Friday, 30 November 2018

Bonzo Bookshelf Junior


Bonzo: Hello Mr Moubarak. Come in. Sit down.

Me: How do you do?

Bonzo: Do what?

Me: No ... ehm ... I meant how do you do ... like a greeting ... hello! 

Bonzo: Whatever ... well, we haven't met. I have just taken over the agency from my father who has fallen in love with a gorilla and moved back to the zoo. So I am making a point of meeting all our clients to see how we can help. Now remind me ... how many books have you written?

Me : Erm ... twenty five.

Bonzo: Twenty five? You should go out more often. Get a life man!

Me: Some are humourous books, whilst other are somewhat more serious and Christian based ...

Bonzo: So I see ... Tell me do you advertise on TV, billboards, in magazines ... that sort of thing?

Me: No ... I don't have an advertising budget. I prefer my readers to get my books through recommendations, word of mouth and ...

Bonzo: Yeah ... Yeah ... do you at least have a website?

Me: Yes ... I have two. One for my Christian books which you can access HERE. And another which sets out all my books, Christian and humourous, which you can link to HERE.

Bonzo: Uh Hmm ... I see ... Your books are not expensively priced ... why is that?

Me: The intention is not to make money. The price of the books is based on production costs and postage. The royalties I get are very low ...

Bonzo: No wonder you pay us peanuts then? 10% of little is very little indeed. 

Me: Well ... I thought that ...

Bonzo: WAIT A MINUTE !!! Are you mad Mister? It says on this website of yours that you are giving some of your books for FREE. For FREEEE!!!! Well ... i'll be a monkey's uncle ... when my sister has her baby that is ... Why are you giving away books for FREE?

Me: Well ... my intention is that people would like what I write and then get to read my Christian books and ...

Bonzo: Giving away books for FREE!!! Well that's an excellent business model that is. I must have missed that lesson when I attended my Business Degree Course at University. How to run a successful business by giving away your products and services for FREE ... Are you trying to make a monkey out of me? No wonder my dad gave up the business and shacked up with a gorilla instead.

Me: well ... I thought ...

Bonzo: That's the problem with you ... you thought ... well, stop thinking and leave the planning to me ... People these days want to know the person behind the author. Who are you? What kind of person are you? They like to get to know you ... and a heart-rending story helps ... it makes them like you more ...

Me: Eh ... what ... what do you mean?

Bonzo: You know ... if we tell them a sad story about you they'll get to like you, feel sorry for you and buy your books. I can arrange to have you run over by an elephant for example.
Me: WHAT?

Bonzo: There's this elephant I know ... Jumbo ... ever so gentle despite his name ... He could step on you gently ... works for peanuts ...

Me: No way ...

Bonzo: How about a bear then ... He could bite you in the backside. That would be both humourous and sad ... a bit like you really. And he'll do it for a jar of honey ...
Bonzo: What if I were to get Springy the snake to bite you? He is not poisonous ... but your readers won't know. They'll feel sorry for you and ...

Me: No ... definitely not ... no elephants ... bears ... snakes or anything else. I'll just let my readers find all my books, those they pay for and those that are FREE, from my website and that will be enough. All they have to do is click HERE.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Mission Possible

Your mission, should you decide to accept it ...

Is to engage in conversation and share your views.

Your opinion matters.

We can learn from each other.

FIRST - Follow the link below. It will open a new page. Read it.

THEN - Come back here and share your views in the comments box.

Thank you.


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Cats

 

Have you wondered how the cat gets it right every time? Here's a possible solution. Cats see things in slow motion because their brain to eye balls connections are superior to ours so although we are moving the cups fast the cat is seeing it in slow motion and therefore able to follow which cup has the ball underneath it.

Either that, or this is a trick picture. I'll leave you to work out which. But take it from me. Cats and dogs, and flies DO SEE in slow motion. That's why a fly will fly away as soon as your hand gets near it. Same applies for a mosquito. Many creatures see things in slow motion.

Dogs do not see in colour but in black and white. That is why a dog will not chase a black cat at night, because he can't see it at night in the dark; and also because it is bad luck.

If a black cat crosses your path when you are walking it is because it is going somewhere. That's why it is bad luck to walk under a black cat.

All this is true because I read it in a book which I am currently writing.

Now look at this next picture.

You might think this cat is clever but I can tell you that he is actually stupid because he does not charge the proper rate for giving massages. He does all this work for a tin of cat food and a pat on the head.

Mind you, on second thoughts, I think I too would do this for a tin of cat food and a pat on the head !!!

Now this next cat ...

I think is quite rude.

But be that as it may, if you are a cat lover, or even if you are not, then why not do yourself a favour and read ...

It's a humourous book about life with my cat.

A great Christmas present for cat lovers everywhere.

Also suitable for non-cat-lovers.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Les Quatre Musketeers


Now as many people know The Three Musketeers is a novel by the French writer Alexandre Dumas first published in 1844. The story is set in the 17th Century and tells the adventures of d'Artagnan who goes to Paris to join the Musketeer Guards. The three Musketeers were Athos, Porthos and Aramis and their motto was "all for one and one for all".

What not many people know however is that the story is based on real people who guarded King Louis XIV of France, a King who enjoyed good style furniture which to this day bear his name. If you find a Louis XIV chair you are sure to pay a good price for it because the chances are that at some time or other he may have sat on it.

Anyway, the names of the REAL three musketeers were Pathos (not Athos) because he was always sad and melancholy (face like a melon and body like a collie). Shortos (because he was very short. He had also trained as a doctor but because of his small stature he had qualified as a knee specialist). And Monami, (which in French means my friend. He was always friendly with the ladies and got into a lot of trouble).

The real young man who travelled to Paris to join the musketeers was named Tarte Onion (not d'Artagnan, because he was a baker and every one liked his onion pies).

OK ... preliminaries over. Now on with the real story.

Tarte Onion goes to Paris and stays in a small inn. The owner puts him up in a tiny room up in the attic. Right up in the loft of the house. Tarte Onion asks the hotelier if he has anything to drink. The hotel-keeper says there's some milk in the kitchen cupboard, "take it up with you to the loft".

For the next half-hour Tarte Onion struggles trying to take the cupboard up to the loft.

The next morning he struggles again getting the cupboard down three floors to the kitchen.

After paying the hotelier for his night's stay the hotel-keeper gives him directions to the Palace of King Louis XIV and bids him farewell.

"Pull the door behind you as you leave!" says the hotelier and Tarte Onion duly obliges by pulling the door off its hinges and taking it with him to the Palace.

At the Palace, the Guards at the Gates, (also Musketeers called Left and Right because of the positions they occupied at the Gates), see Tarte Onion coming towards them with a door on his back. They stop him thinking he is a door-to-door salesman selling doors door-to-door.

"Do you have a gate?" they ask.

"No, I always walk this way" replies Tarte Onion.

(Pause a little for some people to catch up and understand this joke).

After a short pause by which time the two Guards understood the joke they ask Tarte Onion for some form of identification.

He pulls out a mirror from his pocket, looks at it and says "Yes, that's me all right!"

So they let him into the great hall of the King's Palace. As he's waiting there a beautiful lady comes in and walks towards him. Tarte Onion also moves forward a little and trips over the carpet hitting the beautiful lady in the face. That's when their eyes met, although their noses took most of the impact.

Tarte Onion explains that his main quest is to find the spy working for the evil Cardinal Richelieu who wants to kill the King and become King himself.

Now the young would-be musketeer has been told that the spy is a woman with a tattoo somewhere personal on her body spelling the word "LOLA".

"Could this woman be the very spy LOLA which I am after?" Tarte Onion asks himself, "if only I could search if she has a tattoo on her person!".

Before he could answer his own question, the lady rubs her face to ease the pain from her nose-to-nose close encounter of the painful kind and introduces herself by giving her name "Isadora Kitten".

"No ... a door is a door, and a kitten is a small cat!" replies the hapless Tarte Onion. 

Isadora smiles and marvels at his level of ignorance.  It is then that Tarte Onion notices for the first time that, although she was very beautiful, sadly, she had one ear much much bigger than the other. One ear was normal size and the other much larger and sticking out a little ... quite a lot.

It was as if she was a car with a side door left wide open.

But as cars had not yet been invented no one had made the connection and compared her to a car with a door wide open. Although some had noted that she looked like a horse-drawn carriage with a door wide open.

Every time there was a slight breeze the poor lady would pirouette round as the draught caught her ear like a big sail.

(Did you notice I used the French word "pirouette" rather than say spin? It is after all a French story. Many years from now, when people study my writings, like they do William Shakespeare's, they'll marvel at my grasp of a wide and international vocabulary. But I digress as I often do to my great annoyance.)

Anyway, Isadora spins round like a revolving hotel door, (that's where the idea of those doors originated), and as she spins a few turns she gets dizzy and falls flat on her back. That's when Tarte Onion notices that she has a tattoo on her upper thigh spelling the word "LOL".

He does not know whether she is laughing out loud at him, or whether the tattoist ran out of ink before finishing her name.

At this point into the big hall enter the three Musketeers Pathos, Shortos and Monami, accompanied by a servant called Pantaloon; but they called him Pants for short!

The Musketeers befriend Tarte Onion and they fight many battles together against the evil Cardinal Richelieu; and in defence of their King, Louis XIV, who is always busy buying Louis XIV furniture, thus creating a shortage and an increase in prices.

Tarte Onion also fights many duels against his greatest enemy Roquefort. A cheesy character who has two accomplices, an Italian called Gorgonzola and an Englishman named Stilton.

Tarte Onion is often cut up into slices in such duels with Roquefort who crumbles at every "Touché" of his opponent's sword. Meanwhile Gorgonzola and Stilton melt in the heat of battle with pathetic Pathos, shortie Shortos and the ever so friendly, (with the ladies), Monami. 

With feeble puns such as these and such a selection of names you can imagine why the books by Alexandre Dumas became very famous for ever more. LOL indeed.

En guarde !!!

Monday, 26 November 2018

Forgiveness YES - Reconciliation NO

“Father … I have a problem with forgiving” said Sonia as she folded the last of the vestments and put them away in their cupboard in the Sacristy.

Father Ignatius was checking some paper work at a small desk in the corner of the large room. There was a tray there and parishioners were invited to place their messages, notices and sundry bits and pieces of information intended for the weekly Church Newsletter. The priest was reading through them in preparation for printing the Newsletter that evening. He stopped what he was doing and asked:

“What do you mean? A problem with forgiving …”

Sonia hesitated.

“I know you’ve always said we should forgive with all our heart … unreservedly … if we want God to forgive us our sins. I understand that … and I try as best I can to forgive wholeheartedly …”

“I can foretell a ‘but’ coming up …” smiled the priest, “but in this case …”

She smiled back.

“But in this case it is different …” she continued.

“There’s this woman at work who has hurt me really bad. She lied about me Father. And as a result I was severely reprimanded by our manager and I was made to lose a day’s pay … which I cannot afford.

“We used to be friends and all … but she lied to cover up her mistake and I got unfairly punished. This happened about two weeks ago.”

“This is terrible,” said Father Ignatius frowning at the unfairness of what he’d just heard. “Is there not some sort of appeal procedure at your workplace? Someone to talk to about it perhaps."

“No … that’s not the problem Father,” Sonia said.

“The thing is, this woman came to see me yesterday and apologized profusely for what she had done. She cried her heart out and said she could not have been found out to have made yet another mistake. She was on her last warning and another mistake would mean losing her job. That’s why she lied and put the blame on me. She begged me to forgive her … which I did straight-away Father. I told her to think no more about it and that all was now OK.”

“That’s very generous and loving of you … so what is the problem?” asked the priest.

“She wants us to be friends again, as before. We used to visit each other at our homes … and we’d shop together, or pick up each others’ children from school and so on … she wants everything to be as before.

“I find that very difficult … I just can’t trust her any-more and I want us to keep our distance. I forgive her as I said; but I can’t go back as before. My husband agrees and says I should no longer speak to her. I think I can speak and be nice to her at work but that’s as far as it goes; I can’t be friends again. Is my forgiveness worthless?”

“No … it is not worthless,” replied Father Ignatius gently, “when we forgive someone else, we touch their very soul with the merciful love of Jesus Christ our Lord.

“You’ve been hurt Sonia … hurt and punished unfairly and undeservedly.

“When we forgive people it means that we no longer hold their wrongdoings to account. We no longer bear them any malice or ill-feelings or ill-will.

“We acknowledge that we forgive them and we let them go their own way free from any fear of punishment or retribution on our part.

“This doesn’t mean however that we forget the pain caused to us. How can we? The hurt is imprinted in our memory and try as we might the chances are that we’ll remember it time and again. It’s only natural … it’s human nature. You forgave her and told her so …”

Sonia nodded; holding back her tears.

“And that’s all that is expected of you …” continued the priest gently, noticing that she was very upset at the mere thought of the event.

“We all have a right … a duty even … to protect ourselves and to protect our loved ones …

“If we feel uncomfortable about a particular situation or relationship, we have every right to distance ourselves from it.

“For very understandable reasons you feel uncomfortable at being friendly with this person as you were before; visiting each other and picking each others’ children from school and so on.

“There’s nothing wrong with that … tell her politely that you’ve forgiven her and that you feel both of you should leave it at that. An amicable relationship from a distance …”

“But …” Sonia interrupted, “how can that be forgiveness? By keeping my distance implies that I’m still holding something against her. She knows that … you and I know that … and God knows that …”

Father Ignatius smiled.

“Oh yes … God knows that all right … and He knows the reason behind it too …” he said.

“Let me tell you a story …

“Jesus once taught His disciples and His followers about Himself.

“He said, ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him’

“A number of His followers found this difficult to understand. What does He mean … eat His flesh and drink His blood? Many today, find this very concept difficult to understand; so you can imagine how it was in those times.

“So a number of Christ’s followers decided to leave and no longer follow Him.

“What did Jesus do?

“He didn’t call them back. He didn’t say, ‘Wait, let me explain … this is what I meant to say …’ He didn’t compromise His position in any way …

“He just let them go … and He even asked His twelve disciples, ‘How about you … do you want to go as well?’

“You see Sonia … Jesus forgave them and let them go … He didn’t curse them and send plagues and pestilence on them and their families for generations …”

She smiled again feeling a little calmer.

“He just forgave them and let them go …

“Which is what you should also do …” said Father Ignatius serenely.

ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS

Often we tend to confuse the real meaning of forgiveness.

Let us remember that we are humans. We can't help it ... that's the way we are, the way God made us, with a multitude of various emotions, fears, hopes and ways of interpreting many situations in our lives. We're complex creatures. He had His reasons to create us this way.

Being human, one of our first instincts is to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Another feature of our humanity is the ability to remember ... the good times, but more specifically the bad times.

The worse the bad times, the more terrible they've been, the more they are imprinted in our memories.

Anything can and will trigger these memories again ... visiting a place, seeing a photo, hearing a particular song ... anything ... and the bad memories come flooding back again. That's the price we pay for being human.

Christ said: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who hurt us."

Thank God that He does not hold us to the strict letter of this particular contract; otherwise we'd all be taking the fastest elevator going down!

Yet ... He does hold us to the intent of that particular contract we recite in the Lord's Prayer.

He asks us to forgive ... that's the important thing. Not just seven times but seventy times seven … and many times more than that as well.

Forgiving someone means that we no longer hold a grudge, or any ill-will or ill-feelings towards them or the hurt they have caused us. We let them go in peace free of fear of any revenge or retribution on our part.

This applies whether we tell them that they are forgiven, or whether they have moved away, or perhaps never asked or sought our forgiveness, and perhaps they don’t even care about our feelings.

What matters is that in our hearts we have truly forgiven them; and, here’s the difficult bit, … we can prove it to God should He ask us to.

Of course the memories will come back … we can’t help that. But let’s use them positively by forgiving once again. Let us use them as a reminder to pray for the ones who hurt us. Let us say to God : “Please look after that person. Enlighten them and lead them to find your love as I have found it too.”

Would it not be wonderful if as a result of our hurt … and our prayers … someone finds God, perhaps for the first time.

Christ has His memories too when He sees the scars in His hands, feet and side. I believe He uses these memories to forgive us yet again.

I doubt very much that the Virgin Mary has forgotten the Crucifixion. But she forgives again and again.

Having truly forgiven, it is our right and duty to keep our distance from that person if we feel they create a threat to us or our loved ones. Keeping our distance is NOT a sin, and it does not mean that we haven’t forgiven or that our forgiveness is worthless.

The world has seen many evil people over the years who have caused great hurt and pain to many. Whilst in our moments of prayers perhaps we can attempt to forgive them; this does not mean that we should leave them to freely continue with their actions. It is our duty as individuals, and as nations, to protect ourselves and our loved ones from those intent on doing us harm. Forgiveness does not mean accepting evil and allowing it to succeed.

In the story above, Jesus would have forgiven the woman and continued the friendship with her. But we are not Jesus. We are humans, and most of us would not be able to do that.

Being human we can only forgive as humans. We cannot possibly forgive as He has forgiven, no matter how hard we try.

He was human, but He was/is God too … and that’s a level of forgiveness we can never achieve.

We can only hope to live by the intent of that particular contract in the Lord’s Prayer.

God bless.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Face to Face with St Peter




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

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

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

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

The woman smiled feebly.

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

She blushed a little and said nothing.

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

She looked down to the ground and said nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She trembled, fearing the worst, and said nothing.

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

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

At this the old lady began weeping uncontrollably.

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

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

She wiped her eyes with her veil and continued weeping.

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

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Diary Entry


Dear Diary,

Haven't written here for a while. How have you been? Gathering dust as usual?

So, what's been happening lately? Oh yes ... we got a new pet Guinea pig, or is it a hamster? Can't tell the difference. We named him Dopey after one of the seven dwarves, although I can't remember which one.
 
Anyway, I met Fred the other day. I was out walking the ferret when there he was; Fred, not the ferret. We stopped and talked in the street.

In discussion we talked about re-incarnation. I told him that knowing his luck he'd come back as himself! What a disappointment that would be.

He said he didn't believe in re-incarnation. His view of life is that we are born, we live, we die, we get buried and feed the plants as we disintegrate into the soil. I suppose it is re-incarnation of sorts, coming back as a sack of potatoes or carrots.

"What would you like to be re-incarnated as?" Fred asked me.

"Certainly not as a tin of condensed milk!" I retorted sarcastically. "Do you remember? It was made from contented cows. I wonder what they were contented about?"

He then said that some people can in fact contact those who are gone to the other side.

I said, "What? The other side of the street?"

"No," he replied, "the other side ... when we are dead. Some people believe you can contact the dead. There's this Madame Ratatouille, she lives just up the street, she is a clairvoyant ..."

"What's that?"

"You know, she can see the future ... The other day, she held a seance in the town hall to tell people their future. She arrived a little late due to unforeseen circumstances apparently."

"A seance?" I asked.

"Yes ... she is a medium, you know!"

"I always thought she was extra large actually. She must have gone on a diet since I last saw her!"

"Anyway," Fred continued, "Madame Ratatouille contacted Horace Smallpiece. You remember him? He died some six months ago and no one told him. Apparently, now he is gone he is enjoying himself making love to all the females around him."

"Where? In the after-life?" I asked.

"No, no ..." said Fred, "apparently he's re-incarnated into a rabbit in a field somewhere. He is the only male amongst a lot of women who also re-incarnated into rabbits. They're having quite a good time I believe."

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OUR READERS

Years ago, I broadcast this on the radio. 
It seems appropriate for today.

God bless you all.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The F***ing Ghost

As part of my job I had to visit a remote castle on an island far North in Scotland. The castle was part of ancient defence fortifications just by the sea.

By early afternoon, we received a phone call to say that the ferry taking us to the mainland would not run that evening because of bad weather at sea and because they were expecting a storm that evening.

There was no option but to spend the night in the castle. It had been used in the past to house soldiers and there were a number of rooms ready prepared for such eventualities.

After we had supper that evening we were led to our rooms for the night. Mine was somewhere up the tower and from the window you could see the sea for miles and miles.

The sky was dark with heavy clouds and already strong winds were blowing about the castle and rain started tapping at my window.

There was no TV or radio, so I decided to read over some financial reports I had brought with me and go over the notes I had made of the meeting we had earlier in the day.

As I was concentrating, despite the noise of the wind and rain outside, I heard clearly inside the room a ripping sound. As if someone had ripped the bed sheets, or some curtain.

I was startled and jumped out of my chair. I had not imagined it. There was definitely a loud ripping sound inside my room.

The electric light flickered once or twice but remained lit. Obviously a bad connection somewhere; made worse by the wind whistling through badly fitting windows, or cracks in the walls. Whatever it was, it was not enough for me to rush out of the room; albeit I was more than a little scared.

I sat at my desk and looked around the room for I don't know what.

Then it happened again "Prrrrrrt ... Prrrrrrrt." Twice the ripping sound reverberated throughout the room.

They were followed by the most obnoxious smell you could imagine. Even worse than what you are imagining right now.

It was so bad that I wanted to vomit. I put my hand on my mouth and nose. Both to stop me vomiting and breathing. Then slowly I took small breaths through my mouth.

A few minutes later, the smell had gone. Dissipated by the continuous draught blowing throughout the room.

Nothing else happened that night. No more ripping sounds or bad smells.

The next morning at breakfast I tentatively asked my hosts if there had ever been any reports of sounds or smells in the castle.

"Oh ... the Farting Ghost must have visited your room," they laughed, "we've had reports of him every now and then. Nothing to worry about really!"

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Eccentric? Moi?


In the kitchen we have a large wardrobe, (cupboard), containing mostly pots and pans and other kitchen utensils; which explains its location in our house. Anywhere else and it would be out of place.

A few weeks ago, when everyone was out of the house, I made a big hole in the back of the wardrobe and another in the wall so that I could go into the wardrobe and out into our garden through the wall.

I put all the pots and pans back in the wardrobe/cupboard and concealed the large hole to the outside.

It was like the wardrobe in the book by C S Lewis, "The witch, the lion and the wardrobe". Once you enter the wardrobe you could go into my own garden Narnia. I mean ... if it is good enough for this Lewis fellow, it is good enough for me.

When the family got home, they complained that it was a bit draughty in the kitchen. There was a distinct wind coming from outside which rattled the cupboard's doors.

My wife ... oh, I never told you did I? My wife and I met on the net. We were both bad trapeze artists. But that's another story.

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted my train of thoughts ... We used to train for ages high up on the trapeze jumping from one swing to another. We often missed each other because she arrived ten minutes late. So we both fell and met on the net ... as I was saying.

Now where was I? Ah ... trains ... they are usually late these days. The other day they said the train was cancelled due to shortage of staff. Why can't they employ taller ones? One way to improve trains being late is to replace the time-tables with calendars. "The next train for London will arrive on Wednesday!" 

As I was saying ... or meant to say ... my wife discovered the hole at the back of the wardrobe and ... let's say she has no sense of humour whatsoever.

No sense of adventure either. I explained that by going through the wardrobe she would travel out into a new Narnia world in the garden; walking through sunshine, or mist or rain or whatever the weather outside might be.

Her reply will not be posted here to protect readers with a nervous disposition. She could not see why we can't walk through the back door if we wanted to visit the garden in all weathers. But she didn't say it quite this way!!!

She didn't like my next adventure either. I installed at the very end of our garden a chocolate dispensing machine. I bought the machine from a shop that was closing down and they had it on the side-walk outside. I got it home and installed it just by the pond at the end of the garden and filled it with all kinds of chocolates. I thought it would be a good incentive to go out for a walk in all weathers.

My wife, unhumourous as ever, did not understand my actions. I explained that it gives my walk in my private Narnia a real purpose. What is the point of going out in the garden in all weathers for no reason at all? Now I can enter the wardrobe, go through the hole at the back, and walk gently all the way to the pond and reward myself with a bar of chocolate from the machine. What's wrong with that?

I intend to invite friends and relatives and conduct tours of our garden through the wardrobe. They would all file into the kitchen and one by one enter the wardrobe and walk all the way to the chocolate machine. What fun that would be! I may even have little scenes from Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" re-enacted in various places in the garden.

Sadly, my wife has brought in reinforcement in the shape of her mother. She landed on her broom stick early this morning ... and that frightened the wildlife for miles around. The skies darkened with the multitude of birds flying away. Some were so intimidated that they returned the seeds they had taken from our garden last year. The squirrels too ... they put their nuts on the garden bench and ran away. The urban fox which visits our garden every so often committed suicide; whilst the hedgehog is in psychiatric therapy.

I suggested we also give broom-flying lessons or play quidditch like in the Harry Potter films.

No sense of adventure whatsoever, my family.

Do you think I'm eccentric?

Monday, 19 November 2018

Un-accustomed as I am ...

My boss was invited to make an after-dinner speech at a salesmen conference. He was told not to make it about work, or business, but a light-hearted talk for successful salesmen being rewarded for exceeding their targets and doing well in making profits. It should be a short funny speech to lighten the mood a little.

He did not want to do it, not knowing what to talk about. He is, after all, a serious businessman, not a comic. His colleagues encouraged him to go on. They told him to tell a few jokes about sex. That always goes down well at parties and such gatherings. They even offered to write the speech for him.

On the evening in question, he delivered the speech as he was taught by his colleagues. When he went home, his wife asked him what he spoke about. He mumbled, "Oh ... nothing much ... boating and sailing ... that sort of thing!"

A few days later I met his wife at the supermarket. In order to make conversation I said that his speech was well received the other night.

She said, "That's strange, considering he only tried it twice. The first time he was sea-sick and the second time his hat blew off!"

Sunday, 18 November 2018

For what is trust?


Many of us often pray. Sometimes, our prayers are prayers of thanks to the Lord, but, if we're honest, more often than not we pray because we're asking God for something. We may be asking God to help us find a job, get a promotion at work, better health, a good and happy marriage or whatever else we consider to be our need, or indeed our entitlement. Yes, I repeat ... our entitlement. Because many of us believe we're entitled to things just because we consider ourselves to be good. Life really isn't like that.

Many of us pray for something and in our heart we are really saying: "Come on God! You know I love you. I go to Church every now and then, and deep inside I am really good. Why don't you let me have ... (whatever we want at the time)".

As every parent knows, when children go on and on pesterring for something or other eventually, because we love them, we may well give way and answer their demands.

In fact, Jesus reminds us of this when He mentions the widow who kept pestering the judge day in day out until eventually he gave way and gave her what she wanted. (Luke Chapter 18). In this parable Jesus teaches us not to be discouraged and to continue praying to God our Father for our needs.

But what happens when we pray and wait, and wait and nothing happens? We pray for days, months, sometimes for years for something to happen to improve our lot and God does not seem to listen or answer. We don't know why. Perhaps He is busy with more urgent and pressing demands from someone else. Perhaps our demands are not such a high priority in His ever increasing in-tray. But as far as we're concerned He is not answering; and to be quite honest, we are running out of patience.

What then? When we wait and wait and nothing happens?

Is it OK to get angry with God? To stamp our foot on the ground like a spoilt child and go into tantrums throwing our toys out of the pram in protest?

I believe it is OK to be angry with God. It will not get us very far; but it is still OK.

God can take our anger. He did after all take all our anger when hanging there on the Cross. So a bit of stamping on the ground won't hurt Him that much.

But like any loving parent He will consider our demands, and if it is good for us, He will in His time and in His way respond.

Remember that God can see not only our past but our future too, and sometimes what we're asking for is not exactly what we should have. What is good for us in the long run.

So what should we really do when our prayers are seemingly unanswered. From experience, I believe we should continue praying and have patience. And then some more patience. We really need to trust Him that He knows best. Even if trust itself is stretched to the point of disbelief, we should continue to trust Him. Through gritted teeth even. Continue to trust Him just as a child trust his parents without questioning.

Difficult? Sure it is. But not impossible. I have known people whose life and whose lot has changed from bad to worse over and again. But they never gave up. They continued to trust Him.

And that's the road to Sainthood.

Saints are sinners like you and me; but they never gave up trusting Him.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Faith is not enough

In Hebrews Chapter 11 we read: To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

But what does that really mean? What is it like to have faith, and not only to believe in a living God, Creator of all and everything, but also to be certain in that belief? Without any proof, or evidence whatsoever.

It’s as if to have faith is to believe when your common sense tells you not to.

Often Jesus said to people He has healed: Your faith has healed you. Your faith has saved you.

He taught that if we had faith as small as a mustard seed we could perform miracles.

We read in Mark 9:24 that when a father asked Jesus to heal his son, he said: I believe, Lord; help my unbelief. Jesus took pity on him and realised that the man had some faith, perhaps not enough, but at least he had some; so Jesus healed the man’s son.

This leads us to ask: Is faith enough?

We may have faith, to varying degrees, depending on who we are. But is this enough?

After all, even the devil has faith. He believes in God all-right. He even tried to tempt Jesus often enough. This proves that he has faith, and believes in God. Perhaps more than we do.

So, if faith is not enough; what is missing in our relationship with God?

Trust.

Let us consider trust for a moment. A little child does not question whether his parents care for him or not. It is intrinsically part of his nature to take it for granted that his parents love him and will take care of him. When he asks them for bread they will not give him a stone, and when he asks for fish they will not give him a serpent.

The child trusts his parents and will continue to do so as he grows up; until one day someone may betray that trust and then he’ll become more wary of those around him.

So how about us? Is our faith in God matched with an unshakeable trust that He cares for us, and no matter what happens, no matter how bad things are in our lives, He is there, beside us, all the time caring for us and ready to see us through whatever crisis we face.

Can you imagine the amount of self-control and concentration of thought we should have to believe, really believe, that not matter what happens, we trust that God loves us and cares for us enough to protect us from all evil?

Such level of trust may well be beyond what many of us can achieve; but it should not stop us from trying. Through gritted teeth even. We should pray, over and again, that we trust God that He will see us through this dark period in our lives.

Faith, no matter how great or small, as much as half a mustard seed even, may not be enough. It needs to be accompanied by an unfailing trust that our loving God will never ever let us down.

It is no point having faith in a Master who walks on water if we do not trust Him enough to follow Him.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Memories of Matilda

I came across an old photo the other day which reminded me of Auntie Matilda.

There I was a young boy wearing a multi-coloured pullover. You know the type? Several horizontal lines each a different colour – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and then red again and so on. I looked like a proper walking rainbow.

It was a jersey which Auntie Matilda had knitted for my birthday and hideous as it was I had to wear it all day because she was visiting us for the day.

Thinking back, the main thing I remember about Auntie Matilda was her constant knitting. She always had a pair of knitting needles in hand and a bag full of different coloured balls of wool as she talked and knitted, and ate and knitted, and drank tea and knitted and did everything else imaginable as she knitted. If knitting was an Olympic Sport she’d win medals for England for her knitting.

Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation or other family event was rewarded by Auntie Matilda knitting us something or other. Pullovers, scarves, hats, caps, gloves, mittens, socks, she’d knitted them all in every colour imaginable and in every kind of stitch that it is possible to knit in. She’d even knitted little cosies to keep the teapot warm, and to keep the soft-boiled eggs warm before serving them, and to keep the plates warm before serving a meal and also, would you believe, to keep the thermos flask warm when you’re out on a picnic.

She then diversified into more adventurous items such as knitting a cover for the tables, the chairs, the TV and every other piece of furniture imaginable. We had bed-spreads made of knitting, tapestries on the wall made of knitting, toilet seat covers made of knitting and to cap it all she had a large bag made of knitting to hold her knitting wool and needles.

I guess that if you unravelled all the things she had knitted for us as a family the wool would stretch to Pluto and back several times over.

I remember as a child I’d asked my parents for a fire engine for Christmas. You guessed it … she told them not to buy me one and she knitted me a bright red fire engine!

What’s the use of that? I couldn’t run it on the floor and make fire engine noises as kids do!

As she grew older Auntie Matilda continued knitting. There was no stopping her.

I was once given two Ballet tickets by my boss.

Now let me confess straight-away that I hate ballet. I don’t see the point of a stage full of people walking on tip-toe. Why can’t they hire taller dancers and be done with it?

And I equally dislike the Opera too. It’s so unreal. It’s the only place where someone gets stabbed, or has a sword run through him or takes poison and continues to sing for at least ten minutes. And the other actors, instead of helping him out and calling an ambulance they sing even louder too. What’s all that about?

Anyway … I did not want to go to the Ballet but was coerced to take Auntie Matilda with me because she loved it so. And after all, she was my Aunt and not anyone else’s … she was from my side of the family so I had to take her.

We sat there at the balcony and as soon as the lights went out and the performance started, out came the knitting needles and the balls of wool. I swear she was knitting in tune with the music!

After the performance was over, my boss, who had influence in such circles, invited us to a private party back-stage to meet the cast, choreographers, musicians and so on.

Auntie Matilda was overheard discussing in a loud voice with the producer the benefits of having knitted tutus for the ballerinas. She also suggested knitted trousers for the male dancers!

“It’ll help keep them warm when you’re touring Scotland in winter,” she said “and it’ll also cover the revealing men’s bits … ye ken!”

I put my old photo away and said a silent prayer for Auntie Matilda now long departed.

Remember friends, when you’re in Heaven, should you see Jesus walking around with a multi-coloured scarf and bonnet you’ll know that Auntie Matilda got to Him first!

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Nun of your business

I had a most odd encounter yesterday. It was a beautiful, sunny, somewhat warm day. A bit unusual for this time of year. I sat in the park in town reading my newspaper. A few minutes later a nun came and sat on the bench near me. She was in her early fifties, I would say. She opened a lunch-box and started nibbling at her sandwich. A bit odd, I thought, a nun with a lunch box.

A moment or two later she said, "The highway to Heaven is paved with good intentions!"

"Yes," I replied with a smile, "I suppose it is."

She continued eating her lunch and then said, "It will be a glorious day when we get to meet St Peter face to face!"

I stopped reading the article about the increasing price of frying pans and said, "Yes ... I guess it will be a great day!"

She coyly sipped a drink from her thermos flask and then, hesitating, she said, "The angels in Heaven are glad they found the lost sheep!"

It was obvious now was not the time for me to discover why frying pans are so expensive. I looked up from my paper and replied politely, "I guess you're right. Although I doubt there are any animals in Heaven. I would hate to meet the Sunday roast telling me off for having eaten it!"

She looked puzzled. Hesitated again, and then asked, "Are you known as Fire Balls?"

What a cheek, I thought. It is none of her business what I am called in the privacy of my own home. I mean ... for a nun to be so direct and so personal. The Catholic Church has certainly changed from the days when I was young.

She noticed my subdued, hidden anger, silent reaction and then apologised saying, "You do look like Fire Balls. The picture I have got is all creased and you do have a lot of wrinkles on your face; a bit like a bed that's been slept in!"

I was fuming yet retained my composure. What business is it of her what the state of my bed is in and what I am called in it? I would have liked to have answered something intelligent, pointed and articulate but I did not have my dictionary with me at the time.

Before I said anything, she got up and left.

I hate it when people walk away with the last word. Not giving me a chance to respond.

"My face is wrinkly is it?" I thought to myself, "well ... your sandwiches still had the crust on!" Whatever that means ... but at least my mind had composed an answer albeit I never said it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Le chien

 
This is our dog. I suppose he has learnt to pray and be thankful for all that is good in his life. Either that, or perhaps he is playing Hide and Seek and is counting to 100 before he comes looking for us.
 
We got him from a dog shelter some years ago. Apparently he was found roaming the streets and was re-homed several times and returned to the shelter as un-wanted. We took a chance and brought him home where he has been with us ever since.
 
He is difficult to live with but with patience we’ll all learn to adjust. I guess he must have had a difficult life before he met us.
 
The thing about this dog is that he has learnt French. Yes … you heard me right. He has learnt French.
 
We have one of those teach yourself French DVD Videos which we play over and again on TV to learn various phrases. As we sit there repeating what is said on TV the dog sits on the carpet watching intently.
 
I’m sure he’s listening carefully and getting the different intonations and accents which so enrich the French language. You can see his ears twitching when certain words are pronounced slowly by the woman on TV. 
 
“Bonjour Monsieur Dupont. Ou est l’hôtel Majestueux?” 
 
Which I’m sure is very helpful and reassuring in case our dog ever gets lost in Paris and needs to find his way back to the hotel. ("Are you in Seine?" I hear you ask ... [I had to get that joke in somewhere]).
 
The thing is … I don’t know whether, in his head, the dog is pronouncing the words correctly, because, he has actually never said them out loud.
 
It could be that in his head the words are all distorted and garbled up because he pronounces them with a doggy accent. Just like we would speak French with a British or American accent, or whatever accent we may have. Conversely, the French would speak English with a French accent, "Allo mes amis ... Zees eez a good day for zee speaking of zee Engleesh, n'est ce pas?"
 
So how do I know if in his head our dog is pronouncing the French words properly if he never says them out loud like you’re supposed to on the Video?
 
But one thing I’ve noticed since he joined us in learning French by DVD. His bark has taken a distinctively French timbre as of late. (Did you notice I put in the word "timbre" in there? This French DVD is quite educational, you know.)
 
He no longer goes “Woof Woof” to scare cats away from our garden. His bark is a more elongated “Hein hein hein woooof woooof you naughtee leetle cats!” as if to say “Oh zut alors! Qu’est ce que c’est ca? Zee cats ave come into zee garden!”
 
I’m not sure the itinerant cats roaming our garden understand him any more. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Medical Matters



Why is it when you visit an optician he always checks whether you can read before he examines you? Every time I go for a check up the optician asks me if I can read the alphabets from a chart on the wall. What has knowledge of the alphabets got to do with an eye examination? And why do the letters get smaller as you read? Are they trying to save ink?

The last time I went, the optician had a small TV monitor on the wall with the alphabets on. He was called out by the nurse to answer a phone call. So I memorized all the alphabets on the screen to show him that I could read as well as anyone else.

When he came back he clicked on his computer and put on new letters on the screen. That is cheating I think.

A friend of mine went to the same optician and complained that he could see blurred pink elephants everywhere. They were big and pink, but all blurred.

The optician asked him to read the alphabets and then gave him some spectacles asking: “Is this better?”

My friend replied: “Yes … I can see the pink elephants much clearer now!”

Going to the doctor is not much better.

For a start they all have very ancient magazines and newspapers in their waiting rooms. I’m told it is to help you remember the good old days. Although I was saddened to read that a ship called Titanic sank the other day!

Whilst at the doctor’s waiting room there was a very old man all bent down with back pain and holding on to his walking stick. He struggled in to the doctor’s and a few minutes later he came out standing all tall straight and proud. Everyone thought it was a miracle.

He said “No miracle … the doctor gave me a taller walking stick!”

When I went in to the doctor’s I told him I get a pain when I raise my arm up, like when putting something on a shelf. He said: “Don’t raise your arm up!”

I also told him I get a sharp pain in my eye when I drink tea. He said: “Take the spoon out of the cup first!”

I explained that sometimes I envy my dog. All he does is eat, sleep and go for walks. He never bothers about paying bills or bad news on TV. The other day I was out in the garden cleaning his business and my dog looked at me as if to say: “That’s great … I get to poop where I want. And you get to pick it up! Who’s the boss now?”

The doctor asked me: “How long have you envied your dog?”

I said: “Ever since I was a puppy!”

He asked me to lie down on the couch. I replied: “I’m not allowed on the couch!”

He then threw his stethoscope at the corner of the room and I told him to fetch it himself.

He opened his drawer and brought out a packet of pills and said, "Take one of these with a drink once a day!" The pills were huge, the size of a golf ball. I pointed this out and asked "What are the pills for?"

"I don't know," he replied, "they are horse suppositories given to me by a vet friend of mine and I'm trying them out on my patients.

"And I'll tell you something else," he continued, "a few days ago I gave these same pills to another patient. I told him to put one in his back passage every day and to come and see me after a week.

"Apparently, he put a pill by the back door passage of his house every night before going to bed. When he returned I asked him if he felt any better and he replied: 'No way ... these pills are useless. I may as well have put them up my backside for all the good they did!' "

After the doctor’s I went to the dentist to make an appointment which I can miss later. You hear all sort of horror stories about dentists don’t you?

I nearly got killed by a dentist some years ago. I was driving down a country lane and he came at me at speed on the wrong side of the road. Now I avoid all dentists at all costs.

At the chiropractor I was asked whether I get back pains early in the morning all down my spine accompanied by pains in the knees and elbows. I replied: “No … why do you ask?”

The practitioner replied: “I’ve been getting them all week and I wondered if you knew what it was!”

He then asked me to lie on the couch. I asked him why? He replied "Because I want to vacuum clean just where you're standing!"

I told him I’d only come to fix the carpet which was a bit loose in his room. He said: “Whilst you’re down there can you pick up my pen, because I can’t bend down with back pain!”

A friend of mine went to hospital so they could check her hearing. When I picked her up she had half a lemon stuck in each ear. I asked her if this was a new type of hearing aid. She said: “No … lemonade!”

Monday, 12 November 2018

Shoes



I was out walking in the countryside the other day taking some exercise and breathing the fresh air. It was a little cold and it was spitting slightly. That light drizzle which you get sometimes in Britain and it goes on for ages creating damp, wet and gray everywhere.

I kept walking down the country lane towards a village a few miles away, looking forward to a sit down in a pub with a pint of Guinness. Might as well wet the inside as well as the outside; I thought.

Anyway, as I walked on I noticed that I had a hole in my shoe; and it was letting in water. My left foot started to get cold and damp.

I stopped at a bus shelter which you sometimes find in the countryside and took my shoe off. I had miles still ahead of me; so I decided to make another hole in my shoe with my pen so that the water that came in from the existing hole could go out of the new one.

In the countryside buses come round every ten years or there about, so I had a long wait and time to kill. I sat there ruminating about everything in general and shoes in particular.

Do you realize that shoes are the most important invention in humanity?

Without shoes the human race would not have got very far. They would have stumbled their toes against a rock or stepped on sharp objects and got no further.

Armies of soldiers over the centuries would not have gone further than their barracks. The Romans would not have conquered anything and their politicians would have spent their time washing their feet from animal deposits left in the streets instead of telling everyone what to do.

Without shoes Cinderella would not have found her Prince and married him. And the Prince would not have had a meddling mother-in-law and two ugly sisters-in-law as well.

It is fair to say that without shoes humanity would not have progressed at all.

Shoes are the most important item of clothing ever invented. One can be totally naked but without shoes one would go nowhere and be there for all to see.

My thoughts, for some reason, turned to nudist camps. You know the ones? Places where people go to air their differences.

I don’t know why people go to such places; but many do. Even on very cold days, I understand!  

I wonder if nudists wear socks with their shoes! I mean … how can they possibly play tennis in bare feet?

And if they play cricket or baseball, do they wear gloves, helmets and those thick leg pads? Or hats and sunglasses when it is sunny?

At what point does a nudist cease to be a nudist, I wonder?
Is a person wearing a hat, sunglasses, gloves, leg pads, socks and shoes - and nothing else - still a nudist?

And why is it when you see photos of nudists they are often old and wrinkly as if their skin needs ironing?

Is it OK for nudists to wear glasses to see things better? Without glasses they may miss small things and stumble.
My reverie was interrupted by the bus coming down the hill. I got on and dreamed of a cool Guinness waiting for me!

So ... what do you think about shoes ... and nudists? Do you approve?
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