Monday, 19 February 2018

What's Wealth Worth?

Years ago, when I lived and worked in London, I often visited the most opulent parts of that city and saw riches and wealth you could not imagine. I often looked at shop windows and marvelled at what was available on offer and the prices asked for. I saw ladies handbags worth many thousands of pounds (£); necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, tie pins, cuff links and many items of jewellery worth a fortune. I remember once looking at a window and having to check closer the price of a particular gold watch. "Is that the real price?" I thought, "or have they put the decimal point in the wrong place?"

I was astounded at the prices they were asking for a variety of goods and gifts I never believed existed, never mind wanted or needed. I certainly would feel uncomfortable wearing a watch worth so much on my wrist.

I also walked by well-to-do luxury hotels and restaurants. Establishments with a "maitre- d'hotel" type person with an imposing uniform standing at the door and welcoming you in. I witnessed many chauffeur-driven posh cars and limousines stop by, and bejewelled ladies and rich men walk out and enter these buildings.

I recall once a business acquaintance of mine invited me at his "gentlemen's club". It was such a luxurious building with the man outside opening the door for you and welcoming you in. He looked at me suspiciously and would have probably thrown me in front of a London bus or taxi, if I were not with my friend.

Inside, the carpets were so thick and luxurious you sank in almost to your knees, (a bit of an exaggeration), and everywhere real oil paintings of portrays of various people who in the past were members of this place. Chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and statues everywhere, it was wall-to-wall ceiling-to-floor luxury all round.

We were led to a table and the sommelier asked us what we wanted to drink. My friend suggested the Châteaux Expensive, or perhaps the Châteaux Exorbitant; or if I wished, they had a selection of fine brandies favoured by emperors and kings from years gone by.

Also, in London I witnessed poverty in the extreme. I saw at corners and in side streets men in dirty tattered clothes huddling together, sitting on the ground, near air vents at the back of buildings and hotels trying to keep warm by absorbing whatever heat came out from the dirty black grille low on the wall.

I saw the homeless and the down-and-outs gathering in the parks late at night searching for a park bench on which to sleep. By their state of unconsciousness it was obvious they had been drinking cheap hard cider mixed with methylated spirit; a favourite brew leading to quick oblivion and a temporary respite from their world of want.

I saw the same scenes of poverty side-by-side with riches in Edinburgh where I visited and stayed many a time.

Even today, in the small town where I live, there are many homeless people spending the night outdoors in these terrible freezing winter weathers with rain, snow and winds as their only friends.

I just cannot understand how, in one of the world's richest countries, we have such poverty in Britain.

Little seems to have changed from the days when Christ taught about the rich man and poor Lazarus at his gate.

I leave you with a song sung by a friend of mine, Father Francis Maple. He writes a daily sermon HERE.

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the papers,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
And held loosely by his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news

So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She's no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her world in two carrier bags.


In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there all alone
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea lasts an hour
And he wanders home alone


And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
In a world that doesn't care


Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Temptations of Christ

It was Friday once again and Father Ignatius was at school with the youngsters at Catechism class. They had just read the passage in the Bible about Jesus in the desert and the temptations by Satan.

“Very strange story this …” said a young boy, “why didn’t Jesus just punch the devil on the nose and send him flying through the air?”

The girls laughed and some of the boys joined in.

“Yeh …” said one, “Krunch … Kerpaw … just like Batman would do …”

“Jesus would have won for sure …” said another.

The priest tapped the ruler gently on the desk to attract their attention and restore order. Once they’d settled down he said quietly,

“Actually … what Tom asked was a very intelligent question.”

“Wooo …” said a girl.

“That makes a change,” said a boy, “Tom having intelligence …”

Father Ignatius waited a few seconds and then went on,

“When Jesus came to earth He came as a human to share humanity with us so that we can accept Him and learn from Him. He was born a human baby, grew up a human and shared every emotion we share as human beings.

“Imagine for a minute if He came like a God, which He was of course, and still is.

“Imagine if He suddenly appeared like a superman or a batman or such other fictional heroes.

“With obvious powers like flying, super strength and the ability to do all the things we see in the movies. The people of the time would have been in total awe of Him and would have obeyed and followed Him just out of fear or wonderment.

“His very presence would have commanded universal obedience, respect and fear.

“Hardly free choice - is it? People would have followed and obeyed Him because He frightened them into it.”

The priest stopped again to let this image sink into the children’s consciousness.

“But instead,” he continued, “Jesus came on earth as a human.

“He humbled Himself as a baby born in poverty in a stable. Grew up with the poor and the down and outs … not as a king.

“As a human He felt every emotion that we feel. Sadness at the death of Lazarus … pity for the ill and poor … hunger pains when He fasted in the desert … and every other emotion we go through ... including temptations.

”In the desert Satan tempted Him with human temptations … If you are God's Son as you claim you are jump from this temple. Turn these stones into bread. Why don't you worship me? I can offer you much in return.

“I suspect that if chocolate had been invented at the time … Satan would have tempted Him with this too.”

Everyone laughed.

“And Satan tempts us too …” continued Father Ignatius gently, “not just with chocolates and other worldly temptations … but with distractions aimed at leading us away from God.

“Are there not times when, like a bright light in our head, we ask … Is this all real? Is there really a God out there? Jesus? Life after death? And all the other things we’re taught at Catechism or read in the Bible?

“What if it is all a big lie … and there is no God at all … or an after life?

“Now I hope these temptations don’t cross your minds too often. But they certainly will at some stage or other in your lives.

“Satan is always there; ready to put these and other thoughts in our minds to lead us astray.

“And you know something … The closer we come to God the harder the devil will work to lead us away from Him.

“There is no point in him tempting someone who doesn’t believe in God … is there? So he turns his attention to us.

”And that’s why Christ had to be tried by Satan. So that He could share our experiences as a human … but, most important; to be an example to us all on how to fight back these temptations.

“Through prayer!”

The priest paused once again.

“Every time He was tempted Jesus prayed to His Father for help.

”He was tempted yet again before He was arrested. He asked Himself and His Father … Can all this pass me by?

“Then, in prayer, He obeyed God and said; Not my will, but Yours.

”What a great example for us all to emulate! Not my will, but Yours.”


Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Scapegoat

It's in the Bible.
 Aaron ...
shall put both his hands
on the goat's head
and confess over it all the evils,
sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel,
and so transfer them to the goat's head.
Then the goat is to be driven off
into the desert
by a man appointed to do it.
The goat will carry all their sins away with him
into some uninhabited land.
LEVITICUS 16:21-22.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Rocking on a Train

Why is it that wherever I am, on a bus, a train, walking the dog in the park, or wherever, people always stop and have a chat with me. Complete strangers start a conversation about any subject and before long they tell me their life story. Do I have a face that says: " I am interested in you. Tell me about you"? Usually, I think I carry a face that says, "I am not in the very least interested in you. Please leave me alone and mind your own business." But somehow, this does not seem to translate with the people I meet and they tend to think I am interested in them.

The other day, for instance, I was sitting in an old fashioned train with separate compartments. My compartment was empty and I hoped I'd have some time during this long journey to finish reading "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. As you know, it is a big book requiring a lot of patience, total lack of interruptions, and a long train journey from here to nowhere just to spend the time alone reading. Another big book which I had planned to read once is "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. I started it once or twice, but never managed it all the way through. Eventually, I saw the film on TV with the subtitles on; so effectively I can say I have read it.

Anyway, I had settled down on the train with "Les Miserables" and as the train pulled out of the station a man came into the compartment and sat opposite me. He wore blue jeans and a white T shirt. He had long hair, a beard, and I noticed on his neck he had a tattoo of a guitar. I glanced up to see him, then looked down into my book pretending not to have noticed him.

After a moment or two of silence he said, "Rock and Roll is not dead!"

I ignored him. But this did not satisfy him. He repeated, "I said Rock and Roll is not dead, mate. Did you hear me?"

I looked up and replied, "I did not know he was unwell. I'm glad to hear he has pulled through."

Obviously, he did not understand my sarcasm because he continued, "Long live Rock and Roll!"

I said, "Yes ... I agree."

He then asked me, "Who is your favourite Rock and Roll singer mate?"

For a start, I do not like being referred to as mate. I am no anyone's mate, or friend. Especially someone whom I have never met before and hope never to meet again.

It is like those people who phone you at home trying to sell you something; I think they are called telemarketer. They inevitably start by calling me by my first name and asking me how I am, have I had a good day.

My first instinct is to say, "Mind your own business about how I am; and it was a good day until now that you have interrupted my peace!" But my politeness comes to the fore and I mumble something or other inane; and before I know it the telemarketer is telling me his life story and how happy he is now since he has fitted the new triple-glazing windows to his house, (or whatever else he happens to be selling), and would I not like to be in similar ecstatic bliss by buying the same product.

I usually end the conversation short by saying it is not a good time to discuss purchases because I am totally distraught having just buried my pet wasp which I found dead early this morning.

Anyway, back to my train of thoughts which have been temporarily de-railed by my own interruptions. This guy in my compartment asked me who is my favourite Rock and Roll singer. My mind went blank and for some reason I said: "Bing Crosby."

He looked at me blankly and asked, "Is he solo or with a band?"

I was caught in my own tangled web, so I said, "He used to be with Bob Hope."

"Never heard of him. What song is he famous for?"

"He sang White Christmas with Danny Kaye!" I said unconvincingly hoping this conversation would end.

"Did they do Woodstock?" asked my rail companion. 

"Probably one of the supporting acts," I said with some authority.

"Great man," he said, "rocking all over the world!"

I looked down at my French book, "Les Miserables" and said, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!"

He said, "You what?"

I smiled and said, "Status Quo!"

"That's right mate," he replied, "Rocking all over the world!" as he got up and left the train which had reached his destination.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

On the psychiatrist's couch

Patient: Please doctor, you've got to help me out.

Psychiatrist: Certainly. Which way did you come in?

Patient: Through the door just here.

Psychiatrist: Would you like to get out through the window instead?

Patient: No doctor ... I am having these recurring dreams.

Psychiatrist: Here ... lie on the couch. Take your shoes off first; I've just had the couch cleaned. My ... oh my ... your socks smell! Now then ... tell me, what seems to be troubling you.

Patient: I'd like to ask you first ... are you a Freudian psychiatrist or a Jung?

Psychiatrist: Neither ... I learnt psychiatry by watching Frazier Crane on TV.

Patient: Oh ... OK ... I keep having this same dream night after night.

Psychiatrist: Is it about your mother?

Patient: No.

Psychiatrist: Pity. I am good at dreams about one's mother. Oedipus and all that. Reminds me of my own Mom. She was so kind and sweet. I liked her you know. I wish I had met her before my Dad did ...

Patient: No doctor. The dreams are not about my mother.

Psychiatrist: Are they about my mother then? Do you know my mother?

Patient: No ... they are not about anyone's mother.

Psychiatrist: What are they about then? Because I am not very good at other dreams.

Patient: They are about this woman ...

Psychiatrist: Ah ... now we're getting somewhere. Tell me more. Whose mother is she? Have you got her phone number?

Patient: No ... no phone number. She is young, very beautiful, blonde hair, sexy voice ... and she keeps calling my name softly.

Psychiatrist: Is your name Softly?

Patient: No it isn't.

Psychiatrist: I see. Why does she call you Softly then? What does she say?

Patient: She keeps calling ... Felix ... Felix ... Felix ...

Psychiatrist: Felix? Is that your name?

Patient: No ... it's my cat's name.

Psychiatrist: Why did your mother name you after a cat?

Patient: She didn't name me after a cat. She named the cat after a cat.

Psychiatrist: What did your mother name you?

Patient: Whiskers!

Psychiatrist: What happened next? In your dream?

Patient: Then I am running down the street chased by ...

Psychiatrist: Your mother?

Patient: No ...

Psychiatrist: My mother?

Patient: No ... by ...

Psychiatrist: Felix's mother?

Patient: No doctor! Why has it always to be someone's mother?

Psychiatrist: Well, you know how it is? If it is not one thing it's the mother!

Patient: Well it isn't this time. In fact every time I am running down the street I am chased by a ... zebra!

Psychiatrist: A zebra? Are you sure?

Patient: Yes ... I got it in black and white ... etched on my mind. It's a zebra. It looks like a horse, but it is definitely a zebra.

Psychiatrist: You seem pretty sure.

Patient: So would you be if it chased you every night!

Psychiatrist: Why is this zebra chasing you every night?

Patient: I don't know. I thought you could help me interpret the dream.

Psychiatrist: I can't do that. I don't speak zebra. 

Patient: What does all this mean, doctor?

Psychiatrist: It means your time's up. See you next week. And bring your mother with you!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Did Hank done it this way?

I am not going to discuss the educational systems of today because every country has its own way of teaching and what works in one place may not work in another. Some countries have a vibrant home-schooling system whereas in others teaching is mostly at school, whether private or state run schools.

What I will mention is teaching in the good old days when I was but a young lad.

I remember back then, when I was a pupil in our school there was a pretty little girl whom I was very fond of. Her name was Mary and she had a little lamb. His fleece was white as snow. The lamb came to school with her every day. One slice at a time in her sandwich.

There was also a boy called Jack. He loved beans. Every day at school lunch he had beans. I used to wonder whether, if he ate a magic bean, it would grow into a stalk and come out of his bottom and raise him to the sky.

There was also a girl with long blonde hair. We used to watch it blow in the wind and we used to run and catch it before it got entangled in the bushes. We called her Goldilocks. Once she said that the school bench was too hard to sit on. The teacher told her to stop being pretentious.

Anyway ... as I was about to say before my thoughts interrupted me ... when I was a little boy at school I learnt to write. But sadly not to read. I just wrote and wrote because our teacher told us to.

We had to write all sort of stories every day. The teacher told us to write about things we did at home or on holidays. Things like what our parents do privately at home, what they say, their political allegiances, what they did for a living and so on.

I remember writing that mom entertained people for a living. She used to sell tickets at the local cinema.

I wrote that dad worked for a while in the museum. One day he took our dog to work with him and the dog ate the dinosaurs leg bone. It was a very old dinosaur skeleton. Two million years and six months and thirteen days. I knew the age precisely because when dad started working at the museum the dinosaur was two million years old. And dad had been there for six months and thirteen days. 

I wrote that one year for a holiday we went to Disneyland. Pluto did a wee on dad's leg. There were Mickey and Minnie Mouse there. I wondered if they were related because they had the same surname. I wrote that Donald Duck in the cartoons always wore a jacket and a hat but no trousers; but when he came out of the bath he had a towel round his waist. Very odd, I thought.

Anyway ... So it came to pass that with all this writing at school I got more and more interested in writing rather than reading. Eventually, many years later, I ended up writing books which to this day I have never read.

I think this is the most convoluted and long-winded way for me to advertise my books. But hey ... they are worth reading ... or so I am told!

You can find out more about them HERE. And HERE. And HERE.

Each HERE is different. Try them all. Just like Hank did.

Saturday, 10 February 2018



And yet
we managed
to discuss, debate and re-interpret
each of the 
Ten Commandments
to suit our
selfish interests.
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