Friday 20 February 2015

Richard who?

Ever since I have put the above Coat of Arms on my sidebar on the right I have been inundated with letters and e-mails asking me what it is and what it stands for.

I do not lie. I have received at least one e-mail enquiring about the Coat of Arms and a phone call asking if they could speak to Sandra. As I do not know who Sandra is I assumed they had dialled the wrong number; but the caller assured me this could not be so because Sandra does not have a phone. I also had a door-to-door salesman asking me if I wanted to buy a new door. He had a small suitcase full of samples but I declined to buy any because they were all too small for the apertures in our house.

Anyway, back to the Coat of Arms. This dates back to medieval times and is the family crest of one of my ancestors - the Baron Sir Richard The Lion Liver - as you can see from the depiction of a lion wearing a crown.

The crown is significant because Baron Sir Richard The Lion Liver was indeed a king of a northern land where men were strong and big and tough and women told them what to do. Can you imagine ... big red beards covering savage warrior faces, mighty muscles bulging from their arms and a six-pack that looked more like a twelve-pack on their chest? And the men were just as masculine!

My brave and courageous ancestor was known as The Lion Liver on account of his excessive drinking which surprised many doctors of the time as to how his liver survived all that alcohol. Apart from mead, which is an alcoholic medieval drink made from honey, Sir Richard also drank all sorts of wines and spirits. They may not have had whisky or vodka at the time but he certainly drank spirits just as potent as the ones we have today, if not more so.

As a Baron and Knight in his own right, he usually fought many jousting tournaments up and down the land, where he charged another knight on horseback with a lance, with an aim to unseat him from his horse.

Because Sir Richard used to drink so much he was not that steady on his feet, never mind on horseback. So his aids used to lift him on the horse and then tie his legs together underneath the horse's belly.

Since horses at these tournaments were always covered with large decorative blankets depicting the colours of the knight rider, no one noticed that brave Sir Richard was literally tied to the horse. Consequently, he won every jousting tournament in the land and was never un-seated from his horse; even that time when sadly his horse collapsed and died and Sir Richard was still seated upon him. He won a special medal on that day as his horse was carried away with him still seated upon it.

Sir Richard The Lion Liver is best known for the invention of the triangular table. As King of his own northern kingdom, he shunned King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot and decided to create his own army of valiant knights.

He designed his own triangular table because Sir Richard had only two knights in his army, so a triangular table suited him best as the three of them could sit around it quite comfortably and none of them would think himself superior to the others; (although he knew full well that he was!)

In a famous battle against one of his fiercest enemies Sir Richard showed his prowess as an incredible warrior and strategist. The advancing enemy army had surrounded his castle and planned to take it at night when all the soldiers and villagers were fast asleep. Sir Richard ordered his peasants to collect and bring every cat they had in their towns and villages. In those days cats were in abundance to keep down the rats and vermin population. Sir Richard commanded that all cats which were not black by nature had to be dyed black using a mixture of coal dust and oil.

At midnight precisely he opened the castle gates and the villagers let all the cats run loose. At the same time his soldiers played the violin as loudly, and as badly, as they could. The cacophony of thousands of screeching violins and hundreds of black cats running wildly everywhere frightened the attacking army and their horses who thought Sir Richard had unleashed evil spirits to attack and kill them. They all ran away not to be seen ever again.

That episode gave rise to the superstition still prevalent today: It is bad luck to walk under a black cat.

As already mentioned, Sir Richard The Lion Liver drank so much that he had little blood in his alcohol circulation system. Once during a medical check up he was asked to give a urine sample and it had an olive and a little umbrella in it.

He died at the fermented old age of 101 and according to his wishes he was cremated on a funeral pyre on the grounds of his castle. It took the fire brigade a fortnight to put the fire out. They then had to beat his liver with a stick to stop it wriggling around in search for a drink.

And that's Sir Richard The Lion Liver - a great ancestor of mine whose Coat of Arms is proudly displayed above. Let's drink to his good health.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Oh No ... not ANOTHER post about LENT !!!


This is the time when people try to give up something for Lent - which is good. But let's remember first of all that there is nothing we can do which would repay the great sacrifice Christ made for us on the Cross. Not a million prayers, a million candles, or a million flowers ... God does not need any of these "gifts" or sacrifices as repayment for His love for us. He is in no way diminished, lacking in any way, if we stop doing these things.

But we do them all the same. We do them as a sign of reverence, love, and respect. And I repeat - this is good.

Here's a short list of things we could do during Lent.

1 Give up something (chocolates) and give the proceeds to charity.

2 Do someone a good turn or a kindness.

3 Pray for someone without them knowing it. Just anyone, not only your  loved ones. If you see an old person struggling as they shuffle along in the street, or you hear of someone with a problem or difficulty; just pray for them without their knowledge. Prayer is the greatest gift we can give and receive.

4 Give up TV (or music or other entertainment) for ten minutes (or more) and spend the time reading the Bible.

5 Finally a DON'T. Many people decide to give up their Christian Blog or website during Lent. I urge you not to. Whatever we write to spread the Good News on our Blogs is often the only opportunity for someone to read about God. Don't stop God's message during Lent or ever. 

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Flagellation, Hairshirts and Repayments of Debts.

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

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

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

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

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

And then … we come to the wearing of hairshirts, flagellations and similar bodily punishments practiced by the faithfuls since times long past.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sure you can name other Saints and prominent members of our Church who did the same.

I understand the need for such extreme sacrifices originate from many quotations from the Bible, but mainly from the words of Jesus when He asked us to take up our Cross and follow Him.

I wonder and ask:

Did He really mean that we should inflict pain and mutilation on our bodies to gain forgiveness for our sins and that of others?

Or did He say that this world is full of suffering, some of which will come our way, and that we should accept it as best we can in Faith and trust that it is His will and that it will turn out for the good? And that He will not allow more suffering to come our way than we can possibly endure?

Does self-inflicted bodily harm have a place in our lives today and does it buy us any favors with God?

Christ’s Commandment to us was to love Our God and to love one another. No where can I find Him saying that we should punish ourselves in order to gain entrance to Heaven.

Sunday 15 February 2015

The Deal

There are times that whatever Father Ignatius says or advises is sure to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Yet, his duty as a priest and guide to his flock is to teach them, as best he can, about God our Creator and His unrelenting love for us.

One day he entered the church from the Sacristy and saw an elderly lady kneeling in the middle aisle right at the back of the church. He said nothing and proceeded to the Altar where he took away the candlesticks back to the Sacristy for Mrs Davenport to clean.

A few moments later he re-entered the church to find the same old lady still on her knees but a few paces further forward towards the Altar. He approached her gently. He hadn’t seen her before in church.

“Welcome to our church” he said in his soothing kind voice, “you’re new here … I haven’t seen you visiting us before …”

“I can’t get up Father …” she said looking up at him from her kneeling position.

“Are you in pain?” he asked, “Do you wish me to help you up?

“Oh no Father … I’m able to get up … but I can’t … I don’t want to upset God.”

“I’m sure God will not be upset if you have a rest for a while …” said Father Ignatius comforting her, “here … sit down for a while … and tell me all about it.”

He held out his hand and the elderly lady got up with some difficulty and sat down on the nearest pew. He sat down beside her and asked, “Why did you think God would be upset?”

“Well Father …” she hesitated, “my son is fifty years old, and he’s just lost his job … he has a wife and three children to look after … he won’t find another job at his age … not in the current situation. So I said to God that I’d pray the whole Rosary on my knees … walking one step at a time … from the back of the church to His altar. Then I’d do the Stations of the Cross on my knees … so that He would help my son get a job.”

Father Ignatius was touched by the love of this elderly mother for her son. He smiled gently and said “It’s good of you to pray for your son … it shows how much you love him and his family …

“But God does not want you to walk all around the church on your knees.”

“I’d do anything Father …” she said, “tell me what to do … and I’ll do it no matter how much it hurts me …”

“God does not want you to be hurt …” replied the priest gently, “God loves us and He listens to our prayers as long as they’re honest and come from the heart …

“He does not want us to beg like dogs … He does not want to humiliate us and make us lose our dignity …"

He stopped for a while and then continued.

“Humiliation and loss of dignity is the work of humans. See how we humiliated Jesus when we stripped Him of His clothes, we spat on Him, beat Him and mocked Him; and eventually killed Him most cruelly by nailing Him to the Cross.

“The Stations of the Cross are a reminder of how we humiliated Him and took His dignity away. And we still do so today when we hurt and hate one another instead of loving each other as He commanded.

“God does not want you to walk around in pain on your knees … He listens to your prayers no matter how or where they are said. Even sitting at home just say to Him in your own words how you care for your son and his family … ask God to help them. I’m sure He’ll listen and … in His own way and time … He will respond.”

“But I promised to do the Stations of the Cross on my knees …” she protested.

“Hey … trust me …I’m a priest …” Father Ignatius said with a smile, “I’ll pray to God for you and your family … Believe me, you don’t need to go down walking on your knees. Just sit here for a while and say a little prayer.”

“I’ll do that Father …” she said as the priest got up to go back to the Sacristy, “although I might stay on my knees for fifteen minutes to show God I’m willing …”

Friday 13 February 2015

Relaxation Techniques

I think I’m generally, most of the time, a pretty relaxed sort of person. That is when my cat does not plot against me and does something or other to raise my blood pressure.

You can imagine therefore my skepticism when it was suggested that as a family we’ll try a few relaxation techniques to help us all “get better” – whatever that is!

First off the mark in this new regimen of prescribed relaxation was music. Off went the bagpipes and drums CD and on came some turgid soft music played on some wooden pipes accompanied by humming from a tone-deaf singer who would have benefited from some throat lozenge.

“Hmmmmmm” went on and on the female singer, “Tweeeeet tweeeeet” accompanied the pipes.

As this did not work the CD was changed for one with recordings of gentle rain from the rainforests. I mean, what’s the point in that? It rains here most of the time. Why do I need the recorded sound of rain in a far off land?

This was followed by waves splashing against the shore. Every so often … “Woooosh” went the waves. “Woooosh” again and again. You’re supposed to close your eyes, listen to the sound of the waves and relax.

There was no chance of this happening whatsoever. Instead of relaxing me the continuous woooshing sound made me want to go to the toilet!

The next track was no better either. It was the sound of whales singing.

What’s so relaxing about that?

Have you ever heard a whale sing? It goes something like “Woooooo Woooooo”. It’s an elongated intermittent very tedious screeching whistling sound which is neither tuneful nor relaxing. If a whale went to a music producer or agent and said “I want to sign a singing contract to make records and to perform in Carnegie Hall” it would certainly get thrown out of the building quicker than it got in.

The annoying high-pitched shrill sound reminded me that the kitchen door needs oiling to stop it squeaking. Yet another neglected job which would have been attended to after being reminded several times had it not been for my relaxation schedule.

I would have been more relaxed if the whale was dressed in an evening suit and bow tie and sang “Nessun Dorma”.

Since music did not soothe the beast it was suggested that a long soak in a warm bath would do the trick.

When I reluctantly agreed to get up from the football match on television and make my way upstairs I found that, to my surprise and total bewilderment, the bathroom lights were off and the place was lit by a million candles.

“It’s relaxing!” I was assured.

Believe me, there is nothing relaxing or reassuring about standing there amongst all those flames and fearing that you’d singe parts of your anatomy.

Why do people light candles in the bathroom? How can sitting in a hot tub like an ornament on an over-sized birthday cake supposed to make you feel relaxed?

I believe candles are bad for the environment. Just think how many candles are lit all over the world on a daily basis. In bathrooms, at the dinner table, in restaurants, churches, birthday cakes as well as numerous other places such as outdoor concerts at night to add to the atmosphere created by a supposedly melodic singer! All these candles contribute to global warming, you know! Not to mention the swarms of hard working bees busily producing the wax to see all their hard work go up in flames.

And then the bathroom was filled with this lingering smell of lavender, or was it lily of the valley, or some other concoction of plants and herbs infusing in the hot bath water and meant to convey to the imagination relaxing feelings of beautiful idyllic countryside meadows and hills covered with every blossom one could imagine. It was all feminine and gentle and beautiful and …

I mean, what’s wrong with Wright's Traditional Coal Tar Soap, with its long-established strong manly smell used by generations on end to their satisfaction?

Why do we need all these bottles of liquid soaps in a variety of colors and perfumes and silly names like “Angel Bubble Bath”, “Zingvigorating Shower Gel”, and “Action Hair Shampoo and Conditioner”?

Can anyone tell me the difference between a bubble bath and a shower gel? And the ingredients you find in these things makes one’s mind boggle. Some have coconut oil, and mango juice, lemon, passion fruit and a million other ingredients you would not imagine would find their way in your bathroom. A hair shampoo we sometimes use apparently has wheat germ in it; although what purpose this particular ingredient is meant to provide totally escapes me! I suspect we have more cooking ingredients in our bathroom than in the kitchen.

I sat gingerly in the hot tub and felt far from relaxed with all those candles burning around me. I was very nervous in case the cowboy hat I was wearing at the time might catch fire.

Can you imagine?

If the long feather in the hat accidentally came into contact with one of the nearby flames and that spread to the whole hat and then to my bountiful curls? What a disaster that would be!

I just remained there rigid amongst the pink bubbles all around me and did not dare move an inch for the prescribed thirty minutes or so which are meant to make you feel relaxed and wash away all your troubles and worries. Far from being tranquil and stress-free I dreamt longingly for the soothing companionship of my rubber duck and little sailing boat which had been confiscated from me for the purpose of this exercise.

“Are you nice and relaxed?” asked the voice from outside.

“Yes … never felt more relaxed in my life. This is wonderful!” I lied through gritted teeth.

I then got out and treated myself to a pint of Guinness and a large measure of single malt 12 years old whisky.

Now that’s what I call relaxation.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Much Ado About Mary

Once upon a time there was an old priest who became rather forgetful and tired of giving sermons at Mass on Sunday.

He used to write down his sermons and then read them at Mass; but more often than not he used to forget bringing his sermons to church; so at sermon time he had nothing to read anyway.

He reasoned that if he had to write down his sermons in order to remember them, then how could the congregation be expected to remember them after leaving church.

With such impeccable logic he decided to do something about it.

One Sunday morning at Mass he announced: “I’m getting old and forgetful. I really can't be bothered anymore with writing sermons I instantly forget. So from now on there will be no more sermons at Mass!”

His congregation was very disappointed and some even complained to the Bishop.

The Bishop called the old priest in for an explanation. Somewhat pensively the old priest explained that he could no longer remember what to say in his sermons, and even though he prepared sermons in writing, he often forgot to bring his writing to church, which meant he had no sermon to deliver.

The Bishop sympathized with the elderly colleague and said: “Here's something you could try. Next time you have to give a sermon say in a loud voice ‘I have an announcement to make!’

“This will ensure you have everyone’s attention. They will hang on to your every word.

“Then say just as loudly ‘I have fallen in love with a woman’.

“Now this will certainly have them all listening very carefully and remembering your every word.

“And then calmly tell them about the Virgin Mary, and all the good she did for us. It will be easy. Just speak from the heart of your love for Our Lady”.

The old priest was overjoyed and the following Sunday he stood proudly at the lectern and said loudly:


And sure enough everyone sat up in their pews to listen very carefully. The old priest then continued just as loudly:


As the congregation stirred in their seats the old priest went on:

“I can’t for the life of me remember her name …”

Many non-Catholics perhaps don't understand our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and often believe that our love for her is wrong and somewhat sacrilegious. They quote bits of the Bible like: 
"Christ said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.’

Or Paul message in his letter to Timothy when he says, "there is one God, and there is one mediator who brings God and mankind together, Christ Jesus."

To pray to Mary, or any other Saint for that matter, must seem like idolatry or blasphemy to many.

I suppose I understand this viewpoint on the surface of it. But let's consider it some more.

When someone is ill, or in some difficulty, we often pray for them and ask God to come to their aid. This is right and proper and it shows our charitable loving intentions on our part; it shows our generosity of spirit and caring.

Prayers are the greatest gifts we can give to or receive from someone. God loves to hear our prayers on behalf of someone else.

When we pray for others we are mediating for them. We are saying "God ... you know our friend X is a good chap really. He is not well right now. Please help him." Or words to that effect.

When we pray to Mary and asking her help we are doing no different. We are asking her, or any other Saint, to put in a good word for us with God. We are not worshipping her, but asking her to mediate in the same way as we do ourselves when we pray for someone.

It is significant perhaps that Christ's first miracle, turning water into wine at the Wedding in Cana, was indeed done through the mediation of His Mother. She was a guest there. She was not in charge of proceedings. She noticed that wine was running short and asked Her Son to help. Is this a clear signal from Christ Himself that there is nothing wrong in asking Mary to mediate or intercede for us?

When we light candles in front of Mary's statue, or place flowers, this is not idolatry. We are not worshipping the statue made of stone, or whatever material. The statue is a mere representation of what Mary might look like; it is to help us imagine who we are praying to. It is no different to us having a picture of our loved ones in our wallet or purse, or on our desk at work. We don't love the picture, but the individuals it portrays. It is a reminder of our loved ones.

Let's look at this another way.

God chose Mary to be the Mother of His only Son. He obviously had, and still has, high regard for her. Do you think that when I get to meet God face to face He will punish me for daring to love Mary? Or Joseph? Or any of the other Saints?

When we pray to Saints we do not worship them. We merely ask them to mediate for us. To put in a good word for us with God. Just as we do when someone asks us for a reference for a job, or club membership.

And God knows ... we need all the help and good words we can get!

I know I do. So please pray for me. It won't do you any harm and might do me a lot of good.

Thanx and God bless.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Marvellous Facts You'll Need to Know!

Did you know that Absolute Zero is the lowest possible temperature you can ever get to? You just cannot get any lower than Absolute Zero.

It is in fact -273.15° on the Celsius scale and −459.67° on the Fahrenheit scale. It is over 100 kilos on the bathroom scale if you have been over-eating lately.

At Absolute Zero nothing really happens. The buses will not run so it is pointless waiting for them at the bus stop. And don’t even be tempted to lick the bus stop sign whilst you're there because there may be all sort of germs on it.

Absolute Zero is also what most men get from their wives when they've said something that upsets them.

Another interesting fact regarding temperature involves crickets. You know, those little creatures who chirp incessantly throughout the night in summer.

Well, apparently the number of chirps they make per minute varies depending on the weather. The hotter it is the more chirps per minute; as many as forty or so chirps a minute in really hot steamy nights. But as the weather gets a little cooler the number of chirps a minute is less.

At a temperature of Absolute Zero degrees the insect does not chirp at all because he is frozen solid out in the cold.
Moving up from Absolute Zero, the highest temperature that has ever been recorded is on a ladder 35 feet tall. It was when an amorous young knight in Olde England attempted to deliver a plate of spaghetti to his paramour who was trapped in a tower because the door was frozen solid and he couldn't turn the key in the lock.

Which reminds me … I once saw a ghost with an eye-patch! He said he was going through the keyhole when someone put the key in.

Hot temperatures can be very hazardous to health, especially in the kitchen whilst cooking. Most accidents in the home happen in the kitchen. Scientists believe this would not be the case if people cooked their meals in the bedroom instead. But unfortunately people rarely follow scientific instructions.

The instructions on the packet of quick cook rice said “Take sachet out of packet and stand in boiling water for 10 minutes”. I did that and burnt my feet.

I also read in my Cooking Instruction Manual that to avoid tears whilst peeling and cutting onions you should do it under water. It works, but you have to come up for air every few seconds.

An elaborate meal is a bird within a bird within a bird. Basically you stuff and cook a small bird in a bigger one, say a baby partridge inside a chicken, and the chicken inside a large goose. Do not use a grouse for this because people with a grouse are not very cheerful.

To prepare a bird within a bird is very easy. Basically you have the chicken swallow the baby partridge and then the goose swallows the chicken. Whenever the goose opens its mouth the chicken’s head comes out and says “Cockledeedledoo !!!” and as it does so the partridge looks out of the chicken’s mouth and smiles. And swallows fly all over your kitchen.

I think I'll have another whisky now ...

Sunday 1 February 2015

Odours and Bad Smells

Dear Friends and Readers Old and New,

I need your help with a little Marketing Research Project which I am engaged with.

Since the dawn of time, and before that even, humanity has been plagued with odours and bad smells. Be they body odours, eating and cooking garlic, frying fish, keeping pets such as dogs in the house, or indeed certain odours resulting from eating too many baked beans. You get the idea.

We've always had bad smells in our vicinity and we've tried to mask them in one way or another. Either by spraying ourselves with perfume and after-shave and other lotions, or spraying our homes with various chemicals, pots-pourri and other plug-ins type of devices to hide the smells which we do not want others to breathe in.

I may have mentioned in the past that I have a good friend who is a bit of a genius at inventing things. If I haven't done so; then let me mention it now.

Well, this friend of mine ... (I'm sure you understand what it means when someone starts a conversation with "a friend of mine").

As I was saying before I interrupted myself. This friend of mine has invented a new way of dealing with odours and bad smells and has asked me to test out opinions amongst my readers and other friends of mine in my wide and varied circle of friends.

Instead of spraying chemicals everywhere to hide bad smells my friend has invented a false moustache inpregnated with good smells like lavender, rose petals, eau de cologne, and so on.

The wearer of the moustache will no longer be afflicted with bad smells emanating from either himself or others in his surroundings. Every breath taken in will be freshened by the sweet smell of lilies of the valley, or fields of lavender or whatever choice the wearer of the moustache prefers.

My friend has also developed a range of culinary smells for those who prefer something different like freshly baked bread, vanilla, cinnamon, citrus fruits, or even roast beef.

What I need to know from my readers is whether you would be interested in buying such a product and which nice smells would you suggest we inpregnate the moustaches with.

The inventor of the product assures me that the moustaches look very realistic and authentic and come in various shades of colour to match the wearer's colour of hair. The moustaches are made of an artificial non-flammable fibre so there's no danger that they would light up suddenly if the wearer smokes a cigarette or cigar. They also come in various styles and length to provide the user with a wide choice of styles.

I would like to learn in particular ... ehm ... my friend the inventor would also like to know in particular whether ladies would be amenable to wearing such a device under their nose to protect them from any bad odours which may offend their olfactory senses.

It is believed that with time, and the backing of famous female celebrities in a planned advertising campaign, this new invention would prove a fashionable and desirable accessory for men and women alike.

So ladies, would you wear a stylish moustache to protect you from offending smells? Your views would be greatly appreciated in the comments box below.