Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Thinking with my mind

For some reason I sometimes think. I don't know how it happens. It just does. I just think.

I was thinking the other day. I remember when I worked in London my office was on the third floor. There was a ledge outside my window. For some reason best known to itself a duck from the park opposite built a nest on the ledge. I did not know ducks build nests so high. Maybe this one was stupid.

Anyway, eventually the eggs hatched and there were five little ducklings in the nest. I could see them out the window. At first they hardly moved in the nest, but slowly they grew a little at a time and became more mobile. One day they started getting out of the nest and walk on the ledge. I guess they wanted to fly. But ducklings don't fly, do they?

I did not know what to do. I hid behind the curtain watching them walk on the edge of the ledge. The phone rang. I ignored it. I kept watching wondering whether to open the window and try to catch them.

Suddenly, one of the stupid creatures jumped. I was horrified. Three storeys up and this idiot jumped. It was quickly followed by the four others.

I opened the window and leant right out to look what happened. To my surprise all five landed safely in the car park below and were happily walking together.

Then a car ran them over!
HA ... HA ... HA ... I'm so glad this is not a true story. But it made me laugh anyway. I had to write it quickly before I forgot it.

I often think something and then forget it. Like going upstairs for instance. I go up and forget why I went up in the first place. So I get down again. And I remember, so I get up once more and get distracted by something else; like a window is open which needs shutting, and I forget again why I got up a second time.

Now before I get upstairs I write on a piece of paper why I am going upstairs. Sometimes I forget to take the piece of paper up with me and go down again to look for it; but can't remember where I put it.

One day I will publish all these pieces of paper as a book. It will help people remember reasons to go upstairs.

Go to the toilet, take folded laundry upstairs, bring dirty clothing to be washed, take a shower, go to sleep, go to the toilet again ... and so on.

The problem is we live in a one-storey bungalow. So going upstairs takes me to the attic, or loft. No wonder I can't find the toilet there!
I'm on a roll here. That's the second funny story I just thought. I wonder what I'll think of next.

It was very hot the other day. We had the windows open and it attracted mosquitoes in the house. I could not find a newspaper to beat them senseless so I used the modern version - my wife's Kindle.

When she came in she asked, "What are you **** doing with my Kindle?"

"Swatting mosquitoes," I replied, "I killed three males and two females!"

Somehow, this distracted her from my using her Kindle, she asked, "How do you know their sex?"

"Easy," I said, "the three males were on my beer, the two females were on the phone!"

Oh come on ... that was a good one. I bet all my lady readers are upset with me now.

I visit an old peoples' home every now and then and keep the elderly entertained with a chat and a few jokes. The other day one of the visiting doctors was testing their acuity.

He asked Eddie, "what is five times five?"

Eddie replied "132!"

The doctor smiled and asked Peter, "what is five times five?"

"Thursday," replies Peter.

The doctor writes his notes and asks Martin, "what is five times five?"

Martin replies, "25!"

The doctor is encouraged and asked, "how did you get your answer, Martin?"

"Easy ..." says Martin, "just subtract 132 from Thursday!"
Keep smiling folks. God bless you all.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Vic on the radio

Another short recording from my time on the radio (6 minutes)

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Can't buy me love

Father Ignatius was in his office awaiting the arrival of James in order to prepare the annual financial accounts for St Vincent Church.

When James finally arrived, over an hour late, the pot of coffee prepared by Father Ignatius had already gone cold, and half the biscuits had been eaten by the impatient priest.

He said nothing as he noticed right away that James was very upset about something. His eyes were red as if he’d been crying, his hands were shaking and he was unusually silent compared to his normal jovial outgoing personality.

James sat in the large armchair next to the large window overlooking the town.

“Do we have to do this today?” he asked.

“No …” replied the priest, “the accounts can wait for another time.”

James hesitated at first then mumbled, “She left me Father …”

“Who … what do you mean?”

“Sophie … she left … we broke up. We had a row and she said we’re through … she prefers to be with another man at her work.”

The priest said nothing but silently prayed for a few seconds or so.

“I told her she was getting rather too interested with that guy at work. She said what if she was. We argued about it and she said she does not want to be with me again …

“I love her Father … more than I’ve loved anyone before … we were to get married … and now she’s gone …”

The priest poured a glass of water and gave it to James.

“Why do bad things happen to me? I’m a good person. Why does God allow this to happen to me? Why can’t He make her love me just as I love her? I’d do anything for her … I love her so … why doesn’t God make her love me?”

“I’m sure you don’t mean that,” said the priest calmly.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m sure you don’t want God to make her love you. If for instance He were to do as you wish, would you really want that love?”

James looked puzzled as the priest continued.

“Love should be freely given and not forced in any way. You say you love her, and seeing the two of you together, I believe you do. You gave her your love and in doing so you became vulnerable, as we all do, when we give of ourselves to others. Your love was freely given. And if you love her as much as you say, you should allow her the freedom to return that love …”

“You mean let her go? Even though she’s making a mistake by being with that man?” asked James.

“I don’t know about letting her go … but she should decide for herself what to do.

“Let me tell you something …

“God would have saved Himself a lot of bother if He created a race of robots all pre-programmed to obey His commandments and do His will.

“But He loved us so much that He gave us the gift of choice. He set us free to either love Him back in return or to turn our back on Him.

“And as you know, many turn their backs on Him and choose to mock Him, not believe in Him and go the other way. His heart must hurt to breaking point when He sees this happening; but He allows it to happen because He loves us.

“He wants our love for Him to be freely given, without any pressure whatsoever. Christ the shepherd is forever seeking these lost sheep and encouraging them to return to the fold. His work is always hampered by the devil and his alternative agenda.

“The greatest gift we can give our Lord is to use our Free Will to love Him back. Use our Free Will to freely submit to His will.”

James said nothing, but seemed much calmer now.

“I don’t know whether the two of you are meant to be together …” continued Father Ignatius, “but give it time. Let her go freely … keep in touch every now and then. If you get the chance, apologise for your jealousy … seek her forgiveness for not trusting her enough … but leave her free to decide James.”

The accounts were never completed on that sad winter morning; but James left the priest’s office a little more composed and certainly calmer than before.

About thirteen months later Father Ignatius married James and Sophie at St Vincent Church. He is now due to baptize their first born son next week.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Bin There - Done That

Good morning, how may I help you?

Hello, it's about my trash bin ...

What trash bin is that Sir?

You know ... the wheelie bin we have to collect the trash ...

What does it look like, Sir?

Well ... it looks like a wheelie bin ... they all look the same. Do you want me to send you a photo?

That would help Sir. Send an attachment photo on our website. Type reference BIN 69. Thank you.

Good afternoon, how may I help you?

You're a woman!

Yes Sir, I am ...

It was a man before!

Ehm ... I have always been a woman ... how can I help you?

I have sent a photo reference BIN 69 ... the other man told me so ...

(Pause) Yes I can see it now ... what appears to be the problem?

I was about to tell the other man that the wheel is damaged and he asked me to send a photo.

Ehm ... (pause) there is no OTHER man, Sir. You have spoken to a male colleague and I am a woman. How was the wheel damaged?

Well ... you know ... wear and tear and that. Old age I suppose. Like all of us, when we get old things fall off. They hang more loosely than before and sag. I think the wheel is doing the same and might fall off.

Did you damage it, Sir?

No of course not ... if anything, it was your Refuse Collection Operatives ... is that what you call them these days?

Do you have a name?

No ... well ... yes ... I have my own name. But I don't know the name of the Refuse Collection Operative. I am not on speaking terms with him, although I've lived at this address for ten years or so. I'd guess over that period we have had a number of different Refuse Collection Operatives and I have hardly spoken to any of them.

I need to record here who was responsible for the damage, Sir.

Well, all of them I'd say. They seem to handle the wheelie bins without due care and attention. I make a point of leaving the bin on the edge of the side-walk; on the bit that slants downwards gently towards the road when we drive the car in and out. Yet the Refuse Collection Operatives ... all of them ... handle the bins roughly and pull them and push them off and on the side-walk itself ... so they fall down a few inches ... or up a few inches ... instead of wheeling them gently on the sliding bit of the path. It's like they are dancing with a drunken kangaroo!

Did the kangaroo damage the bin, Sir?

No ... of course not ... what kangaroo? I don't have one. Or any for that matter. It's the rough handling of the bin by the Operatives that did it. I suggest it would have been better if the refuse lorry drove on the side-walk itself, then you wouldn't have to get the bins up and down in such a rough manner.

I still need to record the person who damaged the bin, Sir.

It was old age ... you know ... Father Time!

Father Time ... is he a priest Sir?


Father Time ...

Eh ... (pause) ... yes ... yes ... he is a priest. He damaged the wheel on the bin. I saw him do it.

First name?

Yes ... he has one ... Reverend ... that's his first name.

Thank you Sir. We shall send you a replacement wheelie bin within three days. No charge. It is paid for by your Local Environmental Taxes.

Friday, 31 July 2020

What's happening to me?

Remember the 1969 song by Harry Nilsson Everybody's Talkin' At Me? It goes like this:

Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind

I'll play the song for you later at the end of this post.

It seems everyone these days is giving advice, whether it is asked for, warranted or, (in my case), welcomed.

We should all examine our lives, I'm told. Re-assess what we're doing. Re-prioritise our priorities. Prepare for a new beginning. Do things differently. Take time to sit down calmly and consider what we've been doing wrong thus far. Do it differently. Better. Or not at all.

To be honest, I don't have much time for all that. I haven't been doing anything wrong all my life. Besides, I am too lazy for all this thinking, examining, re-prioritising and all that. My favourite pass-time and hobby is to sit down. Or lie down. I can do it all day.

In front of the TV, on the couch, on the floor, in the garden, in bed or even lying in a warm bath. There is nothing better than lying in a warm bath watching and contemplating ...

Have you ever wondered why the soap bubbles congregate around one particular place on your body? I wonder why? But I digress ...

There's advice everywhere these daysd about what we've been doing wrong and how we should do it better and differently.

For the past few months I have been told, time and again, what I have done wrong in all these years of marriage. I have apologised many times for things I did, or did not do, which I can hardly remember doing them or not. Why do women have such long memories? I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.

It seems it was my fault on that occasion, long ago, when I lost the car keys and we were late for her mother's birthday party. In all honesty, the keys were not lost at all. They were in my pocket the whole time. Is it worth admitting it now? Better apologise I suppose!

Everywhere I turn there is advice that we should minimise. Use less of everything. I think they call it minimalism. If that is the case, then why have they used so many letters to say the word minimalism? Couldn't they have thought of a shorter word?

There are even books on minimalism. Teaching you how to do with less. In the true spirit of the philosophy they are teaching, I have decided not to buy any of these books. Voila ... doing with less!

I also no longer use ice cubes in my whisky. I drink it neat ... using less!

I remember years ago we tried this using less fashion trend. We were well before our time. Remember the mini-skirt? And the hot pants? Very tiny skirts and shorts using less material. And women doing away with their bras and wearing flowers in their hair instead?

Also, years later, when I got married I tried to revive the trend and throw away all the useless presents her mother gave us. She wouldn't let me. I mean ... ... ... who needs a spoon rest? What is a spoon rest anyway? Who invented this useless crap piece of equipment which now has to be washed as well as the spoon? What is wrong with wiping the spoon on the back of your trousers and putting it on the table whilst cooking?

At the time, we moved from our rented home in London to a town up North. In order to minimise, or down-size, we bought an apartment in an apartment complex. I decided to put a couple of skylights in the ceiling of our apartments. The woman living above us got very irate because they looked straight into her bedroom and bathroom.

Minimalism did not work for us anyway; because there was no room in that apartment for a spoon rest.

The doctor rang me the other day. He said he hadn't seen me for a while. I told him I was not felling well. When I get better I'll go and see him.

The last time I was there he said I was a little weak. He gave me a bottle of vitamin pills. When I got home I was so weak I could not open the bottle. I had to drive back to his Insulting Room and ask him to open the bottle for me.

I was told that if I drink a pint of Guinness a day it will do me good. I rang the pub and asked them to deliver a barrel in my kitchen. Every day for the last two weeks I've been having a pint a day. It really works. When they brought in the barrel it was so heavy two men had to carry it. Now I can carry it round the kitchen by myself.

The priest rang me too. He said he hadn't seen me in church for a while. I told him that I had stopped sinning. Minimalism!

I told him would it not be better if people e-mailed him their sins for absolution? He said he already knew peoples' sins by reading Facebook.

I never understood Facebook. Too complicated. I once did not like something I said there and un-friended myself. I discovered I'd locked myself out of my own account! Myself did not like me!!!

I told the priest how sad it was that the whole world is in such a state these days. To cheer me up he said it could be worse. We could all be in a deep hole in the ground filled with water. He means well.

By the way ... as an aside ... let me warn you ... do not let supermarket staff take your temperature by scanning your head. Especially if they do it with the payment check-out machine. It erases your memory. I went to the supermarket for some salad, fruits and vegetables and bought wine and chocolates instead.

Anyway ... the priest said to me on the phone that we should pray as Jesus taught us. I did not know He had a tortoise; did you?

Here's the song I promised you:

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Father Ignatius and Mary

Father Ignatius was pragmatic kind of man. He was realistic and somewhat matter-of-fact about things that were as they were and perhaps could not be explained to everyone's satisfaction.

God, being God, often gave him opportunities to explain his beliefs and to re-affirm them both to himself and to others. As happened the other day.

He was in church, sitting at the front pew, just by the statue of the Virgin Mary, looking at the votive candles burning slowly, and reciting the Rosary.

Mrs Castle came out of the Sacristy to do some cleaning. She was not the usual cleaner; but a replacement for Mrs Bell who had gone on vacation, and recommended her friend Mrs Castle.

Mrs Castle was not a Catholic. She went to the Anglican church in town.

Seeing the priest praying in front of the statue she stopped and said, "Excuse me Sir ... I have seen you sit here and pray often. I was wondering ... like, is that not wrong? We were told by our vicar that it is wrong to pray to statues. He said it was idolatry!"

"Your vicar, the Reverend Grainger, is he not?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Well, the Reverend Grainger is correct. It is wrong to pray to statues," said Father Ignatius as Mrs Castle sat down, "this is something that many Catholics do not understand. And I suppose it is the fault of our Church which does not teach its people clearly about our doctrines, rules and other traditions!

"You can see around you in this church many statues. That's St Peter over there. Saint Anthony and St Francis of Assisi over there at the back. And this St Therese.

"It is wrong to pray to the statues. They are only images made of stone, like St Peter, and some sort of plaster like St Francis and St Anthony. St Therese's statue is carved from wood. And the Cross you see at the altar is made of wood and the figure of Christ is metal. It is idolatry, as your vicar said, to pray to them or light candles or place flowers to them.

"But many Catholics do. And some, many in my view, do it without understanding. They believe that by lighting a candle they will gain some sort of favour, or get a miracle from the Saints.

"This is wrong. God and the Saints cannot be bought with a candle, a bunch of flowers or a few repetitive prayers.

"These statues should serve as a reminder of who these Saints, these once living people, are; and what they may have looked liked. Very much like you having photos of your loved ones, children and grand-children in your purse or at home. A reminder of loved ones close to you.

"And when we place flowers or candles, it should be as an act of respect. And act of veneration. Not in any way a bribe or worship of the statue, or even the Saint himself. You should only worship God."

"But you do sit here and pray to Mary over and over again, reciting the Hail Mary on the Rosary," Mrs Castle pointed out.

"Yes, you are right," replied the priest, "first of all, let me explain that I am not praying TO Mary. I am asking the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, to pray to God for me. Very much the same as when you ask a friend for a reference for a job application. Mrs Bell suggested that you come and clean the church whilst she is on vacation. She put in a good word for you. When we pray we should be asking Mary and the Saints to put in a good word for us with God and Jesus. I guess it does no harm.

"When dying on the Cross, Jesus said to Mary, 'this is your son,' meaning the disciple John. We Catholics believe this to mean Jesus gave Mary as a mother of us all.

"Are we right? Are we wrong? I guess we can debate this until the time we're in Heaven and we can ask Jesus in person!"

Mrs Castle laughed. He certainly had a way to get to the point quickly.

"The sad thing," he continued, "many Catholics do actually pray TO the Saints, thinking they are doing this just as praying to God or Jesus. This is wrong. They should be asking the Saints to pray for them to Jesus and God.

"Of course, some non-Catholics believe we should pray to Jesus and God alone. There is no need for an in-between like a Saint. They may well be right. But I wonder, does it do any harm to ask St Mary, or any other Saint to pray for us to God?

"Let us look at this another way. God must have thought Mary was a special person. That is why He chose her to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. Would He really be angry with me when I'm in Heaven because I spent time praying to Mary? He honoured her to be the Mother of Jesus. Is it wrong that I should honour her too?

"And the same applies to the disciples and other Saints. Jesus chose them as His followers. Other Saints since then have been honoured by the Church for their exemplary lives. Will God be angry that we have asked them to pray for us?

"Remember, praying TO the Saints is wrong. But praying, which means asking them, to plead to God on our behalf, is the right thing to do."

She smiled and said nothing.

"As for repetitive prayers," he added, "it helps one focus their mind on God. To take away any other thoughts, worries and problems from our mind and focus on God alone. By reciting the Lord's Prayer, the Credo, or the Rosary or whatever else. It's like a mantra.

"Some people prefer to just talk to God instead. This is all right too. As long as we keep our hearts and our minds open to listening to Him.

"Our prayer should be, 'Speak Lord, this is your servant listening,' not 'listen Lord, this is your Master speaking!' "

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Father Ignatius meets the devil

Father Ignatius faced a direct question from one of his parishioners.

"Father, do you think the devil can possess people these days?" she asked.

He had to be very careful with his response. The Bible, especially the New Testament, has many references of people being possessed by the devil and Jesus sending the devil away. Those accounts are sometimes very graphic saying that the victim was in some kind of fit, the devil speaking out against Jesus, and on one occasion a whole group of demons possessed a man and Jesus commanded them to leave the man and enter a herd of swine; which then perished off a cliff.

He said a silent prayer before answering.

"We Christians believe in the devil," he said, "we cannot possibly believe in God and Jesus and not believe in the devil. He exists all right. He is a fallen angel who rebelled against God. And God, let him and his followers go. Their role, it seems, is to tempt us away from God. The devil tried to tempt Jesus in the desert; so we should not be much of a challenge.

"Yes, I believe the devil can possess people these days. Our Church believes so. That is why they have appointed and trained many exorcist priests in our dioceses.

"Does the devil possess an individual as described in the Bible when Jesus healed such people? I have not had any personal experience of this. But I don't see why not.

"Does he possess people against their will?"

He stopped, noticing she was a little nervous. Maybe she had had some sort of personal experience. He chose to tread carefully.

"Let me put it another way, Georgina," he continued, "I have not heard of the devil possessing a devout Christian against their will. He will try to tempt them away from God, as I said earlier. Just as he tempted Jesus.

"But I doubt he can possess a devout believing Christian against his will. God would not allow it. It is not in God's interest to see such a person go to the other side, as it were!"

She smiled at his turn of phrase. He was relieved he had got over that point carefully but firmly.

"I believe the devil will try to influence people who are already leaning his way. You know ... people who do not believe in God. People who mock those who believe in God. People who encourage others not to believe in God.

"I doubt he would possess people in a spectacular way like described in the Bible; sending them into fits of rage and insults. That would not serve his cause well. If the devil acted so dramatically today, people would be frightened. They would certainly believe in him. And even turn against him. He is much more subtle now.

"Times have changed, and the devil has become modern ... with the times. He would slowly, patiently and carefully influence his followers to do his work for him. To sow the seeds of doubt. Of despair. To create worries and trouble amongst people. 

"There are many temptations these days in the world. I need not give you examples, Georgina," he continued, "and the devil, I believe, would use his followers, those already susceptible to his wiles, to use these temptations to draw people away from God."

He noticed her wince. He continued, treading carefully.

"What prompted this question about the devil possessing people anyway?" he asked with a smile to deflate the seriousness of the question.

"Well ..." she hesitated, "there is this woman I know. I believe she is evil. I sometimes believe she is the devil himself. As you say, Father ... she often causes trouble. Starts an argument about people at work; or when we're in the pub. She lies also ... she tells you something about someone that is not true to make you change your mind about that person. Then she tells someone else something about you so they don't like you as well.

"As a result people don't know what to believe, but their relationships, which may have been friendly at first, are now all changed with suspicions and doubts and broken trust.

"She even came between a friend of mine and her fiancé. She tempted him and I believe she tried to take him to bed by performing a strip tease for him. When he resisted, she spread a rumour that they had an affair together.

"Now the couple have split up. I believe it was a lie, Father. He would not do such a thing. But his girlfriend is full of doubts and for now ... the wedding is off!"

He noticed her hands twisting the handkerchief she was holding. He felt that tact should take a holiday for a while and the direct approach was needed.

"Why have you called the wedding off?" he asked.

She started crying wiping her tears with the handkerchief. He waited patiently. Saying nothing but praying silently.

When she calmed down he asked, "Do you love him?"

She nodded.

"Do you trust him?" he asked again.

She nodded once more.

"Do you want to spend your life with him?"

She nodded wiping her eyes.

"Well, that's a good reason to call off the wedding," he said.

She laughed ... he smiled too.

Then he said, "Look Georgina ... I do not know if this woman you mention is possessed by the devil or not. Or whether she is influenced by the devil to sow discord and hopelessness around her. Yes ... some people do seem to do the devil's work for him. I cannot tell in this case.

"But I do know that she managed at least to come between you and your husband to be. Not enough it seems to make you stop loving him and trusting him. But she did cause some damage at least.

"I believe the whole of God's Creation is based on love. He loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us. When love is destroyed the devil is satisfied."

He waited for a few seconds of silence and then added:

"You have a decision to make ... and so has Kevin. Are you going to let that woman win? Are you going to let the devil win? Because, whether he influenced her or not, he is certainly happy at your crisis right now ... it is his first step to come back later and try to tempt you and Kevin some more.

"I think you should go and speak with Kevin. Tell him what you feel. Tell him what you told me. If needs be ... come both of you here and we'll discuss matters further."

She left with a lighter heart than when she first came to see Father Ignatius.

The wedding is in four months' time.