience. The shows consisted of pop music and songs, a bit of classic music and opera, old tyme “Victorian” songs, a bit of dancing and comedy sketches mainly written by me.

We rehearsed for ages beforehand and did our shows in church halls, old peoples’ homes, Women’s Institute Meetings and so on; to raise money for charity and to entertain the old folks.

A particular sketch came to mind out of the blue the other day.

Imagine if you will, on stage a number of men dressed as nuns, led by a tone-deaf tenor with a strong pronounced accent, singing this beautiful song from the Sound of Music.
 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Eccentric? Moi?


In the kitchen we have a large wardrobe, (cupboard), containing mostly pots and pans and other kitchen utensils; which explains its location in our house. A few weeks ago, when everyone was out of the house, I made a big hole in the back of the wardrobe and another in the wall so that I could go into the wardrobe and out into our garden. I put all the pots and pans back in the wardrobe/cupboard and concealed the large hole to the outside. It was like the wardrobe in the book by C S Lewis, "The witch, the lion and the wardrobe". Once you enter the wardrobe you could go into my own garden Narnia.

When the family got home, they complained that it was a bit draughty in the kitchen. There was a distinct wind coming from outside which rattled the cupboard's doors.

My wife ... oh, I never told you did I? My wife and I met on the net. We were both bad trapeze artists. But that's another story.

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted my train of thoughts. We used to train for ages high up on the trapeze jumping from one swing to another. We often missed each other because she arrived ten minutes late. So we both fell and met on the net ... as I was saying.

My wife discovered the hole at the back of the wardrobe and let's say she has no sense of humour whatsoever. No sense of adventure either. I explained that by going through the wardrobe she would travel out into a new Narnia world in the garden; walking through sunshine, or mist or rain or whatever the weather outside might be. Her reply will not be posted here to protect readers with a nervous disposition. She could not see why we can't walk through the back door if we wanted to visit the garden in all weathers. But she didn't say it quite this way!!!

She didn't like my next adventure either. I installed at the very end of our garden a chocolate dispensing machine. I bought the machine from a shop that was closing down and they had it on the sidewalk outside. I got it home and installed it just by the pond at the end of the garden and filled it with all kinds of chocolates.

My wife, unhumourous as ever, does not understand my actions. I explained that it gives my walk in my private Narnia a real purpose. What is the point of going out in the garden in all weathers for no reason at all? Now I can enter the wardrobe, go through the hole at the back, and walk gently all the way to the pond and reward myself with a bar of chocolate from the machine. What's wrong with that?

I intend to invite friends and relatives and conduct tours of our garden through the wardrobe. They would all file into the kitchen and one by one enter the wardrobe and walk all the way to the chocolate machine. What fun that would be! I may even have little scenes from Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" re-enacted in various places in the garden.

Sadly, my wife has brought in re-inforcement in the shape of her mother. She landed on her broom early this morning.

I suggested we also give broom-flying lessons or play quidditch like in the Harry Potter films.

No sense of adventure whatsoever, my family.

Do you think I'm eccentric?

Monday, 18 April 2016

At the mercy of technology

I don't know about you, but I seem to be at the mercy of technology. No sooner do I get used to a new machine which has been invented, and I hasten to say that I did not ask anyone to invent it, that the scientific boffins invent something else more complicated.

Take the telephone for instance. For years I have been happy with a phone at home which rings when people want to speak to me; and I dial their number when I want to speak to them. Simple.

Now they have invented phones with answering machines, caller display so you can screen who you don't want to talk to, memory of numbers you want to talk to and so on.

Then they invented a mobile cell-phone you carry with you everywhere. So the family bought me one because apparently I had to have it. It also takes photos. "Why?" I ask myself.

For ages when the phone rang I pressed the wrong button and took a picture of my ear!

The other day I had a right problem with my phone. The home telephone rang late at night as I was getting undressed to go to bed. Why do things happen at the most inopportune time?

Just imagine the scene ... not in too much detail.

There I was, taking my trousers off when the phone in the bedroom rang. I did not want to answer it in the bedroom and wake up my wife. So I rushed downstairs, trouser-less, to pick up the extension telephone.

I wake up the dog who, never having seen me trouser-less, gets confused and starts growling and threatening to attack me where I don't want to. The cat for once loses his courage and climbs up the curtain.

I reach the phone as it is still ringing. There's no one on the line. Just heavy breathing. Heavy breathing ... and nothing else.

I wait and say nothing ... still heavy breathing on the phone ... I wait a bit more to see whether the pervert at the other end will say anything ... nothing. After about fifteen minutes or so I put the phone down on the receiver and go up to the bedroom.

I then remember that our home phone has a system whereby I can check who last phoned me. I press a button and it displays who has just rung me.

"Aha ..." I think, "I got you you little ****!"

Now all I have to do is press call-back and I can tell you what I think of you.

I press call-back and the cell-phone in my trouser pocket rings.

Apparently, when I bent down to take off my trousers I accidentally phoned my home number on "quick-dial" and phoned myself. I'd just spent a quarter of an hour downstairs listening to my wife snoring in bed upstairs. And it cost me a fortune for the priviledge.

And there's more ... as they say.

Now I have been given some contraption I have to fit in my ear and apparently it has "voice recognition". I ask the phone to connect me with an individual and it does so automatically.

Here's how a recent conversation with my voice recognition cell-phone went:

"Call Rob ... Call Rob ... Rob ... Call Rob ... ... ...

"Rob ... Rob ... R ... O ... B ... ROB you deaf beggar!

"Hello? Hi ... is that Rob? Oh sorry Rod ... I did not mean to phone you. It's this new phone ... miss-dialled you by mistake. Bye!

"CALL ROB ... CALL ROB ... No ... ROB not RON. Wait ... wait ... don't dial ... WAIT.

"Hi Ron! Are you well? I thought I'd phone and say hello. Long time no speak ... yes ... I know we spoke this morning ... I just thought I'd keep in touch ... yes ... bye for now!

"OK ... let's try again this stupid contraption.

"CALL ROB ... Dial it correctly you stupid dumb **** ... damn you ... I said ROB  ... Is that clear enough ... ROB.

"Hello Steve ... do me a favour will you ... ring Rob and ask him to phone me!"

I suppose it's my fault for having friends with similar sounding names.

Cars are no better either. I hired a car the other day to go on a business trip. It had a voice controlled advisory service, instead of lights on the dashboard, to tell you what is going on.

I got in the car and switched the engine on. The voice said: "Back door still open!"

I got out of the car and checked the back door. It was shut OK. I checked the door on the other side. It was also shut.

Got in the car again and switched the engine on. It repeated "Back door still open!"

I said: "No it isn't ..."

The voice said again "Back door still open!"

I then realised I was having a conversation with an inanimate object. So I ignored it and started driving. The voice stopped, obviously no longer concerned about the open door which was not open at all.

But then, a few minutes later, it said "Drifting ... drifting ... drifting ..." every few seconds.

It took me a few minutes to realise that the car had cameras fitted near the wheels "looking" at the white lines painted on the road, and whenever I moved too much from the lane I was in and neared the white line the car thought I was losing control and warned me to get back in lane.

This triggered a game between me and the car. Every so often I deliberately moved a little too much to the left, or right, to see whether the car was paying attention and will warn me with "drifting ..."

I then noticed in my rear view mirror a police car behind me and stopped my game in case they thought I was too drunk to drive.

Later on in my journey the car sensors warned me "Too close to car in front!"

It was like having my wife sitting beside me throughout the trip.

Other household appliances are no better. We have a washing machine that requires a University Degree in Engineering to make it work; although I'll admit that my wife and the children find it easy to use. Perhaps it is a deliberate attempt by the manufacturers to give me an excuse to watch TV instead of doing the laundry. If so, that's an invention I approve of.

Our TV also has a system that when you watch a program and say the phone rings, you press a button and it freezes the screen until you finish your call, and then you carry on watching the program. It's like watching a DVD which you pause when you want; but this happens with live TV.

The other day nan was visiting us to watch Downton Abbey, a rather boring program which is broadcast at the same time as football on another channel.

Halfway through the program the phone rang, so we froze the screen. Nan asked what had happened and we explained.

She said, "How about the other people?"

"What other people?" I asked.

"All the other people watching Downton Abbey. Do they all have to wait until we have finished our phone call?"

Can you imagine that? The whole of Britain with frozen screens on their TVs becasue we have stopped the program to answer the phone, or go to the toilet?

Technology has gone too far, I tell you.

We also have a vacuum cleaner that informs you when it is too full by bursting its bag and blowing a huge cloud of dust all over the house. My wife, who lacks a sense of humour, did not find that funny the last time I vacuum cleaned the dining room minutes before we had guests arriving for a meal.

And we have a TV remote control that when I point it towards my wife and press a button it does not lower her voice at all; but instead gets me into serious trouble and the "silent treatment" for a very long time.

All in all, modern technology and me don't mix.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

If you don't believe ... Leave ...


John Chapter 6 has been the source of much debate and confusion over the years ... and the arguments will still go on. No doubt to the amusement of Jesus looking down upon us and saying: "You of little Faith. Why can't you just believe and stop dissecting and analysing everything I said as if I were an insect in your lab!"

I speak of course of the part in that Chapter where Jesus says He is "the Bread of life" and later when He says that unless people eat His flesh or drink His blood they will not have life.

As you can imagine, this was very confusing to His listeners; even His followers and disciples.

"What is He on about?" they asked. "How can we eat His flesh and drink His blood? This is cannibalism surely. This is too much for us. We don't want to follow this guy any longer!"

So what did Jesus do?

He didn't say "Hey ... wait a minute. You didn't understand what I meant. This is what I really meant to say ... let me explain!"

No ... Jesus let them go. He didn't try to justify Himself or what He had just said. It was as if He dissolved the unspoken contract between them. They could not accept a certain clause so He let them go.

Then He turned to His disciples and asked: "How about you? Do you want to go as well?"

As ever, Peter was first to answer: "To whom shall we go?" he asked. "We're in this for the duration, all the way, to the end". Or words to that effect, signifying the he trusted Jesus without question; albeit no doubt he had many questions in his mind. Peter accepted Christ's words without question and stepped out in blind Faith and dared to believe.

So what are we to make of all this after all these years? Did Jesus mean what He said literally or was it all symbolism and imagery using common day articles of the time like bread and wine to signify the sacrifice He is to endure for us? His flesh would be torn by the beating and the nailing to the Cross and His blood would be spilled for us. Was it all symbolism?

Quite frankly, I'm with Peter on this.

I don't believe there is much to be gained in debating this ad-infinitum because in reality I doubt any of us will ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. Wiser heads than mine have argued this matter over the centuries much to the amusement of Jesus looking down from above. Any efforts by me at interpreting this would no doubt have Jesus rolling on the floor with laughter.

So I am minded to accept it for what it is. Something that Jesus said and we're to believe it as best we humanly can.

There's no point in closing your eyes tightly and repeating over and over again "I believe ... I believe ... even though I don't understand it ... I believe".

God who can see deep within our hearts, and knows our human nature and its failings, realises that it is too difficult for us to understand.

But then, He does not ask us to understand Him. He asks us to love Him and to trust Him without any evidence whatsoever.

It's what is called Faith.

To believe when your common sense tells you not to.

By the way: you may wish to visit this link and see what happened to a priest who had difficulties in believing. Please CLICK HERE.

God bless.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

At The Zoo


Why is it that people with children like to go to the zoo over and again? What's so fun about going to the zoo? They're such a waste of time and money.

I think zoos should only have five animals. The rest are a total unnecessary waste.

Children go to zoos to see the lion, the tiger, the elephant, the giraffe and of course the monkeys. The rest are not important.

Who really cares about going to the zoo and seeing a tortoise? Or a frog? Or snakes?

"Oh ... here is a snake. Let's stop and watch him not moving for at least ten minutes!" They are all not moving. They are most probably asleep or dead with boredom at being in a glass tank under such a hot light.

Would you go to the zoo to watch an earwig or a centipede?

Which reminds me. Did you know that if a centipede is attacked it detaches some of its legs and throws them at his attacker? That way the attacker stops to eat the leg and the centipede runs away and hides.

It's true, I tell you. I read it in a book called the Legless Centipede which I am currently writing. The book will contain 100 pages with perforations near the spine. That way, as the book is read the pages will tear off and you'll be left with just the cover. Clever, don't you think?

Back to the zoo ... of course, there is the interminable collection of animals who look very much the same but have different names. There's the reindeer, the white tailed deer, the elk, the moose, the fallow deer, the Siberian roe deer, the piebald deer, the Père David's deer and the I don't care what type of deer you are, you are all boring me to death!

And it's the same for other animals. The zebra for example is just a horse painted in black and white lines. What's so clever about that? The bison and the buffalo are just cows like any other cow or ox but with a fancy name to earn them a place in the zoo.

And don't tell me about the interminable collection of birds of every size, colour and shape? Do I really care about the difference between one hawk and another, or one owl and another, or one parrot and another? Do children really care?

We stood there for what seemed years watching some feathered creatures in various cages. I forgot, nor cared, what they were called; but I remember they ate fruit because on the ground and stuck to various branches in the cage were pieces of apples which the keepers put there.

The cages had various labels naming the different birds, where they originate from, and whether they were extinct or not. A misnomer if there ever was one. Extinct means they don't exist. Since these birds were here in the cage wasting my time and keeping me from a well-earned Guinness proves the fact that they are not extinct. YET!!!
That besides, I noticed that on some of the apples were a few flies enjoying the nectar of the fruit. I called one of the keepers and asked him which kind of flies these were. He looked puzzled and said "I don't know; they're just flies!" I complained that since all the birds had been named by their individual labels why are there not labels on the cage explaining more about the flies and their cycle of life.

Before we left this tedious collection of creatures I don't care much about, we just had to visit the souvenir shop. Every trip to the zoo must end with a visit to the souvenir shop. It's traditional and another opportunity to waste your hard-earned cash on a lot of things you really don't need. Of course the children love the stuffed toy animals. What's better than a stuffed toy lion? Or a giraffe perhaps?

I asked the shop attendant whether she had a stuffed toy fly. She looked at me with the same air of puzzlement as the bird keeper earlier on. I explained that I had seen a fly on an apple earlier on and I would like as a souvenir of my visit to the zoo to purchase a stuffed toy fly. She asked the manageress who assured me that there is not much demand for such toys and would a toy hippopotamus do instead?

Anyway, we eventually left the zoo, with the children so tired they slept in the car cuddling their toy animals and me counting how much money we had spent. This is probably the fifth time at least we have visited different zoos during the holidays, and they are all the same. Not much fun really!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Loch Ness Monster

As regular readers of this Blog will know, yes ... that's both of you dear readers, I never or rarely discuss news items on this Blog. However, today I make an exception.

You probably all have heard of the Loch Ness Monster. I am not sure whether he exists or not, but for years the story goes that there is a large prehistoric monster inhabitting Loch Ness, a lake in the Scottish Highlands.

Some claim to have seen him, some claim that they have photographed him, and have shown such blurred pictures which remind me more of the mole on my mother-in-law's neck than an actual monster, whilst others believe that he is an invention to attract tourists to the wonderful lake and make money by selling replica toys and souvenirs of the monster.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that this story dates back many years with as many theories about the creature's origins, how it got in the lake, why it has never left, and whether it is a lone monster or there is a family of them down there in the dark waters of the loch.

Hitherto, I have not paid much attention to the story, although I have in the past visited the area and very nice it is too when it is not raining, or about to rain, or has just finished raining and it is getting ready to rain once more.

What has drawn my attention recently is the story in the press and news media that the Loch Ness monster has been seen in the river Thames in London. Click HERE - but not just yet. Finish reading this article first. It's so good I can't wait to read it myself.

Anyway, what makes me incredulous about this latest sighting in London is that, having checked Google Maps, for the monster to be in the Thames, it will have had to catch at least one train and no fewer than two London buses to reach the banks of the river Thames and jump therein. Believe me, I know London well having worked there for many years. There is no other way to travel from Loch Ness to the Thames. Unless of course the monster arrived by helicopter and parachuted down. Either way, it will have had to pay for the transport to London and surely more than one witness would have come forwards by now testifying to its existance.

All this reminds me ... I don't know why ... of my visit years ago to Paris when a drunk was dressed as a monster and he ran up the street and jumped in the river. Perhaps he was in Seine!

There once was an atheist spending a quiet day fishing in Scotland when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness monster. In a second the monster tossed him and his boat high into the air. Then it opened its mouth to swallow both. 

As the man fell head over heels, he cried out, "Oh, dear God! Help me please!" 

At once, the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in mid-air, a booming voice from above said: "I thought you didn't believe in Me!"

"Come on God, give me a break!!" the man pleaded. "Two minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness monster either!"

Monday, 11 April 2016

Faith is not enough



In Hebrews Chapter 11 we read: To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

But what does that really mean? What is it like to have faith, and not only to believe in a living God, Creator of all and everything, but also to be certain in that belief? Without any proof, or evidence whatsoever.

It’s as if to have faith is to believe when your common sense tells you not to.

Often Jesus said to people He has healed: Your faith has healed you. Your faith has saved you.

He taught that if we had faith as small as a mustard seed we could perform miracles.

We read in Mark 9:24 that when a father asked Jesus to heal his son, he said: I believe, Lord; help my unbelief. Jesus took pity on him and realised that the man had some faith, perhaps not enough, but at least he had some; so Jesus healed the man’s son.

This leads us to ask: Is faith enough?

We may have faith, to varying degrees, depending on who we are. But is this enough?

After all, even the devil has faith. He believes in God all-right. He even tried to tempt Jesus often enough. This proves that he has faith, and believes in God. Perhaps more than we do.

So, if faith is not enough; what is missing in our relationship with God?

Trust.

Let us consider trust for a moment. A little child does not question whether his parents care for him or not. It is intrinsically part of his nature to take it for granted that his parents love him and will take care of him. When he asks them for bread they will not give him a stone, and when he asks for fish they will not give him a serpent.

The child trusts his parents and will continue to do so as he grows up; until one day someone may betray that trust and then he’ll become more wary of those around him.

So how about us? Is our faith in God matched with an unshakeable trust that He cares for us, and no matter what happens, no matter how bad things are in our lives, He is there, beside us, all the time caring for us and ready to see us through whatever crisis we face.

Can you imagine the amount of self-control and concentration of thought we should have to believe, really believe, that not matter what happens, we trust that God loves us and cares for us enough to protect us from all evil?

Such level of trust may well be beyond what many of us can achieve; but it should not stop us from trying. Through gritted teeth even. We should pray, over and again, that we trust God that He will see us through this dark period in our lives.

Faith, no matter how great or small, as much as half a mustard seed even, may not be enough. It needs to be accompanied by an unfailing trust that our loving God will never ever let us down.

It is no point having faith in a Master who walks on water if we do not trust Him enough to follow Him.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Annoying People


How often in life do you meet annoying people? Some more annoying than others.

There are people who are always miserable and finding faults with everything in sight. Then there are others who think they know everything and are expert on every subject you can name – and they’ll let you know it too! They believe their opinions are always right and should be agreed with by one and all.

In every walk of life, we meet people, customers, clients, colleagues, relatives or neighbours who perhaps don’t fit in with our image of happy interesting characters we’d like to know and be associated with.

In brief, they are annoying – and we tolerate them because … it’s nice to do so I suppose.

OK. Let’s now stop and think.

Behind every annoying boring person there is a story. There is something there in their life, their up-bringing, their background which has made them what they are – or what they are perceived to be.

Maybe they are annoying to us because we have not bothered to delve deeper into who they really are. Their shyness, miserable outlook on life, boring demeanour, or their desire to show-off their knowledge may stem from a need to be heard and appreciated. And we should try our best to understand them.

Let’s now look in the mirror.

How are you perceived by those who know you? Are you annoying yet tolerated with a kind smile? Just as you treat those you find annoying?

More important – is there anything about you which God finds annoying?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

UNCLE HERBERT


Uncle Herbert came to visit us the other day. He’s a lovely old gentleman much liked by the whole family for his kindness and extreme generosity.

He always arrives laden with gifts for everyone and I must admit to looking forward to my large bottle of vintage single malt whisky every time he visits.

He certainly is an expert at choosing great gifts that we can all love and appreciate, Uncle Herbert is. Anything from something decorative or useful for the house to lovely toys and various presents for the children!

All are received gratefully with open arms … as well as Uncle Herbert himself of course. If there’s any spare space available in our open arms he is received gratefully there too.

Even the lazy dog lying on the mat opposite the TV reacts to Uncle Herbert’s arrival. He looks up … yawns … and goes back to sleep.

The cat of course hurries in the corner of the room and consults his book of tricks to see how he can embarrass me in my own home in front of my own family and friends.

Oh what a lovely meal we had last Sunday when Uncle Herbert called.

The best steak that money can buy, all sorts of roast vegetables, with Yorkshire pudding, gravy and all the trimmings. All washed down with fine wine (and orange juice for the kids) followed by a steamed plum pudding with custard and a glass or two of port – just to celebrate you understand.

After such a sumptuous meal the rest of the family decided to go out to the park for a walk to help the digestion … and I was left alone with Uncle Herbert.

He settled in front of the TV in his favorite armchair and pretty soon he felt the effects of the food and drink and followed the lazy dog into the land of nod.

I sat on the settee for a while relaxing and pretty soon the conniving cat was up to his tricks again. He jumped on the back of the armchair just behind Uncle Herbert and gently tried to paw his head whilst he was asleep.

I should mention at this point that Uncle Herbert wears a wig. It’s pretty obvious to anyone I think except himself. He’s obviously self-conscious about his bald head and prefers to cover it with some falsies instead …

Hey, why not. If it makes him happy why should we interfere?

Sensing a potential disaster with the cat standing just behind Uncle Herbert’s head I quickly, but silently, tried to entice him away with a morsel of food from the dinner table.

Eventually, the cat moved away and I cleared the dinner table and went to the kitchen to wash the dishes, leaving Uncle Herbert and the dog fast asleep.

Half an hour later when I’d finished washing up I returned to the living room to find Uncle Herbert still asleep in the armchair minus the wig.

What could have happened … I panicked. Surely the cat did not take it away without waking Uncle Herbert!

I searched everywhere for the missing wig. First behind the armchair … pretty obvious place. Then on either side of the sleeping man in case the wig fell by his side. Then … as usually happens in these circumstances … I widened the search area.

They say when you’re looking for something it will always be in the last place you think of looking … again, pretty obvious … because once you’ve looked there and found it, then it will be the last place and you’d stop looking. The thing is … where is this last place where the wig is supposed to be?

It was one of those quick and frantic searches yet carried out very quietly because I did not want to wake sleeping Uncle Herbert. It had to be done hurriedly before the children came back from the park and discovered that their uncle had detachable hair.

I prayed to St Anthony to help me find the missing article, but the Saint must have been busy with something else that day because the wig was no where to be found.

A cold sweat covered my forehead and trickled silently into my eyes. My heart was pounding in my chest like a drum sending my blood pressure to new highs.

Think … think … think … where else could it be? I even looked in the fridge and in the washing machine … although why it should be there is beyond anyone’s imagination. But when I panic … I really panic … I’m expert at it.

And panic makes you do stupid things … like go out in the back garden hoping for inspiration … or just to escape from being inside where all the panic is.

How could I possibly explain to Uncle Herbert that his wig had disappeared?

What if the family came back and the children asked him if he'd shaved his head as a fashion statement? Do you think he'd be angry enough to want his whisky back?

Questions ... questions and more questions ran through my mind as I stepped into the garden for inspiration.

Just as well I went out because that’s exactly where the wig was … right in the middle of the garden. That wretched cat will be the end of me one day …

I can read it in the Medical Journal already … heart attack induced by family cat!

I picked up the wig which was by now covered in dirt and cat’s saliva. How do you clean a wig? Anyone know? More questions.

I can’t put it in the washing machine … the spin dryer would turn Uncle Herbert into a curly head.

I can’t vacuum clean it … it would get sucked up in the machine and transformed into a mop.

I can’t beat it hard against the wall to knock off the dirt … it would probably moult and lose or shed hair … and poor bald Uncle Herbert would have a bald wig to cover his bald head.

I rubbed my hand across the wig gently and slowly wiped away the cat’s saliva with a clean cloth. I then tiptoed into the living room and tried to replace the hair-piece onto its rightful place … one problem … which way is forward and which way is backwards … it all looked the same to me.

I gently let it drop on Uncle Herbert’s head and quickly sat on the settee pretending to be asleep just as he woke up and straightened his wig to its pre-destined position without any care or notice.

NOW IN PAPER BACK
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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

At THE GATES OF HEAVEN



One day I died and went straight to Heaven where I was met by St Peter at the Gates.

“Ah … you’ve arrived!” he said looking at his electronic notepad, “it says here that you claimed to have a sense of humor when alive; let’s test that shall we?

“Tell me a joke … make me laugh and I’ll let you in!”

I was astounded at his attitude on such a solemn occasion; I stumbled to find the right thing to say.

“Ah … not so funny now, are you?” continued the Saint.

“But … ehm …” I mumbled sensing my throat getting drier with nervousness.    

“So, what will it be? A funny joke; or will you go straight down without a parachute?” chuckled St Peter through his thick beard.

“You’ve just laughed … a little!" I pointed out sheepishly, but not without a modicum of forlorn hope, “surely that counts as a joke!”

“That’s true,” replied St Peter, “you’ve always been ridiculous to look at anyway; so I’ll let you in.”

I smiled, wiping the cold sweat from my brow.

“Not so fast … not so fast …” said St Peter standing at the doorway blocking my view of who was already there. “I need to check a few things first to see whether you need to spend some time at the Purification Center.”

“Purification Center?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied with a chuckle, “you Catholics call it Purgatory. It’s like a car- wash to make sure everyone who enters here is cleansed properly.”

I gulped and waited as he tapped furiously on his electronic notepad. It bleeped once or twice and then he said.

“I see that a few years ago you prayed an indulgence to St Victor; your namesake. I remember he was quite pleased about it at the time. Not many people tend to mention him or any minor Saints in prayer. So for weeks he went around with a big smile on his face. Normally people pray to the more popular Saints … First Division Saints, you know.

“It works both ways I suppose. It’s nice for a popular Saint to receive so many prayers and requests asking for this and that; but quite honestly I get so many that I hardly have time to read them all. I need a secretary to help me prioritise all the prayers I receive and put the non-urgent in the pending tray.

“Anyway … for your indulgence prayers to St Victor you get one week off from the Purification Center.”

I smiled silently.

“What’s this I see … you also started another indulgence to some obscure Saint I’ve never met. This place is so large that it’s just full of Saints. You can hardly walk a few yards without bumping into one. But I’ve never met this one. What made you start a series of prayers to this Saint?”

I tried to remember that particular indulgence but couldn’t.

“That’s a pity,” said St Peter, “you never finished the indulgence. So it doesn’t count. In fact I’ll have to add two extra weeks in the Purification Center.”

I began to despair when the telephone in the little guard-house by Heaven’s Gate rang. He answered it and then said.

“Hmmm … it looks like you have friends in high places here. I’ve been asked to let you in.”

I smiled and moved forwards a few feet; but he blocked my way yet again.

“You’ll have to get changed first.” he said, “Go behind that curtain, take off all your earthly clothes, and put this white gown on … we all wear them here!”

“But,” I hesitated gaining a little confidence, “this looks very much like the gowns they give you in hospital … it is all open at the back!”

“That’s right,” he replied, “it is exactly the same gown. As I said, we all wear them here. Just don’t stand too close to a hot radiator, and watch out when you sit on a cold park bench!” then he chuckled very loudly once again. "These gowns can be very airy when playing football!" he smiled.

He saw my hesitation and then continued in a much gentler voice with as serious a face as he could muster.  

“We like people to be helpful to each other here in Heaven; it’s not a selfish place you know. When you wear this gown, go around and find someone who is very handy with a thread and needle and ask them to sew it up at the back. That’s what everybody does. Help each other. Make sure they're very careful with the needle though!" he laughed.

“In time, you’ll learn to sew and then you too will be able to help newcomers.

“Also, this gown will teach you humility. You’ll be able to swallow your pride and ask others for help. You’ve always been a bit proud and a little independent. Now’s the time to learn how to rely on other people and to accept their offer of help. Oh … and be grateful too when they help you. Don’t forget to say: Thank you!”

“I will … I will …” I replied timidly.

“Remember” he said, “this gown open at the back has many purposes. It will teach you to help one another, it will give you humility, it will make you accept people’s offer of help, and it will remind you to say Thank you! You’ll also learn how to sew, and of course how not to stand too close to a hot radiator! Oh ... and one more thing ... when you sit on the grass watch out for biting insects!”

He laughed heartily once again and then asked, “So, what will it be? Will you wear the gown or are you going down with no parachute?”

I grasped the gown from his hands and woke up in a cold sweat clutching the bedcovers tightly in my hands.

I must stop having cheese and whisky before bedtime!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Mary's Legacy


When Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel all those years ago, times were very different.

It would have been a great scandal for an un-married woman to become pregnant. It was even more outrageous to claim He is the Son of God. That would have been blasphemy surely!

Yet despite her fears of shame, rejection and ridicule, not to mention fear for her own safety, Mary trusted God and said "Yes".

She agreed to be the Mother of Jesus.

So, what is her legacy to us?

Obedience and trust.

Obedience and trust in God despite what must have been a very dangerous situation for her, and her family.

Are we that obedient and trusting when God speaks to us?

 
AVE MARIA
SUNG BY FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Idle Time Joined up Thoughts and a Delightful Surprise Discovery.


ARTICLE ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE IN 2009

Today I had nothing to do.

I had to drive someone to a far off city and then when we got there I had to wait all day to take the person back home in the evening.

So I wandered around the new city for a while then sat down on a bench watching the world go by.

It was a warm sunny day with a slight fresh breeze every now and then.

Workers hurried to their offices and their places of work. Shoppers busied themselves in and out of shops searching for bargains. Not much buying going on judging from the absence of branded bags being carried around advertising the many outlets. A constant flow of traffic passing to and fro added to the daily routine – with several cars blaring their radios at full blast for the world to enjoy their taste in noise.

I just sat there on that bench watching them all getting on with their lives. I decided not to buy a newspaper and get down-hearted at the latest bad news.

Instead, I did nothing – or more accurately I did something. My thoughts wandered towards all these people.

No doubt each having plans for their lives, their families and loved ones. Each having hopes, doubts and fears about the twists and turns that life sometimes throws at you. And in my meandering thoughts I found myself praying for them, and hoping all goes well in their lives.

And now for the delightful surprise discovery in the title of today’s Blog.

As I walked down the street I noted there on the wall of a building a framed picture of Jesus of the Divine Mercy. You know the one I mean. The image painted under the direction of Blessed Faustina with the inscription “Jesus, I trust in You!”

The framed picture was in a box with a glass front on the wall of a non-descript building. It was not a church or other religious building, not an office or even a house. Just an ordinary building.

What surprised me though is that it is very unusual in the UK to have religious images, crucifixes or pictures on buildings. The fact that it had not been defaced, scribbled on with graffiti or even broken was even more surprising.

Praise the Lord.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Thomas' Legacy

I visited some friends the other day. It was a warm evening so we sat in the garden chatting. Moments later they both went into the house to prepare some refreshments and left me in the garden alone.

I sat admiring the view when suddenly out of the bushes came a fox. He moved around for a few seconds then hid again.

When my friend came out I told him about the fox. “Can’t be a fox” he said, “we live too far into town for a fox to come here …”

I said nothing and continued our conversation. Minutes later out came the fox again for a short while.

My friend shouted to his wife still in the house “We’ve got a fox in the back garden!”

Her exact reply was “Can’t be a fox, we live too far into town for a fox to come here!”

He called her a doubting Thomas and laughed it off.

Later that evening I thought about Thomas the disciple. What a service he did for Christianity without realizing it. By doubting Christ’s resurrection Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas saw Him. The whole event was witnessed by the other disciples and recorded for us to read years later.

Had Thomas not doubted, we would have lost a valuable piece of evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus said to him, "Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!" John 20:29.
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