Friday, 31 July 2020

What's happening to me?


Remember the 1969 song by Harry Nilsson Everybody's Talkin' At Me? It goes like this:

Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind

I'll play the song for you later at the end of this post.

It seems everyone these days is giving advice, whether it is asked for, warranted or, (in my case), welcomed.

We should all examine our lives, I'm told. Re-assess what we're doing. Re-prioritise our priorities. Prepare for a new beginning. Do things differently. Take time to sit down calmly and consider what we've been doing wrong thus far. Do it differently. Better. Or not at all.

To be honest, I don't have much time for all that. I haven't been doing anything wrong all my life. Besides, I am too lazy for all this thinking, examining, re-prioritising and all that. My favourite pass-time and hobby is to sit down. Or lie down. I can do it all day.

In front of the TV, on the couch, on the floor, in the garden, in bed or even lying in a warm bath. There is nothing better than lying in a warm bath watching and contemplating ...

Have you ever wondered why the soap bubbles congregate around one particular place on your body? I wonder why? But I digress ...

There's advice everywhere these daysd about what we've been doing wrong and how we should do it better and differently.

For the past few months I have been told, time and again, what I have done wrong in all these years of marriage. I have apologised many times for things I did, or did not do, which I can hardly remember doing them or not. Why do women have such long memories? I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.

It seems it was my fault on that occasion, long ago, when I lost the car keys and we were late for her mother's birthday party. In all honesty, the keys were not lost at all. They were in my pocket the whole time. Is it worth admitting it now? Better apologise I suppose!

Everywhere I turn there is advice that we should minimise. Use less of everything. I think they call it minimalism. If that is the case, then why have they used so many letters to say the word minimalism? Couldn't they have thought of a shorter word?

There are even books on minimalism. Teaching you how to do with less. In the true spirit of the philosophy they are teaching, I have decided not to buy any of these books. Voila ... doing with less!

I also no longer use ice cubes in my whisky. I drink it neat ... using less!

I remember years ago we tried this using less fashion trend. We were well before our time. Remember the mini-skirt? And the hot pants? Very tiny skirts and shorts using less material. And women doing away with their bras and wearing flowers in their hair instead?

Also, years later, when I got married I tried to revive the trend and throw away all the useless presents her mother gave us. She wouldn't let me. I mean ... ... ... who needs a spoon rest? What is a spoon rest anyway? Who invented this useless crap piece of equipment which now has to be washed as well as the spoon? What is wrong with wiping the spoon on the back of your trousers and putting it on the table whilst cooking?


At the time, we moved from our rented home in London to a town up North. In order to minimise, or down-size, we bought an apartment in an apartment complex. I decided to put a couple of skylights in the ceiling of our apartments. The woman living above us got very irate because they looked straight into her bedroom and bathroom.

Minimalism did not work for us anyway; because there was no room in that apartment for a spoon rest.

The doctor rang me the other day. He said he hadn't seen me for a while. I told him I was not felling well. When I get better I'll go and see him.

The last time I was there he said I was a little weak. He gave me a bottle of vitamin pills. When I got home I was so weak I could not open the bottle. I had to drive back to his Insulting Room and ask him to open the bottle for me.

I was told that if I drink a pint of Guinness a day it will do me good. I rang the pub and asked them to deliver a barrel in my kitchen. Every day for the last two weeks I've been having a pint a day. It really works. When they brought in the barrel it was so heavy two men had to carry it. Now I can carry it round the kitchen by myself.

The priest rang me too. He said he hadn't seen me in church for a while. I told him that I had stopped sinning. Minimalism!

I told him would it not be better if people e-mailed him their sins for absolution? He said he already knew peoples' sins by reading Facebook.

I never understood Facebook. Too complicated. I once did not like something I said there and un-friended myself. I discovered I'd locked myself out of my own account! Myself did not like me!!!

I told the priest how sad it was that the whole world is in such a state these days. To cheer me up he said it could be worse. We could all be in a deep hole in the ground filled with water. He means well.

By the way ... as an aside ... let me warn you ... do not let supermarket staff take your temperature by scanning your head. Especially if they do it with the payment check-out machine. It erases your memory. I went to the supermarket for some salad, fruits and vegetables and bought wine and chocolates instead.

Anyway ... the priest said to me on the phone that we should pray as Jesus taught us. I did not know He had a tortoise; did you?

Here's the song I promised you:


Thursday, 30 July 2020

Father Ignatius and Mary


Father Ignatius was pragmatic kind of man. He was realistic and somewhat matter-of-fact about things that were as they were and perhaps could not be explained to everyone's satisfaction.

God, being God, often gave him opportunities to explain his beliefs and to re-affirm them both to himself and to others. As happened the other day.

He was in church, sitting at the front pew, just by the statue of the Virgin Mary, looking at the votive candles burning slowly, and reciting the Rosary.

Mrs Castle came out of the Sacristy to do some cleaning. She was not the usual cleaner; but a replacement for Mrs Bell who had gone on vacation, and recommended her friend Mrs Castle.

Mrs Castle was not a Catholic. She went to the Anglican church in town.

Seeing the priest praying in front of the statue she stopped and said, "Excuse me Sir ... I have seen you sit here and pray often. I was wondering ... like, is that not wrong? We were told by our vicar that it is wrong to pray to statues. He said it was idolatry!"

"Your vicar, the Reverend Grainger, is he not?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Well, the Reverend Grainger is correct. It is wrong to pray to statues," said Father Ignatius as Mrs Castle sat down, "this is something that many Catholics do not understand. And I suppose it is the fault of our Church which does not teach its people clearly about our doctrines, rules and other traditions!

"You can see around you in this church many statues. That's St Peter over there. Saint Anthony and St Francis of Assisi over there at the back. And this St Therese.

"It is wrong to pray to the statues. They are only images made of stone, like St Peter, and some sort of plaster like St Francis and St Anthony. St Therese's statue is carved from wood. And the Cross you see at the altar is made of wood and the figure of Christ is metal. It is idolatry, as your vicar said, to pray to them or light candles or place flowers to them.

"But many Catholics do. And some, many in my view, do it without understanding. They believe that by lighting a candle they will gain some sort of favour, or get a miracle from the Saints.

"This is wrong. God and the Saints cannot be bought with a candle, a bunch of flowers or a few repetitive prayers.

"These statues should serve as a reminder of who these Saints, these once living people, are; and what they may have looked liked. Very much like you having photos of your loved ones, children and grand-children in your purse or at home. A reminder of loved ones close to you.

"And when we place flowers or candles, it should be as an act of respect. And act of veneration. Not in any way a bribe or worship of the statue, or even the Saint himself. You should only worship God."

"But you do sit here and pray to Mary over and over again, reciting the Hail Mary on the Rosary," Mrs Castle pointed out.

"Yes, you are right," replied the priest, "first of all, let me explain that I am not praying TO Mary. I am asking the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, to pray to God for me. Very much the same as when you ask a friend for a reference for a job application. Mrs Bell suggested that you come and clean the church whilst she is on vacation. She put in a good word for you. When we pray we should be asking Mary and the Saints to put in a good word for us with God and Jesus. I guess it does no harm.

"When dying on the Cross, Jesus said to Mary, 'this is your son,' meaning the disciple John. We Catholics believe this to mean Jesus gave Mary as a mother of us all.

"Are we right? Are we wrong? I guess we can debate this until the time we're in Heaven and we can ask Jesus in person!"

Mrs Castle laughed. He certainly had a way to get to the point quickly.

"The sad thing," he continued, "many Catholics do actually pray TO the Saints, thinking they are doing this just as praying to God or Jesus. This is wrong. They should be asking the Saints to pray for them to Jesus and God.

"Of course, some non-Catholics believe we should pray to Jesus and God alone. There is no need for an in-between like a Saint. They may well be right. But I wonder, does it do any harm to ask St Mary, or any other Saint to pray for us to God?

"Let us look at this another way. God must have thought Mary was a special person. That is why He chose her to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. Would He really be angry with me when I'm in Heaven because I spent time praying to Mary? He honoured her to be the Mother of Jesus. Is it wrong that I should honour her too?

"And the same applies to the disciples and other Saints. Jesus chose them as His followers. Other Saints since then have been honoured by the Church for their exemplary lives. Will God be angry that we have asked them to pray for us?

"Remember, praying TO the Saints is wrong. But praying, which means asking them, to plead to God on our behalf, is the right thing to do."

She smiled and said nothing.

"As for repetitive prayers," he added, "it helps one focus their mind on God. To take away any other thoughts, worries and problems from our mind and focus on God alone. By reciting the Lord's Prayer, the Credo, or the Rosary or whatever else. It's like a mantra.

"Some people prefer to just talk to God instead. This is all right too. As long as we keep our hearts and our minds open to listening to Him.

"Our prayer should be, 'Speak Lord, this is your servant listening,' not 'listen Lord, this is your Master speaking!' "

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Father Ignatius meets the devil



Father Ignatius faced a direct question from one of his parishioners.

"Father, do you think the devil can possess people these days?" she asked.

He had to be very careful with his response. The Bible, especially the New Testament, has many references of people being possessed by the devil and Jesus sending the devil away. Those accounts are sometimes very graphic saying that the victim was in some kind of fit, the devil speaking out against Jesus, and on one occasion a whole group of demons possessed a man and Jesus commanded them to leave the man and enter a herd of swine; which then perished off a cliff.

He said a silent prayer before answering.

"We Christians believe in the devil," he said, "we cannot possibly believe in God and Jesus and not believe in the devil. He exists all right. He is a fallen angel who rebelled against God. And God, let him and his followers go. Their role, it seems, is to tempt us away from God. The devil tried to tempt Jesus in the desert; so we should not be much of a challenge.

"Yes, I believe the devil can possess people these days. Our Church believes so. That is why they have appointed and trained many exorcist priests in our dioceses.

"Does the devil possess an individual as described in the Bible when Jesus healed such people? I have not had any personal experience of this. But I don't see why not.

"Does he possess people against their will?"

He stopped, noticing she was a little nervous. Maybe she had had some sort of personal experience. He chose to tread carefully.

"Let me put it another way, Georgina," he continued, "I have not heard of the devil possessing a devout Christian against their will. He will try to tempt them away from God, as I said earlier. Just as he tempted Jesus.

"But I doubt he can possess a devout believing Christian against his will. God would not allow it. It is not in God's interest to see such a person go to the other side, as it were!"

She smiled at his turn of phrase. He was relieved he had got over that point carefully but firmly.

"I believe the devil will try to influence people who are already leaning his way. You know ... people who do not believe in God. People who mock those who believe in God. People who encourage others not to believe in God.

"I doubt he would possess people in a spectacular way like described in the Bible; sending them into fits of rage and insults. That would not serve his cause well. If the devil acted so dramatically today, people would be frightened. They would certainly believe in him. And even turn against him. He is much more subtle now.

"Times have changed, and the devil has become modern ... with the times. He would slowly, patiently and carefully influence his followers to do his work for him. To sow the seeds of doubt. Of despair. To create worries and trouble amongst people. 

"There are many temptations these days in the world. I need not give you examples, Georgina," he continued, "and the devil, I believe, would use his followers, those already susceptible to his wiles, to use these temptations to draw people away from God."

He noticed her wince. He continued, treading carefully.

"What prompted this question about the devil possessing people anyway?" he asked with a smile to deflate the seriousness of the question.

"Well ..." she hesitated, "there is this woman I know. I believe she is evil. I sometimes believe she is the devil himself. As you say, Father ... she often causes trouble. Starts an argument about people at work; or when we're in the pub. She lies also ... she tells you something about someone that is not true to make you change your mind about that person. Then she tells someone else something about you so they don't like you as well.

"As a result people don't know what to believe, but their relationships, which may have been friendly at first, are now all changed with suspicions and doubts and broken trust.

"She even came between a friend of mine and her fiancé. She tempted him and I believe she tried to take him to bed by performing a strip tease for him. When he resisted, she spread a rumour that they had an affair together.

"Now the couple have split up. I believe it was a lie, Father. He would not do such a thing. But his girlfriend is full of doubts and for now ... the wedding is off!"

He noticed her hands twisting the handkerchief she was holding. He felt that tact should take a holiday for a while and the direct approach was needed.

"Why have you called the wedding off?" he asked.

She started crying wiping her tears with the handkerchief. He waited patiently. Saying nothing but praying silently.

When she calmed down he asked, "Do you love him?"

She nodded.

"Do you trust him?" he asked again.

She nodded once more.

"Do you want to spend your life with him?"

She nodded wiping her eyes.

"Well, that's a good reason to call off the wedding," he said.

She laughed ... he smiled too.

Then he said, "Look Georgina ... I do not know if this woman you mention is possessed by the devil or not. Or whether she is influenced by the devil to sow discord and hopelessness around her. Yes ... some people do seem to do the devil's work for him. I cannot tell in this case.

"But I do know that she managed at least to come between you and your husband to be. Not enough it seems to make you stop loving him and trusting him. But she did cause some damage at least.

"I believe the whole of God's Creation is based on love. He loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us. When love is destroyed the devil is satisfied."

He waited for a few seconds of silence and then added:

"You have a decision to make ... and so has Kevin. Are you going to let that woman win? Are you going to let the devil win? Because, whether he influenced her or not, he is certainly happy at your crisis right now ... it is his first step to come back later and try to tempt you and Kevin some more.

"I think you should go and speak with Kevin. Tell him what you feel. Tell him what you told me. If needs be ... come both of you here and we'll discuss matters further."

She left with a lighter heart than when she first came to see Father Ignatius.

The wedding is in four months' time.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Song Saves Twenty Babies




BACKGROUND - Father Francis Maple has been a Franciscan monk for 57 years.

Some years ago he recorded a Pro-Life song entitled A Cry from the Heart and was released originally on casette tapes (later on CDs). He says on the tape cover, "I would like to dedicate this song to any young girl or woman who may listen to it and decide not to have an abortion. Life is God's gift."

Thankfully, the song has saved many babies from abortion. Their pregnant mothers heard the song and decided not to go ahead with abortion.

Father Francis has sung in public over the years (and still does) in malls, shopping centres and at his own concerts and has raised over £1m for charity. He has also written several books (sermons, cooking recipes, jokes), and has contributed (and still does) to many newspaper columns and Catholic newspapers and magazines.

Listen to what he has to say in this interview:
Mommy keep me safe, mommy keep me warm

Handle me with care, mommy help me to form.

I am ten weeks old, and I know the time will come
when you will give birth to me.

The gift you gave to me are a pair of bright blue eyes
So some day I will see you smile and love me.

I’ve already got my arms and a little podgy nose,
And at the end of my feet I’ve got five little toes.

I look forward to my life, ice cream and slimy snails,
teddy bears and little fairy tales.

Going for walks in the park
Running home before it’s dark.
And being tucked into bed with a kiss.

Where are we going today?
Am I in a boat or bus?

Why are we lying down?
Being drawn on four wheels?

And we go through the door
and there’s people dressed in green.
Everything seems so strange and so clean.

Mommy if they hurt you just let out a scream
and I know someone will come to help you and me.

Mommy what’s going on I am starting to cry
Come quickly they are forcing me to die.

They are killing me mommy, they are pulling me apart
My arms and my legs and now they’re at my heart.

And I won’t see the sky, or the grass or the trees.
and I won’t see the moon, or feel the breeze.

I love you mommy dear, you know I really do
But I only wish you could have loved me too!

Improved version of the song HERE
Father Francis book of sermons HERE

Monday, 27 July 2020

Mother's Love

It had been a long day and Father Ignatius had travelled to the city and driven back all on the same day; something which he hated to do, especially when he had to navigate his way through heavy city traffic.

He was a little tired so he settled down in his armchair next to the fireplace and put on his favourite classical record.

A few minutes later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, came in and interrupted the orchestra in mid-flow. She was carrying a large tray with tea and biscuits.

“I’ve made you a lovely pot of tea Father,” she said, “and you favourite ginger biscuits.”

“Ginger biscuits?” he replied turning the volume down on the record player, “but it’s not Friday …”

“I know Father … but I thought you deserved a treat today. What with your long journey and what’s been happening at the Convent?”

The priest raised his eyebrows, “I don’t understand …” he said.

“Oh … no one has told you … have they?” she continued as she poured two cups of tea and sat down, “Sister Martha rang me earlier on and gave me the news …

“Well earlier this afternoon … at about four o’clock it was … I’m sure that’s what she said … anyway, earlier this afternoon they found a baby on the doorstep of the Convent.”

“A baby,” said Father Ignatius helping himself to another biscuit.

“Yes … a wee little mite … about a week old they say … a little boy. Mother Superior found him just by the statue of St Joseph and the Baby Jesus … you know the one … the statue outdoors by the main entrance to the Convent.”

“Yes … yes … I know …” said Father Ignatius, “what happened then?”

“Well the wee baby was crying so Mother Superior took him in … he needed changing … and probably hungry too I shouldn’t wonder. Sister Martha called the police and they took him away to the hospital to check he’s all right.”

“Dear Lord,” mumbled Father Ignatius as he said a quick silent prayer under his breath.

“What kind of person would do such a thing?” said Mrs Davenport angrily as she poured two more cups of tea, “to abandon one’s own flesh and blood like that …”

“A desperate person,” replied the priest gently, “we can only wonder what led her to such an extreme act.”

“But she’s his mother …” interrupted Mrs Davenport, “how could she … she's supposed to love him.”

“Giving birth in itself does not make a person a loving mother,” replied Father Ignatius, “normally there is a strong unbreakable bond between the mother and child from the moment the baby is born; if not well before.

“That bond of love I believe has been created by God for our own protection from the moment we enter this world. God knows we are born totally defenceless and vulnerable so He created that special protection which is a mother’s love.

“Now I’m not saying this bond of love did not exist in this baby’s case … most probably it does … so can you imagine the terrible circumstances which led this poor desperate woman to abandon her child … as you put it.

“In fact … she did not abandon him … she could have left him anywhere and walked off … that’s abandonment … but she carefully selected the most appropriate place where he would have been found and cared for.

“No doubt she hid behind some bushes in the Convent gardens and waited for the baby to be found.”

“What … like Moses?” said Mrs Davenport, “I thought he was left floating in a basket in the river … not at a Convent!”

Father Ignatius smiled.

“Did they have Convents in Moses time?” she continued innocently.

“I don’t think so,” answered the priest as he got up to remove the record from the turntable.

“Do you think she’s Catholic … the mother that is … is that why she left him at the Convent?” went on Mrs Davenport.

“I really wouldn’t know … no doubt all will come to light sooner or later,” replied Father Ignatius patiently, “in the meantime I suggest we say a little prayer for the little child and his mother.”

At this point Father Donald entered the room.

“Did you hear the terrible news …” he asked gravely.

“Yes … I was telling Father Ignatius about it …” piped up Mrs Davenport, “they found a baby abandoned at the Convent.”

“Well … there have been further developments …” said Father Donald, “I met Sister Martha just now and she told me … they found the body of a teenage girl at the far end of the park behind some bushes … an overdose … all indications are that she’s the mother of the child … she was clutching a letter to her parents in her hand …”

*******

 “Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m so sorry I left home. I couldn’t take any more arguments and shouting. I went to stay with a school friend.

Sometime later I met a man at a party and we became friends. I went to live with him and I got pregnant. He wanted me to get rid of it. I said no and he asked me to leave his apartment. I went back to my school friend. She helped me all this time I was pregnant and I had a baby boy in secret. She took me to a house of a friend where I had the baby three days ago.

I left him at the Convent and saw a nun take him in. Then I saw a police car at the Convent. I think they are looking for me. I am frightened and don’t know what to do. Louise.”

Father Ignatius stopped reading the newspaper. It seems the police had no choice but to publish the letter in order to try to identify who the dead teenager found in the park was.

The priest left the room and went to his church to offer Mass for the repose of her soul.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Love Thy Neighbour


“Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ ”

Father Ignatius stopped reading from the Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 22 and looked up at the congregation sitting there.

“And that’s where the problem lies,” he said, “love your neighbour as you love yourself.

“It’s almost too difficult for some people; and do you know why?

“It’s because too many people just do not love themselves.

“Yes … that’s right … they don’t really love themselves.

“They find faults with themselves and see no reason to like or love who they are. Many have a problem with their self-image or about their character in some way.

“They think they don’t look pretty enough for today’s society.

“And it is not just our physical appearance that some of us find cause to dislike; the shape of our nose, or our ears or whatever else we think is wrong.

“Some people don’t love themselves because they feel inadequate in some way or other. They feel they’re too shy perhaps, or not bright or clever enough like their friends, or not successful as others at work or in business.

“Many people sadly conjure up any reason they can think of which erodes their self-confidence, their self-esteem, and leads them not to like or love themselves.

“When Jesus said ‘as you love yourself’; He did not mean we should all have a Narcissus complex and be totally self-centred and self-obsessed.

“He was teaching us to appreciate who we really are. Not the outer part of ourselves, the visible body which we may find fault with, but our inner self. Our very soul!”

Father Ignatius paused for a while.

“We are the Creation of God. Each one of us different and unique. Each one of us beautiful in our own way and worthy of love,” he continued with a smile, “God does not make mistakes. There are no rejects off His production line …

“Every one of His Creations is different, unique, and perfect in every way. And certainly worthy of love.

“And with your help, I will prove it to you.”

He looked up at the congregation in anticipation. They were intrigued and he definitely had their full attention.

“I want you to promise me you’ll do as I ask … will you do that?”

They nodded and some said yes and agreed.

“When you get home after Mass I want each one of you to take a piece of paper and write down two or three things about yourself which you like.

“It could be anything. Your ability to play the piano perhaps, or the fact that you’re a hard worker, or maybe you’re a good cook, or you are good at drawing, painting or writing.

“Or it could be that you sing so well that the neighbors have broken all your windows to hear you better!”

They laughed.

“And when you’ve written down your list of two or three items, I want you to consider them as gifts from the Good Lord especially for you.

“Whatever is good about or within you is from His making, and not from your own efforts. He gave you the ability to sing, dance, and play music or whatever else you are or can do. These are gifts He gave you when He made you as a baby all those years ago.

“And as you learn to thank God for these gifts, as you begin to appreciate these gifts from Our Lord, especially and uniquely for you; then slowly and in time you’ll learn to appreciate yourselves.

“You’ll start to like yourselves as you really are; a gift from God.

“Whoever you are today is a gift from God. Whatever you do with your lives is your gift back to God.

“And as you learn to love yourselves a little better, then will you be able to appreciate and love your neighbours as Jesus commanded.”
Other Father Ignatius stories HERE

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Camelot - They lived happily ever after


King Arthur was encouraged and elated to have taken the walking stick out of the concrete slab, because it confirmed that he would be a good King of Camelot and rule it wisely.

He pressed on into the forest in search for the unicorn with the golden tail with the ability to heal people through magic. His intention was to allow the unicorn to roam free throughout Camelot and to use his magic for the good of one and all.

And the unicorn would say “Neigh neigh …” but that would be an opportunity for me to sneak in a cheap horse joke into what is a serious subject.

“What is good magic and bad magic?” asked the King of his Knights.

“Is this another riddle?” asked Sir Stupid, “I like riddles …”

“No it is not a riddle,” said Arthur growing wise by the day, “I have a dilemma. Who is to decide what is good and what is bad magic? Let us suppose for instance, my servant Merlin here is a wizard, or warlock or some sort or sorcerer …”

The Knights laughed. Merlin frowned and forced a smile fearing he had been found out.

“No … seriously …” laughed Arthur, “suppose Merlin was a magical wizard of some sort. And the farmers in the valley of Camelot are starving because there has been no rain, and the crops are dying and there will be a famine. Suppose Merlin makes it rain; and the farmers are happy, but the people in the villages down by the coast are flooded and many perish and drown and die. Has Merlin performed good or bad magic?”

“Is the answer umbrella?” asked Sir Stupid.

“May Heavens help me,” said Arthur, “one of these days I will hit you so hard with my shield I’ll knock that stupidity out of you!”

“Let Merlin make him wise!” laughed Sir Laugh-a-lot.

Merlin winced again. This was getting too close for comfort. Had someone discovered that he’d been pouring wisdom potion in King Arthur’s drink?

“You can see why my father, King Uther, banned all magic from Camelot,” continued Arthur, “perhaps he went too far by banning it all altogether. And also, in his days there were a lot of evil sorcerers and witches using magic to spread evil and suffering throughout the land. As a result, all these people, whether good or bad magicians, have gone into hiding or been banished from Camelot. They did not cease to exist. Banning them did not make them cease to exist!”

Merlin smiled at the King’s wisdom.

“All that’s happened is that they are around us, and we don’t know them,” continued Arthur, “if I were now to declare that they, and the unicorn, and that chameleon I had stuck to my groin, and the flying dragon in the dungeons of Camelot … if I were to declare that they are all legal by royal decree and they can perform their magic at will. I am being kind to Camelot and its people, or am I condemning them to a worse fate than what they have now?”

For once, all the Knights remained silent. Even Sir Stupid.

“You’ve said nothing, Merlin,” remarked the King, “what is your point of view on this?”

Merlin approached the group sitting on the ground in a circle meekly and said, “I think, Sire, you are being too hard on yourself. You are taking on too much personal responsibility on what people might do and how they are to behave.

“As a good and wise King, which you are, your role is first to protect your people from enemies of the Kingdom, and from starvation and illnesses. You do this by having your noble Knights and armies to defend the city, and by allowing your people to flourish, to learn and to have the freedom, within the law, to develop and to grow and to help one another.

“You cannot dictate how each individual will think or will behave. That is their personal freedom of choice. Most in society will work for the good of themselves, their families and their fellow man. It’s what natural for people to do.

“Some others, perhaps a minority, will be greedy and will resort to evil practices to succeed through cheating and evil doing.

“Your role, Sire,” continued Merlin hesitantly, “your role is to maintain a balance between good and evil in your Kingdom. If you were to allow magic again in Camelot, no doubt some bad sorcerers will use evil to flourish. But let good flourish too, and in the end, be confident and assured that good will conquer evil. It always does … in the end!”

There was total silence throughout the group. The King was amazed at the wisdom of his servant. Merlin withdrew quietly at a distance and sat under a tree as he always did.

And the moral of this story, (so far), is: Well, I’ll leave you to work it out.

The next morning was like a new dawn had dawned on the now wise King Arthur who was growing wiser by the day.

He reflected on what Merlin, his loyal friend and faithful servant had said the previous day.

His role as King was to protect the people of Camelot from enemies of the Kingdom; and to allow the citizens to flourish in freedom and without fear of persecution for their beliefs. As long as they lived peacefully and did good to each other, and did not do wrong or evil to each other, they would be safe from his authority and power.

He called his Knights of the Round Table and asked them to sit on the ground because there was no table in the forest to sit around. He also invited Merlin to sit with them as an equal.

“I want you all to go out to the villages in Camelot and throughout my Kingdom,” he said, “I want you to go dressed like ordinary people. Don’t let them know you are Knights. Speak to them. Ask them what, do they think of me as King? What is right and what is wrong about the Kingdom? What could be done better to improve their lives and their lot? What do they fear? What stories, tales and legends have they heard or been passed on to them from their parents and grand-parents?

“This will help me to prioritise what I, and you, need to do to help our people and to get them to flourish and better their lives.

“You have a week to do all this. Then let us meet in Camelot.

“Merlin and I are going there right now. Let us forget about the unicorn with the golden tail. If he exists, and he does good for sick people, then why am I wasting time in search for him? Let him be the first to flourish under my new rules!

“Any questions?”

Sir Stupid raised his hand.

“Can we get up now,” he said, “my bottom is getting wet in this damp grass!”

A week later, the King and all his Knights, met in the great hall in Camelot Castle. There were so many of them, including the ones who had remained in the Castle whilst the King was roaming the forest, that the Round Table was not big enough for all of them to sit round it.

The King sat on his throne with Merlin beside him to take notes. Botox the old warlock was there too.

“Now tell me,” said King Arthur, “what stories, tales and legends have you heard from my people?”

Sir Tainty, who was always accurate in his research, was first to speak, “Sire,” he said, “there are indeed many legends regarding the performance of magic and sorcery in the land. Both good and evil. And the populous agree with you, that magic should be allowed throughout the Kingdom as long as it is for the good of the people; like healing diseases and illnesses with potions and poultices. However, any evil intent should be prohibited and stopped. We need to test each case on its merit and judge it likewise!”

“Anything else?” asked the King.

“Sire,” said Sir Vox Populi, “I heard that people believe that deep in the North, in the land of the lakes called Scotland, there is a monster that lives in a lake. Some say they have seen it. It has a long neck and long tail.”

“I also heard that there is a baker who uses sand instead of flour to make his bread!” reported Sir Cookbook, Camelot’s culinary expert and feeder of the dogs.

“Sand instead of flour?” asked Sir Lancelot, “what does the bread taste like?”

“We don’t know,” said Cookbook, “no one has ever eaten the bread. Not even the baker who bakes it … or his dogs!”

“Indeed Sire,” confirmed Sir Tefied, “I heard the same thing. I was also told that there is in the forest a female monster with wings and her hair is made or many serpents moving to and fro ready to bite people!”

“Sounds like my wife!” said Sir Fearful.

“Does your wife have wings?” asked Sir Galahad.

“She wishes she had,” replied Fearful, “ever since she was stopped by the guards for flying under the influence of drink, they’ve taken her broomstick and she’s grounded!”

The Knights laughed.

“I also heard other similar tales,” added Sir Vetude meekly, “I was told there is a sea monster with many heads. If you cut one head, the monster still lives and grows another one. You need to cut all of them with one stroke of your sword. Which is difficult because it keeps moving its heads.”

“I was told there are creatures which are half human and half something else,” reported another Knight, “like the top half is a man able to fight with swords and bows and arrows, yet the lower half is like an elephant, or a hippopotamus. Also in the sea there are women with the top half human and naked and you can see there womanly bits, yet the lower half is a fish. There are similar smaller ones with the lower half a sardine.”

“I heard a worse story,” hesitated another Knight, “there is a big wolf in the forest with at least three heads. Some say it has as many as seven heads. And a big bottom. His bottom is bigger than the whole of Camelot. In fact, it is bigger than the whole wide world. The Universe even. So you don’t know which to attack first because you can be defeated by either end … especially if he has had beans, Sire!”

“I heard there is a box deep in the caves,” another Knight claimed, “I don’t know its size. Some say it is small, others say it is bigger, others say it is humongous so big it is. Bigger than all the mountains in the world. And if you open it all sorts of bad things come out. Like broccoli, and flat tires, and split ends in your hair, and piano lessons and … I don’t know … all sorts of bad things people don’t like.”

“Enough …” said the King calmly raising his hands, “you have done well. You have brought me news of all the things people believe and fear. Some may be real whilst others may be just stories, figments of peoples’ imaginations. You have also brought me news of what is good and right in the Kingdom of Camelot. And this gladdens my heart for it encourages me for the future.

“By the power vested in me I declare Merlin Knight Emeritus. He will be in charge of the King’s Depository of Knowledge. I said Depository … not suppository. You will all report to him your findings and he will decide which are to be investigated further.

“Meanwhile, all magic will be allowed in Camelot as long as it can be proven to be for the good of the people. All magicians, sorcerers, warlocks, wizards and witches will be allowed to go freely as long as they do no harm.”

 

“Including dragons?” asked Fly-by-Night, the dragon who had been imprisoned in the dungeons by King Uther, Arthur’s father.

“Yes, including dragons,” declared Arthur.

“How about chameleons?” asked a chameleon’s voice from somewhere unseen.

“Including chameleons,” said the King, “as long as you keep off my leg!”

And they lived happily ever after.