Tuesday, 15 November 2022

No to delusional leaders, yes to rubber condoms.

 This day our news is dominated by Trump announcing he intends to run again and the hailing of the eight billion birth. The wider context is growing global tensions and the green agenda. I do not think there is one precise set of answers (save those of Jesus Christ and they are not actually precise). It is better to commit to directions of travel. I was born in 1959 when world population was three billion - https://www.populationpyramid.net/world/1959/ . For one lifetime this is utterly incredible and it is world population that more than anything else has created the green crisis. I have long appreciated that ordained man Malthus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus . Crying out to Just Stop Oil is one thing however the diesel engine is one of the most efficient of human inventions. The damage battery cars can do has yet to be really calculated. Electric cars from a central green power source might be better. Bodyshells and roof tiles which are solar generators.

 What really brings the planet back into balance is less of us. Less of megacities utterly unable to control plastic waste and the damage that is doing to the oceans. I do not advocate euthanasia. I do believe life is sacred but it stares us in the face that the science of reproduction is hugely wasteful. Jesus even got into this in parables. The way to have less of us should have been the enthusiastic promotion of rubber condoms. I am a rubberman. Those religious leaders who will not encourage the use of condoms are not offering populations hope but many of those same leaders have historically promoted the patriarchy and misogny. The situation is too critical to accommodate this any longer. After eating, the male sexual urge is one of the strongest forces on the planet and it needs to be managed (I do not say curtailed or destroyed but managed).

 And yes the condom and the delusional leader are linked. How many children do Trump and Johnson have? Five and seven respectively. I hope humanity will come to sense and realise there are simple solutions but all the experts agree we are right on the edge of the precipice.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Belfast 13th September 2022

  Belfast 13th September 2022

A week ago it was POURING with rain in North East England. On the Monday it had been gloriously sunny and four of us had greatly enjoyed chasing the Tour of Britain in the Borders and being by the finishing line in Duns. I think I photographed the ultimate race winner Gonzalo Serrano who won in the most unexpected of circumstances. But to return to the Tuesday. It was a filthy day and the Cornish team St Pirren made the headlines as their team leader an ex stockbroker Alexandar Richardson retro engineered leadership by controlling the peloton from the breakway. A very rare feat which left David Millar in commentary breathless. The breakaway stayed away although Richardson had to settle for third.

Meanwhile elsewhere in Scotland much was happening. Liz Truss had been declared the new leader of the Tory party on Monday. On Tuesday the Queen had received both Johnson and Truss at Balmoral and Prime Ministerial power was exchanged. Now, reflect the Queen had gone to beloved Balmoral for the summer. She was on holiday and the Tories were fighting about leadership. 

She could hardly be said to have seen eye to eye with Johnson. Johnson and Rees-Mogg had after all been to Balmoral in 2019 to persuade her to prorogue Parliament.

Two days after these audiences this week past in which she was described as alert but frail, she was dead. And the nation went into convulsions. But strange convulsions. No tragedy. This was sorrow and triumpth and it has become more than that. Because in her death the 96 year old Queen has masterminded a re-writing of contemporary Britishness. By which the entire establishment has been firmly reminded that England is one of four partner nations of the British Isles.

Suddenly all eyes are on Charles. He is undertaking a tour of the nations. The Queen is dead, Long Live the King. Everyone seemingly wants to shake the hand of sacred monarchy. Every turn has been about Christ and the Servant Queen. Scotland and its politicians discovers it is centre stage. The new English prime minister has to trek around and perform something of an also ran function.

This could not have been clearer in today's visit to Belfast and Hillsborough. I wonder if anything like today could have occured in 1997? I watched end to end the service in Belfast St Anne's Cathedral. Civic religion can sometimes leave me conflicted. this was ELECTRIC. It deserves to be watched several times. The camera caught Liz Truss more than once. She looked liked a woman who having planned one set of actions a few days ago was now squashed by events which were conspiring to impress on her the need to execute several U turns. 

The sight of Alex Maskey the bruiser, reading Phillipians with total conviction. The realisation that this was an ALL IRELAND event. The President of Ireland and his wife sat across the aisle from the new King and his consort. Immediately after the service, Charles went and greeted the President and his wife. In the warmest of ways there was clear mutual encouragement. The new UK PM just one place down in the pew had to stay silent.

The sermon from the Archbishop of Armagh will go down in history. So will the Celtic blessing delivered by multiple Church leaders. The Archbishop made clear how much the Christian leadership of the Queen had achieved and in eye to eye contact with an acknowledged acceptance the new King was clearly committed to his mother's agenda.

If anyone can tell me how many citizens of the Republic were in the congregation please do. A considerable number. There must have been some horse trainers? When Westminster politics restarts, the immediate need to solve the energy bills will be no less urgent. And yet it is as if with a summer, aged 96 to reflect in Balmoral, the Queen had resolved to bowl a googly at her politicians. These last few years have been dreadful. The EU referendum decision in which the UK pointedly did not learn from Ireland. The shambles and tragedy of covid in which whilst the Queen led in isolation, the PM partied and wriggled to cover his tracks have left the British very miserable. Our absolute need to unite around something else these 10 days are showing in rose petals. The shock of a new European war and a bully for an international leader have been very disturbing.

In Elizabeth's death there is suddenly a chance of a new beginning, a resurrection. We can even talk of the Saintliness of the  former monarch. We can reflect that without the supercharged Grace of Love which she conveyed and which present politics does not, we are stuck. We need to rediscover ourselves as the British Isles with flexible models of government, and also as geographically determined wedded to Europe and not a Trans Pacific trading entity. Realism and humility along with faith and spirituality need to partner again in a civic religion we can all buy into and which She exemplified. 

Rough edges? I was sad the Tour of Britain's last three stages were cancelled. One I could understand, black armbands would have been reasonable. And in a few minutes the Queen's body will probably fly in sight of Prudhoe. There will not be much we can do and the sight as in 1952 of the solemn passing of the Coffin on the Royal Train we have been denied. 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

 Fiona and I gave the hour from 8am to Radio Four. I had failed to gel with the Archbishop's Easter service a week ago in the same timeslot. It is my experience that the last year has been a groundhog day on steroids. Now, another week has passed, but it has seen something of a seismic shift: the Duke of Edinburgh has died. This time, for me anyway, The Very Revd Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster Abbey had it just right. The absolute driver was service and Easter, whether that be the service of Christ, Him to us and us to Him or the same service informing the life of Prince Phillip. The Anglican Worship was beautiful. Some small niggle in myself was ruefully thinking that this was what made the British Empire so successful and even now makes many around the World appreciate being in our Commonwealth. On offer is a velvet gloved totalitarianism in which the concept of Service can be used to persuade people to do extra-ordinary things (remembering that we live on a piece of space rock I wonder how much that should surprise us).. It is a sort of golden deal for the powerful, one which enabled Indian Maharajas or Pacific Island leaders to see a very appealing progressive contexualisation. Where appropriate it got you a Rolls Royce. As many folk are explaining (Robert Wise), at a different plane, the life experience of the majority might diverge. As the service ended the BBC announced that in a change to the schedule Rebecca Stott would give A Point of View on Kenwood Mixers. This was inspired editing. It cut very close to my grain. She landed us in the mid 1970s and utter family chaos in which a strong woman did incredible things. MEN! Prince Phillip was let down by his father! Staggeringly so. My experience of an army officer, a parachutist was quite challenging. A person who could lead, who could see what he wanted doing but was not about always being polite nor see that there could be family divergences. Between 1974-1976 I was a teenager very keen not to be part of the British Public School system. It was a conflict finally only resolved by becoming a Christian and realising Love was the key to becoming part of a much larger context than the individual. It is clear to me Prince Phillip understood that expression of Love in bucketloads, the Queen likewise. And also millions of everyday folk. That is why Rebecca Stott's remembrances of a crowded fatherless house in Hove are so important. Despite the pain, joy was found. I am no left wing feminist who thinks men should be seen and not heard as payback for what went before. I do think that to resolve the age old tension men and women experience, their relationships should be as persons laid before Christ.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Petrol bombs in Carrickfergus


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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

One year of the lockdown.


Today the nation is marking one year since the start of lockdown and remembering the 126,000 Covid victims. We are in a better place just now. I think 17 people died of it in the UK yesterday. But it has been an appalling roller coaster. It has not been Britain's finest hour although the vaccines do now offer real hope. Make sure you get yours! About the linked photo, my father 1916-2004 and mother 1923-2005 in their heyday. Three cars before their demise. Working backwards they had a Polo, a Golf, this BMW in 1971 and in the years before that back through to 1959 when I was born, two Rover P4s. The major impacting moment of their lives was World War Two. Now as it happens 16 and 17 years ago today and tomorrow we buried them. March is really tinged for me and Fiona's mum was a March death and burial too in 2018. I think the death rate in this Pandemic against one year of the war is broadly comparable. My mother was big on stories about parties at USAF airbases. They did not meet until after the war. In a sense they both had "good wars". But the chaos of the war certainly left scars which would impact their lives and those of their children for many decades. At least in the war, the front line forces were found leave. You could not be on duty all the time. Travel around Britain remained just about practical. I believe in this crisis for NHS staff a very difficult challenge has been getting away from the extra-ordinary PTSD level scenes they have had to deal with. We have simply not had enough troops! I am so glad neither my father or mother saw this pandemic. They would not have been impressed.  I can confirm that photo was taken in 1984 at Lymington by their friend John Brice.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Boris on Scotland

You will remember how Jeremy Corbyn came along and dismembered Scottish Labour with his attitude to devolution. To me it is no surprise at all that Boris Johnson did the same yesterday with his ill judged comments about devolution. This morning on R4 it was left to wise old Malcolm Rifkind to try to make some sense of it all. However so far no-one has tackled the elephant in the room. It is BREXIT. Guy Opperman had me telling the citizens of Hawick in 2014 that the only way to stay in the EU was to stay in the British Union. I am never going to forget that, as two years later that was swept down the pan. Support for EU membership, admiration for Sturgeon's government style, these remain strong and now with the crucial independence vote coming next May, the SNP have been handed a silver salver. Westminster Tories and Islington Socialites are incapable of understanding Scotland will be the mantra. I will level: the sooner Boris is gone the better. He is an utter disaster. He cannot manage social distancing in his own home, told to isolate, he opens his mouth on devolution! I am not keen on Scottish independence but Scotland is quite entitled to say our settled will was to remain in the EU and the UK government has to square that or else the UK becomes a footnote in history. It is a difficult one to square as is a Border in the Irish Sea and there are now only a few weeks in the world wide pandemic in which to do it. If we crash out to no deal on Jan 1st the resultant chaos will ensure a SNP walk over in May. Independence could easily follow even if I candidly feel it will not become a bed of economical roses. I also do feel that to insist on a referendum in 2021 when we are still reeling from Covid is rather beneath the belt. All Britons Take note, what happens between us and the EU in the next few short weeks will really affect whether you have one united union of nations to be proud of or not.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Monuments and the Queen

Emma Soames ""We've come to this place where history is viewed only entirely through the prism of the present," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. " Much of me has done my best to avoid talking about the rascist controversies. I am certain George Floyd died unjustly. But I am very uncomfortable about much that has happened in the middle of a pandemic lately. Yet to argue about this, easily takes one into a corner one does not want to be in. Do not think I have not thought and prayed about it much. So hear my best offering. At the root of all this lies man's readiness to bully other people. We just love it. I hated school for this reason, dammed near suicidally. I hated workplace bullies, I found my Lady and we have tried to build our little bit of heaven on earth. On all this I hate bullies, I am clearly with George Floyd but what if rioting and civil protest, taking over precincts in Seattle itself looks like bullying? How do we get out of this? I am offering this answer. We recognise that the ultimate bully, the one who started it all is God the creator (because I will not accept the Genesis account and that because man did not consciously fault but faulted into consciousness (I am with Auden, that profound bisexual poet of the 20th c (courting controvery at several levels there))). Auden learnt that, and says so bluntly, in our Pennine backyard. So grant to me any God who created this world must bear some responsibility for the bullying. What should we do in this moment? Surely logic says in the mood of our moment, anything that speaks of God must be torn down. We must not remember we believed. Justice can only be served by removal. Destroy the churches and temples! What does that remind you of? It reminds me of what happened in England after the reformation and in the Commonwealth. Is that the world you wish to be in because we could be quite near creating it in all this monument bashing? Alternatively you might want to read the Gospel stories again and see if some saving paradox is present? So give me a protest in Whitehall today or the Queen's ceremonies at Windsor and I will be with her. A most remarkable woman of faith. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53033550