Friday, 20 July 2018

Honesty ... Really (?) the best policy

They say honesty is the best policy. Who are "they" who say this? Do they really mean it? Have they always been honest? And never suffered the consequences of their honesty, (some would say stupidity)?

Now, before you all start admonishing me about this seemingly bad advice I am giving; let us all consider what we mean by honesty.

Some legal minds would define it as "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

Jesus used to say to His followers, "I am the way and the truth and the life" yet, even in those days, Pontius Pilate challenged, "What is truth?" (John 18:38).

So let's consider honesty under the spot light for a moment or two; and let's see how we define it and whether we agree it is the best policy.

Many years ago, when I was young and living in London, I wanted to be strong, healthy and handsome, (to attract the ladies). I remember walking past a sports shop selling all kinds of equipments to make one strong and covered in muscles. I walked in, and I must admit that at the time I was all too willing to sign a cheque for a lot of equipment.

First I tried the self-standing bicycles with various gears and speedometers and what have you. Then I moved on to the different types of treadmills. Electric ones, non-motorised ones, some with the facility for an incline and so on. The I looked at the trampolines. I honestly was prepared to buy at least one or two of these contraptions.

A salesman approached me and I asked him a few questions about the treadmill and the bicycle. He advised me not to buy any. He said that I'll probably use them once or twice and then they'll stand there at home gathering dust. I left the shop totally deflated.

Was that salesman honest? Or was he the worst salesman in the world?

Years later, I did buy both a treadmill and a stand-alone bicycle; and I tell you friends, they make very good coat hangers.

So ... what is honesty do you think?

Should we always tell the truth? Even if it hurts? Or should we white lie perhaps to protect and help the vulnerable?

In my book "Visions", (forgive the advert), I relate the story of a woman who tells Father Ignatius that her daughter, a teenager, is not really the daughter of her husband. She is the result of an affair the woman had many years ago, whilst married, which she never confessed to her husband. She is now in a happy relationship with her husband who is a good father, and provider. She asks the priest whether, now ridden with guilt, she should confess the truth to her husband.

What should the priest advise? What would you advise?

What is honesty? Is it the best policy?


Wednesday, 18 July 2018


I sat in the car whilst parked on our drive and I turned the ignition on. The engine started running … tat … ratatat … tat … ratatat … It didn’t sound quite right. It wasn’t that smooth running sound you normally get from an engine when all is well. The ratatat bit was new and sounded somewhat off key. Like Luciano Pavarotti singing with one shoe off … you know what I mean. Hobbling with your voice!

“One of the sparkling plugs must be loose!” I said confidently to my wife sitting beside me. I really didn’t know what it meant … I had read it somewhere and I thought it would make me sound intelligent and knowledgeable. It’s good to build up your confidence in the eyes of your spouse … after all, she knows you more than most!

“Should we call the Emergency Repair Services?” she said reflecting her confidence in my mechanical abilities.

“Not at all … it’s a simple matter … I’ll soon have it sorted,” I replied getting out of the car and leaving the engine running.

I lifted the bonnet (car hood) up like a professional would. Quickly and smoothly!

Now I should explain that this is an old car … and it has a little metal rod on the side which you have to pull out vertically and hook it under the car hood so that it holds it up. In modern cars the car hood opens up smoothly and stays open by some clever pneumatic device. But my car is old … so old that the Instruction Manual is written in Latin. You have to lift the car hood by hand … then pull out the metal rod … hook it under the hood in a special place and it keeps the hood up whilst you work in the engine. If you’re a wimp that is … If you’re macho like me you just lift the hood up and hold it firmly with your left hand whilst working with your free hand in the engine.

So there I was holding the hood up in my left hand and looking down at the vibrating engine going tat … ratatat … tat … ratatat … There were wires everywhere but no labels or signs telling you which bit of the engine does what. I mean … what does a sparkling plug look like? Is it a light that sparkles on and off?

With my right hand I just pushed and prodded all the cables and wires confidently.

And that’s when I got the most horrific electric shock you could imagine. It went straight up my right arm through my chest and up my left arm holding the hood. It was like those cartoon videos you see when a character touches a live wire and sparkles on and off.

In my agony I let go of the hood which fell with great weight and a single thud on my head knocking me down into the engine.

I could not decide for a moment which hurt the most … the electric shock I’d just received or the clunk of heavy metal at the back of my head.

Neither of these pains soon mattered because the little fan that goes round and round inside the car engine compartment caught my tie and dragged me in further choking me all the time.

The whole scenario looked like a car eating its driver as the hood bounced up and down as I struggled to free myself from the fan’s throttling grasp. I was slowly being eaten up by my own car as my legs were flying in all directions.

At that particular moment my cat decided to come walking by beside me and I must have accidentally kicked it.

Instead of running away … the cat decided to attack my legs by scratching hard at them and shouting “Vengeance is mine!!!”

This attracted our lazy dog who usually lies on the mat in front of the TV watching the Dog Channel.

Not this time … there was something more entertaining going on outside! So out he came and decided to jump on me biting me several times in the unmentionables …

Luckily my wife switched off the ignition and the engine reluctantly released its grasp on my tie. I was still stuck head down though as I could not loosen the tie enough to slip my head out.

The tie was eventually cut with a sharp knife and I decided to phone the Emergency Repair Services after all.

I told them the tie must have been left in the engine by some careless mechanic at the workshop where I took the car for a maintenance service. That’s probably what caused the odd sound in the engine.

They agreed that this was a distinct possibility although they wondered why I had the remains of a similar coloured tie round my neck.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

At the seaside

I was on business at a seaside town in England and I finished my afternoon meeting early. I decided to take a walk on the beach.

It was warm and everyone was either swimming or lying there on the sand half-naked enjoying the sun and cooking slowly.

Not me. I decided to be as inconspicuous as possible in my pin striped suit, emerald green bow tie with pink spots, hat with a bright feather sticking out of the side, and of course, dark sunglasses. It's good to have dark sunglasses on the beach as no one can tell what you're looking at.

I must admit though, I envied all those people enjoying the cool sea. They certainly looked happy, so I decided to join them. I did what a lot of British people do when at the seaside and they don't have any swimming costumes with them.

I approached the edge of the sea and took off my shoes and socks, which I put inside the shoes. The red sock in the left shoe and the green sock in the right shoe … that way I’ll remember which is which when I get to wear them again. Then I rolled up my pin-striped trousers all the way to just above the knee and I walked into the sea.

Oh … it was lovely. Even though people looked at me suspiciously! I could see the expression on their incredulous faces through my dark glasses and they could not see that I was looking at them looking at me. So I had the advantage on them I think. Even though they were giggling surreptitiously and nudging each other.

Anyway … I ignored them as I am accustomed to doing when people stare at me in the street or on the train in my attire. I stood there in the sea, with water up to my knees, still wearing my jacket, tie and hat, of course. We gentlemen believe in decorum at all time ... what?

Suddenly, I started dancing and hopping from foot to foot in the sea, splashing water everywhere and attracting more attention to myself.

A woman asked: “Is this Candid Camera?”

A number of onlookers laughed at me and someone said “I think he’s filming a comedy film. Where are the cameras Mister?”

I must admit, the same thought would have crossed my mind if I saw someone in pin-striped suit dancing in the sea; but I was in too much pain to see the funny side of what was happening.

I got out of the water to reveal a huge jellyfish stuck to the outside of my right leg. Why is it that with all these half-naked people in the sea the jellyfish chose me to attack? Does he not like business attire perhaps? Or is it the feather in my hat and my green bowtie?

“Jellyfish … jelly fish …” I cried out in pain.

“Oh … quickly,” said a rotund woman sitting nearby, “you must wee-wee on it!”

How could I possibly wee-wee on it whilst wearing a pin striped suit? Or wearing anything for that matter! The creature was attached on the outside of my leg just below the knee. I can't exactly unzip my trousers in public and wee wee on the outside of my leg. It as a physical impossibility. The human wee wee apparatus is not designed for such a task; unless it has an extension!

The woman then said, “Or you can let someone else wee-wee on it!”

As I could not see a queue of volunteers ready to assist me in this manner I continued to jump up and down and hitting the jellyfish with my hat. It broke the feather right off and made the hat quite un-wearable.

A young man came running to my help and said, “You have to pour vinegar on it! Do you have any vinegar?”

“Oh yes,” I thought, “I always carry a gallon bottle of vinegar in my pocket just in case of such an occurrence.”

But I was in too much pain to say anything. I just shook my head.

The man asked someone to run to the Fish and Chips shop nearby and get a bottle of vinegar.

“I have no money!” said the other person standing nearby.

I got out my wallet and gave him a £5 note … the smallest currency I had. He smiled and ran away. I wondered if I’d ever see him again.

Eventually he returned with a small bottle of vinegar which the first young man gently poured on the jellyfish. It shrivelled and let go of my leg.

“You must get this seen to in hospital,” said the young man.

I nodded and thanked him. I turned round to get my shoes only to find that the tide had come in somewhat and taken them out to sea with the red and green socks waving at me happily as they sailed away!

There was no taxi nearby nor a telephone kiosk in those pre-cell phone days. An ice cream truck driver, taking pity on me, volunteered to take me to the hospital.

I hopped bare feet and minus my hat into the ice cream van and was driven to the nearest hospital to the melodic chimes of Mister Softee and Pop Goes The Weasel ... and Jingle Bells too, would you believe !!!

And the moral of this story, dear friends, is: Never go to sea in a pin-striped suit!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Watch Out ... Camera About

I’m sure you’ve seen those programs where they stop unsuspecting people in the street and film them in funny situations for showing on TV afterwards. Some of the situations can be quite hilarious and the victims usually laugh and agree to have the film shown on TV.
Years ago I worked as a junior with an independent film maker and we were assigned to do such a film.
As I speak French well, the idea was that I would stop people in the street and ask them directions to a particular place in a heavy French accent. As they spoke, I’d pretend not to understand and I’d keep changing the location where I wanted to go.
The camera was hidden well out of view and the sound engineer explained the technical bits.
“The director will speak to you through this ear-piece” he said, “listen to his every instructions.”
I nodded.
“This is the latest microphone model. Cutting edge engineering technology.” he continued, “It looks just like a £1 coin, just two centimeters in diameter. Yet it picks up sound from a great distance.”
I pretended to be impressed.
“It doesn’t have a clip!” I said, “How will I clip it to my shirt?”
“You don’t” he replied with a smile, “you put it straight on your chest under the shirt. It goes straight on your skin.”
“You mean it is glued on me?”
“Not glued … we use the very latest adhesive solution on the market. Totally invisible, just like water. A tiny drop and the microphone is in place and no one will suspect you’re wearing it”.
Moments later I was ready for my first victim. I stood in the street looking confusingly in a map book and pretending to be lost. A tall man in a white priest’s collar walked towards me from the left. The director said in my ear “Aha … a man of the cloth. He’s bound to be very helpful. Stop him and … ACTION!”
“Scuze moi Monsieur!” I said in my best French accent “I cannot find ze hotel … where iz eet?”
He looked at the map and then proceeded to give me directions.
“Excellent,” whispered the director in my ear, “keep him talking!”
“Tres bien …” I said “Zat is ze hotel … but ze restaurant … eet haz moved … where iz ze restaurant?”
At this point I felt the microphone slip a bit from my chest. Obviously the adhesive wasn’t as good as I was told. It stopped again on my stomach.
“The sound quality has deteriorated,” the voice in my ear said, “get closer to him.”
I moved closer to the priest and asked another question.
“No good,” said the voice “I hear rumbling as if we’re on a train.”
I hadn’t eaten that morning because of nervousness. This was my first live interview. My knees were trembling. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were trembling too. A symphony of hunger pangs and trapped wind played softly into the microphone much to the distress of the director and the sound engineer.
“What the **** is that?” cursed the director in my ear, “fix it quick.”
I surreptitiously pretended to scratch my stomach whilst continuing the conversation in broken English with the priest. I tried in vain to push the microphone up to its original position but it slipped down a further few inches and stopped below the waistline !!!
“The rumbling has stopped” said the voice, “now we can’t hear a thing. Get even closer to him!”
How do I do that? I thought.
I can hardly ask him to bend down and address me down there so I can hear him better!
Can you imagine the conversation?
“Excuse me Father, I’ve had an ear transplant that went wrong and they put my ear down there. Can you speak a bit lower down so I can hear you more clearly?”
I ignored the director’s frantic screams and I tried to move the microphone again. But you can hardly scratch down there in public whilst conducting an interview with a priest … or with anyone else for that matter!
Perhaps if I pretended to get my handkerchief out of my trouser pocket, that should do it … Botheration!!! That didn’t work either. The microphone rolled down my trouser leg and fell on the ground.
“That’s better!” said the director’s voice “We can hear him but faintly. Get him a little closer”.
Easier said than done.
What do I do now? Do I lie down on the side-walk and say “We French are very relaxed people. We don’t panic even when we’re lost. Why not join me down here so we can discuss directions?”
I gave up in sheer frustration.
In my best English accent I said “Thank you Father. You’ve been very kind to help me; I know my way from here!”
He smiled in total confusion at my sudden grasp of the English language. He shook my hand and then … looking down he said, “Someone has dropped a £1 coin. I’ll put it in the Sunday collection plate!”
He picked up the microphone and walked away!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

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 that 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.

Friday, 13 July 2018

How the Marsupial got his name

The story goes something like this. Many years ago, when Captain James Cook, a British explorer and Captain in the Royal Navy, sailed the seas he travelled towards a new land now known as Australia. The controversy here is that Captain Cook discovered Australia. This is open to debate.

In those days the ships had a look-out sailor high up on the mast, in the crow's nest, as it was called, looking out for other ships nearby and for land. When he saw land he would shout "Land Ahoy! Land Ahoy!" and the Captain would sail the ship towards it.

So this sailor, a Scotsman, Henry Baker by name, claimed that it was he who first discovered Australia and not Captain Cook; and he wanted it named after him. Because in those days, new discoveries were named either after the person who made the discovery, or the Monarch of the day: for example, Rhodesia. Victoria Falls, Straits of Magellan.

Captain Cook thought this was a half-baked idea. There is no way he would allow Australia to be named Bakerland, or Bakeland, or The Great British Bake Off, or anything to do with this impudent sailor with high ideas in life. So he locked him up in the toilet.

As the ship approached shore, Captain Cook looked on the beach with his telescope to see if this land was inhabited. To his surprise, he saw on shore a lot of creatures with short arms, and big strong legs hopping up and down to and fro. No one had seen such animals before. So he handed the telescope to his second-in-command and asked him, "What is that creature over there?"

At that very moment, Henry Baker, the Scottish sailor, woke up in the toilet, having nursed a whole bottle of whisky. He found the door locked and shouted in his broad Glasgow accent, "Ah ... Kangar ... Oot! ... Ah ... Kangar ... Oot!", meaning I cannot get out.

This sound was echoed by the other members of the crew and the second-in-command, believing that the crew knew what the creature was, said to Captain Cook, "a kangaroo!"

And that's how the kangaroo got its name.

This is a true story. If you do not believe me ask Paula "Thunder Thighs" Hillman.

I went to school with her and she told me this story. I used to carry her books to be friends with her. Ah ... the memories !!!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The NUDE Starship Underpants

We interrupt the Starship Underpants series to bring you a serious post worthy of consideration and debate and we would be happy to hear your point of view and opinions.

The last episode of the Starship Underpants dealt with the story of Lady Godiva, an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who throughout her life had donated a lot of money, land and jewellery to establish various monasteries and to help good causes in England. She lived in Coventry and seeing that the folks of that town paid too much tax agreed to ride naked throughout town if her husband, (the ruler of the town), would lower the taxes.

Now we don't know whether the Godiva story is true or not. But can you imagine the conviction and love in the woman? She felt so much pity for the poor tax-payers of Coventry that she agreed to humiliate herself for them. Having given away a fortune in her lifetime for others, she went a step further still in order to alleviate the pain and suffering of others.

That particular episode of the Starship Underpants asked the question as to when is nudity "acceptable"; especially if it is in the aid of someone else less fortunate than ourselves. We are grateful for your responses in the comments box.

Denise in VA, (check her Blog), however, raises another pertinent point. She says "... magnificent works of art bothers me not. I was once told off by a visitor for not giving a warning when I posted a photograph of a nude statue ..."

Leaving aside for a moment our personal nudity for the benefit of a good cause, like paying the medical fees of a sick child, or relative, facing death, (I'm sure you can think of other causes). Leaving that aside, Denise's comment raises the question of when is nudity art, therefore "acceptable".

For many many years artists, painters, sculptors and photographers have been fascinated by the nude body. It has been accepted as art and admired by many over the years.

Look at the two pictures below:

This is a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted in 1888 and entitled "After the bath". It is one of many nude paintings by this artist. No doubt you can think of many other paintings and sculptures of nudity by famous and not so famous people.

This is a photograph taken by an SLR Camera with an automatic shutter speed and blah ... blah ... blah ...

Now over to you ... would you consider both pictures as art?

Why? Why not?

When is the naked form considered acceptable as art?

Some famous nude paintings have, at the time, and since, been considered as provocative. But are they art? Are they "acceptable"?

Consider for example Édouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe", also known as "The Luncheon on the Grass".
Here we have a naked lady having a picnic with two fully dressed men. Controversial enough as a picnic scene until we learn that Manet's wife Suzanne Leenhoff posed for the naked woman, although the face on the painting is that of another model. Stranger still, the men sitting beside her are Manet's brother Gustave, and his brother-in-law Ferdinand Leenhoff.

Can you imagine the tongues wagging at the time when people found out who the characters are in the painting?

Can you imagine Manet's wife agreeing to pose for the painting? Was it a good cause in her eyes? Yet, she felt that her face should be replaced by that of another model. I wonder why?

Can you imagine Manet asking his wife to pose for him in the presence of his brother and his brother-in-law? All in the cause of art?

Supplementary question: What are the two men talking about, the football game on TV last might?

Plenty to discuss here - over to you.
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