Friday, 30 September 2016

At Peter's Gate

Saint Peter sat at his computer, cleaned his spectacles, scratched his beard, tapped on the keyboard and shouted "NEXT!"

A diminutive little man came in trembling in hesitation and carrying his copy of the Catechism.

"Oh not another Catholic are you?" said the Saint frowning at him.

"Yes Sir ... your Sainthood ..." mumbled the little man.

"I thougth so as soon as I saw your Catechism," continued Saint Peter, "yet another Catholic trying to get in here."

"Is there a quota, Sir?" asked the man fearing the worst.

"No, of course not!" replied the Saint raising his voice a little, "there is no quota as such. Everyone enters Heaven on his merit. But Catholics can be ... ehm ... let me explain. Sit down over there for a minute.

"Now tell me. What do you understand about Vatican II?"

The man felt his throat and mouth go dry simultaneously. He tried to talk but no words would come out. He gulped once or twice and then said, "I have been married for over 25 years and I still don't understand my wife. How can I understand Vatican II?"

The Saint smiled, "precisely!" he cried, "precisely!"

"You see ..." he continued, "down there on earth there are many Catholics still arguing about Vatican II. What it meant and what it did.

"Jesus and I look down on them and smile at all their debates. They argue about which Form of Mass is better and more valid. Whether the priest should face the altar or the congregation. Whether it is OK to sing in Latin, or have guitars in church or female altar servers!

"Phooey ... that's what I say ... Phooey.

"Our Lord, my Master, said it plainly enough. Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do.

"In other words people should love God with all their might and love one another as Jesus loved them. His sacrifice on the Cross was not a prelude to endless debates amongst His followers about the technicalities of religion.

"Deeds ... action ... compassion and love. That's what God wants of people. Not sanctimonious Pharisees debating the finer points of religion." 

The Saint scratched his beard again.

"Don't misunderstand me ... many of these eternal debaters are good at heart really. They do good in life and many find a welcome in Heaven. But oh ... their endless display of knowledge makes me reach out for the headache tablets!"

The small man smiled feebly and said nothing, grateful that he never had the intellect to understand let alone debate the many intricacies of religion.

Saint Peter tapped at the computer keyboard and stared at the monitor for a while.

"I read here that you've been a good man ... trying your best as you got on in life," he said finally, 

"Your wife has been quite a handful I see. I understand now your earlier comment about not understanding her ways," he chuckled.

"She misses you ... you know. She means well and she appreciates you more now that you're gone."

The man wiped his eye with the back of his sleeve.

"Yep ... all is in order," declared the Saint, "you can come in. But take my advice. Always carry with you a tin of sardines in your pocket. Some Catholics in here still insist on eating fish on Fridays.They keep asking me if I have a haddock. I tell them that their constant chatter gives me a haddock. That's why I carry these haddock pills with me all the time. Anyway ... I gave up fishing long ago."

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

True Forgiveness

 Someone asked me the other day – I have forgiven but cannot forget the pain and hurt caused to me. Does that mean I’ve not really forgiven?

Let’s examine un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness is when we harbor thoughts of revenge, retribution and punishment … when we are angry, and full of hate, ill-will, hostility and ill-feelings towards those who hurt us.

If none of these feelings are within us – then we have truly forgiven. As best we can, we have truly forgiven.

Of course, the memory of the hurt and pain caused to us will remain. Perhaps forever. But as long as the memories are not accompanied by feelings of ill-will, then we have forgiven. Every time we remember the hurt should be an opportunity to forgive yet again.

The mind may not forget but the heart forgives.

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18: 21-22

Monday, 26 September 2016

Where's My Willy Gone?

For the last few days we've had a dilemma on our hands in the family. It was and still is such a big dilemma that it is on all our collective hands.

My Willy, also known as Speedy, went missing. We looked everywhere and could not find him. Not in the garden, where he normally resides. Not in any neighbours' gardens, because we asked them. Not in the house, because he is never allowed inside; although we did search the house just in case. Not in the garage, not in the car, or indeed not anywhere. Willy went missing.

I knew my Willy was not hiding in some orifice or corner somewhere because he is totally claustrophobic. He is the only tortoise I know who gets really stressed about going back into his own shell. He hibernates in winter with his head and legs hanging out of his natural home. He prefers the outdoors. We have to wrap his head in a small scarf we've knitted for him and put his legs in home-made socks to keep him warm.

We've had him for two years or so and he shares the garden with a rabbit. They often lunch together on a leaf or two of lettuce and they wander about always under the watchful eye of someone in case they get throught the hedge to the neighbour's garden. At night they are put in their cage for safety. Willy is always out in the garden early in the morning jumping and running around with his friend the rabbit.

Obviously what happened is that one day last week, or should I say one evening last week, we forgot to put them in the cage for the night. It happened before with no great problem. The next morning they were both there waiting to be fed. But this time, the rabbit was there, but not Willy. He had vanished.

Being a tortoise, we did not think he'd gone very far. We searched everywhere as already mentioned and we could not find him. We printed leaflets with his photo, (we could have used a photo where he is smiling, but never mind), and then we pinned the leaflets to trees and lamposts in our area. We posted leaflets in neighbours houses asking them if they'd seen Willy; but to no avail. No one had seen him.

Then yesterday he was found. He was up a tree in our garden. There he was. Sitting on a branch some twenty feet up from the ground. Totally unperturbed and happy with his surroundings.

How did he get up there? I thought. Tortoises don't usually climb trees do they? More to the point, how do we get him down? It's certainly not something I'd want to do, climbing all the way up there.

Perhaps if we called him down and we all held a large sheet into which he would fall safely? No use. He is as deaf as a deaf bat ... sorry, only simile I could think of on the spur of the moment.

I phoned the pet shop where we normally buy the lettuce leaves to feed him and the rabbit. The man there told me that perhaps he took fright at something he saw and ran up the tree. Perhaps he saw someone with face cream and hair in curlers and that was enough to send him into a total panic. Now I'll admit that once or twice I may have ventured in the garden with my skin softening and conditioning cream on, and a curler or two in my hair; but that would not have frightened Willy, surely? Anyway, how did the man in the pet shop know I use face cream?

Eventually, one of our neighbours who is not afraid of heights came round and brought Willy safely down to terra firma. You should have seen him waggling his tail and jumping at our legs in delight. I mean Willy the tortoise was jumping at our legs, not the neighbour who brought him down! The rabbit was so happy to see Willy that they chased each other round the garden as they often do when playing. The neighbour was so delighted that he ran round chasing them also.

Totally exhausted, we put them both in their cage with an extra lettuce leaf each to celebrate.

We still don't know how Willy got up the tree. Any ideas?

Personally, I think he was over enthusiastic on the trampoline and he bounced himself so high that he landed on the branch twenty feet up.
This is me and our neighbour on the trampoline celebrating the return of Willy the tortoise.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Saint Peter's Assistant

You have died ... and you find yourself in Heaven's Reception Room. There, sitting at the computer is Saint Peter searching for your details and information. Standing behind him is a figure pointing at you.

You look carefully and, despite the shroud covering the figure, you recognise who it is; and your heart misses a beat and sinks to your stomach.

There pointing at you is your arch-enemy. You did not even know the person is dead. You had an almighty argument years ago and you parted company the greatest of enemies. You have never met since. What is that person doing here and pointing at you accusingly.

Saint Peter looks up from his computer and says: "Meet my assistant. You two have not met for sometime!"

Your heart misses another beat and sinks even lower to your feet. If your arch-enemy is here there's no point in going on with the preliminaries of reception to this place. He will have told Saint Peter all about you. You might as well go down without a parachute.

"My assistant has something to tell you," continues Saint Peter.

Your arch-enemy speaks. "I am so sorry I have hurt you. I never sought forgiveness nor cared much for it. Please forgive me."

There's a lump in your throat. Your heart gives up in despair unable to go any lower.

Saint Peter explains. "My assistant here had an opportunity to examine his conscience before he died. He deeply regretted the way he lived and asked God's forgiveness. That's why he is here. When he heard of your arrival he asked if he could seek your forgiveness too. Welcome to Heaven."


If you have wronged someone, seek forgiveness now. You may not get the opportunity before you die. And you may not meet again in the other life. That is unless you both meet at a place where it does not matter whether we forgive or not! 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Don't cold-call me ... I'm in the shower

I don't know if you have cold-callers where you live. These are people who ring your doorbell at the most inopportune time and try to sell you something or other which you don't need and don't want. Door-to-door salesmen mainly.

Now, I have mixed feelings about these salesmen. I don't like them because they always call when I am alone in the house doing something important. Like painting the ceiling or cooking an omelette, of painting an omelette and cooking the ceiling. Something which I find equally fascinating. Have you ever been fascinated? As a child, I was fascinated in the arm with a needle. As a grown up, I was fascinated on the bottom by a nurse. I've always been fascinated by a nurse's bottom; but that's another story for another day.

Those door-to-door salesmen can be very persistent, you know. As I was saying before I was fascinated by the pretty nurse. They ring the bell over and over again making our dog mad barking and running all around the house warning me of an intruder. He is good this way, which means I have to stop what I'm doing and answer the door.

But my dislike for salesmen is tempered by the fact that years ago I too used to be such a salesman. I was a door-to-door salesman selling doors to people. I had three sample doors strapped on my back and a small bag with other models and samples of locks, hinges, keys and other paraphernalia. 

I once knocked on a door, a real one, not the one on my back. Are you paying attention you lot, or just fascinated? 

I knocked on a door and a man wearing nothing but a towel round his waist opened. He had obviously been in the shower as I knocked on his door.

I asked him if he wanted to buy a door, and he told me he already had more than one. I put the case I was carrying down on the ground and as I bent forwards to do this the doors strapped to my back hit the man hard on the forehead. He fell backwards like a boxer who'd been knocked down for the count; and in falling he dropped (or threw in) the towel - not a pretty sight!!!

What was I to do in this situation? Help stem the bleeding on his forehead with the towel; or cover his modesty bits with it?

As I was thinking what to do a huge Alsatian dog came running and barking out of the house.

I picked up my case, turned round and ran as fast as I could with the dog jumping at the doors on my back as if he wanted to open and enter an imaginary room. He was too stupid to go for my legs. Pretty soon, he got tired of running and returned back to his master, whom I could see standing up in his doorway, minus the towel, and waving his fist in the air. I think he was saying "Goodbye!"

Anyway, all this is leading to a door-to-door salesman who visited us the other day. That is despite our area being a "No Cold Caller" area. Some well to do areas are so designated by the Authorities prohibiting salesmen from calling on you unannounced.

So this salesman was ignoring the law to start with. What is more odd was his opening line.

"Good morning sir," he said, "do you ever think about death?"

I nearly replied that I'm thinking of his death right now, seeing that he interrupted me. But I said nothing.

He continued: "I am Gilbert D Funct and I represent Pets In Peace, a new service provider just established in your town, and our aim is to share and ease your pain when your beloved pet departs this vale of tears.”

“Hein?” said I.

“PIP … that’s our initials. Pets In Peace will be there to provide you with a casket in which to place the remains of your dearly departed pet. We have caskets in all sizes for goldfish, budgies, hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs and any other animal or insect which may share your home as a member of your family. All caskets are made to the highest standard of professional workmanship in mahogany, oak, elm, cedar wood and pine. And they are lined in satin or silk in a variety of colours such as white, black, and velvet being the most popular.”

“I see …” I said, and before I could tell him I’m not interested Gilbert D Funct went on.

“Furthermore, sir, as part of our service we would conduct a solemn ceremony of whatever religious belief you desire, and then we would bury the casket containing the remains of your family pet on your property so you can visit him whenever you wish.”

“What if I lived in an apartment!” I interrupted. “Would you bury the pet under the carpet?”

That certainly stopped him.

“Oh …” he said, “fortunately you live in a lovely house with surrounding gardens; but if you do not wish your pet buried here we have access to a pet cemetery.”

I took the initiative and asked him: “We had planned to flush the goldfish down the toilet … you know … naval burial and all that. Are your caskets water soluble?”

“Er … no … I don’t believe so …” mumbled Gilbert, obviously unaware of my sarcasm.

“And then there’s the cat,” I continued, having gained the upper-hand in this sales pitch, “he’d be too big to flush down the toilet. I’ve often wondered how we’d dispose of him after he’s used up his nine lives …”

“Are you familiar with cremation?” asked Gilbert gaining an advantage point.

“My wife is expert at that … judging from her many Sunday roasts! Perhaps she could do the same to the cat!”

At this point, as luck would have it, she came in the house from one of her shopping trips.

“This is for you,” I said standing aside, “this gentleman has an idea on how to deal with our cat when we're away on holiday!" and I quickly rushed to the pub.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Hilda, Kenneth and Robert - Ménages à trois

I received an unexpected phone call from a colleague at work who had retired a year ago. She’s a pleasant acquaintance rather than a friend as such and in conversation she said that her husband had passed away and that she had moved to a two-hundred years old thatched roof cottage out in the country.

She was her usual jovial self on the phone and, somewhat surprisingly, she invited me to visit her for the day so we could catch-up on old times.

I was not that keen on the idea, but she insisted and I was persuaded to go and see Hilda.

She was her usual bubbly self as we sat down to tea and biscuits reminiscing about work. After she retired she left the city and moved with her husband to the countryside and then he died a few months later.

I nodded politely and made small talk wandering why she had insisted on this visit and then it came … right out of the blue.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked. “You know … you having beliefs and all that? Are there ghosts do you think?”

Before I could answer she went on “The reason I ask is because I believe this house is haunted. I wanted to speak to someone about it and then I remembered you from work.”

“What makes you think the house is haunted?” I asked, “Have you seen anything?”

“Not seen as such,” she replied, “but I heard him … Robert … he’s often screeching especially at night.”

“Robert …” I repeated politely and then after a short pause I asked “is Robert your husband?”

“Oh no …” she laughed, “my husband was called Kenneth. He did not die here. He died in hospital. And he’s far too lazy to haunt me! He was so lazy that if he ever fainted he’d need help to get him to the ground” she giggled.

“I see …” I said still not seeing where all this was leading to. “So Robert must have lived in this old cottage centuries ago?”

“No … no …” she giggled again, “He lived here with us. Robert died here four weeks ago and a few days later his ghost started haunting the place!”

My mind started doing somersaults wandering who Robert was. Was he a lodger? A boy-friend? Living with her and her husband? How did he die? Was it a tragic accident? Or something more sinister?

She interrupted my train of thoughts and totally derailed it by declaring “Robert was my parrot!”

“Parrot?” I repeated.

“Yes … he was my parrot. I got up one morning and found him off his perch. He was lying on his back on the ground with his feet pointing upwards as stiff as a board. I buried him in the garden!”

“And you believe a parrot is haunting this house?” I asked tentatively not believing I’d ever ask such a question.

“No doubt about it … I hear him screeching at night when I’m in bed. I think he’s frightened when I put on my face cream and have my hair in curlers … he’s never seen me like that when he was alive!”

I imagined her in face cream and curlers and suppressed a smile crossing my legs tightly for extra security. I suppose the sight of a woman in cream and curlers would frighten the most threatening of ghosts.

“Well …” I hesitated, “I’ve heard of people seeing ghosts but never the ghost of a parrot before!”

“I’ve not seen him,” she said, “only heard him. I’ve asked a ghost exorcist to come today. That’s why I asked you here.”

About an hour later a man in his fifties turned up carrying a small suitcase.

We sat in the main front room and he brought out a small metal plate explaining that first he needed to incense the place. He lit a few pieces of charcoal on the plate and then added what seemed to me an excess of incense.

There was smoke everywhere; so much so that we could not breathe or even see each other, and then we heard the screeching sound … it was the smoke alarms in the corridor and the kitchen which set off simultaneously.

The three of us stood up coughing and wheezing and dancing as we waved handkerchiefs and newspapers around the smoke alarms trying to dispel the smoke and silence the deafening sound.

Eventually all was quiet again and the man asked Hilda about the ghost.

“His name is Robert” she said, “he’s lived with me for 8 years!”

“Was he your husband?” asked the exorcist cum smoke-maker.

“No … my husband was called Kenneth” she replied “Robert has always been very dear to me and I’ve always loved him” she continued in all innocence not realizing how confusing her answers were.

“Can you describe him for me?” asked the ghost hunter “so that I can visualize him as I send him on his way …”

“He was green, about 11 inches tall and he had a wonderful personality.”

The man looked at her in total surprise as I stifled a guffaw and crossed my legs even more tightly; wishing I did not have that second cup of tea.

“I … I … don’t understand” he said hesitantly “green and only 11 inches tall?”

“Yes … our parrot had such a lovely personality. Even though he could not talk!” she explained with a smile.

“A parrot?” he mumbled, “do you mean to say that the ghost is a parrot?”

“Yes … I thought you knew”.

A cold sweat suddenly appeared on his forehead. He stood up and said “You didn’t tell me … I have to go … I have a morbid fear of parrots, all birds in fact … chicken especially. It’s their vicious beaks … I have nightmares about them!”

“But this isn’t a real bird” I said flippantly, “it can’t harm you, it’s a ghost bird!”

“They’re all the same … dead or alive … all birds have beaks … sharp ones. I was once chased by a turkey you know!” he continued as he gathered his paraphernalia in his suitcase.

“What am I to do?” she asked me after the man had gone “how am I to get rid of Robert’s ghost?”

“I thing the ghost has flown away after him to haunt him” I replied jokingly, “you’ll be OK now.”

As far as I know she has not been disturbed with screeching noises since.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Face to Face with St Peter

St Peter opened the Gates of Heaven one morning to find an elderly woman waiting there.

“Ah …” he said, “I wasn’t expecting you so early. Normally guests start arriving at about mid-morning. Anyway … what is your name?”

The woman gave her name and the old Saint put on his reading glasses and started typing on his computer. Moments later her details came up on the screen.

“Aha … you’ve had a tough life I see … I’m sorry to read all about it. You overcame many trials and tribulations and suffered many pains and heartaches …”

The woman smiled feebly.

“You were generally very kind too … and you prayed a lot. Often reciting the Rosary on your knees! I bet you have calloused knees …” he laughed.

She blushed a little and said nothing.

He tapped at the keyboard a few times and then added, “generous too … you gave to the poor as much as you could spare …”

She looked down to the ground and said nothing.

“Oh … Oh …” he said with a frown, “what’s this I read here? It is written in red; and underlined too …

“For almost a lifetime you have not forgiven someone … why is that?”

She trembled a little and muttered, “That person hurt me very badly …”

“That’s true,” said the Saint, “it says so here on my computer …”

“And the hurt never went away …” added the old lady trying to justify her actions, “every time I remembered I hurt once again …”

“Yes I know …” interrupted St Peter, “it says so here …”

“And that person never asked for my forgiveness either …” continued the old lady sensing a reprieve.

“The thing is …” interrupted the Saint once again, “you never actually wanted to forgive did you? You held on to the hurt as a crutch which in time became a stick to beat that person with … not literally, but certainly in your mind.

“Every time you remembered the hurt you felt ill-will towards that person. Even though they may not have asked for forgiveness you would not have granted forgiveness if asked. In fact their lack of asking forgiveness itself became an instrument of growth for your crutches and the stick to beat that person with.”

She trembled, fearing the worst, and said nothing.

“Yet … at all times, you recited Our Lord’s own words ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us’ and did not mean a word you said.

“He is very hurt by that!” admonished the Saint as gently as he could, “Our Lord has often been misquoted and this short phrase I fear is the most common misquotation of all.”

At this the old lady began weeping uncontrollably.

“Our Lord, my Master, is very forgiving indeed …” continued St Peter, “I know that from personal experience. Also on the Cross He forgave his oppressors. And a few days later He forgave Thomas too.

“As for the memories … of course He still has them. Every time He looks at the scars on His hands and feet, and on His side, the memories come back to Him as painful and raw as if it were yesterday. And every time He remembers, He forgives once again!”

She wiped her eyes with her veil and continued weeping.

The Saint switched off his computer and shut the Gates behind him as he re-entered Heaven.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Observing Life

As I go through life I normally look around me at the absurdities that surround us which make life such a wonderful tapestry of nut-cases and stupidity. Modern life is moving so fast that a lot of it doesn't make sense anymore.

Now I'm a reasonable man and never do anything that others might consider odd or unusual. Yet I notice that all around me people and society are acting in a most peculiar way.

Let me give you some examples, and hopefully, you will comment your views and tell me whether it is me who is absurd and a nut-case; or is it all the others.

Are you and I, dear reader, the only sane ones on this planet? I ask myself not sure whether there's anyone reading this or not.

A few days ago I had to go to the hospital. They were checking whether my sense of humour was still intact.

They have a new system there to register people as they come in. It's a lovely touch-screen monitor which invites you to touch the month you were born at, then touch the date, then the first letter of your surname. Having done this the screen welcomed me to my appointment and said that I would wait for 19 minutes before I'd be seen.

Why 19 minutes? I thought.

Why not 20 or 15? Why be so precise?

The precision of their prediction made me look at my watch and then go in the waiting-room. It took precisely 37.5 minutes before I was seen. So, whoever programmed that monitor not only could not predict throughput of patients properly, but also drew attention to a delay which would not have been noticed had they not drawn attention to it. Why not say: You will be seen soon, and leave it at that?

The waiting-room had about a dozen people waiting their turns to be seen. All of them, except one, was intently looking at their smart-phones. The exception was looking at a Kindle, so she was probably reading a book. But what did all the others find so fascinating in their smart-phones? Were they all reading their texts? Sending texts? Playing computer games? Or what? How many texts do people send and receive every day? What is there new in life that needs to be said in texts which was not said before smart-phones were invented? Suddenly we have a new means of communications and the world seems to be communicating with each other by saying nothing. Some smart-phone packages in the UK give you 1000 FREE texts a month. Can you imagine that? 1000 a month. That's about 30 texts a day. How many friends do people have to send them 30 texts a day?

A person I know has over 1000 "friends" on Facebook. That's more "friends" than real people whom I have met in my entire life!

I looked from the corner of my eye at the man sitting beside me in the waiting-room. He was looking at photos on his phone. He was flicking from one photo to another. Hundreds of them.

Talking of flicking ... I noticed that the woman with a Kindle licked her finger every time she changed pages on her Kindle tablet. New technology but old habits, I suppose.

Not to be out-done I picked up a book which was lying about and stared at the front cover. Every now and then I punched the book with my finger as one would do with a tablet or smart-phone. This un-nerved the other people in the waiting-room as they did not understand what I was doing. The guy next to me stopped looking at his photos and moved a few seats away.

Anyway, back to looking surreptitiously from the corner of your eyes. Wouldn't it be great if we all had two more eyes on each side of our heads by our ears? Just like a chicken? That way we could look sideways without turning our heads.

Personally, I'd prefer an extra mouth at the top of my head. That way I could put a sandwich under my hat and eat it without anyone noticing.

The waiting-room had plenty of notices around the wall. One of them said: BREAST FEEDING WELCOME HERE.

Now I don't know how you feel about that? Would you breastfeed in public?

Here in the UK there's a continuous debate going on about this subject. Every so often it surfaces when a woman tries to breastfeed in a restaurant, or waiting-room and she is told to move to the toilet or some other room out of sight. People are vehemently divided on the issue. Some feel it is the right of any mother to breast feed wherever she wants; others think it is a private matter best left out of sight.

About a year ago I was on a busy train and in front of me was a woman wearing a tank-top. Like in the photo below:

She had a small baby with her and when it started crying she pulled down her top revealing both breasts and then breast fed the baby. I did not know where to look - well, I did really; but you know what I mean.

Another thing that I've observed in life which annoys me no end, I don't know why, is men wearing their caps back to front. Like this:
Why do men wear their caps like that? The other day I had a workman doing some work at home. It was indoors all the time, so there was no need for a cap, unless he was concerned the electric lights would give him sunburn. Yet, he wore his cap back to front all day whilst doing his work. It annoyed me no end. I can't explain why. After he left, in order to face my own demons regarding this, I wore my trousers and my shirt back to front for the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, later on that day I fell off a ladder as I was pruning a tree. When the ambulance men came they nearly killed me trying to turn my head all the way round to match my trousers and shirt !!!

Oh ... another thing that annoys me with modern society is when you phone a large organisation and they keep you hanging on the phone. And it's not free - sometimes you pay a premium rate on those calls. They say: "Your call is important to us. You will be connected soon. You are number 998 in the queue. Due to excessive customer calls we are experiencing a delay on this service.

Yeah right ... Why can't they get more staff if there's such a long queue of customers?

And what's worse is when they play some dirge music whilst you're waiting. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you phoned say a Funeral Undertaker Business and they played "Rock Around The Clock"? Or if you rang a church and they played "I'm a believer" by The Monkees?

And what's worse than worse is when they tell you: Press 1 if you are a new customer. Press 2 if you want to renew your insurance policy. Press 3 if you want to change your insurance policy ... Press 79 if you're fed up waiting and wish to kill yourself !!!

Can you imagine if Catholic Churches had their message saying: Press 1 if you want to confess menial, small, white sins. Press 2 if your sins are a little more serious. Press 3 if your sins are of a violent or sexual nature. Press 4 if you are swearing under your breath right now ...

Talking of modern technology. Did you know that our church allows you to make regular monthly donations by standing order from your bank account to theirs? So there's no need to give money on Sunday when the collection plate comes round. I find it embarrassing telling the man I have nothing for the collection plate when he comes round. I'm even more embarrassed since I don't donate by bank standing order either.

What I do, in my mind, is that I start with a donation of £x; and every minute the priest goes on with his sermon more than 10 minutes I deduct a sum of money from my potential donation. So far the priest owes me £15.67

In summary, these were my observations of a crazy world we live in. I'd be glad if you'd comment on some or all of my observations. Or mention an observation of your own. Let's get talking.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Elephant Story

Once upon a time there was an explorer in the jungle doing what explorers normally do … exploring. I believe he was writing a book about something or other … various toppings for pizza I think, and he was out in the jungle searching for inspiration … anyway … it doesn’t really matter what he was there for. The fact of the matter is that this explorer was out in the jungle and he came face to face with an elephant.

Well … not quite face to face … he, being a short man and the elephant being as big as an … elephant!

Oh … I forgot to tell you. This short explorer had previously been a doctor. Being so short he became a knee specialist since this is as far as he could reach.

So … to cut a long story short he became and explorer and here he was face to … body … with an elephant.

The elephant was lying on its side with its trunk in the air and flapping its ears … well, he was flapping one ear really, because the other one was under his head as he lay there on his side.

The short explorer also noticed that the poor creature was bleeding from its front paw … or foot, I suppose. Do elephants have paws? It’s not a foot either is it? Not like a human foot. Anyway … let’s get on with the story. This is taking longer than I thought!

The short explorer got nearer to the elephant and noticed a big thorn stuck there at the bottom of the elephant’s foot.

“Aha” … he thought, “I remember reading a story about a man who found a thorn in an animal’s paw … it was a lion I think. Then the man took the thorn out and the lion and he became friends. They met again many years later and the lion recognized him and befriended him all over again!”

Cheered by this happy story the man approached the elephant ever so slowly and using a pair of pliers which he happened to have on him …

All right … don’t ask me why a short explorer in the jungle happened to have a pair of pliers on him. Maybe he had been a dentist and this was a tool he had to extract teeth … after he gave up being a knee specialist.

To continue … using the pliers he extracted the thorn from the elephant’s foot.

The elephant was so relieved! He stood up at once and let out a big trumpet sound to say thank you and ran away happily in the jungle.

Many years later the same short explorer was visiting a zoo whilst on holiday and would you believe it … there in the elephant’s enclosure was a majestically big elephant.

The explorer looked up at the elephant. He was still short that’s why he looked up. And the elephant looked down at the man.

Their eyes met each other … not literally, just a figure of speech to say they looked at each other.

The elephant moved slowly forward and put his trunk through the big metal bars of the enclosure and ever so gently with his trunk he caressed the explorer’s head. The short man smiled. A tear ran down the elephant’s eyes as he continued caressing the explorer.

Then suddenly the elephant wrapped its trunk round the explorer’s neck and started to strangle him tightly until he was blue in the face. Luckily the zoo-keepers managed to free the explorer before he was killed.

Why did the elephant behave this way? You may ask.

The answer is simple.

It was not the same elephant!

And the moral of the story is:  If you're ever in the jungle and you meet an elephant in distress; just ignore him. Chances are you'll never meet again anyway.


Another moral to the story:
Not everyone who says he’s a Christian is necessarily so. That's the real elephant in the room.

Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do. Matthew 7:21

Monday, 12 September 2016


Reflections and prayers for those special times in our lives. 
Please click HERE.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

I cannot forgive

Father Ignatius got an unexpected confession when sitting in his confessional on Saturday. The unknown voice on the other side of the small window of the wooden confessional said clearly “Father, I cannot forgive!”

The priest waited a second or two before asking “Have you tried to forgive?”

“Yes Father,” said the voice, “I’ve tried and tried and I cannot forgive. I don’t see the point of being here right now. Even if you absolve me, I just cannot forgive!”

Father Ignatius said a quick silent prayer, as he often did when he needed Divine help, and then said “Why don’t you wait in church for a while. After all confessions are over, perhaps we can have a chat and discuss this a bit more!”

When confessions had finished the priest got out of his confessional to find a well-dressed man in a pin-striped suit sitting alone at the front of the church, just by the statue of the Virgin Mary. The very place where Father Ignatius often sits to recite the Rosary.
The priest approached him and asked “Are you waiting to see me?”

Moments later the two men were sitting in the sacristy. The man started “Father, you don’t know me. I don’t come to this church …”

“There is no need to know you …” interrupted Father Ignatius, “feel free to tell me what’s on your mind!”

The man smiled and continued “I’ve had a health scare … the doctors aren’t happy with my condition.

“I’ve come here to make my peace with God, but I just can’t. It got to the point where I cannot say the Lord’s Prayer because of that bit about forgiving others’ sins.”

The priest nodded encouragingly and said nothing.

“Some years ago we had a family dispute,” said the man, “As disputes go this was really a big one … and as you can imagine we were all at fault. Everyone took entrenched positions and every one was of course in the right … as we all thought at the time.

“The result of this is that one individual hurt someone close to me very badly … so badly that it is still affecting their life even now. That individual has now moved on and we no longer communicate. But I cannot forgive the hurt done to my close relative.

“I was hurt too … and somehow I think I can forgive that. I was just as guilty as anyone else I suppose. But I just cannot forgive the hurt that was done, and is still being done, to my close relative who was innocent and not involved in the dispute!”

The man stopped talking. His clenched fists on either side of his body betrayed long-held pent-up anger and frustration.

Once again the priest asked for Divine inspiration in a silent prayer for this stranger and his family.

“Look at that painting on the wall …” he said eventually, “It depicts the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of her Son just as He has been brought down from the Cross.

“Moments earlier He was hanging up there in agony as He breathed His last at the hands of His enemies.

“Moments earlier he had asked His Father to forgive His enemies. I don’t know how He did it. I would probably not have forgiven them had all this happened to me. But He did forgive them. That’s very important.

“Now look at Mary’s face. Look at the pain still in her heart, having witnessed this most cruel of deaths to her innocent Son. She gave birth to Him and raised Him from a baby to the Divine man He became. And now here He is, dead in her arms. Can you imagine the agony of this mother at this particular moment in her life?

“Do you think she forgave the people who did all this? The Pharisees and Sadducees, the Romans and all the enemies of Christ?

“I suppose at the time this painting depicts she probably did not forgive them. We have no way of knowing of course. I’m only guessing. How can a loving mother forgive what has been done to her Son when emotions are still raw and the pain at its most intense?

“But I’m sure that with time she did forgive them. Especially when she saw her Son rise again in Glory.”

The priest stopped for a while, as he often did, to accentuate what he had just said.

“You still hurt …” continued Father Ignatius, “not so much for yourself, but for your close relative who still suffers the wrong done to him or her.

“You know … this is good.

“It is good that you still hurt. It shows a generosity of spirit and a love towards your close relative that is Christ-like.

“I believe that when Jesus met the poor, the destitute, the lame, the blind, deaf, dumb and all those who were ill … even the dead and their grieving relatives. He suffered with them. He felt their pain and their agonies. He took pity on them and He made them better.

“Note that on every occasion … on every occasion … He approached the individual on a personal basis and spoke to them and helped them as individuals.

“He was all powerful. He could have clicked his fingers and all the sick people in the crowd would have been healed.

“But He did not do that. He stopped and approached the blind man shouting His name in the crowd. He talked to the woman who dared touch His gown to be healed.

“Your love for that close relative of yours is portrayed in the way you still carry their hurt. Even though you may not be aware of it!”

The man brought his hand to his eyes pretending to wipe some imaginary dust from his eye lid.

The priest continued “And now … what do we do with the situation regarding your lack of forgiveness towards the person who caused the hurt?”

The man sat straight in his chair.

“In difficult situations I always delegate upwards!” said the priest with a smile. “I ask God for help. I tell Him honestly how I feel and ask for His help and guidance.

“Tell God how you feel about the situation … just as you told me. Tell him that you find it difficult to forgive and ask Christ’s help, and Mother Mary’s too.

“And when you feel the resentment and anger towards that person who created all this hurt, why not pray for them?

“Just like Jesus, ask God to forgive them. Tell him you still feel the pain and you would ask Him to forgive them instead. Hold these people up to God.

“The hurt in your heart may never go away; but let it be an opportunity, every time it surfaces, to hand over these people to God and to ask for His forgiveness.”

The man brought his hand to his eye once again and said “It’s very dry in this room … it must be the air-conditioning!”

“I’m sure it is …” replied the priest, “now go in peace and consider yourself absolved.”

Friday, 9 September 2016

Pragmatic Ignatius

As a priest, Father Ignatius always tried to teach his parishioners according to the doctrines and rules of the Church. Yet, there were times when he had to be pragmatic and accept the realities of life and the fact that he could not change events. Priests just don’t have magic wands … and they can’t make things better all the time; not even Father Ignatius.

Such a case involves Derek and Geraldine. They were in their early thirties and they had a daughter aged about five.

As sometimes happens in life they grew apart and both of them became unfaithful to their wedding vows. Derek became friendly with his secretary at work and Geraldine met the brother of a friend from school and did the same.

In time Derek and Geraldine divorced and they moved in with their new partners. Derek is now the father of a young son from his new, un-married, partner.

At the time, the kind priest tried his best to help them save the marriage. They came to him for advice and he tried to persuade them to forgive each other, to consider their young daughter, and he even arranged for them to obtain marriage guidance advice. But somehow, he felt that they were only going through the motions. In their hearts they had both decided to end the marriage and start anew with their new found loves.

After the divorce … quite a while afterwards, Derek did come to confession. He deeply regretted his role in the breakdown of the marriage. He sought genuine forgiveness, having accepted that there was no way of turning the clock back. He was now with his secretary who was, at the time, expecting his baby.

The priest did of course give him absolution, but warned him of the Church’s view regarding his co-habitation with his partner. Derek understood the situation and never again came to church.

A few months later Geraldine approached the priest with a view to marrying her new partner. Father Ignatius explained the difficulties involved, and she later married in a Civil Ceremony at the Registry Office. She too stopped attending church.

A few days ago Father Ignatius was standing in the queue outside the Fish and Chips shop opposite the church looking forwards to a fish supper washed down with a bottle of ginger beer when he heard a young voice shouting “Daddy … Daddy …”

He turned round and saw Geraldine a few feet away with her daughter who’d now grown a little. The young girl had seen Derek on the other side of the road and called out to him.

Derek came across to greet his child when Geraldine said, loud enough to be heard by everyone, “You know you’re not allowed to see her outside pre-arranged visiting times. If you don’t go away I’ll tell my lawyer to start proceedings …”

Derek walked away without saying a word whilst Geraldine left in the opposite direction dragging a screaming child crying to her father “Daddy … don’t go Daddy … don’t leave me …”

Suddenly the priest lost his appetite and left the queue to go to his church.

He sat at the front by the statue of Our Lady and prayed for that little girl. He could still hear her screams in his head. He prayed and prayed as tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Why are people so cruel?” he asked himself, “and why do they use innocent young children in their games of emotional blackmail?”

Eventually he got up as he knew what he had to do.

He went to see Geraldine at her home. The child was asleep on an armchair having tired herself of crying.

The priest explained what he had witnessed and how it must have affected the young child. He tried using every reasonable argument that he could muster; yet he felt that he was being listened to politely but not taken seriously enough for Geraldine to change her ways. He detected some hurt still there in her heart which somehow translated into bitterness and retaliation towards her ex-husband.

He left feeling terrible as he handed the situation over to God.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

On Being Intimate

It is amazing the number of TV programs these days about meeting a partner and match-making. In all of them, it seems, the individuals featured are looking for a quick solution to an age old problem. They all want to find the perfect partner who will love them and cherish them and be by their side for ever more - and they all want to find him or her quickly. Instantly. No waiting.

In almost all cases the individuals searching for their knight in shining armour, or their beautiful princess, seem to focus their desires on physical features mostly. They all want their partners to be handsome or beautiful, smart, wonderful, kind, with a sense of humour, and all the other superlatives one can think of. And there's very little attention paid to shared values, education, aspirations or the like. All they seem to need is an instant physical attraction and hey presto we have romance, now let's jump into bed.

In their search for instancy they forget that romance, if such it is, wanes and often gets tired as time goes by. 

But what is romance exactly, or intimacy; which is a more delicate way of putting it.

Speaking purely from a male's perspective let me say this, on behalf of my other fellow males: "Please ladies, be gentle and understanding towards us."

You say you want romance; but let's be honest. How can you have "romance" when your wife puts all sorts of creams on her face and has her hair in curlers before going to bed? The sight of a creamed-up face with cucumber slices for eyes is enough to make any man's heart miss a beat - and for all the wrong reasons.

How can you have romance when your girl is lying on the bed and as you're about to kiss her, she looks up at you and says: "The ceiling needs painting again!"

Or when she flutters her eyes alluringly and wants to be friendly just as the football is starting on TV? Don't you ladies realise the importance of sports in a man's life?

How can you ask for romance instantly at any time and at any place because, (so it said on TV apparently), it is more exciting to be spontaneous and more in tune with one's desires. Being spontaneous has got me thrown out of yet another supermarket !!!

Or worse still ... when you suddenly appear in the bedroom all alluring in a new sexy negligent without giving us men enough time to focus our imagination as to whom we're romancing with. Just give us time to get our brains in gear, at least.

We men, on the other hand, are more understanding and more sensitive when it comes to matters of romance. We know full well that you ladies want flowers or chocolates as prize tokens of our esteem every now and then. Fortunately these days, many a gas filling station has these items available at the check-out as you pay for your petrol. Do you know that a gas station near where I live gives a free box of chocolates for every 100 points coupons we collect? Hopefully the idea will catch on in other places too. Sometimes, when I'm in  a hurry, and feel like being friendly with my wife, I just pick up a few flowers from the neighbour's garden next door. He won't miss them ... his wife is allergic to flowers ...

But let's be honest here, ladies. We men just cannot understand why you need all this constant re-assurance and repetition of our affection for you? Isn't it obvious that we love you? After all, why else would we put up with a dragon for a mother-in-law? Is that not a sign of affection?

I remember years ago I said to my future father-in-law that I wanted to marry his daughter. He said: "Have you seen her mother?"

I replied: "Yes. But I still prefer to marry your daughter!"

I guess he knew what I was taking on for a lifetime.

We men don't go for this constant repetition and re-assurance of our affection. For us men, it goes without saying, or repeating, of a fact that is obvious to one and all. We said we loved you when we married you, and that should suffice.

After all, one would not thank a kettle, or a toaster, or a fridge every day for being there, does one? 

You appreciate their presence and their functionality as they are meant to be. It's the same with romance. We said we love you, we bring you flowers every now and then when we fill up the car with petrol, we take the trash out every week and paint the ceiling every now and then. What else do you want? 

Oh ... and one more point. If there's one thing we men dread to hear when we're being intimate is "More." 

"More ..." you say. "One more time ... Again ..." 

Let's face it, there are times when men just cannot give more; no matter how many blue pills are at hand. And that's when your jousting knight in shining armour drops his lance and falls to the ground in total exhaustion!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A Valuable Manuscript

One of my many hobbies is visiting car boot sales to see what I can pick up. This is like the garage sales but with cars. Sellers usually gather in a church car park, or other large space, open the back of their cars and display on small tables items they want to get rid off and sell cheaply.

You'd be surprised what people sell at these sales. Mostly what you find are worthless items, but every now and then, if you know what you are buying and have a keen interest in antiques, you can find a gem or two which you can re-sell later on for a fortune.

I remember years ago I was very lucky to find two rare items at the same car boot sale. First I found an oil  painting by Stradivarius, and then later on that day I discovered a violin made by Rembrandt.

I took them to an antique dealer. He told me they were rare but unfortunately Stradivarius was a bad painter and Rembrandt could not make a good violin to save his life. I sold both items for $400.

On another occasion I found a fountain pen and a cell-phone which belonged to King Henry the VIII. I later sold them for $2 each.

I also found a watercolour painting of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, I think it was. He was shot in the eye with an arrow, in that battle. You can see it clearly in the painting. King Harold sitting on a horse with an arrow in his eye. Below it there's the inscription: Keep blinking your Majesty. It will work its way out!

Undeterred I continued visiting and searching car boot sales. And that's where I found a very rare brown canary. He was going cheep ... cheep ... cheep. I was told later that he was just a sparrow, so I let him go free. He immediately pulled off all his feathers revealing beautiful yellow plumage.

Anyway ... all this is leading to what I found last week at a sale. An old manuscript which looked very ancient indeed. It was hand-written, (that's why it's called a manuscript), in some very ancient language. I could not make out what language it was, or decipher any of the letters; and neither could the seller. It looked as if it dated back centuries, perhaps even a date B.C. - can you imagine that. It was leather bound and in fairly good condition considering its age. The pages had become brown with age and you could see the writing faintly on every page.

I took it to several experts to try to identify the language it was written in. None could identify it or even place a date as to when it was written, or indeed where.

I was very excited that at last I had discovered something that was worth a fortune. Can you imagine the feeling? Holding something in my hand that years ago could have belonged to some ancient sage, or perhaps a King from a far off land, or perhaps a wizard like Merlin or such like person.

If only I knew what was written in that book and decipher its secrets. Perhaps some ancient cures to many ailments that challenge modern science, or secret recipes for longevity, or magician's potions or spells perhaps.

Eventually I took the manuscript to an ancient language expert in our library. The expert wasn't ancient. He was about fifty years old or so. His skill was deciphering ancient languages; hence him being an ancient language expert. He was also an expert of anthropology. At first I thought this was the study of how ants apologise - ant thropolofy. But he told me he studied humankind; particularly human societies and cultures.

He said: "Do you realise that whilst you've been standing here 3000 people in the world have died?"

"OK," I said, "in that case I'll stand over there!"

He smiled and explained, "What I meant to say, every time I breathe in and out one person in the world dies!"

"You should try a better mouthwash," I replied.

Anyway, he looked at the hand-written manuscript and indentified it straightaway. It is a doctor's diary. Apparently all doctors write this way.

Saturday, 3 September 2016


It’s funny how your mind wanders when you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting-room. I thought:

Jesus died at the age of thirty-three.

He never lived to a ripe old age and, as a human, whom He was, as well as being God, He never got to experience what we humans experience as we grow old.

The pains of rheumatism and arthritis. The slowing down of our body and the inability to run or walk as fast as we used to. The odd lapse of memory. Difficulty with hearing or with seeing properly; and the many other ailments which beset us as we grow old.

Had He grown old like some of us do; would He have used His powers to heal Himself and take away the pain?

Of course, all this is pure speculation. The reality is that He died a most horrible and painful death on the Cross, which far far outweighs whatever ailments we suffer from as we grow old.

The fact that He has not experienced our old age, or any other experiences we go through in this world, does not mean that He doesn’t understand them and that He does not hurt when we hurt.

He feels our pain because He loves us. He accepted the torture of His death because He loves us.

Perhaps we too should try, as best we can, to understand and accept our age related pains with dignity. For His sake.

I know an elderly man who has had many illnesses and operations – he is in constant pain. Whenever I ask him how he is doing, he replies: Thank God I am OK – there are so many so much worse off than me.

Lately, he chuckled and added: Pain is a sign that you are still alive. When you stop feeling pain that’s when you should worry.

Dear Lord help those in pain right now. Amen.
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