Monday, 20 April 2015

The hare, the tortoise and me.

We have a rabbit. He lives in a hutch in the garden but he is let out every now and then under supervision. He is not allowed in the house of course, unless he ever enters the kitchen where there are plenty of pots and pans to accommodate him. I have often dreamt of having him in a rabbit pie, or with gravy and potatoes; but like Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny I don't think I'll ever have that rabbit for a meal. The family say he is a pet and they love feeding him and generally looking after him.

The other day I opened the front door and found a box at my feet with a tortoise in it. I looked left and right ... and saw nothing unusual. Why do people look left and right when something like this happens? What was I expecting to see? Someone running away after leaving the box on my doorstep? For all I know the box may have been there for ages and whoever placed it there is now long gone to another Continent.

I picked it up and asked the family "Has anyone ordered a tortoise from the Internet?"

I didn't know you could buy such things online; but they all denied any responsibility. All they said is "Can we keep him? He'll make a nice friend for Choochoo the rabbit."

Who ever heard of a rabbit called Choochoo? Sounds more like a train to me. Apparently they called him such because of the way his nose moves up and down when he chews on a lettuce leaf.

Anyway, I held the tortoise in my hand and half wondered whether I should phone the Missing Persons Bureau to check whether anyone reported a missing tortoise. I dismissed the idea thinking they'd probably say I'm wasting their time.

Besides, technically speaking, the tortoise was not missing. It did not just decide to go out for a walk and forgot where he lived. He was placed in a box, with a lid on, and the box left at my doorstep. I assumed that the tortoise had not done that to itself; so presumably someone left it here deliberately. Or by accident, mistaking my address for someone else.

I decided that for the time being I'd let him loose in the garden; whilst I sit there to keep an eye on him whilst searching our cookery recipe book for any meals involving tortoises.

No sooner he was out of the box, Gonzales came out of his shell and started walking towards the end of the garden. I mean ... whoever heard of a tortoise called Gonzales? But I didn't have much say on the matter.

He walked and walked, followed by me to ensure that he doesn't wonder away to the neighbours' gardens. Eventually, walking in a perfectly straight line, he reached the end of the garden after ten minutes or so. Fortunately, he stopped by the pyracantha bushes at the end of my garden.

I was really grateful for his sudden stop because I had no intention of following him inside those bushes. I still have nightmares of the day I fell backwards from a ladder into a bush of these infernal plants; and the humiliation thereafter of having thorns removed from my derriere which looked like a pin cushion. But that's another story.

So I picked up the tortoise and turned him round a full 180 degrees. To my amazement Gonzales started walking again straight back to where he had come from. I followed him for another ten minutes or so and when he reached the house, I turned him round once again. He walked once more straight towards the pyracantha.

This went on for at least six times or so. Gonzales was intent on walking his own marathon without the incentive of a hare or rabbit named Choochoo chasing him. Up and down the garden he went until I got tired of following him; so I put him in the hutch with the rabbit.

Choochoo and Gonzales have been friends for a couple of weeks now. I've asked around and placed posters enquiring whether anyone has lost a box with a tortoise in it but no one has come forward claiming him. Instead, people look at me furtively and whisper whenever they see me in the street.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Marriage Divorce Annulment

A few months after Joanna Hill was introduced to George Lomas by Father Ignatius, the couple fell deeply in love.

One evening they visited Father Ignatius in the Parish House, and after they had settled down to tea and biscuits George said:

“Father, we have some good news. Joanna and I are in love and we would like to get married. We hope you’ll do the honours, so to speak.”

“That’s good news for you two,” said the priest gently, “but there’s some difficulty with me officiating at your wedding.”

“I don’t understand,” said Joanna somewhat concerned at the news.

“You are divorced Joanna,” said Father Ignatius in his gentle voice, “the Catholic Church does not recognize your divorce. You are still married and therefore you cannot marry again in Church.”

“What do you mean?” said George, “she is properly divorced in Court.”

“Yes, that may well be so,” continued the priest, “that’s a civil divorce, but unless the marriage was annulled by the Church she is still married. The Church bases its teaching on the words of Christ: ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery,’ ”

“But that’s crazy,” interrupted George raising his voice a little, “are you saying that if I, as a single man never having been married … if I go around with various women, you’d forgive me in Confession. But if she marries me you’re accusing her of the graver sin of adultery?”

“Joanna was married in a Catholic Church, this one I believe, to a Catholic man, and her being Catholic,” explained the priest still maintaining his composure, “this being the case, and seeing that the marriage was not annulled by the Church, then she is still married in the eyes of God and the Church.”

“Hold on a minute,” George interrupted again, not noticing for a moment that poor Joanna was wiping her tears silently, “you said she married in a Catholic Church. So if she had married in an Anglican Church, or any other church, you would not have recognized the marriage?”

“That is strictly true,” said Father Ignatius, “if Joanna as a Catholic had married in an Anglican Church without the permission of the Catholic Church, and without the presence of a Catholic priest, then that marriage would not have been valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. It then follows that her civil divorce would not have been recognised either and in all probability she would have been able to marry again in the Catholic Church.”

“This is totally mad,” said George getting a little angry, and still ignoring Joanna, “she married at 19 Father, and divorced her husband when she was 22. She was a mere child when he walked out on her and left her holding the baby … literally.

“That was over ten years ago Father. At the time she hardly cared about the Catholic Church. She was really distraught at having been abandonned by her husband and the last thing on her mind was to seek annulment. She tried to get her life together again and raised a baby on her own. Anyway, from what I hear annulments can take a long time and are worse than the Spanish Inquisition ...”

“George … stop it …” Joanna cried loudly.

“I’m sorry love,” he replied holding her hand gently, “I hate to see the Church … our Church … mistreat you so!

“I’m sorry Father for getting angry,” he apologized to the priest, “but you can see our dilemma.

“For whatever reason, regardless of who was innocent and who was at fault, this young couple in their early twenties divorced in a Civil Court.

“Is the Church seriously suggesting that Joanna cannot be intimate with a man for the rest of her life? Or else you’ll accuse her of adultery? Is that reasonable Father?

“Or do you want her to come to confess every time the two of us go to bed when we’re married?”

“Stop it … stop it …” Joanna cried loudly, “this has gone too far … I want to go home …”

She stood up and made her way out of the room followed by George.

Father Ignatius followed them silently to the front door, not having the chance to explain himself or the Church’s position.

The couple married in the Civil Court three months later.

Thank you Ceil

Thank you so much Ceil for your kind review of my book "To Love A Priest" on AMAZON.

I am most grateful.

Dear readers - check out Ceil's and other peoples' reviews (or add your own) HERE.

God bless.

Thursday, 16 April 2015


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 know 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 …

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, 14 April 2015

Déjà vu Titian

 Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian in English

My loyal readers, to whom I am most grateful, will remember that last year I ran a series of posts about classical painters and their famous masterpieces. It was a successful series with a number of readers contributing suggestions for paintings to be critiqued by myself - a self-proclaimed art critic. More suggestions welcome!

One such artist we studied together is Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian in English. He was famous for his mastery of the paintbrush as you can see from his self portrait above painted in about 1567.

Now one thing I need to say as your advisor in such artistic matters is that in my opinion this could not possibly be a self-portrait of the grand master. This is because the painting is done in profile.

At the time when Titian is supposed to have painted it they did not have cameras; and the only way that he could have known what he looked like is by looking at a mirror face on - full frontal. There is no way he could have looked at his profile in a mirror and paint the masterpiece at the same time. Not unless he had the paint brush firmly stuck in his ear and he painted by standing sideways to the canvas. Either that, or someone else painted the picture which would not make it a self-portrait.

Please contain your self-amazement at my prowess a little longer as I go on.

One of Titian's famous paintings is "Venus and Organist and Little Dog" painted in 1550 (ten to four in the afternoon for those of you unfamiliar with the 24 hour clock).

I really cannot imagine what possessed Titian to paint such a scene. Portrays of nudes have long been common amongst famous painters and photographers. So asking a model to lie down naked on a bed would not have been that difficult for a master like Titian. Suggesting that she has a little dog by her side would have been easy too. But how exactly did he manage to convince her it would be a good idea to have a man sitting beside the bed playing with his organ? And its not as if the man is playing casually looking at the music sheet in front of him. No, this guy knows the tune by heart, so he is leaning backwards to have a good look at something more interesting. Her bracelet perhaps! And she doesn't seem to mind.

I wonder how many times they had to pose for him like that. And with an open window behind her so that the gardener could have a good look whilst mowing the lawn. 

Now what I've discovered in my research on your behalf is that Titian must have really enjoyed painting this particular scene. So much so that no sooner he had finished he tried painting it all over again. See below.

This time he made the colours more vivid in order to bring out all the mastery of brush strokes for which he was so famous. He used the same model of course and convinced her that it would be more pleasing to the eye of the beholder (i.e. his) if she were to lose a bit of weight. (Compare the two pictures).

He also asked her to look up to a little Cupid character rather than down at the dog as previously.

Unfortunately he could not convince the man (a different person wearing different clothes and with no sword) to look forward whilst playing his organ. He too prefered to lean back and admire the bracelet which the model is wearing. That's his excuse and he is sticking to it!

Can you see the gardener in red by the trees on the left?

Not quite satisfied with this version of events, Titian had another go as we can admire below.

In this picture he added a different dog to the scene and asked the same model to lean slightly more forward. She must have felt a little cold by now because she asked to be covered (somewhat modestly) with a very tiny transparent curtain netting to keep her warm. Note that the little Cupid seems friendlier in this picture and seems to have a wandering hand compared to before. No wonder the dog is upset; with his jaw dropping he is asking what's all this about!

In this painting Titian uses yet another much younger man to play the organ. This is because the other two had to retire with a stiff neck having to look backwards. Despite being warned this fellow too claims that he is only admiring the model's necklace (not bracelet). Likely story! (Note how his eyes point at a different direction compared to the previous two paintings).

You'll also notice that Titian has changed the background from a garden to an open plain with a whole village in centre stage so that the inhabitants can also have a good look with their binoculars.

Yet, not totally satisfied with his efforts, our master had another go at the same painting.

On the face of it, (that is if you are looking at the face of any of the characters), this appears to be a totally different painting. But it is not.

The same model, having got enough of the dogs all over her bed, and various organists ogling her, insists to Titian that they must go away.

"I will not pose nude with organists looking at me!" she says as she takes her clothes off. 
Titian agrees and gets rid of the dog and replaces the organist with a lute player.

Drat! The silly woman should have been more specific.

To be fair, the lute player is much younger than all of the organists before him, so he is less likely to get neck cramp sitting in that twisted position. The model is holding a stick in her hand in case the amourous lute player comes too close. And her legs are well positioned to give him a good kick in the kidneys, just in case.  

You'll note that Titian changed the background scenery once again.

But this was not enough. Titian wanted to try one more time.

But this time the model finally has her way. She insists that there are no men at all sitting there watching her rude bits. She agrees to dispense with the net curtain covering her as long as the Cupid fellow keeps his hand well away ... or else.

"And keep the dog well away by my feet!" she tells Titian.

He agrees. But asks, "Can I have my pet pigeon on the window behind you?"

"Oh OK ..." she answers, "as long as he doesn't fly and peck at my backside!"

And here you have it. Titian's famous painting of Venus and Coo Coo his pet pigeon.

As you'll appreciate, dear readers, one has to wonder whether Titian painted all these paintings himself, (the model appears to be the same in all of them), or whether he painted one scene and other painters painted the rest.

If that were the case, then all the copies are just imitations of the one the master himself painted. But which is which? How can we tell which one is the original?

I don't know.

In order to find out whether it is possible to paint just like Titian I thought I'd give it a go. Not to be outdone I searched for my paint brush and palette of colours; I hired a model to pose for me, and promised her that there would be no organists or lute players ogling at her every aspect.

She agreed.

I hope you like the end result of my efforts ....

Monday, 13 April 2015


Nostalgia these days isn't what it used to be.

Time was, back in the day, when nostalgia was people getting together and reminiscing about old times perhaps fondly or maybe not. These days, however, nostalgia is sharing the latest text or selfie-photo you've just received on your cell phone. Everything is so instant, even memories.

You take a photo and you got it on your screen in seconds. No need to send the film for development and printing, and waiting in anticipation as to how many photos you took badly or are over or under exposed. Today, the only thing they expose in the photos is their bodies.

How many people I wonder remember those far off days when life was in black and white and sound was in mono?

Back then everything was in black and white, or in sepia color, depending on how old you really were. I recall a story that on a snowy day a man wearing a white coat went out for a walk and was knocked down by a snow plough.

This wouldn't happen today with all the vibrant colours we wear which need a special washing powder to make them even more brilliant and soft to the touch. Back then there was no clothes' softener; and people washed their hair shirts by hand, not in a contraption invented to lose your socks; or turn all your clothes pink if you put a red item in it.

I'm told, (because I'm not that old, you see), that in those olden days before stereo sound, or quadrophonic, or whatever else multi-sound is called these days, - back then people talked in mono; and if they were standing on your left you heard them with your left ear, and vice versa if they stood on the other side of you.

It was simple. People talked from their mouth on your left or right and you heard them. Unlike now when people seem to talk from more than one orifice in their bodies and make no sense whatsoever.

Back then in nostalgia times, if you wanted to listen to music you bought big black vinyl discs which you scratched with a needle to hear beautiful balads sang by talented artists gifted with masterful voices. Today people listen to music on small devices no bigger than a match box; and if you happen to lose it, you've lost your entire collection of noise which you have spent hours to collect and cherish.

Another thing I've noticed in today's non-nostalgia world is that people seem to have a fondness, addiction in some cases, of telling each other about themselves every few minutes. They go on social media websites and tell each other inane information like the fact they've just woken up, had breakfast, washed their armpits, and all other things which back in the day we kept privately to ourselves. What's all that about? What is the point of telling a whole load of people personal stuff that is of no interest to man or beast?

I'm not a member of any social media site. In order to appear trendy I walk in the streets, or when on the bus or train, and every so often I say something out loud about myself for no apparent reason.

I make short statements of no more than 180 letters, like "My shoes hurt!" "I need a haircut." "My trousers itch in unusual places." 

At first it astounded those around me. But now I have three followers - all wearing white coats.

In olden times, if you needed something you got to the shop and bought it. Now you can buy almost anything online. Which is a convenient and a good thing I suppose. But here's the catch. Having bought something you are then bombarded by e-mails asking you to review what you've just bought.

"We note you've bought a shirt. Tell us about your enjoyable experience. Did it live up to your expectations? Did you like the item you bought? How did you use it?"

I'll tell you how I used it. I put it in a bucket of soapy water and washed the car with it, that's how.

The other day I bought online a small radio/alarm clock. Now I keep getting e-mails from the trader inviting me to buy other clock/radios of every size, colour, and uselessness. How many clock/radio should a man need?

I tell you. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Sin of ommission

I really must apoligise to one of my Blog readers, LULU, for not saying thank you much earlier.

There I was the other day searching for various items on that great website AMAZON when it occurred to me that I needed another copy or two of my latest book "To Love A Priest".

I went to the usual page where all my books are listed and to my surprise I discovered that someone had left a customer review and gave my book 5 STARS. Wow ... I thought. 5 STARS - must be a relative of mine being kind to me. Check it out here.

I clicked on the book and scrolled further down to find a lovely write-up from Lulu.

Thanx Lulu. I would have thanked you much earlier had I known you'd written so nicely about my book.

To any other readers tempted to write something nice about me on AMAZON please let me know so that I can thank you publicly here. I normally go to the UK Amazon website so I wouldn't know if you've reviewed my books on your own AMAZON sites.

God bless.