Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Making a Saint


Some people believe that leaders are born not made. An organisation I worked at years ago ran leadership training for their managers in order to improve their leadership skills and abilities. I was not so sure about this and commented at the time that we need more followship training; otherwise everyone will be a good leader and there will be no one to follow them.

Thinking about it years later, I wonder whether Saints are born or "made".

Leaving aside for a moment the Catholic Church's perceived "habit" of declaring people Saints. As a Catholic myself, I am astounded that it seems all you have to do is send the Vatican three packet tops from a corn flakes box and Hey Presto you're a Saint. In olden times, I understand, there needed to be well researched evidence of miracles having been performed by/on behalf of certain individuals before the Vatican declared them Saints.

Let's consider real Saints for a moment. People like the early Christians, the disciples who followed Christ, or those who came later like Paul, who spent their lives preaching the Good News and were often persecuted, beaten, imprisoned and suffered cruel deaths for their beliefs. Now they were/are real Saints. People who died for Christ and deserve special recognition for what they have undergone.

Later Saints too seem to have suffered for their beliefs and for their "saintly" behaviour  whilst on earth.

But how about today? How about you and me? Do we have to undergo suffering and pain in order to be accepted as Saints and to be loved by God?

I believe not. I believe God loves each one of us equally but differently. Equally meaning with no special favouritism between you and me; differently meaning loving each individual according to his need. Very much like a parent would love a disabled child differently from the others but not necessarily more or less.

God does not ask us to suffer joyfully as a pre-requisite to entering Heaven. In olden days many Saints thought so and endured self-inflicted pain and suffering for the love of God.

Saint Francis of Assisi suffered severe self-afflicted penances like flagellations and the use of a hairshirt.

Saint Catherine of Sienna used to undergo extreme fasting for long periods, wore sackcloth and scourged herself three times a day.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola practised severe mortifications. He wore a hair shirt and heavy iron chain, and was in the habit of wearing a cord tied below the knee. 

Saint Thomas More, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque, and many other Saints and elders of the Church practised mortification and self-punishments.

Even Pope John Paul II, I understand practised self-flagellation and fasting before important events.

Personally, I believe this is wrong. 

God loved us so much that He gave us His only Son to die for us. 

Christ’s was the ultimate sacrifice, to lay down His life to redeem us and to re-build our relationship with God which sin had destroyed.

There is nothing we can do to repay that sacrifice. Not a million candles lit in church, not a million flowers, or a million Rosaries recited. Nothing we do will repay what Christ did for us.

That is not to say that we should stop doing these things. We do them out of reverence, love and respect for our Creator and not as an act of repayment. I have lit many a candle in my time and will continue to do so.

Fasting and abstinence are also similar forms of sacrifices which we do out of reverence rather than as an act of repayment.

As for self-inflicted pain and suffering in the hope of gaining some sort of Heavenly reward; that is, in my view, wrong.

Yes, some of us bear the pain and suffering of illness and old age. This is natural, and as best we can we live with these pains with the help of whatever is available medically. But these pains, as well as the many other sufferings people endure in life, like cruelty, bullying, unhappy marriages, persecutions and so on, are not a pre-condition in order to be loved by God or to be accepted in Heaven ... or to become a Saint.

God's love for us is already given. With no conditions or expected payment.

Monday, 30 July 2018

A sense of fun


I read the other day that most people have two main characteristics in their make-up. One part of them is serious, sensible and responsible whereas the other is jovial, more laissez-faire and full of fun. The exact percentage between the two characteristics varies from one person to another.

This led me to think, seriously, about fun.

Now, I have not been given to much fun in life. I have always been a serious person. Somewhat lacking in humour. Some would say dour even. Taking my responsibilities seriously.

After all, how can we as a people deal with the world's economic and social and all other problems if we go around having "fun".

If it was up to me, fun would be a sin, a crime, punishable by tickling with a wet celery stick.

And yet, there are many organisations set up for the sole purpose of purveying fun.

Funfairs for instance. The very name betrays its evil intent.

You go there and ride into a little vehicle on rails which takes you up to a great height and then drops you down at the speed of gravity so that your heart misses a beat or two, your stomach ejects its contents through your mouth and your bladder echoes the same sentiments. What great fun a roller coaster is!

Or your ride a ghost train which goes through a dark tunnel for the sole purpose of being frightened to death by unexpected noises and cardboard characters appearing from nowhere.

I am sure you can imagine other means of fun at the funfair. Like getting a sugar rush by eating tons of candy floss, or pop corn or whatever else sugar saturated drinks are on offer.

Of course, funfairs are not the only ones guilty of encouraging people to have fun.

Other means of having fun are dance halls with their loud music where people get together and gyrate aimlessly like drunken giraffes.

Or climbing mountains for no apparent reason apart from the fact they are there.

Or squeezing oneself into narrow humid and dark caves, again for no apparent reason I can think of.

Or swimming with dolphins, or sardines, if you cannot afford dolphins.

Or jumping off a bridge or a canyon whilst tied to a piece of elastic and bouncing up and down like a yo yo.

Or ... I don't know ... I am sure you folks out there can think of other ways of having "fun".

Personally, I like the world to be sober and responsible. Sense and sensibility as Jane Austen said.

If "fun" is considered necessary it should be in the form of reading a book quietly at home or in the library. Something like the Encyclopaedia Britannica should do.

Or playing chess on one's honeymoon. Now that IS fun I tell you!!!

If, like medicine, fun is required for health purposes, it should be administered in small doses at long intervals, say once a year or so.

If it was up to me I would put a tax on fun. Now that's something the politicians have missed out on, haven't they? They should study every activity known to man, or woman, and if there is the slightest modicum of fun involved then they should tax it in order to curtail its use or performance.

If we were meant to have fun then we would all have been born with red noses, or other small peculiarities that makes one laugh at or be amused by.

I'll wait for a moment or two for your minds to wonder and list what small peculiarities tend to amuse you ...

OK ... back to attention now ... let us know what makes you have fun so we can tax it.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Hot Hot Hot

It's been hot in Britain ... and everywhere else it seems. Over here the temperature has gone up to 35 Degrees C in the shade. I was clever though, and did not stay in the shade.

The hot weather has brought with it many views and opinions and expected, or unexpected, behaviour.

Some say this is a sign of the end of time. The planet is getting warmer, this will melt the ice cap, the sea levels will go up ... and so on ... and on. Personally, I think that if the sea levels go up then more of us will live near the beach. A good thing, surely?

Here in the UK, as expected perhaps, the hot weather has affected traffic. Tarmacs on roads are melting. Long queues on motorways as cars break-down because of the heat. Trains and planes running late or not at all. Shortage of ice cream!!!!!

Did you hear me, folks? Shortage of ice cream? How can we possibly survive for a week or two without ice cream?

People are asking their employers to shut the business and send everyone home. We can't possibly work in this hot weather.

There should be a law about it. In fact, there should be a law about everything. We need more laws. That's what's wrong. There should have been a law against hot weather. Let's take God to Court for this hot weather. Let's blame Him for everything that's wrong in our lives.

Also, in this hot weather I notice there has been a tendency amongst people to divest more, or wear the very least they can manage within the realms of decency ... whatever that is. Peoples' inhibitions seem to disappear somehow. Men wear shorts with shoes or sandals with socks. Women wear shorter skirts or tiny shorts and boob tubes.

For those who don't know, a boob tube is an elasticated tiny piece of material worn around the breasts and defying gravity by hanging there for dear life. (See photo above).

Wearing such an outfit in public is one thing; but wearing it at work, as some people suggest?
 
Can you imagine me going to work and finding my lawyer, or accountant wearing a bikini? I wouldn't mind so much if our company lawyer was a young lady; but Mr Fortooth in a bikini?
Or elderly Miss Snodgrass in a swimming costume?
You can call me whatever names you like ... but I think this is the limit. I don't mind what people wear or don't wear on the beach. They can go totally naked if they want to. But not in the office surely? 

Now I just cannot wipe out the image of Mr Fortooth in a bikini from my mind. I shall never see him or Miss Snodgrass the same way again. 

In fact, I think our employer should close the business and send us all home until this hot weather spell is over.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The Starship Underpants - Episode Eight

A STORY FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART

One morning we received a message from HQ on planet Earth asking us to rendez-vous with another spaceship carrying the famous Ambassador Depp Lomacy. Apparently he was an expert mediator and he had been invited to chair and broker peace talks between two warring factions on the planet Army Geddon. It seems the two sides had been fighting for hundreds of years and there was no end in sight to their disagreements. Our mission was to take Ambassador Depp Lomacy to the planet Army Geddon so that he may mediate peace talks.

As soon as he arrived on board our spaceship Ambassador Depp Lomacy said  to the Captain, "Hello fish face ... by Jove you're ugly. The last time I saw a salmon like you I put it out of its misery by having it for lunch".

The Captain was taken aback by this unwarranted insult from the eminent diplomat and said politely, "Welcome to  our starship, Ambassador!"

"Oh ... it talks as well," said Depp Lomacy, "the salmon I ate for lunch did not talk. You must be a lower species!"

We were all aghast at this diplomat's use of language but chose not to challenge him. Perhaps he was testing us to see how we would react.

"All right," said the diplomat, "where are my quarters until we reach this planet where I'm supposed to mediate between idiots who have been killing each other for centuries?"

"If you walk this way, Ambassador," said Number One, "I'll show you to your room."

"And why would you want me to walk this way?" asked Depp Lomacy, "I don't have a Spatial Anomaly like your Captain!"

The Captain pulled me aside and asked me to go with them. He suggested I spend time with the diplomat and make sure all is as he wishes in case he complains to HQ.

"Who is this dwarf following us?" asked the diplomat.

"He is VM" explained Number One, "a reporter writing an article about this starship".

"Hello shorty," said the diplomat, "I hope your article won't be as short as you because then it will be too long!"

I chose not to answer. We arrived at the diplomat's room and the doors went "wooosh" as they opened.

"VM will show you around," said Number One.

"What if I want to be shown a square, or a triangle?" asked Ambassador Depp tersely, "why is this man showing me a round?

Our Commander smiled and then left.

"I hope you'll find the room comfortable, Sir," I said, "please let me know if there is anything you need. This is the replicator. Ask for any food and drinks and they will appear here instantly.

"To switch the lights on and off, or to dim them just say so and the computer will control the lights. Also the air conditioning environment, the music should you wish it and ..."

"Sit down lad," Depp said, "relax. Let's have a drink." He went to the replicator and said, "Scotch neat ... large," then looking at me he asked, "same?" I nodded and he brought the drinks to the table as we sat down.

"You look nervous, young man," he smiled, "I don't bite you know. What's on your mind?"

"Nothing, Sir," I hesitated, "it's that the forthright way you talk ..."

"There's no need for the Sir," he interrupted gently, "call me Depp. Now be honest, VM, what's bothering you?"

"Well ..." I hesitated even more, "it's the way you called the Captain fish face and ..."

"Oh ... think nothing of it," he smiled, "let me explain. I am a diplomat. I have been a diplomat for 35 years now and it is a very exhausting job I tell you. I have to travel to far flung planets in many Galaxies often in tin-pot type ships, not as good as this one I may add, and have to mediate between warring factions and disagreements that often have gone on for far too long."

He sipped his whisky and smiled.

"Do you know what a diplomat's job is?" he asked. I shook my head.

"It is to build golden bridges for the other side to retreat on," he said, "often, when I meet people who disagree vehemently with each other, to the point of declaring wars that last for years and killing and maiming millions, positions become entrenched. Everyone thinks he is right and therefore it follows the other person is wrong. There is no middle ground.

"History gets re-written and re-invented; especially if the wars have gone on for several generations. The first casualty of war, as they say, is the truth. No one can give way because this will be seen as weakness to be taken advantage of by the other side. So arguments intensify rather than calm down a little for negotiations to star. Do you understand?"

I nodded and said nothing.

"Do you realise how difficult this is for me?" he explained, still in his gentle calm voice, "I am brought in over several light years away. I have to read the background history of the disagreement; taking into account both sides' versions of events.

"I have to sit them round the table. Understand each species special peculiarities, customs, and attitudes and so on. You'd be surprised how many different species of life forms I have met in this universe. Each have different customs and traditions and ways of doing or saying things. The slightest mistake on my part, or on the part of the other side they are negotiating with, and arguments and wars would start all over again.

"And then somehow, when I have managed to get them to stop fighting for a while whilst peace talks go on, I have to get them to listen carefully and talk constructively in order to reach an amicable solution to their disagreements which would last for longer than they have been fighting."

He stopped to sip his whisky again and I smiled.

"Whenever a conference starts," he said, "I have to listen carefully at what everyone is saying. I have to look for body language, not easy with some species. I have to choose my words carefully in case anything I say is misinterpreted or misunderstood and it starts another war against me and planet Earth. This nearly happened once ... I leant back in my chair and this was seen as a sign to that particular species that I thought they were lying. It took ages to explain that I was just relaxing."

He got up and brought two more whiskies to the table.

"As I said," he went on, "I did this for 35 years for hundreds of times, in many planets over long distances apart. It takes it off you, you know.

"That's why when I relax, I swear at people and call them fish face and other things much worse. It's my way of letting off steam. I don't mean it. If I were to let all the pressure of work build up inside me it will be too much and it would probably make me ill and kill me. And a dead diplomat is of no use to anyone. So I relax by calling people names and being generally obnoxious when I am not working. Do you understand fish face?"

I smiled.

"I don't mean it young man," he said, "I wish you well with the article you are writing about this ship, and please be gentle with me when you write about me!"

I left his room with a totally new understanding of his type of work and the character of this man.

TO BE CONTINUED ... FISH FACE

Thought of the day: Spare a thought for a moment or two for your priest, vicar, minister, padre or whatever you call him or her. Consider how often they have to listen to peoples' concerns, worries, troubles and problems, or to gossip even and to disagreements; and yet they have to remain calm, impartial, non-judgemental and have to dispense good advice and practical help.

How do you think they feel when they are alone? Do they scream "fish face" to the mirror?

Spare a thought also to God, having to listen to all your whining and troubles instead of you having half a mustard's worth of faith. Do you give God a headache?

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Monday, 23 July 2018

The Raven and The Crow




A raven and a crow,

Came to my window one evening

As it was getting dark



“Who’s the most menacing?”

They asked.



“It depends” I replied.

“Who are you trying to menace?”



“You … you idiot!”

They said in unison.

“We’re menacing you!”



“Menacing is an indication of an inferiority complex!”

I remarked calmly.



They looked at each other and flew away to menace someone else.


Friday, 20 July 2018

Honesty ... Really (?) the best policy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So ... what is honesty do you think?

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

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

What should the priest advise? What would you advise?

What is honesty? Is it the best policy?

READ "VISIONS" HERE
 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Carnivore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

At the seaside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A woman asked: “Is this Candid Camera?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 16 July 2018

Watch Out ... Camera About

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

Saturday, 14 July 2018

If you don't believe ... leave!


John Chapter 6 has been the source of much debate and confusion over the years ... and the arguments will still go on. No doubt to the amusement of Jesus looking down upon us and saying: "You of little Faith. Why can't you just believe and stop dissecting and analysing everything I said as if I were an insect in your lab!"

I speak of course of the part in that Chapter where Jesus says He is "the Bread of life" and later when He says that unless people eat His flesh or drink His blood they will not have life.

As you can imagine, this was very confusing to His listeners; even His followers and disciples.

"What is He on about?" they asked. "How can we eat His flesh and drink His blood? This is cannibalism surely. This is too much for us. We don't want to follow this guy any longer!"

So what did Jesus do?

He didn't say "Hey ... wait a minute. You didn't understand what I meant. This is what I really meant to say ... let me explain!"

No ... Jesus let them go. He didn't try to justify Himself or what He had just said. It was as if He dissolved the unspoken contract between them. They could not accept a certain clause so He let them go.

Then He turned to His disciples and asked: "How about you? Do you want to go as well?"

As ever, Peter was first to answer: "To whom shall we go?" he asked. "We're in this for the duration, all the way, to the end". Or words to that effect, signifying that he trusted Jesus without question; albeit no doubt he had many questions in his mind. Peter accepted Christ's words without question and stepped out in blind Faith and dared to believe.

So what are we to make of all this after all these years? Did Jesus mean what He said literally or was it all symbolism and imagery using common day articles of the time like bread and wine to signify the sacrifice He is to endure for us? His flesh would be torn by the beating and the nailing to the Cross and His blood would be spilled for us. Was it all symbolism?

Quite frankly, I'm with Peter on this.

I don't believe there is much to be gained in debating this ad-infinitum because in reality I doubt any of us will ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. Wiser heads than mine have argued this matter over the centuries much to the amusement of Jesus looking down from above. Any efforts by me at interpreting this would no doubt have Jesus rolling on the floor with laughter.

So I am minded to accept it for what it is. Something that Jesus said and we're to believe it as best we humanly can.

There's no point in closing your eyes tightly and repeating over and over again "I believe ... I believe ... even though I don't understand it ... I believe".

God who can see deep within our hearts, and knows our human nature and its failings, realises that it is too difficult for us to understand.

But then, He does not ask us to understand Him. He asks us to love Him and to trust Him without any evidence whatsoever.

It's what is called Faith.

To believe when your common sense tells you not to.

By the way: you may wish to visit this link and see what happened to a priest who had difficulties in believing. Please CLICK HERE.

God bless.

Friday, 13 July 2018

How the Marsupial got his name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's how the kangaroo got its name.

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

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

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The NUDE Starship Underpants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the two pictures below:

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

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

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

Why? Why not?

When is the naked form considered acceptable as art?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty to discuss here - over to you.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Starship Underpants - Episode Seven

A STORY FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART

As we travelled here there and everywhere searching for the Tooth Fairy the Captain said, "We have never travelled back in time. In sci-fi stories on TV and the cinema they always travel back in time. Why don't we do that?"

"Where would you like to go?" asked Calculus, our robotic humanoid.

"I'd like to go back to my childhood," said the Captain, "that way I'll find out how my father always knew how much the Tooth Fairy will leave under my pillow!"

"Why not go somewhere more adventurous?" asked Number One.

"OK ... spin the wheel Calculus and see where we go," replied the Captain, "but first, Mr Spanner, are you sure the transporter beams are working properly? I hate it if our molecules get taken apart and then put together on the surface in the wrong place and I end up with an extra nose, or an eye at the end of my finger!"

"Och aye Cap'ain" said Spanner, our Scottish engineer, "the transporter beams have been fixed. You have no worries for yourself. I'll be here on the ship doing all the worrying for you!"

"Right, that inspires me full of confidence, Spanner ... let's put together an away team," said the Captain, "it will be myself, Number One, and Doctor Penny C Lynn. Calculus you have the bridge. Orbit around the planet far enough away that the people down there will think we are just another star in their sky! They won't suspect a thing."

The three of them stood on the transporting platform. Number One said, "Touch your left nipples to check the communication systems work OK ... all ready? Spin the wheel backwards into the past.  Energise!"

The transporter beams shone on the three of them and they disappeared.

As they landed on planet Earth they discovered they were in a castle somewhere and dressed in very odd costumes. They were in the 11th Century in England. But somehow, the transporter beams malfunctioned again; for there were only two of them ... Number One and the Captain.

What was more peculiar is that the Captain had been transported down to earth as a woman.

"What's happened to me?" he cried, "I look and feel different!"

"How different?" asked Number One admiring his new clothing.

"Can't you see?" cried the Captain again, "I have these big breasts for a start and ... and ... I seem to be missing certain parts up front!"

"I do like your dress," replied Number One.

The Captain touched his, or her, left nipple and shouted, "Spanner ... you idiot ... look what you've done. I am a woman."

"There's been a slight error, Cap'ain ..." replied Spanner, "are you feeling OK?"

"OK?" shouted the Captain, "OK? I feel totally different you moron. Everything about me is different. My breasts are large and heavy ... my hair is long ... everything is different. I never thought women are that different ... but they are. These breasts are so large and heavy I need a counterweight on my back to keep me from falling forwards!"

"Calculus ... where is Doctor Penny C Lynn?" asked Number One touching his nipple.

"She is suspended in mid-space, Commander" replied Calculus, "it appears that the Captain has re-materialised on earth in her body, and she is suspended in his body!"

"What do you mean suspended in my body?" cried the Captain, "she'd better take good care of it. And be careful what she touches. I don't want her to damage anything!"

"Calculus ... can you work out where we are and who we are?" asked Number One.

"You are in 11th Century England," explained Calculus, "you are Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and the Captain is Lady Godiva, an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman. You are married and have a son named Aelfgar."

"I am married to him?" cried the Captain, "don't you get any ideas Number One or I'll slap your face!"

"Both of you are very generous benefactors to religious houses," continued Calculus, "in 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine Monastery in Coventry, England. This is where you are right now, in Coventry."

"Go on ..." encouraged Number One, whilst the Captain was looking at his new body and prodding it with his finger.

"Look at the size of my nipples ..." he mumbled.

Calculus continued, "In 1050, both you Commander, and the Captain, your wife, gave land for the St Mary's Monastery in Worcester and for the Minster in Stow St Mary in Lincolnshire. You are also benefactors of other monasteries in Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham. The Captain, Lady Godiva, also gave a lot of jewellery and precious metals to various causes over her lifetime."

"We seem to be good people," smiled Number One.

"There's more ..." continued Calculus, "you Sir, appear to be over taxing the people of Coventry. Your popularity amongst the people is falling. I would say they hate you in fact. Your wife, the Captain, Lady Godiva, has urged you several times to lower the taxes but you have ignored her ... until now ... Oh dear ..."

"What do you mean, Oh dear?" asked the Captain getting somewhat agitated again.

"It seems Sir," hesitated Calculus, "that in order to pacify Lady Godiva, you Commander, said  to your wife, the Captain Godiva, 'I'll lower the taxes if you strip naked and ride a horse through the streets of Coventry!'"

"What?" cried the Captain and Number One in unison.

"It is true," went on Calculus, "it appears, Captain, that in order to fulfil and accomplish the time line continuum you have to ride naked on a horse through Coventry."

"Not on your mechanical RAM computerised life, you robotic machine," cried the Captain, "as for you Spanner, you moronic engineer, remind me to kill you when we next meet!"

"Well Captain," continued Calculus after he had filtered all the insults through his memory data banks, "let me explain. Right now, you are Lady Godiva and the Commander is your husband. Unless you fulfil your destiny as it happened in the 11th Century, that is, unless you ride naked through Coventry, you will remain in the 11th Century for ever in the female body you now have. And Doctor Lynn will remain suspended in mid-space in your body for ever. One can only imagine what she will do with it!"

The Captain said nothing and looked at himself, (or herself), for a while trying to assess the situation.

"Stop looking at your breasts," said Number One, "you'll attract attention to yourself!"

"Oh yeah?" replied the Captain, "and you don't think riding naked through town will attract enough attention?"

And that's how it came to pass that Leofric reduced the taxes in Coventry and Lady Godiva, (the Captain), rode naked throughout town.

Lady Godiva issued a proclamation that on a certain day everyone should remain indoors and shut all their windows because she was going to ride naked on a horse throughout town. (I wonder how many horses volunteered for the job).

Now how naive is that? Did Lady Godiva, (the Captain), really expect everyone to stay indoors after such an announcement? Did NO ONE take a photo with their cell-phones and post it on Facebook?

On the day in question Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse and paraded throughout town.

But a tailor called Tom succumbed to temptation. He made a small hole in his window shutters and had a good look at what he should not have been looking at. And that's where the name Peeping Tom originates from. Apparently he was struck blind after the event.

His friend Ivan Eyeful was wiser and more cautious because he chanced one eye through his peep hole.

After this event, the Captain, Number One and Doctor Penny C Lynn were transported back in their proper bodies onto the spaceship.

Spanner, the engineer, hid in the freezer compartment of our food replicators where he still is to this day.

TO BE CONTINUED ... THE MIND BOGGLES 

THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Lady Godiva, all those years ago, was so charitable in heart that she agreed to ride naked in order for her husband to lower taxes on the poor. Today, (in the UK), we often hear of people posing naked for calendars to be sold for a charitable cause.  

Is it right to disrobe for a good cause? 

Would you do it? 

How much would convince you to help a charitable cause close to your heart?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Starship Underpants - Episode Six

A STORY FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART

After our encounter with Musa the banana we continued our journey towards the far off planet which Earth HQ had asked us to visit. This took several light years and a few dark ones when the electricity generator stopped working and all the lights went off.

Eventually, Calculus sitting at the controls said, "Two spaceships ahead, Captain. They appear to be from Molar an M Class planet covered with cavities on the surface leading to several fissures running deep into the planet's crust. The two ships are making a grinding sound as they bump into each other. They have taken offensive positions, with their sister smaller much ferocious ships known as Canines. They are stationed on either side of us. They are engaging their weapons systems".

"Red alert," said our Commander, Number One, touching his left nipple, " gum shields up ... toothpaste at the ready ... tooth brushes too ... prepare protein torpedoes, carbohydrate pies and sugary sweets and everything else you can think of".

"On screen," said the Captain, "magnify ..."

Spanner, our engineer, brought up a split screen so we could see both captains of both Molar spaceships at the same time. Apparently, the screen was split because it fell as he was carrying it and it broke.

As a sideline, let me tell you something about Spanner, our engineer. Once he spent all day changing the glass panels in all the windows on the spaceship because he thought they were cracked. When he finished he realised he had a crack on his spectacles.

Anyway ... we saw the two Molar Captains of the two spaceships on our split screen. They looked humanoids although some of their facial features had been altered a little so that they may appear as aliens from outer space.

"Who are you?" asked the alien on the left of our split screen.

The Captain replied, "Ivor Spatial-Anomaly".

The alien refrained from making any jokes about it because he felt we had already worn out this joke somewhat. Instead, through gritted teeth, he asked our Captain, "You have a funny accent, where are you from?"

"I am from Oxford, England, Sir," replied our Captain in his best English accent. The Molar alien looked at his companion on the other half of the split screen and smiled. You could tell from his grin that he had teeth like the Ten Commandments - all broken!

"Do you judge people by their accents?" asked our Captain.

"No ... I judge them by their distance," replied the alien, "the further away they are the more I like them! You are in our space ... clear off or we shoot you!"

The alien on the right of the screen stepped in the conversation, "One moment ..." he said and then he asked our Commander, "Your captain said Ivor Spatial-Anomaly ... how about you? What do you say?"

"I've pickled onions!" replied Number One.

"Are they painful?" asked the alien?

"No ... they are in a jar," replied Number One, "they're from the Onion Nebula!"

The two alien Molars looked at each other and one said, "I told you these humans are strange! They keep their onions in a jar. I wonder what else they collect!"

"We'd better be on our way," said our Captain hastily, "we bid you goodbye".

"We would like you to find our father's teeth!" said the Molar on the left.

"Your father's teeth?" asked Number One, "explain ..."

"Some light years ago," explained the alien, "it was very noisy at night because we had a fiesta in town. Our father, the ruler of the planet, known as Megabite by everyone, could not get to sleep because of the noise outside in the street. So he put his head under the pillow. By morning the Tooth Fairy had taken all his teeth!"

"How awful," said our Captain, "I remember my dad telling me to put my tooth under the pillow and the Tooth Fairy will leave me some money. I always believed that she will leave me £100 at least. My dad said she will definitely leave me 5 pennies. Amazing how he was always right when I lost a tooth".

"Did the Tooth Fairy leave your father any money?" Number One asked the Molars.

"About 1700 Fillings," replied one of the aliens, "that's our local currency."

"That's not enough to buy him a new set of false teeth ..." said Number One.

"No ... but it bought him quite a few straws to suck his food with," replied the alien.

"I like straws," reminisced the Captain, "reminds me of drinking milkshakes at the cinema. I liked the cinema! Milkshake, sweets, chocolate, popcorn, kissin' in the back row of the movies on a Saturday night with Ermetrude, holding hands together ... ehm ... quite ... eh ... got carried away rather, I would say ... what?"

"Yeh ...me too," added Number One, "I liked the movies. I used to go often in my teens, my twenties, my thirties and ... Eh ... it was watching sci-fi films that made me want to be a spaceman.

"Do you know, I have never seen a film all the way through in the cinema. I always fell asleep half-way. By the time I woke up the film had finished.

"I once asked the cinema manager if I could buy half a ticket to see the film from the bit I fell asleep to the end. He wouldn't let me. So I bought a whole ticket but only went in the cinema at the point where I fell asleep before.

"Ten minutes later I fell asleep again and missed the ending of the film once more.

"On one occasion I fell asleep during the film and woke up when they were showing the following week's trailers. As it happens the next week was a Western film starring the same lead actor as on the film I was watching right now. I could not understand the story line how this actor changed from being a Centurion in ancient Rome to being a cowboy in Texas!"

"Are you going to help us find our father's teeth or not?" asked one of the aliens angrily, "I have a feeling you are lying through your teeth just to avoid helping us!"

He was really enraged at the Captain's and Number One's laissez-faire attitude. But we could see  from his lack of teeth that his bark was worse than his bite; indeed, the worse he could do is give you a very bad suck!

Suddenly, we noticed from the corner of the screen that their leader, and father, Megabite, entered the bridge of one of the alien space ships. Suddenly, his two sons, and the whole crew of both ships, stood up and sang their National Anthem.



As the Molar Anthem finished our Captain stopped saluting and said,

"We will endeavour to seek and search high and low and to leave no tooth un-turned in order to find the missing Tooth Fairy right now your Dentiness! Do you know where she is?"

"No body knows," replied all the Molars in unison, "if we knew we would have gone there ourselves."

"On our way ..." said our Captain, "gum shields up!"

TO BE CONTINUED ... THROUGH GRITTED TEETH
(My dentist allowing)

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Starship Underpants - Episode Five

A STORY FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART

We could see right ahead the unidentified flying object. It was another space ship. So it now became an identified flying object, which is a logical difference between an un-identified flying object and an identified one. Once when I was in London, standing next to a tall building, I looked up and there was an un-identified flying object coming towards me. By the time I identified it I was squashed down by a grand piano. Let that be a lesson to all musicians out there. What a discordant note it was for me that day. Can you imagine what it's like being hit by a grand piano? It could have been worse I suppose. Thankfully the pianist wasn't there too and the fat lady singing opera. What a newspaper headline that would have been. Man dies under fat lady singing Rigoletto.

"La donna e mobile qual piuma al vento,
muta d'accento e di pensiero.
Sempre un amabile leggiadro viso,
in pianto o in riso, e menzognero.
La donna e mobil qual piuma al vento,
muta d'acc...ento e di pensier, e di pensier,
e... e di pensier."
 
Which roughly translated means, "woman is fickle, she changes her thoughts, words and voice, like a feather in the wind. Until she falls on you like a tonne of bricks and flattens you into a pulp!"

Anyway ... back to the Starship Underpants.

"Open communications channels," said our Captain touching his left nipple intercom, "all known languages! All frequencies. All musical styles ... except Opera!"

At this the communication system said:

"Hello out there! ... Bonjour là-bas! ... Hallo da draußen! ... Ciao là fuori! ... Hola por ahí! ..."

"OK ... make it English only," interrupted the Captain, "I have seen this on TV. Whenever spaceships meet aliens from other planets on TV and the movies the aliens always speak perfect English. So let's communicate with this spaceship in English. If they don't understand we'll speak very slowly and very loud. That often solves the problem.

"I remember going on holiday abroad often enough as a child with my parents. It was full of foreign people who did not speak English. We spoke slowly and loud. In time things changed. Now, wherever you go on Planet Earth you will find people speaking in perfect English better than the English themselves. Except in Glasgow ... I still can't understand them!"

"I went to Glasgow once," said Number One, our Commander. 

There followed a period of silence whilst we all waited and looked at Number One.

"And?" asked the Captain, "what happened then?"

"Oh ... nothing," said Number One, "I remember buying a pint of milk there!"

"I spilled a glass of milk once, Cap'ain!" said Spanner our engineer from Glasgow, "what a dour and sombre day that was. Dismal and gloomy it was I tell ye. For two weeks we had tea with no milk in it. Canne imagine that? A family of six and a cat with no milk for a fortnight? 

"We were poor Cap'ain. Very poor indeed. The whole of Glasgow was. So poor even the rain would fall elsewhere. On the rare occasions we had a rainbow it was in black and white. My father used to sell furniture for a living. Our own. At school, I was so poor I could not even pay attention. My teacher wrote in my School Report 'Spanner will go down in History ... And Maths, and Science, and Geography ' and everything else I shouldn't wonder. It's a miracle I work here as an engineer. I only came on board when the spaceship was in Glasgow to visit the toilet. Before I knew it  they made me  the engineer here because I managed to un-block the toilet!"

"Sir, may I remind you that there is an un-identified UFO up ahead," reminded Calculus, our robotic engineer. 

"Indeed there is," said the Captain, "hail him on all frequencies in English only. Speak loud and very slow!"

"Anyone out there speak English?" the communications system blared out very slowly and loud.

"On screen ... magnify ..." said the Captain, "let's see who we are talking to".

On the screen ahead of us we could see the pilot, or captain, of the other space ship. It was a banana.

"What's going on here," said the Captain, "we've just left a bunch of onions in the Onion Nebula and now we have a bunch of bananas. Good thing we're not in the Milky Way ..."

 "I am Musa," interrupted the banana. (This is a joke for intellectuals). "Who are you?"

"Ivor Spatial-Anomaly here," replied our Captain.

"Does it hurt?" asked the banana.

"Only when I sit down!" replied the Captain.

"I have a jar of ointment you can put on it!" suggested the banana.

"Won't putting a jar on it make it more painful?" asked the Captain.

There followed a short period of awkward silence. It was obvious that the banana was getting somewhat irritable.

"You don't look like a human!" our Captain remarked.

"Why should I be?" replied Musa, "you humans are arrogant. I have seen your sci-fi programs on TV. Whenever you meet other species on TV they always look like humans. Sure, you might alter their features a little to make them slightly different, but basically they are always human in nature. And they always speak in perfect English. That's your human arrogance to the fore. What is wrong with me looking like a banana? I am a banana and proud of it. And I speak in banana language. If I talked to you in banana you would slip at the first words".

"I did not meant any offence by it," stuttered the Captain, "only ... we've just met some onions in the Onion Nebula. And now we meet you ..."

"And because I am a banana you think I am bent? Is that it?" asked Musa, "I am as honest as the next man ... eh ... next banana. Which happens to be bent too. We are not all that slippery, you know. Nor are we always green".

"I am sorry, I meant nothing by it," apologised the Captain as he touched his left nipple to cut the sound out. Then he asked Number One, "you take over ... and be more diplomatic! Don't upset him. You know how slippery bananas can be. Remember ... be very diplomatic!"

Number One touched his left nipple and said, "Mr Musa ... is it true you attract fruit flies?"

"What kind of a stupid question is that?" said Musa angrily, "are you insinuating we don't wash?"

"Do you?" asked Number One, "wash that is? As well as attract fruit flies?"

The Captain touched his left nipple several times to cut out the conversation and then said, "I told you to be diplomatic, Number One. Ask him something sensible!"

Number One opened the communication channel and asked, "Mr Musa ... why is it you always go together as a bunch? Is it because there's safety in numbers, or are you attracted to one another? Or is it you're too afraid to walk alone?"

There must have been a delay in communication transmission because Musa did not hear the last question.

Instead he said, "Do you realise that fruit flies only live for 24 hours and then they die. They wake up in the morning, brush their teeth, and by night time they are dead. Hardly worth buying a tube of toothpaste is it? Think about that for a moment arrogant humans. And be grateful every morning for having survived another day! You go around making grandiose plans about this and that as if you ruled the Universe. Well, you don't! In fact you don't rule anything. And anyone of your 24 hours day could be your last day. Just like the fruit fly. So rejoice and be glad in it!"

There followed another period of short silence. The sort of silence when a revealed truth suddenly hits human consciousness, perhaps not for the first time, yet it has an everlasting impact as if it were finally understood for the first time ever.

Can you imagine that? Humanity learning a valuable lesson from a banana? If you can then your brain is as badly wired up as mine is.

Wake up people! Bananas don't talk. So they can hardly teach you or anyone else a lesson. This is just an amusing fictional story! Don't take it too seriously.

"Would you like to ask us some questions?" said Number One, "so we can learn from each other. We are a scientific ship of discovery and we're out here in space to learn from other life forms!"

"Well ... I know you are humans," said Musa, "your stupidity can vouch for that. I have met some of you in the past and they tried to eat me. But this creature here ... he looks different. What is he?"

"He is Calculus," said Number One, "he is made to look like a human but he is essentially a robot. A machine which has been programmed to help us with his great knowledge."

At this point Doctor Penny C Lynn entered the bridge.

"And this other creature," asked Musa, "it looks different too. Looks human. Is it a machine also?"

"No ... she is human all right," explained Number One, "she is the female of the species."

Musa looked at Dr Lynn for a while and said, "I don't understand what you mean by female. Bananas do not have male and female. Explain yourself."

"She is different from me and the rest of men," said Number One, "females of the human species are different from males. Both physically and in other ways too."

"Explain more ..." said Musa, "how different?"

Number One stopped for a while to think and then hesitated, "Let me explain ... when a female like her enters the bridge of the spaceship she always says, 'you're going too fast ... too close to the spaceship in front ... watch out for asteroids ... are you flying on the right side of the road?' And a lot of other chatter that distracts the man at the controls.

"Males of the human species never do that. They let whoever is at the controls be in control. Also, females of the species are bad at reading maps and giving directions. That's why we have invented GPS navigation systems".

At this, Doctor Penny understandably got very upset. She slapped Number One in the face and said, "Look at you. You're talking to a banana you arrogant fool! And giving him the impression that we women are quick tempered and easily angered!" and she stormed out of the bridge.

"Cut ... cut ... cut ..." shouted the Captain pressing his left nipple several times to stop all communication transmissions, "helmsman ... speed ahead quickly ... turn left ... or right ... or any direction ... warp speed whatever ... get us out of here ... fast!"

And so ended another episode in the voyages of the Starship Underpants with us having learnt at least one thing from our encounter with Mr Musa.

Unlike the fruit fly, we have been gifted with more than one day of life. We should be thankful for it ... daily!

TO BE CONTINUED ... EVENTUALLY
(No slips intended or foreseen)  
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