Sunday, 22 October 2017

The flute

Today in church, for no apparent reason, unless it was just to annoy me, there was a lady in the choir playing the flute. You know the one I mean? A wooden tube about 12 inches long with a lot of holes in it and you blow at one end to produce the most horrendous of sounds. Silent was the usual musical organ, and the occasional guitars we have every few Sundays. Today it was just that woman with a flute accompanied by a choir singing like a load of amorous cats on heat at night. I am sure God did not deserve such a cacophony.

When I got home I searched the Internet for the origin of the flute. Apparently, it dates thousands of years and in very ancient times it was a favourite amongst shepherds who used to play it at night to pass away the time whilst guarding their sheep. Unfortunately, as the shepherds played their flutes rather badly, a bit like the woman in the choir today, the sheep thought that he had a lung obstruction which made him wheeze as he breathed, so they all bleated in sympathy. Consequently, their bleating attracted the wolves from far and wide who thought there was a self-service restaurant serving nice lamb for free.

It took quite some time for the slow-witted shepherds to make the connection that their flute playing made the sheep bleat which in turn invited the wolves for dinner. So the practice of shepherds playing the flute eventually died away.

However, this was not the case in church today. That woman was determined to ruin everyone of my favourite hymns as she screeched out of tune making God reach out for the headache tablets.

Perhaps next week I should bring a few sheep to church to supplement the out-of-tune choir.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind

I went to the library with Auntie Gertrude, a relative from Australia who is staying with us for a (long) while.

I sat at a table with a couple of volumes which I needed for my research work and started making notes quietly. Auntie Gertrude sat next to me reading a magazine. A few minutes later a small man came at the table and sat beside her with a few books which he started reading and making cross-references in his notebook.

A few minutes later he turned to Aunt Gertrude and said “Do you realize that all the time I’ve been sitting here 500 square miles of rain forest have been destroyed?”

Without batting an eyelid Auntie replied “Then I suggest you don’t sit here cobber!”

“Are you interested in the environment?” he asked her.

“I’m interested in a quiet environment in which to read my magazine in peace” she replied somewhat harshly.

“Do you want to save Mother Earth?” he continued enthusiastically not having taken her point to heart. Before she could reply the man continued, “Take births and deaths for instance …” he said. “Births and deaths … it’s a question of balancing the two … Do you realize that every time I breathe in and out someone in the world dies?”

“You should try a different mouth-wash mate!” replied Auntie as quick as a flash. I smiled inwardly and said nothing. She is well able to fight her own battles and for once her attention was not directed at me.

He ignored her and proceeded with another fact “Every 30 seconds or so a woman gives birth to a new baby!”

“Someone should stop her before she gets too exhausted,” Auntie Gertrude retorted in her Australian accent, “now if you don’t mind I’d like to continue reading.”

On our way home in the car Aunt Gertrude commented that she was reading an article about the environment and saving the planet whilst we were in the library. She told me of plans to build a wind power facility somewhere and the inhabitants were protesting against wind turbines being erected in their locality.

“Why do you think they’d do that cobber?” she asked.

I explained that wind turbines tend to spoil the view, especially in the countryside; to which she promptly replied without thinking, “Why don’t they bring them out at night when there’s no one there and take them away in the morning?”

I was struggling for a diplomatic polite answer when she continued, “Either that or disguise them as windmills. Everyone likes windmills; they are so romantic.”

I smiled and said nothing.

“We should also harness solar power,” she continued, “that and wave power, in fact any movement can be harnessed to make electricity.”

I nodded as I drove on.

“Can you imagine,” she said “if everyone wore a hat with a solar panel on top we’d be gathering electricity everywhere we go. We could also fit people with a movement contraption and whenever they walked they'd produce electricity.”

“That’s good,” I smiled thinking of windmills, “and how about getting some wind power from people?”

“Oh, you produce enough of that all by yourself cobber!” she retorted with a laugh.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Owl

There once was a wise old owl
Who just refused to fly
Claiming flying hazards
Made it unsafe so he could die.

He thought that wind turbines
Going round and round and round
Upset his delicate hearing
With their unheard kind of sound.

The bright lights in the city
The towns and the countryside
Shone brightly both day and night
Upsetting his big bright eyes.

The smoke from every chimney
And the fumes from every car
Polluting his every senses
As he flew both near and far.

So this learned wise old owl
Walked on foot just everywhere
Avoiding all flying hazards 
And got run over by a bus.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Are you invited to Jesus' Wedding?

In Matthew Chapter 22:1-14 Jesus tells a parable about a king preparing a wedding feast for his son. He invites many guests who do not turn up, so eventually, he invites all the people his servants can find in the streets until the wedding hall is full of guests.

In this story, the King is God. And His Son getting married is Jesus; marrying His Church here on earth - this means everyone, you and I included.

We are all invited to God's Kingdom, but many don't answer the call.

At the end of this parable there's an intriguing bit. The king enters the hall and sees a man not wearing wedding clothes. He is angry with him and gets him tied up and thrown out into the street.

Now this seems rather harsh treatment for someone not wearing the right clothes. Until we stop and understand Jewish tradition.

Jesus was talking to the Jews who understood very well that there are special clothes to wear at weddings. Almost every family had such special clothes in case they were invited to a wedding; even the poor would either have such clothes or borrow some. No one would dare go to a wedding without special clothes. Even more important, traditionally the host of the wedding also provided special garments for those who did not have any, so they can borrow them for the occasion. So it was more offensive to the king for this guest to wear no garment.

This guest in the parable just did not bother; he showed disrespect to the king and his son; and was thus thrown out.

But how about us? What are our special clothes for our entry into God's Kingdom in Heaven?

Our wedding clothes are our good deeds here on earth. Whatever we do for anyone in need, however small, constitutes our wedding clothes.

It is just not enough to spend a lifetime on our knees praying, or going to church, if our deeds are far from what is expected of us as followers of Christ.

Jesus said, "Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the Kingdom of God, but only those who do what my Father wants them to do". Matthew 7:21.

In other words ... action not words.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Barbie and me

When I was a little boy I used to play with a Barbie doll.

OK ... that didn't sound very good, did it? Let's try again.

When I was a little boy I used to play with my sister's Barbie doll. I used to take it from her without her knowledge and play with it in my room.

That still did not sound right.

Let me explain. I preferred the Barbie doll to any other doll because it was a grown up doll with all the right bumps and curves. I used to sit her on a chair and play board games with her. I also had a Teddy Bear called Carrot which also sat with Barbie and I and played board games.

We used to play Ludo, Snakes and Ladders (Chutes and Ladders), Monopoly and other such games.

Of course, Barbie could not move the counters on the board so I did it for her. She used to get excited and say in my squeaky voice "Do I get to throw the dice again now I got a six?"

She wasn't very good at grammar because the singular for dice is die, not dice. I was clever that way. Carrot used to look on silently with disdain at a child playing board games with an inanimate object such as a doll.

Sometimes Barbie won the game because she got better numbers when the die was cast, and she bargained well when we played Monopoly. But I always beat her at Chess. She often made silly moves and lost valuable pieces that way. Carrot did not participate because he did not like chess.

My father caught me once playing with Barbie in my room. He said, "What are you doing with your sister's doll? Play with your own toys!"

But it was not easy playing board games with my tank or military vehicles. I could wind-up my tank with a little key and then it would move across the Monopoly board and destroy all the lovely properties I had there.

So when I gave Barbie back to my sister I made my own toy out of the cardboard tube you get inside a toilet paper roll. I drew a head, a body with arms and legs on the tube and sat it where Barbie used to sit. I called this new friend Ferret because he reminded me of my Maths teacher at school who looked like a ferret. Carrot thought it was funny but kept a straight face.

Of course, I never told my teacher that I had a toilet roll named after him.

The Ferret in my room was totally witless and without a brain. Being a cardboard tube I could see right through him. And he was easily replaceable by another cardboard tube any time.

A sad reflection of modern society, I think. A lesson learnt at an early age.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A question of faith of fear

Is faith the result of fear of the consequences if we do not have faith? Or is it somehow a self-generated product of our determination to believe without any tangible proof or evidence?

If faith is a gift or grace bestowed upon us by God; then are those with little or no faith to blame for their situation? Who takes the first step in faith? The individual or God by giving them faith to start with?

If faith could be measured … … … Jesus said if we had faith as much as a mustard seed we could perform miracles … … … if faith could be measured, and since none of us can perform miracles like those recorded in the Bible, does it imply perhaps that we do not have faith, or not enough?

Why is it that some people have faith so weak that they stumble again and again when things get rough, (and I admire their persistence in this rather than giving up), whilst others have a faith so strong that it withstands, and indeed increases, with every calamity in their lives? Is this of their own doing or are they given Divine help to maintain and increase their faith?

But let’s go back to the original question. If someone has a smidgen of faith, and closes his eyes tightly and wills himself to believe even though he does not understand fully; he just does it because of fear of “going to hell”; is his faith somehow deficient and tainted because of its motivation? Or is it just as welcome by God?

Peter had faith when he attempted to walk on water. But when his faith was soon deflected he began to sink. He had faith and courage when he withdrew his sword and hit one of those who came to arrest Jesus. But that faith soon evaporated when he denied knowing Christ a few moments later. Thomas had faith when he followed Christ for years and, like the other disciples, witnessed His many miracles. Yet he too put aside all his faith and let doubts cloud his judgement and beliefs. No doubt other disciples and followers of Jesus started with a modicum of faith which soon deserted them when the going got rough. Like those people who could not understand Jesus when He said that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood they will not have eternal life. They soon got up and stopped following Christ.

Of course, no one has questioned the disciples original motivation when their faith led them to leave their previous life and follow Jesus just because He asked them too. Was it curiosity that led them to do so? Was it a deep rooted personal belief as they saw Him preach and perform miracles? Or was it because they feared the consequences had they decided not to follow Jesus and His teachings?

And that, I suppose is the nub of the question. One’s motivation to have faith.

If a person meets St Peter face to face at the Pearly Gates, and the records show on the Saint’s computer that this individual had faith all his life because he feared going to hell. Would the Saint let him in all the same; or send him down without a parachute?

Monday, 9 October 2017

Forest Picnic

Last summer our young priest thought it a good idea to take some youngsters, aged between 16 and 20 from under-privileged families, for a day out in the forest at the edge of town. The idea was to go out on Saturday, have a picnic lunch and return early evening about 5 o’clock in time for evening Mass.

Somehow, he managed to convince me and a few other adults to go with him and help with supervision and also to provide transport there and back.

We arrived at the forest at about 9 in the morning and we parked our cars on the edge of the forest. Everyone was excited and well prepared. They all carried haversacks filled with all sorts of picnic foods and drinks, and cameras, binoculars and all kind of other things that are considered necessary for a day out in the forest. They were all dressed appropriately of course. Shorts were the order of the day and big thick boots and hats. Even the young priest did away with his white collar and wore a multi-colored open necked shirt and a large hat.

I wore an old pair of khaki short trousers I use when gardening and I brought with me my large cowboy-type hat; the one with the large feather. I had an open necked shirt, so no need for the turquoise bow tie with pink flowers!

I brought with me some sandwiches and small drink in a plastic bag, and most important of all six large bars of chocolate. You need chocolates when out for a long walk; it helps keep your sugar levels well under control if you get tired. Six bars should be enough so I can share them around with the rest of the group.

To save me carrying the chocolates in the bag I put them in the back pockets of my khaki shorts. Three bars in each back pocket. They fitted perfectly.

They all moved eagerly ahead into the forest with the priest leading the way and a few adults interspersed every now and then. I chose to be the last one in the long queue of people, which would give me an opportunity to stop and take a rest every now and then. I’m not into long walks, especially in the forest.

On and on they walked and they sang as they walked. “Sing Halleluiah to the Lord … Our God reigns … Seek ye first the Kingdom of God …” and several other hymns led by the priest at the front and echoed by the rest all the way back to me.

Pleasant it was. But tiring too! Where exactly were we heading? Searching for Dr Livingston or the treasures of the Inca?

It was getting hot … very hot under a punishing sun which you don’t often get around here. Even the feather in my hat was the worst for wear.

After what seemed miles of walking I felt a trickle down my legs. I stopped and to my horror discovered that the six bars of chocolates had melted soaking my short trousers and dripping away leaving a tell-tale track of brown behind me.

I felt my face go red as panic set in.

What am I to do? I pulled out the empty wrappers of chocolates from my pockets, for that is all that was left … empty wrappers. Each bar was 600 grams; so that’s more than three kilos of chocolates melted down my pants and on my legs with embarrassing visual results that would be almost impossible to explain away.

I tried to wipe as much as possible with my handkerchief which soon became soaked anyway and of no use. I hid the handkerchief under some leaves and forest debris. No point in putting it back in my pocket is there?

I scraped as much of the chocolate off my legs but they still looked embarrassingly brown, as indeed was the back of my trousers.

I could see the rest of the gang well away in the distance. I must catch up with them if I’m not to get lost.

I took off my jacket and wrapped it round my waist by the sleeves just like trendy people do when they pretend they are hot. Well … I was hot all right … with embarrassment, panic and fear of getting lost.

I hurried and caught up with the rest of the team just as they were settling down in the woods for a picnic lunch.

I whistled nonchalantly as I arrived and sat on a log some distance away so as not to over-power them with the sweet aroma of melted chocolate.

The young priest said “Grace” and they all started eating their picnics.

Now, why is it when things go wrong for me they continue to go wrong?

As I sat there considering how best to hide my situation for the rest of the day I heard an ominous buzz around me. I’d inadvertently sat on a wasps nest in a hollow in the tree trunk I was on.

Now … they have the whole forest in which to nest … why choose this particular tree trunk?

Pretty soon I was up on my feet and dancing in a panic, tapping on my buttocks and legs as I did so.

Wasps up your short trousers are no fun I tell you.

Everyone stopped eating and turned to me wondering what I was up to. Then they realized and a few adults came to my rescue shooing away the wasps with their hats and napkins.

Once the wasps had gone a pleasant young lady helper offered me her chair and the young priest got me a drink of white wine from his haversack to calm my nerves.

The young lady saw me shivering and said I was in shock. I should take the jacket off my waist and wear it to keep warm.

Well … I could hardly do that? Could I?

The sight of my chocolate stained brown trousers would have sent her into shock as well!

I sat there calmly for the rest of the day and when it was time to go home one of the men helpers offered to drive my car back as I was not in a state to drive … so they said. Although they did not know the real reason why!

Needless to say, I did not join them to Saturday evening Mass but drove straight home for a quick shower and change of clothing.

I hate chocolates. I hate picnics. And I hate forests. Wasps too!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

I Like Atheists

 I like atheists.

An atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of God.

Atheists, generally, are intellectual, well-read, intelligent people. They have considered the issue thoroughly and have decided that God does not exist. He is a fantasy and a figment of our imagination. Or an invention to keep people under control.

Atheists, again generally, like to inform other people that their belief in God is all wrong. Believers are misguided and should either mend their ways or grow up and live in the real world.

Atheists, once more, generally, have an air of superiority about them, and they are always certain of their beliefs. I've never met an atheist who is not sure whether God exists or not. Have you? Christians on the other hand often have their Doubting Thomas moments. Atheists - never. They are sure God does not exist.

But despite all that; I like atheists. And it has nothing to do with the Christian belief of loving one's neighbours or enemies or any thing like that.

I like atheists not so much in a Christian way, but more for my own selfish reasons.

You see ... the more atheists there are the more room there will be for me and you in Heaven.

The way I see it is like this. If atheists don't believe in God, therefore it follows that they don't believe in Heaven either. This being the case, then they would not want to be somewhere which they believe doesn't exist.

And this leaves more room for me and you in Heaven.

Just think about it. Have you ever been on a beach, or in a park, and it is crowded with a lot of other people there and you can't find a place to sit? Or have you been to a football match and the whole stadium is packed with people like sardines all shouting and cheering for their teams and disturbing your reading or listening to music on your radio?

In Heaven, it won't be like that.

With all the atheists somewhere else discussing how wrong they were, there will be plenty of room for me and you in Heaven.

Oh bliss ... no more standing in long queues, or lines, waiting to enter the Prayer Meeting, or to enrol for harp playing lessons. No more waiting on end to be fitted with wings and to be taught to fly like an angel. We will have all the space to enjoy just for ourselves and no long queues either.

I think it will be Heavenly in Heaven.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017


Fried fish wrapped in bacon

Served cold with boiled rice

Raspberry sauce and chocolate

Make up gourmets’ delight

A constipated owl

Hooting whilst he roams

Bearing the pain bravely

Of irritable owl syndrome

Then I composed a song

But forgot all the words

I focussed on the music

And then lost all the chords

I close my eyes and think of you

Spaghetti served with cheese

Caressing all my senses

Like a sweet summer’s breeze

The poor owl is still hooting

In the recesses of my mind

Just hand me some more bacon

But cut away the rind

Forsooth sayth the soothsayer

As he shaves another layer

Of crab cake with maple syrup

To the owl wrapped in gauze

If all that doesn’t clear you

Then nothing for ever will

He sayth to the happy owl

Who’s now no longer ill.

Moral: Don’t have cheese and port before bedtime.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

My decision affects you all

Sometimes when I sit in my garden admiring that robin who flies from one bush to another and then to the ground and then he flies away only to return a minute later, my thoughts wonder from one thought to another and lead me to ask more questions leading to more confusion.

We all inter-depend on one another, I think. Whatever choices I make in life will somehow affect you or some other person somewhere in the world. Whether I buy this or that type of food, clothing or whatever will affect the economy or well-being of other people living elsewhere.

The other day, the robin brought these thoughts to my mind.

Let us say I wanted to buy a traditional petrol (gas) driven car or an all-electric car. Which one is best for me and for all those affected by my decision?

For the sake of argument we will say that both cars are identical - same shape, volume, capacity etc ... So the materials, or "ingredients" required to make them, like steel, glass, plastic, rubber and so on is the same. So let's exclude these from our comparison.

The robin told me to compare just the mode of motion or mobility. What makes the car move.

Are the materials required to make the petrol engine the same as those required for the electric engine? Do they cost more or less to make? That is the materials required as well as the making of the actual engines. Are they both as environmentally friendly in their making or does one engine require more expensive materials, or more un-friendly materials, which have to be found and transported long distances before they are used to make the engine. What I am comparing here is which engine is overall better in its making and the materials used to make it.

Then let's look at what makes the car move. The petrol driven car requires you to dig for oil from underground, transport it somewhere where it is made into petrol, transport that petrol and distribute it everywhere to petrol stations where I can go and fill my tank.

The electric engine requires you to make a "tank" (or battery) where the electricity in my car is stored. This requires special "ingredients" or materials. Then the electricity has to be made at the electric power station and distributed to me to "fill" my battery. Is the cost of making this electricity, its environmentally friendly qualities, etc ... more or less than that of petrol? For example, if the electricity is made from burning coal, or from nuclear then we have to consider the pollution effects of that coal or the disposal of the nuclear bits we no longer want after we have made the electricity. I'm sure you understand what I mean. The robin certainly does!

Then we have to compare the actual distance travelled. If I want to drive X miles - how much petrol do I need in my car to drive that distance at a certain speed and efficiency? Is that more or less than the amount of electricity I need in my car to travel the same X miles at the same speed and efficiency? What are the comparisons in costs, efficiencies, environmentally friendliness etc ... etc ... of the two  types of fuels.

Finally, my robin asks - is it better to have a red or a blue car? I prefer white. The robin prefers a green car.

And ... how can I attract more robins to my garden? More worms in the ground?

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Radio Interview

Years ago I used to present radio programs. The most difficult types were the ones were you have to interview someone. No matter how well you prepared, and often they were impromptu interviews without preparation, especially news items, there was often one interviewee who would prove the ultimate in difficulty. 

INTERVIEWER - Hello and welcome to Local News Talk the program that tells you what's been happening in and around where you live right now.

Today we are out in the Market Square, just by the statue of the Ravaged Parrot, and we have with us here Marcus. That is not his real name, by the way. He has asked not to be identified for personal reasons.

Hello Marcus.

MARCUS - Hello.

INTERVIEWER - Now Marcus is not your real name, is that right?

MARCUS - Yes. My real name is James Nott.


JAMES - That's correct.

INTERVIEWER - And you were an eye-witness to what happened here this morning.

JAMES - Wait a minute ... you have just identified me.

INTERVIEWER - No I haven't.

JAMES - Yes you have. You've told everyone my real name. James Nott!

INTERVIEWER - No I haven't. I simply stated that Marcus was not your real name and then you confirmed it as James Nott. So it is you who identified yourself.

JAMES - And ... and ... why are there no cameras? I was told that I would be on national TV.

INTERVIEWER - This is a radio interview for Radio Desperate. We have nothing to do with any TV stations.

And ... incidentally, if you were to appear on TV how would you explain your alias as Marcus when people would probably recognise you as James Nott anyway?

JAMES - I would have appeared on TV as incognito!

INTERVIEWER - I see ... anyway. This is radio only. Now tell us James Nott, in your own words, what did you see?

JAMES - Are we broadcasting live now?

INTERVIEWER - Yes ... Tell our listeners what you saw.

JAMES - Well ... this morning as the market traders were setting up their stalls, a horse came running from over there ...

INTERVIEWER - Don't point, James. This is radio only. The listeners cannot see you point.

JAMES - But what about the TV camera?

INTERVIEWER - There are no cameras. This is radio only. Anyway ... you were saying?

JAMES - The horse came from over there ...

INTERVIEWER - Don't point ...

JAMES - Sorry ... the horse came from where that red car is parked ...

INTERVIEWER - The listeners can't see the car either. Dear listeners, let me explain, the horse allegedly came from the High Street, just by the Poor Peoples' Bank. We have to say allegedly for legal reason in case what we say is not accurate.

JAMES - What do you mean?

INTERVIEWER - Well, in case someone denies that it happened. Or that it was a horse that caused the incident.

JAMES - You mean it could have been an elephant? I know a horse when I see one. Are you calling me a liar?

INTERVIEWER - No, of course not ... please continue ...

JAMES - Well ... the horse, or the dinosaur, or whatever other creature it was, came from where the red car is parked over there, ran through here, toppled this stall and then jumped over this one, hit that bicycle that's all broken on the ground, and then escaped this way down there.

INTERVIEWER - One moment James. The listeners can't see all the things you're pointing at. You saw a horse come running from the High street ...

JAMES - Yes ...It was at least that high, a big animal it was, or it could have been a bit smaller. It was difficult to tell because he was going so fast. I would say it was perhaps this high. It was a he .. I could tell because it was obvious by his ...

INTERVIEWER - Yes ... I understand ...

JAMES - He was a dark brownish beast; perhaps a little black but not too black in colour, more dark grey brownish I would say. It was almost exactly the colour of that wooden fence over there. Which he did not break by the way when the horse jumped over it. It was already broken. And also ... I can say for definite ... not allegedly or anything like that ...

INTERVIEWER - Thank you James. That's all we have time for.

Well, dear listeners ... This has been the most difficult interview I have ever conducted. I am now leaving this way, to go over there, to that pub near here, where I will have a pint or three of drinks to help me recover.
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