Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A Harrowing Experience

It was close to Halloween. I was in a small stately mansion up North which had been developed into a hotel. More of a bed and breakfast type place really, rather than a posh hotel. It only had twelve rooms and the owners, an elderly couple, lived on the premises.

Because it was winter, they did not have any customers that night. I was the only one there in this stately home. The owners had left to spend the evening with friends to celebrate Halloween. They showed me how to lock the front door and said they'd be in early in the morning to prepare my breakfast.

I had my evening meal before they left and retired to my room, on the third floor of this small mansion, to watch TV.

It was dark outside and snowing heavily. I wondered if they would be able to return in the morning if the snow continued to fall all night. In fact, I wondered if I would be stuck here myself unable to leave. We were in the deep countryside with nothing but trees and mountains for company. The wind was howling through the trees and reminded me that this was the night for "trick or treat".

For some unknown reason, I locked my bedroom door. What's the point of that? I am in a house all alone with all doors and windows locked. Why lock my room? But I did ...

I changed into my pink pyjamas, the one with teddy bear motifs all over, and I sat on the bed and watched TV. There was a good episode of Downton Abbey suitable as a cure for insomniacs.

A few moments later there was a slight knock, or was it a scratching sound, at the window. At first I ignored it. But it happened again. A slight "knock ..." then a pause and "knock ... knock ..." and then "scratch ... scratch ..." as if a cat outside wanted to come in.

My blood ran cold. The central heating was not working properly so my blood was already at low temperature anyway ... so it ran ... or actually hobbled even colder than before.

The knocking and scratching happened again. My blood was too tired to run any longer. It just sat there freezing.

I thought it was probably a bird, or an owl, sheltering by my window. Possible overcome by the falling snow and resting for a while.

The knocking and scratching continued. Somehow, I found some courage. I always carry a little with me when travelling. I got out of the bed and drew back the curtains.

There ... looking at me was a clown!
He must have been either very tall or standing on stilts; because my room was on the third floor.

He smiled at me. Or rather, the paint on his face smiled at me.

I did not know what to do. I was both very hot and very cold at the same time.

The clown outside started juggling with different coloured balls. Then he put them in his pocket and started making balloon animals. He'd pull out a balloon from his pocket, blow it in one or two breaths, then make a giraffe, or a horse, or a bird, which he then let drop to the ground.

After a few moments he asked me, "what are you watching on TV?"

With the window still shut I mumbled, "Downton Abbey!"

He replied, "Why watch such a boring program when I am here to entertain you?"

The next thing I knew, it was morning. The hostel owner was knocking at my door to announce that breakfast was ready. The TV was still on and broadcasting the morning news.

Not a mention of a clown on stilts!!!!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Haunted Town


It was late evening when I got off the train at a coastal town in Northern England. It was dark and misty as I walked down the empty street trying to  find somewhere to stay for the night. The pungent acrid smell of coal-burning fires hung in the air and made my eyes water. An owl cried in the distance followed by a cat screeching in an alleyway. This desolate town looked as if nothing had changed from the 18th Century. The dark wooded fronted buildings seemed deserted, and even the traditional tumbleweeds did not bother to come rolling down the street, preferring instead to hide in a huddle in street corners. A bell far away tolled gently its funereal peal every few seconds. "Ding ... Ding ... Ding ..."  Fear must have gripped my every senses as I felt tears rolling down my trouser legs.

I wondered what this town's motto was, if it had any on its Coat of Arms, traditional in many towns around this parts. "Reversing back into the past with despondency". I bet it had a suicide pact with the devil.

I eventually reached a dimly lit building with a "Bed and Breakfast" sign by the door. I entered what looked like a pub with a dozen or so people sitting at various tables nursing their sorrows in their customary drinks. The room was totally silent and I felt their gaze burn into my back as I approached the bar.

"What will you have?" asked the barman as he wiped the bar with a dirty old cloth.

"Whatever they are having!" I replied with a nervous smile as I turned round only to discover the bar room totally empty. I felt my knees knocking with terror. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were knocking too.

"Are you a stranger in town?" asked the barman as I noticed for the first time that he had a vulture perched on his shoulder.

I nodded silently and then, finding my voice again, I asked him if he had a room for the night, and regretted making the request almost instantaneously as the bird of prey emptied its load on the man's shoulder.

He cleaned his jacket with the bar cloth and said, "That will be £20 payable in advance."

"Why is that bell tolling in the distance all the time?" I asked as I paid him.

"That would be the buoy, that would," he replied as he spat some chewed tobacco on the ground.

"A boy?" I asked innocently.

"Yes ... a buoy ... a floating thing on the sea with a bell to warn ships to keep away from the rocks. Years ago, there were a terrible shipwreck out there. A merchant ship hit the rocks and it went down with all hands on deck. Not a soul was saved that night. Although we did recover many casks of whisky and port. Some town folks believe the whole town is haunted because of them sailors dying like that. Some nights one can hear the howling of their anguished cries as they gasped for their last breath in the icy cruel sea. Personally, I think it's just the wind but some folks will hang on to their beliefs like a snot from a child's nose."

I nodded silently, not knowing what to say.

"Will you be wanting supper?" he asked, as he cleaned the bar top again with the same cloth, spreading the remains of the bird's faeces all over the place.

"Yes please ..." I gulped.

"Well ... we haven't got any!" he replied, "I have to go to the church grave yard shortly. So I'll bid you good bye!"

"To ... the grave yard?" I asked, "at this time of night?"

"Yes ..." he said as he spat again, "I double up as the town's grave digger and I have to get ready for a burial tomorrow morning."

"Has someone died?" I asked rather stupidly, but for something to say.

"He'd better be ..." he said, "or else we'd be burying him alive. And Hubert would not be happy. Considering the big size of the grave I have to dig. Huge it'll be!"

"Was Hubert a big man?" I asked again.

"We ain't burying Hubert ..." he said in exasperation, "at least not yet. We are burying his horse!"

"His horse?" I heard myself say and not believing my ears, "in the church grave yard?"

"Where else would you want me to bury him?" he asked, "out at sea? A naval burial on a night like this? He wasn't a sea horse, you know!"

I nodded and said nothing.

"There will not be any breakfast in the morning," he said as he left, "but the price is included in the £20 you paid!"

I made my way up to my room in the dark. I entered the damp and dank smelling room lit by one candle. At least it had hot and cold running cockroaches.

I saw one of them on the wall by my bed. I used a folded newspaper and killed it squashing its remains all over the wall. Within minutes the room was infested by other cockroaches who had come for the funeral.

I pulled the bed away from the wall and they pulled it back to hide where they were holding the remembrance reception.

I decided to spend the night sitting on an old armchair instead. I must have been very tired because my eyelids soon got the better of me as I dozed of for a while.

I semi-awoke by the sound of the cockroaches partying. In my stupor I saw a ghostly figure of a woman standing by my bedside. She reminded me a little of Gloria Gaynor.

At first I was afraid, I was petrified ...
Thinking ... Oh no, not I, I will survive.
Oh, as long as I know how to run,
I'll stay alive ... I will survive.

And right now I am imagining all your faces as you are reading this!

Monday, 29 October 2018

My Halloween



My real life Halloween


Please spare a few minutes as I tell you what happened to me on that dreadful frightful night !!!

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Stupid Dog

First of all, let me dispel any rumours that I am a kind person, willing to help, and always jovial. More likely, it is that I am often being taken advantage of. People tend to mistake my quiet nature, shy even, for being a mug who will always oblige when asked nicely.

A week ago the neighbours a few houses down the road ... ... ... by the way, how far down the road should one live to cease being a neighbour? These people live quite a few houses away on our road. Are they still our neighbours? Or just a nuisance to disturb my routine?

As I was saying ... are you paying attention ... these people down our road had a family emergency and had to go away for a few days. They asked us would we mind looking after their little dog Avocado the Third?

Why call a dog such a stupid name? Why have an emergency which will end up inconveniencing me?

Anyway ... I took their stupid dog for a walk in the park yesterday. Somehow he got off the collar and ran away like an idiot here and there and everywhere. He was free ... he could run where he wanted ... although he did not know where he was going or how to get back. Assuming he wanted to get back. He ran to one tree, after a moment of two sniffing other dogs' delights he ran into the bushes, out again, followed another dog, yapping all the time to attract attention to all and sundry.

I ran after him shouting, "Avocado ... Avocado ..." looking twice the idiot than the dog I was calling. People were looking at me rather than the object of my distress. I remembered that the neighbours had given me a dog whistle. A little tube about an inch long. Apparently if you blow no one can hear it apart from the dog. I stopped and blew ... and blew ... and blew ... until I was blue in the face and breaking wind with all the effort of blowing. Did the dog hear me? No way!!! He continued running everywhere totally unaware of the reaction he was having on my blood pressure.

Eventually, some lads caught him and brought him back to me.

Now this episode reminded me of two things:

Years ago I was lost. I went up Mount Snowdon in Wales totally unprepared and wrongly suited; and it started to rain. I took shelter behind some rocks and eventually it got dark. I was cold and shivering and I thought I would not make it through the night. Mercifully, someone had called the Mountain Rescue people and they were out searching for me. They had portable loudspeakers and they were shouting, "Victor ... Victor ... we are Mountain Rescue ... where are you?"

I shouted back, "I gave at the office ..." Honestly, the cheek of some people. Going out begging for money in such intemperate weather rather than search for lost souls like me.

The second thing that came to mind as a result of the stupid dog is that we are all lost sometime in our lives. We are out there running left and right looking for something we can cling to. Something or someone to rescue us, to shelter us, to comfort us. Perhaps we are searching for Christ. At the time ... in our loss and in our despair, we probably don't know Who we are searching for. But one thing is for sure. He is out there searching for us. Daily, Jesus is out in the world searching for lost souls and eagerly waiting and hoping to welcome them home. After all, He said He would leave 99 sheep and go out searching for the one that is lost.

We are important. Very important. Perhaps we don't realise how important we are. But this does not make us any the less important. 

Not everyone will be found. Because some people do not want to be found.

Christ is searching for us. Are we searching for Him? Do we want to be found?

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Did Shakespeare wrote it this way?


To Blog or not to Blog
That is the question.
Whether it is nobler in the mind
To keep one’s thoughts to oneself
Than reveal them to all
On screens large and small.
And by doing such
Suffer the slings and arrows
Of outrageous readers
Who’d rather Block you
Than read your feeble Tweeters.
Or to bravely face your qualms
And courageously Blog on
Regardless of your audience
Be it great or be it small;
Just Blog on into eternity
And have yourself a ball!

HA !!! SHAKESPEARE WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS ME !!!

Friday, 26 October 2018

Mrs Halibut's Cats

I have known Mrs Halibut for about a couple of months or so. She's an old lady I got to know just by accident recently. She lives about a hundred yards or so from the supermarket which I visit from time to time on my way home.

A few weeks ago, I had parked the car opposite her house and on my way for a quick visit to the supermarket when she saw me from her window and called me. She asked me if I could buy her a few tins of cat and dog food from the supermarket. I thought nothing of it, and added her items to my shopping and delivered them to her.

She thanked me and paid me and explained that the tins are too heavy for her to carry. Would I mind calling on her again next time I am round to see if she wanted more tins?

That's the problem with being kind, you see. You do someone a good deed and you end up doing it again and again. Jesus never warned us about that when He asked us to be kind to one another.

Anyway, the following week I called on her. She wanted more tins of pet food and some milk. The week after, it was pet food and some soap and some washing powder. And so it went. For the past six or so weeks I seem to have been caught into this routine of calling on her and adding her shopping to mine. I pay for the shopping separately and give her the receipt to check the price of her purchases.

Last week she asked me in for a cup of tea. I really hesitated. It is not in my nature to be kind and helpful but somehow I get drawn into these situations. Christianity and having a conscience can be a drawback sometimes. Yet again, I feel Jesus should have warned us that helping old ladies with their shopping will eventually mean having tea with them.

I reluctantly agreed to have some tea with her. She led me to the living room and went to the kitchen to prepare the tea.

As I should have guessed, the house was full of cats and dogs wandering everywhere and living happily with each other. I know some elderly, perhaps lonely, people do have pets; but this was excessive I thought. She had seven cats and three dogs of various sizes. Don't miss-understand me; the house was very clean and smelled of lavender. It's just the number of pets that I found odd. By the way, why do so many old folks smell of lavender? Is it to repel moths? I had a grand-mother who always smelled of lavender. You could predict her coming into a room a day before she arrived. The other grand-mother smelled of pot-pourri; (and looked like one). 

Anyway, I digress. As I was waiting for the old lady in the living room I noticed that she had shelves full of glass jars with white labels stuck on them. There were also similar jars on the side board and fireplace mantle piece.

I looked closely at the sealed jars and they seemed to contain a grey powder. The labels read names like "Hector, Tasmania, Silver, Mandarin ... and so on." Also various dates under the names dating back some twenty or so years.

Suddenly, Mrs Halibut entered the room and I was startled out of my nine lives; I must have borrowed some from the cats.

"Ah ... I see you are admiring my collection," she said smiling as she placed the tray full of tea and biscuits on the table.

I smiled back and said nothing as I sat down.

"These are the ashes of all my cats and dogs I have had over the years," she said as she sat beside me.

"Oh ..." I heard myself say.

"I have always loved cats and dogs," she continued, " they have been good companions since my husband died. I have missed every one of them when they passed away. At first I thought of burying them in the garden. I have lived here for forty years. But then I decided to have them cremated by the vet and I kept the ashes. I have written in my Will that all the jars will be emptied and buried with me!"

My mind asked me which glass jar contains her husband, but I focussed and pretended to be interested.

"How sweet ..." I lied as I took a sip of tea which was awful and not sweet at all. It was dandelion tea. Why do people drink this stuff? Just like nettles tea and other similar concoctions? I gulped hard and swallowed a mouthful thinking that kindness has now gone too far. I put the cup down as she said:

"You haven't met Lucy, have you? I'll go and get her." and she got up and left the room. This gave me time to empty the cup of dandelion tea in a nearby plant pot. It's called re-cycling!

She returned moments later carrying a stuffed white cat.

"Lucy died tragically," she said, "a friend of mine was a taxidermist so I asked him to preserve her for me."

You could see clearly on the cat's white body the tyre tracks that had run her over so tragically.

"I reversed the car on her," she said tearfully, "and I did not have the heart to have her cremated. So I had her preserved to remind me of her. I keep her in my bedroom!"

I made some excuse or other and left the house as fast as I could.

From now on I'll just deliver her shopping at the door and leave straight away. Either that, or we will all move house to another continent.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

It Happened On The Bus

I don't know why, but complete strangers tend to start conversations with me whenever we meet. It could be on the train, or in the park walking the dog, on the bus, or anywhere. Complete strangers start a conversation by talking first about the weather, something we do a lot here in the UK, and then, before long they are telling me their life story. What is it about me that attracts complete strangers like flies to ... a honey pot? Why can't they leave me alone?
The other day I was on a long journey on a bus and I was quietly reading my newspaper "The Daily Gossip" when the man sitting next to me went, "Arrr me hearty! Shiver me timbers!"

I was startled by this sudden unusual outburst. I was expecting the more traditional opening gambit, "Nice weather we've been having lately, don't you think?"

Instead I got this pirate type utterance in what seemed a quiet authentic piraty type accent. And indeed the man, or so it seems, was a genuine pirate.

He told me he was a vegeterian pirate.

Have you ever heard of such a thing, or person?

He was a vegeterian pirate. He had a carrot on his shoulder.

I asked him, "How come, if you're a vegeterian pirate, you only have one carrot on your shoulder? Why not have a variety of vegetables?"

He said that he left some room for the rabbit. He then turned to the man sitting on my other side and said "What's up Doc?"

Well, it turned out that the man on my other side was indeed a doctor. He was on the bus because someone had stolen his bicycle. 

He said that he was short of cash and, if I wanted, he could give me some quick medical advice for a small charge.

As it happens, I did have a small personal problem on my mind which I was too embarrassed to discuss with my own doctor. But you know how it is, don't you? You don't want to discuss a personal matter with someone you know, but you're quite happy to discuss it with a stranger you'll never meet again. So I whispered the problem in his ear. Because I noticed that the carrot on the pirate's shoulder was trying to listen to our conversation.

The doctor asked me, "What are the symptoms?"

I told him they were yellow cartoon characters on TV named Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa. I wondered what that had to do with my medical problem.

He then asked me, "How's your libido?"

I replied, "I sold that Italian car; which is why I am now travelling on the bus."

He explained that there was nothing to be ashamed of in my situation and that sometimes people do have strange habits in the bedroom. The trick is to be spontaneous.

He said. "If you feel like being amourous with your wife in bed; you don't knock her on the head with your umbrella and say 'Hey ... have you got a minute?' ...Be adventurous. Be amourous at any time and at any place."

"Mind you," he continued, "they'll never let me in that restaurant again !!!"

After a moment's silence, he went on.

"Some people have a problem in the bathroom too.

"For example, I had a patient once who suffered from rheumatism. So I advised him to keep away from any dampness whatsoever. Now he sits in the bath and vacuum cleans himself.

"Another patient always took an alarm clock with him in the shower. He would set the alarm at exactly eight minutes and then shower quickly before the alarm clock rang. He would rinse himself first, put shower gel all over him and create a great lather of soap, and then speedily rinse it off before the alarm bell rang.

"If he was not quick enough, he would still get out of the shower, even if he was still covered in soap, and put his clothes back on again. He never bothered to dry himself to save on towels. Instead he would wring his arms, legs and other bits before getting dressed."

At this point, mercifully, the bus reached my stop and I got off hurriedly. In my haste, I dropped the stick of celery that was resting on my shoulder.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

SUICIDAL ME


I work in an old Victorian house three floors high. My office is in the attic.

It was hot and I had left the window open when I heard the noise of fluttering wings and saw a few feathers floating by.

I looked out and saw a pigeon hanging upside down on the edge of the roof. It had somehow gathered some twine on one of its legs and as it flew here and there with the string attached, it eventually got caught on the rainwater gutters of our building. So there it was hanging upside down by its leg on the edge of our building fluttering madly to free itself.

What do I do? Ignore it and let it die a slow death? Hit it on the head with my cricket bat which I bring to work on match days and put it out of its misery? Or phone the Animal Protection people and let them deal with it?

The more I thought about it the more the poor creature fluttered away desperately to set itself free.

In sheer desperation I did a desperate thing.

I opened the window wider and stepped out on the ledge. It’s wide enough for me to walk on slowly if I lean gently against the tilting roof. It seems solid enough despite the age of the building. And if I’m careful … very careful … I can ease myself slowly near the bird and then, if I bend down a little, I can untangle the string from the gutters.

Great plan! Badly thought out and executed.

As I neared the bird it fluttered even more wildely than before and somehow freed itself from the string as it flew away without a word of thanks.

It was then that things got worse. I could not move back towards the window.

No … No … It was not panic … or fear of heights … or anything like that.

It was much worse. My trousers got caught in some loose nails on the roof. It was where you have those loops through which you thread your belt … I think. Must have happened as I bent down to help the wretched bird.

Anyway … I was caught … or nailed to the roof by the seat of my pants. I couldn’t move backwards or forwards.

Dash it all … why do people gather in the street at a moment’s notice? Have they got nothing better to do? Don't you just hate it when you have an audience when you least want it?

I hear my boss talking to me gently through the open window.

“Come back in … I’m sure we can discuss matters like grown ups. Perhaps you need a few days holiday?” He says soothingly as I've never heard him before.

Why do people jump to conclusions whenever someone stands on a ledge? Why can’t they believe my story about the pigeon? Where is that stupid bird? Why is he not here confirming my story?

Miss Frome, the beautiful young Company nurse leans well forwards out of the window and soothingly tries to calm me down. Her décolleté revealing top confirms she is wearing no bra and confuses my troubled mind even more than it is. No wonder my blood pressure is so high whenever I go for a Company health check!

And now here she is, only feet away, urging me to look at her instead of looking down at the prospect of jumping.

Do I look away modestly and lead her to believe I’m not listening? Or do I look her in the eyes … if I can … and explain my predicament.

“Look at me …” she says calmly, “look at me ... we all care for you … this is a caring employer as you know … despite all the job losses of late, no overtime, no promotions and cuts in pay! Despite it all, we all care for you. The boss cares for you. So does everyone else. So do I ... look at me caring for you!”

I turn back at her but don't know where to focus my eyes. I can’t speak as I stand there open-mouthed. I would like to look her in the eyes but my eyes somehow have a mind of their own and they look elsewhere.

“Ehmmm …” I utter, but my voice fails me as no sound comes out.

She insists I keep my eyes on her as she continues to calm me down by reciting platitudes about how good our employer is; until eventually the fire brigade arrive and unceremoniously release me from the nails which held me captive by tearing my pants away.

I don’t know what’s more embarrassing. The story about the pigeon or leaving half my trousers back on the roof!

Had I fallen to my death leaving my trousers behind how would I have answered St Peter when he asked, “And where are your slacks young man? And why did you not look at that lady in the eyes as she told you?”

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

No To Ecumenicals


It has long been a notion amongst Ecumenicals that it is a good idea to mix with people from other denominations, to learn from them, exchange views and create friendships hopefully leading to unity.

Well in my experience mixing with Ecumenicals can lead one astray in a direction you never intended to go to in the first place.

As I shall demonstrate.

Some Ecumenical Leaders in our church decided it would be a great idea if they arranged a joint visit to a famous shrine and invite members of a number of other denominations who are part of our Parish Ecumenical Movement. They organized the trip and publicized it widely in all the member churches as well as encouraged our congregation … coercing me more than once … to come along on the pilgrimage and show willingness and unity.

On the day in question about sixty or so people from the five different churches gathered in our church car park ready to set off in two buses waiting for us.

One of the leaders stood on a box so that he could be seen by everyone and addressed us on a portable loudspeaker.

“It is so nice to see so many of you here from our Ecumenical Family. Today we have a great opportunity to make new friends and meet new people. To this end, when you’re on the bus, and during our visit to the shrine, do not sit with people you already know from your own church. Seek out new faces. There’ll be many people you’ve never met or seen before, sit with them, smile, have a chat and welcome a new friend in your life. Mingle … mingle … and mingle some more! A stranger is a friend you’ve yet to meet. Have fun!”

“Great …” I thought, “organized fun. Just what I’ve always wanted. Because I do not have the imagination and initiative to make up my own enjoyment and have my own friends!”

I sat at the back of the bus in the hope that no one would sit next to me and I’d have a peaceful journey. No such luck.

I don’t know why, but complete strangers often stop and chat with me and tell me their life stories … in the shops, on the bus or train, in the streets, anywhere. What is it about me that attracts people to me?

Soon enough an elderly lady came and sat next to me and as the coach left the church car park she started talking.

First she said hello and introduced herself. Then she said something inane about the weather, which we often do in the UK when we have nothing better to say. After that she said how she looked forward to the shrine visit. And before you know it she was telling me her life story.

She talked about the voluntary work she did during the Second World War, about her husband dying, how she grows prize-winning azaleas, whatever they are, about her grandson Quentin and how she bakes the best steak and kidney pies. I mean … who these days calls a boy Quentin???

It was obvious the old lady wanted to talk so I nodded and smiled politely at this continuous monologue pretending to be a dialogue.

I wished I’d never agreed to go on this pilgrimage in the name of Ecumenism.

Is this how Chaucer felt on his way to Canterbury? Having to listen to tales about Quentin, azaleas and steak and kidney pies?

After about two hours of this non-stop listening to this nice but verbally diarrhetic old lady the coach drew up at a pub on the way to the shrine to allow us to stretch our legs and use the amenities.

I went to the pub’s beer garden and sat at a lonely table away from everyone else to enjoy a lovely pint of Guinness.

I thought about the shrine we were visiting and about God in His infinite wisdom looking down upon us from Heaven.

What does He make of all this Ecumenical Movement? Does He approve and like the diversity of all the different Christian denominations mingling and making friends? Or would He prefer us all to be of one Church, one trade brand, with one trademark? And which one does He prefer I wander?

What does He think of us Catholics who can be a little bit fishy, especially on Fridays? Arguing amongst ourselves about different types of Masses and other such matters!

Which kind of Mass does He like? Does He enjoy Latin Gregorian chants or does He prefer guitars and waving of hands in the air? And does all that incense going up to Heaven make Him open all the windows to clear the smoke out before the smoke alarms go off?

Having had my personal discussion with God on how He could improve things down here I got up and headed towards the car park.

There was only one coach waiting there. Obviously the other one had already left and would await our arrival at the shrine.

I got in and sat somewhere totally different to avoid the non-stop-talking old lady.

Moments later the coach started filling up and a man in his forties sat next to me.

“You all right mate?” he said and I smiled back. “Did you get to the last game with Granchester?”

“No …” I mumbled, and before I could say anything else he turned round and started talking to a friend sitting behind us.

I lent my head towards the window, closed my eyes and pretended to go to sleep to avoid another unending conversation.

I must have dozed off because after about an hour of driving a few of the people at the back of the bus started singing. Strangely … these were not the familiar “Praise Songs” I’d heard so often at our prayer meetings with the Charismatic wing of our congregation.

No … these were totally new songs I’d never heard before and … wait … the lyrics are quite risqué and at times quite rude. What kind of Ecumenical types are these?

What’s going on here?

I asked the man sitting next to me which church those people at the back belong to.

"Church?” he replied, “I doubt any of them have ever seen the inside of a church … not unless they give free beer there now!”

“But … why are they going to the shrine then?” I enquired being somewhat slow on the uptake.

“We’re going to no shrine pal,” he said, “we’re off to Granchester for the football match. Where you off to?”

As I said … I don’t like Ecumenicals or anything to do with mingling with people you do not know.

I prefer a Catholic bus with a Catholic driver who knows where he’s going and people from my church whom I know well and who have nothing to do with azaleas and steak and kidney pies or Quentins!

Monday, 22 October 2018

GALILEO

I was reading an interesting book about ancient history the other day. I thought I'd share a bit of what I learnt with you. It's about a man called Galileo.

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) was a famous Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher from Pisa.

In 1583, Galileo entered the cathedral in Pisa. Some men were carrying out some repairs and someone accidentally set in motion a heavy lamp which was suspended from the ceiling. The lamp kept moving to and fro, to and fro, backwards and forwards. Galileo sat there on a pew and watched it move backwards and forwards ... backwards and forwards "you are feeling sleepy, very sleepy, your eyes are getting tired, your eyelids are heavy ..."

Sorry ... I got distracted by my own writing there. Exciting what? I'm so good at suspense that sometimes I surprise myself. Anyway, back at the suspense.

The suspended heavy lamp, (see what I did there with the word suspense?). As I was saying, the swinging lamp set Galileo thinking. He was easily amused. 

He noticed that the to and fro swings seemed to be timed almost the same. He put his fingers on his left wrist and counted his pulse. To his surprise the swinging of the lamp was almost the same as his pulse.

It was a Eureka moment.

He got in touch with a Swiss friend of his called Role the Tenth because he was the tenth son of a man called Role who called all his children Role. Anyway, Role the Tenth shortened his name to ROLE X. He was so excited by Galileo's discovery that he and Galileo invented a watch which works like a pendulum. It was the first time that pendulums were used for time keeping purposes.

People wore the watches on their wrist and went around swinging their arms to and fro, to and fro, to keep the watch working. Unfortunately, in doing so they often hit other people in the eye or in the face causing a lot of injuries. So the pendulum watch never took off as a successful idea. This did not deter Role X who went on to invent much better sought-after watches.

Back to Galileo, however, who also undeterred by his watch experiment went on to invent the telescope. He took a long tube and put a glass lens at each end et voila.


Galileo placed the telescope by the window high up in his house in the attic and, remembering his adventure with Role X years previously, he started swinging the telescope to and fro, to and fro. He moved it to the left, then he moved it to the right, and then the left again.

And this is what he saw.
And this ...
And also this ...
Of course, those were the days before curtains in windows were invented. So Galileo put his telescope to good use by watching his neighbours' goings on all evening.

He was there for so long that his wife grew a little worried. She switched off the radio in the kitchen where she was listening to "Woman's World"; a popular programme at the time, and went up in the attic.

"What are you doing?" she asked Galileo in Italian. (She did not speak English, but even if she did, it was pointless speaking to Galileo in English because he did not know English either).

"Oh ... I am looking at the heavenly bodies," he lied as he swung his telescope upwards towards the sky.

His wife was suspicious about this but said nothing. It was after all a very cloudy night with not even a moon, so there was no chance he would have been watching "heavenly bodies" - not unless they were mooning him from their windows!
 
The following day, whilst Galileo was out of the house buying pizza for lunch, she went up to the attic and put a little ink on the end of the telescope from which you look. She knew from listening to the weather forecast on the radio that that very evening would also be very cloudy and therefore there was no point in watching up to the sky for planets or stars.

That very evening, Galileo pretended to be tired and went to bed early. As you've guessed, he spent all night watching his neighbours again.

The next morning he woke up with two black rings round both eyes. That's because he had gotten very tired watching for "heavenly bodies" with just one eye, so he alternated eyes to have a rest.

His wife challenged him and he confessed and told her the whole truth. 

Rather than be angry, which is what you would expect under the circumstances, or over the circumstances even; the clever wily lady invented binoculars to save one from having to change eyes when watching whatever it is you want to watch.

Which explains why the word binoculars is always in the plural. The singular for binoculars is telescope.

Which goes to show:  

Man might think he is clever. But in reality woman is much cleverer than him.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Who is Jesus?



Recently I attended  a Christian group meeting. The discussion centred on the question: "If you were stopped in the street by those opinion polls people and you were asked 'Who is Jesus?' what would you say?"

Surprisingly, people were hesitant to say outright that He is the Son of God. They hesitated. Even though we in the UK are in a supposedly Christian country. Even though right now people in other countries are being persecuted and killed for being Christians. The group hesitated. They felt they would admit in private to other Christians that they believed Jesus is the Son of God; but would not necessarily say so publicly in the street, or at work with colleagues, in the pub or whatever.

They were asked, "if your children, who believe what you say, asked 'Who is Jesus?' what would you say?"

Again, there was hesitation from most of the group.

In an ever secular country, it seems Christians are a little reluctant to profess their belief in Jesus. It seems as if they are ashamed to admit publicly, to non-Christians, the existence of God and His Son, Jesus.

They say instead that He is a wise teacher, a philosopher, a great healer.

It is said you can judge a person by what they say and do. So let's examine what Jesus said and did.

Time and again He taught His listeners to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength and love your neighbour as you love yourself. There is no other commandment more important than these two.” Mark 12: 28-31. So He re-affirms, clearly, that there is only one God and our duty, and responsibility, is to love Him and to love all other people. 

On another occasion He taught His followers how to pray to their God, whom He calls their Father. And He assures them that their living Father God is listening to their prayers regardless where and how they pray. They do not need to make a public show of it. 

Often He taught about forgiveness and the duty to love everyone, including our enemies.

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

"Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way as you judge others, and He will apply to you the same rules you apply to others." Matthew 7: 1-2

"Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too." Matthew 5: 39

His actions throughout His life seem to mirror what He taught and preached in that He showed love and caring for the people He met by healing them, consoling them, feeding them, and often raising some of them from the dead. 

Always it was on a one-to-one basis, like He taught us to relate to God His Father. 

When the crowds came to Him He could have just clicked His fingers and all who needed healing would be healed. But He did not do that. He treated each individual case personally. He touched the deaf man's ears, He put His hands on the blind man's eyes, He let the old lady touch His cloak, He went to Jairus' daughter as well as to Lazarus' tomb. And all these, as well as many others, were healed or raised from the dead.

He claimed time and again that He was the Son of God. A claim which led to His cruel death on the Cross. His Father in Heaven confirmed this claim on at least two occasions. At Christ's Baptism and at the Transfiguration. And of course, by raising Him again from the dead.

So ... the question is asked again.

Who do you think Jesus is?

What would you say publicly if asked this question?

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The Fox And Moon

It was a lovely summer’s day as I sat on the park bench enjoying the take-away meal I just bought from my favorite burger bar.

I’d just finished my large portion of French fries and I put the empty packet on the bench to dispose of it later. To stop it blowing away I put my cell-phone and keys in the empty fries container to weigh it down, and proceeded to enjoy my burger and cheese bun.

As quick as a flash, a fox came out of the bushes, no doubt attracted by the smell of food, grabbed the empty fries container in its mouth and ran away.

I ran after it frantically and it eventually dropped my cell-phone, but unfortunately it hid in the bushes before I could retrieve my keys. I searched everywhere to no avail. The bushes in that area were quite thick and almost impenetrable.

I walked back to my car intent on phoning for help when I found a park ranger standing next to my vehicle writing in her notepad.

I immediately recognized the lady in question.

I’d seen her several times in church talking in the car park after Mass with friends, but I never spoke with her.

She’s a short woman in her mid-forties well built all over and a little rotund. She must have a great sense of humor apparently since she’s always laughing loudly outside church with a contagious laugh which makes you want to join in the fun even though you’re not part of the conversation.

Today of course it was different. Dressed in her tight ranger’s uniform she was as severe as befits a person in authority.

“You have parked beyond the stipulated time,” she said sternly, “and I must issue you with a fine to be paid within a week!”

I tried to explain what had just happened and why I was late driving away from the parking space.

“You’re from our church …” she declared, “I recognize your face. Show me where it happened.”

We walked back to the bushes and I showed her where the fox had run away.

“We have had sightings of a vixen and a young family around here,” she said, “the mother is probably trying to feed her cubs!”

She handed me her jacket and continued, “I’ll go in there to look for your keys. I wouldn’t want you to disturb them if they’re in there!”

She got down on her hands and knees and like a dog she slowly and carefully made her way forward into the thick bushes until all I could see was the sole of her shoes.

Eventually she said “I got them …” and started reversing back slowly, on all fours, just as she got in.

Suddenly, there was a loud ripping sound and her very tight trousers tore from top to bottom at the back revealing very minute skimpy underwear and leaving nothing to the imagination.

I stood there frozen, holding her jacket.

To my amazement and total confusion she suddenly burst out in uncontrollable fits of laughter. She stayed there on all fours for a few seconds laughing herself out of breath despite her obvious expose.

She then continued reversing ever so slowly, presumably to avoid disturbing any foxes which would no doubt be as confused as myself; and then standing up and still giggling she said, “You can stop ogling my derriere now and help cover up my modesty!”

She wrapped her jacket round her waist to cover her rear and said, “I must have given you quite an eye-full there. How are you going to explain that to Father Frederic in Confession?”

Before I had time to reply, she continued, “You’ll have to drive me home to get changed.”

I did drive her home and we became great friends with her and her husband.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Celebrity Atheists

 

I don't know whether you have them where you live; but we have them here in Britain.

Celebrity atheists.

These are people who have been successful in life, actors, singers, sportsmen, comedians, even scientists; and they don't believe in God. Fine. I have no problem with that. They have a perfect right to believe, or not believe, what they want. That's their prerogative. I believe in God. They don't. And that's fine by me; as it should be fine by them.

Yet, these celebrities seem to have made it their mission in life to tell the world that God does not exist. And to convince everyone else that they too should not believe in God.

You see them often on TV, or on the radio, or social media expounding their thoughts and their views. It could be a chat show on TV or radio and suddenly there's a mention of Christianity, or religion, and they would say, "... of course ... I don't believe in all that ..." implying that if you do believe then there's something wrong with you.

Often, these celebrities are well educated and fluent at putting their argument forcibly and convincingly. I would guess they most probably do influence certain people who feel that it is logical, learned even, to emulate them and not to believe in a "bearded man sitting up there on the clouds!" (Actual words used on TV).

As a Christian, and having known a number of Christians, I find that they sometimes have doubts about their beliefs. Some have crises of Faith even. I must confess that many a time I have questioned what I actually believe.

Doubt is good. It makes us question what we have been taught and often we may find an answer, or a clarification, of something we did not understand. Doubt can indeed strengthen our Faith.

But there is one thing that has always intrigued me about atheists in general. They are always certain in what they believe. They have decided that there is no God and that is that. There is no room for doubt or manoeuvre in their intellect and in their conclusion. In effect, one would admire their Faith in what they believe.There certainly is no doubt amongst atheists that God does not exist.

I would never try to convince an atheist that God exists. He has made his mind up and the discussion would just turn into a pointless debate. I would, however, tell someone willing to listen about the love that God has for him. Someone who is willing to consider the possibility of God's existence. Someone willing to accept that perhaps his non-believing views might possibly be wrong. Someone with the courage to dare to believe without any evidence or proof. Someone willing to take the first step in blind Faith and leaving the rest to God.

But despite all that, I like atheists.

And it has nothing to do because Jesus said so. "Love your neighbour and all that!"

No, I like atheists for my own selfish reasons.

You see ... the more atheists there are the more room there will be for me and you in Heaven.

The way I see it is like this. If atheists don't believe in God, therefore it follows that they don't believe in Heaven either. This being the case, then they would not want to be somewhere which they believe doesn't exist.

So it follows, fewer people, means more room for me and you in Heaven.

Just think about it. Not having to join long queues to learn how to play the harp. Or to go to Prayer Meetings. Or to go to where they fit you with wings and teach you to fly like an angel.

With all the atheists somewhere else discussing how wrong they were, there will be a quick service for us in Heaven as well as more room at the beach, the park, or wherever we choose to relax.

Oh bliss ... I think it will be Heavenly in Heaven.
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