Wednesday 28 February 2018

Famous Britons

Today's History Lesson is all about Famous Britons so please pay attention and you'll probably learn a thing or two about the people of these islands.

Now unfortunately, Famous Britons don't come in alphabetical or chronological order in as much as they are haphazard and arrive on the scene every now and then in no particular order or rhyme or reason. Come to think of it, judging from the newspaper obituary columns, British people tend to die in alphabetical order. Strange isn't it?

This has a lot to do with the weather in Britain which is likewise haphazard and in no particular order or rhyme or reason. We often have the four seasons in one day and in random order to confuse people as to whether to go out with their umbrellas or swimsuits. Hence you often see businessmen in London going to work in a bowler hat, umbrella, pin striped shirt and jacket and swimming trunks. Tourists often think that these businessmen have forgotten to put on their trousers. But they are quite mistaken. It is a deliberate attire to be ready for all circumstances; and as the sun comes out all they need do is take off their shirt and jacket and jump into the nearest pool, or lake, or river, or indeed the sea if they happen to work in a seaside town.

I remember when I worked in London we had many a meeting in the swimming pool with the Board of Directors. It was quite distracting when the pretty secretary came in her bikini swimsuit to bring us tea and biscuits.

But I digress.

OK ... the first Famous Briton I want to talk about is a woman. Her name is Boadicea and she lived around AD 43. The Roman Emperor Claudius sent his troops to conquer Britain.His soldiers were faced by this wild woman from Norwich, who came at them on a horse-drawn cart with swords sticking out of the wheels. Apparently she got the idea from the famous chariot race in the film Ben Hur which she had seen on TV the previous night. She killed over 70,000 Romans in her many battles; but eventually poisoned herself when the Romans started winning again. Some historians believe that she just fell ill and died.

Roll time forward to 1066 when King Harold fought a battle in Hastings against William the Conqueror; known for his love of the game of conkers. This game is still played by children in England today and consists of two people threading a horse chestnut (conker) with a string and use it to smash the opponent's conker. They take turn at hitting the opponent's conker and sometimes the conker (horse chestnut) breaks and can cause injury if bits catch you in the eye. However, at the Battle of Hastings, it is believed, that King Harold caught an arrow in the eye. His soldiers advised him to blink a few times and it will work its way out.

Let's move on a bit forward to 1509 when King Henry VIII was King. He wanted a son as an heir and married six times to make sure his wife got him a son.

His first wife Catherine of Aragon brought him five daughters, (four dead), so he divorced her.
He married Anne Boleyn who also gave him a daughter. She was also friendly with a number of people in the palace so Henry VIII cut off her head and also that of all her lovers too. It is said that Anne Boleyn had an extra finger on one hand and three breasts! Henry accused her of being a witch because of her deformities.

Henry then married Jane Seymour who gave him a son in 1537 but unfortunately she died whilst giving birth.

In 1540 Henry married Anne of Cleves who is said to have been very ugly. The marriage was not consummated, so he divorced her.

In the same year he married Catherine Howard and shortly afterwards chopped her head off too.
In 1543 he married Katherine Parr. Now I ask you ... would you have married a man with such a track record? Anyway, by this time Henry VIII was very sick with diseases one gets when they are too friendly ... He died in 1547.

Queen Elizabeth the First was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and became Queen in 1558 at the age of 25. She was skinny and plain with red hair like her dad. She used lead-based white make-up on her face, which although fashionable at the time, ate into her face.

 In those days people didn't wash as often as we do today because power showers had not been invented. So in time you could smell their arrival a mile off before they actually arrived. People with big noses suffered the most because they inhaled more of the bad smells. Having a cold was a wonderful relief. To hide their bad smell some people carried apples with cloves in it. Hmmm ... I wonder what smelled worse. A rotten apple in your armpits or the "naturelle smelle" of said body parts.

From 1568 onwards the Spanish fought against the English sending their Armadas over. At this time a man called Francis Drake led the English ships against the Spanish and won many battles. It is said that before a battle Drake was playing bowls in Plymouth and he was told of the approach of the Spanish fleet. He replied there was enough time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards.

Two more people who lived at the time of Elizabeth I were William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Shakespeare was a play writer who made it his mission to be a pain in the side of every pupil from then on who unfortunately had to learn his plays and sonnets for no apparent reason. He succeeded to the point that even now students have to learn and memorise his writings for no reason whatsoever except for being an English teacher and pass on this useless pass-time onto other pupils.

Sir Walter Raleigh on the other hand is said to have introduced potatoes to Britain. Apparently he travelled abroad and bought a packet of French Fries as a present to the Queen. She said: "What? No beef burger and milk shake?" 

Apparently, also when abroad he decided as a joke to put some leaves in his mouth and light them up. His friends enjoyed the joke and asked him to repeat it when he got back to England. The joke soon caught on and that's how he introduced tobacco to England.

In 1591, Sir Walter secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, (what were they waiting for?), without the Queen's permission. The Queen got angry and imprisoned both of them in the Tower of London. What a honeymoon? She later released him and he became quite famous.

The Queen died in 1603. Raleigh was arrested and tried for an alleged plot against King James. 
Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded on 29 October 1618.

His head was embalmed and presented to his wife, and his body was buried in a church in Surrey near Lady Raleigh's home. She kept his head in a velvet bag and carried it wherever she went. I bet it was embarrassing when she went to parties and dinner dates carrying the bag with her. I mean ... there she was invited to a party and she brings a guest, (or part of a guest), in her hand bag. I wonder if Raleigh's head winked at the pretty ladies at the party! And did she ever take his head with her in the bag when she went ten pin bowling?

When Raleigh's wife died 29 years later, both Raleigh's head and body were buried in St Margaret's Church in Westminster.

Monday 26 February 2018

Aliens from outer space

For many years now scientists have been searching for intelligent life out there, in outer space, in the universe somewhere, perhaps within our solar system, or perhaps somewhere else in another solar system - you know ... turn left, go straight for a few million miles, (or light years - are there heavy years?), then take the third turning to the right!

The thing is, I have never understood what kind of alien life they are hoping to discover. Do they think there are creatures out there that resemble us in some form or other; like the ones you see on Star Trek and other such films?

Or is this life they are searching for somewhat different in shape, size and form than us, and does not require the same essentials like us in order to survive; like oxygen, water, food, mediums of temperature and humidity and so on.

For example, is a virus a living being or not? How about a bacteria? Or the many microbes and tiny organisms that we may, or may not, know about? Could it be that there are such types of life out there that do not require the same basics like us to sustain them?

The Oxford Dictionary defines life as: The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.

From that I understand - growth, reproduction, functional activity (presumably this means watching TV), and change. So basically, that is life, according to the dictionary and presumably according to what most of us understand life to be.

But then the scientists are searching for something more - intelligent life, isn't that so?

So I ask myself - what is intelligent life? I have known many people in the past with less intelligence than my cat. Are they intelligent life?

Is a seeing-eye dog for the blind intelligent? Are animals trained by humans to do certain tasks intelligent? What is intelligence?

Once again, are we not measuring intelligence according to our human yardsticks? Just the same way as we are defining life using our own human yardstick? If it does this, it is alive. If it does that, it is intelligent.

What if there is life, very intelligent at that, that has been there all along and yet we have failed to recognise it. Or have even refused to accept it because of our own arrogant attitude of self-importance. Because we only want to accept things in our own terms and not as they truly are.

Is God not life?

He may not meet the criteria we have set for there to be defined as life; but is He not life? Indeed the very Creator of life?

Are Christ and the Holy Spirit not life?

As well as the Angels and indeed Satan?

Or do we dismiss them because they do not fit our understanding of life. Because they are spiritual and do not have a body like ours which meets the Oxford Dictionary criteria.

Was it not C S Lewis who is attributed as saying, “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” 

So, perhaps we too are spiritual beings, inhabiting a body temporarily; just like a butterfly before it leaves the cocoon for a new life.

Now there's a thought to keep you up at night. What do you think?

Saturday 24 February 2018

Give us a sign

They say, "There are none so blind as those who will not see", and I suppose this applies to many people throughout the ages. We are all set in our ways and believe what we have convinced ourselves to believe, often with no proof or logic but just prejudice, and that is that.

"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus replied, "A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (Matthew 12:38 onwards).

"On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?”  Jesus answered, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again". (John 2:18 onwards).

"So they asked Him, “What sign then will You perform, so that we may see it and believe You? What will You do?" (John 6:30 onwards).

The Jews believed that Christ was a political leader sent to rid their land from the occupying Romans. Despite all His teaching and preaching, despite their witnessing His many miracles, and hearing Him claim several times that He is the Son of God, they still asked for a sign so that they may believe.

The arrival of Jesus on earth had been predicted several times years before by the many prophets, and written about in the many documents of the Jews; and now that He was amongst them, God made man, God visiting this earth so that they may see Him, hear Him, and speak to Him; they were still asking for a sign.

But is it not just the same these days with many of us? Are we still not asking for a sign before we believe?

Let us look at some of the signs around us.

We have a universe full of planets, stars and other heavenly bodies all going round in an orderly fashion rather than haphazardly like a ball in a pinball machine.

We have plants and flowers and trees that grow from seeds, provide us with flowers and fruits, and reproducing year after year.

We have all sorts of animals, birds and fish as well as humans all intricate in their make-up and all living their lives, reproducing and dying one generation after the next.

Are all these not signs of some order by Someone somewhere with a plan that is being fulfilled? Or did it all just happen by accident and all the intricate bits that make life fell into place accidentally like a jigsaw puzzle that makes itself?

There are signs all around us everyday; but many fail to see them. 

Without needing to be a believer, without needing to read the Bible, anyone looking at life with an impartial eye, with no prejudice or pre-conceived opinions and points of view, cannot fail to see how much order there is around us. From the planets and stars in the universe, to the smallest blade of grass that grows. Every thing is worked out orderly and according to a masterly blueprint plan. Not by accident. But part of a blueprint plan.

Is that enough of a sign for you? It is for me!

Thursday 22 February 2018

Does Wealth Bring Contentment?


Lk. 12:13-21

We can’t live on fresh air.  Money plays a large part in all our lives.  Most of us have to concern ourselves with earning a living.  That concern occupies a sizeable portion of our waking hours.  Making ends meet requires careful planning and hard work.  We also have to provide for the possibility of accidents and the probability of old age.  To ignore such matters is to invite disaster for ourselves and our family.  In this world no one can lead a responsible life without giving some time and attention to money.

Jesus realised this and so devoted much of His teaching to how we are to cope with money and possessions.  In the Gospel He told the story of a farmer who had accumulated a fortune.  His wealth was measured not in money, but in produce.  His land had produced such a bountiful harvest that he had to build additional storage space.  He had enough to last him for the rest of his life.  He could live comfortably, even lavishly, without ever working another day.

The surprising part of this story is the way Jesus ended it.  We would have said the farmer was a tremendous success, a man to be admired and even envied.  We would hold him up as an example for young people to follow, but Jesus did the exact opposite.  He called that man a fool.  He labelled his life a failure and warned others not to repeat his mistake.

Why do we think differently from Jesus?  Here was a man who had made a good living, who had managed to save, provide for his old age and was able to take an early retirement.  What's his mistake?  According to Jesus the farmer had put all his efforts into accumulating wealth for the future, with no thought of his eternal salvation.  This was foolishness indeed.

Let us go back to the story in the Gospel.  What did the farmer do wrong?  He was not dishonest, nor did he cheat anyone of what was rightfully theirs.  But in his eagerness to acquire wealth he left no time for God.  There were not enough hours in the day.  He was up early in the morning and had no time to pray before starting work.  By the time he had finished his work in the evening he was too tired to pray.  As a result, all that mattered was his work.  God had gradually been pushed out of his life.

All this wealth and financial security had made the farmer complacent.  He began to think that he did not need God in his life.  He had made himself cosy and comfortable and he had protected himself from every danger that life could bring.  With all his money he had built his own heaven on earth.  That is why Jesus said, "How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Having amassed his wealth, the farmer became greedy.  He wanted to keep everything for himself, rather than share with anyone else.  This was what Jesus condemned not the fact that the farmer had become rich, but that he had stored up treasure for himself alone.  How richly God would have rewarded him, if only he had shown some generosity to those less fortunate.

Most of us may feel that the story of a rich farmer has very little relevance to our own lives.  We are not wealthy landowners; we are ordinary people struggling to make a living.  We have a mortgage to pay, children to feed and clothe.  It is wise to save money and make provision for our old age.  These responsibilities have to be faced we cannot evade them.  God knows all this, but despite all the pressures He wants us to put Him first in our lives.  In fact, if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things will be catered for.

We may never be extraordinarily rich, like the farmer in the parable, but do we set our hearts on acquiring possessions?  Do we think we would be happier if only we had a bigger house and car, a faster computer, the latest music centre or a better three piece suite?  Hasn’t experience shown us that happiness is transitory, and it won't be very long before we are looking for more, bigger and better things?  If we really think that these things will make us happy and contented, are we making the same mistake as the farmer?

Whether we are rich or poor, there will always be demands made of us.  We are forever being confronted with collections for charities of one kind or another, and it can be very irritating and exasperating.  But let us not forget that in comparison with the Third World we are millionaires.  We can afford to share a little of our wealth, and in giving let us give cheerfully, because God loves a cheerful giver.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for all you have given us.  Let us learn to be content and not to forget those who are in need of our help.  Let us not make the same mistake as the farmer in Your story who thought there were pockets in shrouds.
Father Francis Maple is a Franciscan monk who celebrated his 50th Anniversary as a priest in 2013. 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. He spends a lot of time travelling throughout the UK leading Missions in various Catholic churches. 

Monday 19 February 2018

What's Wealth Worth?

Years ago, when I lived and worked in London, I often visited the most opulent parts of that city and saw riches and wealth you could not imagine. I often looked at shop windows and marvelled at what was available on offer and the prices asked for. I saw ladies handbags worth many thousands of pounds (£); necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, tie pins, cuff links and many items of jewellery worth a fortune. I remember once looking at a window and having to check closer the price of a particular gold watch. "Is that the real price?" I thought, "or have they put the decimal point in the wrong place?"

I was astounded at the prices they were asking for a variety of goods and gifts I never believed existed, never mind wanted or needed. I certainly would feel uncomfortable wearing a watch worth so much on my wrist.

I also walked by well-to-do luxury hotels and restaurants. Establishments with a "maitre- d'hotel" type person with an imposing uniform standing at the door and welcoming you in. I witnessed many chauffeur-driven posh cars and limousines stop by, and bejewelled ladies and rich men walk out and enter these buildings.

I recall once a business acquaintance of mine invited me at his "gentlemen's club". It was such a luxurious building with the man outside opening the door for you and welcoming you in. He looked at me suspiciously and would have probably thrown me in front of a London bus or taxi, if I were not with my friend.

Inside, the carpets were so thick and luxurious you sank in almost to your knees, (a bit of an exaggeration), and everywhere real oil paintings of portrays of various people who in the past were members of this place. Chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and statues everywhere, it was wall-to-wall ceiling-to-floor luxury all round.

We were led to a table and the sommelier asked us what we wanted to drink. My friend suggested the Châteaux Expensive, or perhaps the Châteaux Exorbitant; or if I wished, they had a selection of fine brandies favoured by emperors and kings from years gone by.

Also, in London I witnessed poverty in the extreme. I saw at corners and in side streets men in dirty tattered clothes huddling together, sitting on the ground, near air vents at the back of buildings and hotels trying to keep warm by absorbing whatever heat came out from the dirty black grille low on the wall.

I saw the homeless and the down-and-outs gathering in the parks late at night searching for a park bench on which to sleep. By their state of unconsciousness it was obvious they had been drinking cheap hard cider mixed with methylated spirit; a favourite brew leading to quick oblivion and a temporary respite from their world of want.

I saw the same scenes of poverty side-by-side with riches in Edinburgh where I visited and stayed many a time.

Even today, in the small town where I live, there are many homeless people spending the night outdoors in these terrible freezing winter weathers with rain, snow and winds as their only friends.

I just cannot understand how, in one of the world's richest countries, we have such poverty in Britain.

Little seems to have changed from the days when Christ taught about the rich man and poor Lazarus at his gate.

I leave you with a song sung by a friend of mine, Father Francis Maple. He writes a daily sermon HERE.

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the papers,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
And held loosely by his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news

So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She's no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her world in two carrier bags.


In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there all alone
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea lasts an hour
And he wanders home alone


And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
In a world that doesn't care


Sunday 18 February 2018

The Temptations of Christ

It was Friday once again and Father Ignatius was at school with the youngsters at Catechism class. They had just read the passage in the Bible about Jesus in the desert and the temptations by Satan.

“Very strange story this …” said a young boy, “why didn’t Jesus just punch the devil on the nose and send him flying through the air?”

The girls laughed and some of the boys joined in.

“Yeh …” said one, “Krunch … Kerpaw … just like Batman would do …”

“Jesus would have won for sure …” said another.

The priest tapped the ruler gently on the desk to attract their attention and restore order. Once they’d settled down he said quietly,

“Actually … what Tom asked was a very intelligent question.”

“Wooo …” said a girl.

“That makes a change,” said a boy, “Tom having intelligence …”

Father Ignatius waited a few seconds and then went on,

“When Jesus came to earth He came as a human to share humanity with us so that we can accept Him and learn from Him. He was born a human baby, grew up a human and shared every emotion we share as human beings.

“Imagine for a minute if He came like a God, which He was of course, and still is.

“Imagine if He suddenly appeared like a superman or a batman or such other fictional heroes.

“With obvious powers like flying, super strength and the ability to do all the things we see in the movies. The people of the time would have been in total awe of Him and would have obeyed and followed Him just out of fear or wonderment.

“His very presence would have commanded universal obedience, respect and fear.

“Hardly free choice - is it? People would have followed and obeyed Him because He frightened them into it.”

The priest stopped again to let this image sink into the children’s consciousness.

“But instead,” he continued, “Jesus came on earth as a human.

“He humbled Himself as a baby born in poverty in a stable. Grew up with the poor and the down and outs … not as a king.

“As a human He felt every emotion that we feel. Sadness at the death of Lazarus … pity for the ill and poor … hunger pains when He fasted in the desert … and every other emotion we go through ... including temptations.

”In the desert Satan tempted Him with human temptations … If you are God's Son as you claim you are jump from this temple. Turn these stones into bread. Why don't you worship me? I can offer you much in return.

“I suspect that if chocolate had been invented at the time … Satan would have tempted Him with this too.”

Everyone laughed.

“And Satan tempts us too …” continued Father Ignatius gently, “not just with chocolates and other worldly temptations … but with distractions aimed at leading us away from God.

“Are there not times when, like a bright light in our head, we ask … Is this all real? Is there really a God out there? Jesus? Life after death? And all the other things we’re taught at Catechism or read in the Bible?

“What if it is all a big lie … and there is no God at all … or an after life?

“Now I hope these temptations don’t cross your minds too often. But they certainly will at some stage or other in your lives.

“Satan is always there; ready to put these and other thoughts in our minds to lead us astray.

“And you know something … The closer we come to God the harder the devil will work to lead us away from Him.

“There is no point in him tempting someone who doesn’t believe in God … is there? So he turns his attention to us.

”And that’s why Christ had to be tried by Satan. So that He could share our experiences as a human … but, most important; to be an example to us all on how to fight back these temptations.

“Through prayer!”

The priest paused once again.

“Every time He was tempted Jesus prayed to His Father for help.

”He was tempted yet again before He was arrested. He asked Himself and His Father … Can all this pass me by?

“Then, in prayer, He obeyed God and said; Not my will, but Yours.

”What a great example for us all to emulate! Not my will, but Yours.”


Saturday 17 February 2018

The Scapegoat

It's in the Bible.
 Aaron ...
shall put both his hands
on the goat's head
and confess over it all the evils,
sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel,
and so transfer them to the goat's head.
Then the goat is to be driven off
into the desert
by a man appointed to do it.
The goat will carry all their sins away with him
into some uninhabited land.
LEVITICUS 16:21-22.

Thursday 15 February 2018

Rocking on a Train

Why is it that wherever I am, on a bus, a train, walking the dog in the park, or wherever, people always stop and have a chat with me. Complete strangers start a conversation about any subject and before long they tell me their life story. Do I have a face that says: " I am interested in you. Tell me about you"? Usually, I think I carry a face that says, "I am not in the very least interested in you. Please leave me alone and mind your own business." But somehow, this does not seem to translate with the people I meet and they tend to think I am interested in them.

The other day, for instance, I was sitting in an old fashioned train with separate compartments. My compartment was empty and I hoped I'd have some time during this long journey to finish reading "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. As you know, it is a big book requiring a lot of patience, total lack of interruptions, and a long train journey from here to nowhere just to spend the time alone reading. Another big book which I had planned to read once is "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. I started it once or twice, but never managed it all the way through. Eventually, I saw the film on TV with the subtitles on; so effectively I can say I have read it.

Anyway, I had settled down on the train with "Les Miserables" and as the train pulled out of the station a man came into the compartment and sat opposite me. He wore blue jeans and a white T shirt. He had long hair, a beard, and I noticed on his neck he had a tattoo of a guitar. I glanced up to see him, then looked down into my book pretending not to have noticed him.

After a moment or two of silence he said, "Rock and Roll is not dead!"

I ignored him. But this did not satisfy him. He repeated, "I said Rock and Roll is not dead, mate. Did you hear me?"

I looked up and replied, "I did not know he was unwell. I'm glad to hear he has pulled through."

Obviously, he did not understand my sarcasm because he continued, "Long live Rock and Roll!"

I said, "Yes ... I agree."

He then asked me, "Who is your favourite Rock and Roll singer mate?"

For a start, I do not like being referred to as mate. I am no anyone's mate, or friend. Especially someone whom I have never met before and hope never to meet again.

It is like those people who phone you at home trying to sell you something; I think they are called telemarketer. They inevitably start by calling me by my first name and asking me how I am, have I had a good day.

My first instinct is to say, "Mind your own business about how I am; and it was a good day until now that you have interrupted my peace!" But my politeness comes to the fore and I mumble something or other inane; and before I know it the telemarketer is telling me his life story and how happy he is now since he has fitted the new triple-glazing windows to his house, (or whatever else he happens to be selling), and would I not like to be in similar ecstatic bliss by buying the same product.

I usually end the conversation short by saying it is not a good time to discuss purchases because I am totally distraught having just buried my pet wasp which I found dead early this morning.

Anyway, back to my train of thoughts which have been temporarily de-railed by my own interruptions. This guy in my compartment asked me who is my favourite Rock and Roll singer. My mind went blank and for some reason I said: "Bing Crosby."

He looked at me blankly and asked, "Is he solo or with a band?"

I was caught in my own tangled web, so I said, "He used to be with Bob Hope."

"Never heard of him. What song is he famous for?"

"He sang White Christmas with Danny Kaye!" I said unconvincingly hoping this conversation would end.

"Did they do Woodstock?" asked my rail companion. 

"Probably one of the supporting acts," I said with some authority.

"Great man," he said, "rocking all over the world!"

I looked down at my French book, "Les Miserables" and said, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!"

He said, "You what?"

I smiled and said, "Status Quo!"

"That's right mate," he replied, "Rocking all over the world!" as he got up and left the train which had reached his destination.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

On the psychiatrist's couch

Patient: Please doctor, you've got to help me out.

Psychiatrist: Certainly. Which way did you come in?

Patient: Through the door just here.

Psychiatrist: Would you like to get out through the window instead?

Patient: No doctor ... I am having these recurring dreams.

Psychiatrist: Here ... lie on the couch. Take your shoes off first; I've just had the couch cleaned. My ... oh my ... your socks smell! Now then ... tell me, what seems to be troubling you.

Patient: I'd like to ask you first ... are you a Freudian psychiatrist or a Jung?

Psychiatrist: Neither ... I learnt psychiatry by watching Frazier Crane on TV.

Patient: Oh ... OK ... I keep having this same dream night after night.

Psychiatrist: Is it about your mother?

Patient: No.

Psychiatrist: Pity. I am good at dreams about one's mother. Oedipus and all that. Reminds me of my own Mom. She was so kind and sweet. I liked her you know. I wish I had met her before my Dad did ...

Patient: No doctor. The dreams are not about my mother.

Psychiatrist: Are they about my mother then? Do you know my mother?

Patient: No ... they are not about anyone's mother.

Psychiatrist: What are they about then? Because I am not very good at other dreams.

Patient: They are about this woman ...

Psychiatrist: Ah ... now we're getting somewhere. Tell me more. Whose mother is she? Have you got her phone number?

Patient: No ... no phone number. She is young, very beautiful, blonde hair, sexy voice ... and she keeps calling my name softly.

Psychiatrist: Is your name Softly?

Patient: No it isn't.

Psychiatrist: I see. Why does she call you Softly then? What does she say?

Patient: She keeps calling ... Felix ... Felix ... Felix ...

Psychiatrist: Felix? Is that your name?

Patient: No ... it's my cat's name.

Psychiatrist: Why did your mother name you after a cat?

Patient: She didn't name me after a cat. She named the cat after a cat.

Psychiatrist: What did your mother name you?

Patient: Whiskers!

Psychiatrist: What happened next? In your dream?

Patient: Then I am running down the street chased by ...

Psychiatrist: Your mother?

Patient: No ...

Psychiatrist: My mother?

Patient: No ... by ...

Psychiatrist: Felix's mother?

Patient: No doctor! Why has it always to be someone's mother?

Psychiatrist: Well, you know how it is? If it is not one thing it's the mother!

Patient: Well it isn't this time. In fact every time I am running down the street I am chased by a ... zebra!

Psychiatrist: A zebra? Are you sure?

Patient: Yes ... I got it in black and white ... etched on my mind. It's a zebra. It looks like a horse, but it is definitely a zebra.

Psychiatrist: You seem pretty sure.

Patient: So would you be if it chased you every night!

Psychiatrist: Why is this zebra chasing you every night?

Patient: I don't know. I thought you could help me interpret the dream.

Psychiatrist: I can't do that. I don't speak zebra. 

Patient: What does all this mean, doctor?

Psychiatrist: It means your time's up. See you next week. And bring your mother with you!

Sunday 11 February 2018

Did Hank done it this way?

I am not going to discuss the educational systems of today because every country has its own way of teaching and what works in one place may not work in another. Some countries have a vibrant home-schooling system whereas in others teaching is mostly at school, whether private or state run schools.

What I will mention is teaching in the good old days when I was but a young lad.

I remember back then, when I was a pupil in our school there was a pretty little girl whom I was very fond of. Her name was Mary and she had a little lamb. His fleece was white as snow. The lamb came to school with her every day. One slice at a time in her sandwich.

There was also a boy called Jack. He loved beans. Every day at school lunch he had beans. I used to wonder whether, if he ate a magic bean, it would grow into a stalk and come out of his bottom and raise him to the sky.

There was also a girl with long blonde hair. We used to watch it blow in the wind and we used to run and catch it before it got entangled in the bushes. We called her Goldilocks. Once she said that the school bench was too hard to sit on. The teacher told her to stop being pretentious.

Anyway ... as I was about to say before my thoughts interrupted me ... when I was a little boy at school I learnt to write. But sadly not to read. I just wrote and wrote because our teacher told us to.

We had to write all sort of stories every day. The teacher told us to write about things we did at home or on holidays. Things like what our parents do privately at home, what they say, their political allegiances, what they did for a living and so on.

I remember writing that mom entertained people for a living. She used to sell tickets at the local cinema.

I wrote that dad worked for a while in the museum. One day he took our dog to work with him and the dog ate the dinosaurs leg bone. It was a very old dinosaur skeleton. Two million years and six months and thirteen days. I knew the age precisely because when dad started working at the museum the dinosaur was two million years old. And dad had been there for six months and thirteen days. 

I wrote that one year for a holiday we went to Disneyland. Pluto did a wee on dad's leg. There were Mickey and Minnie Mouse there. I wondered if they were related because they had the same surname. I wrote that Donald Duck in the cartoons always wore a jacket and a hat but no trousers; but when he came out of the bath he had a towel round his waist. Very odd, I thought.

Anyway ... So it came to pass that with all this writing at school I got more and more interested in writing rather than reading. Eventually, many years later, I ended up writing books which to this day I have never read.

I think this is the most convoluted and long-winded way for me to advertise my books. But hey ... they are worth reading ... or so I am told!

You can find out more about them HERE. And HERE. And HERE.

Each HERE is different. Try them all. Just like Hank did.

Saturday 10 February 2018



And yet
we managed
to discuss, debate and re-interpret
each of the 
Ten Commandments
to suit our
selfish interests.

Thursday 8 February 2018

The Cocktail Queen catches up

There are times in life when whatever we have done in the past has a habit of catching up with us and come back to haunt us, or bite us on the backside, or give us a pleasant surprise even. And that’s what happened to Father Ignatius when the door bell at St Vincent Parish House rang one sunny afternoon.

There at the door was a pretty young lady of about 23 years of age with two toddlers, a girl aged about five and a little boy aged four.

“Hia … Father … Ignatius isn’t it?” she said with a smile, “I have a surprise for you!”

“Good afternoon …” he replied gently.

“May we come in?” she asked, “the little ones want to go to the toilet … and I have something to tell you …”

Father Ignatius led them into the downstairs waiting room and showed them where the toilets were. He then asked Mrs Davenport to prepare some tea and biscuits and orange juice for the children.

Moments later they were all in the waiting room as Mrs Davenport came in with the refreshments. As she left, closing the door behind her, Father Ignatius asked, “How can I help you?”

“You don’t remember me?” she asked.

“Well …” he mumbled embarrassingly, “I get to meet so many people over the years …”

“I’ll give you a clue …” she interrupted, “about five years ago … the age of this little girl; now that should jog your memory."

He looked at her blankly.

“I was the Cocktail Queen working at the Bitten Apple Night Club … I offered to let you in without paying … and you were too embarrassed to be seen there I think!

“I told you I was pregnant, having a baby … do you remember?”

Father Ignatius lifted his eyebrows as faded memories came rushing back from the deep recesses of his mind.

“Ah …” she said in exasperation, “you still don’t seem to remember me … that’s not very flattering to a pretty girl you know … and I thought I had made quite an impression on you!

“Well I do remember that you were none too happy when I told you I were pregnant … it made you quite mad I think …

“As I recall I came to see you and tell you all about it … you took me in your office upstairs.

“And that’s when I told you I were pregnant and I wanted to have an abortion and get rid of it.

“You got very upset with me and you advised me against it. I thought what right have you to tell me what to do? You said it was a living human being and it was wrong to kill it … and that I would always regret it.

“As I said at the time, I was working at the Night Club … the Cocktail Queen I was … very popular with the clientele I were!

“I couldn’t keep the baby could I? It would have interfered with my job. Who has ever heard of the Pregnant Cocktail Queen? You can’t wear those skimpy outfits with a big bump upfront can you?

“Anyhow … I left you and I was proper upset with you I was … telling me to keep the baby!

“Months later we met again at the supermarket and I told you that I had the baby after all …

“It’s this little girl here; you never met her. I called her Ignatia after you. Well it’s her middle name really … Ignatia is rather an odd name don’t you think? But I had to name her after you. Her first name is Hilary.”

The priest smiled feebly.

“So when I had Hilary I gave up working at the Night Club and took on a job at the supermarket where we met.

“I was living with Hilary’s father at the time … When I told him what you’d said to me he agreed that I should not have the abortion … even though he was keen on it at first …

“His name is Alec. We later married you know … not in a church like, but at the Registry Office. A year later we had Mark here … he’s about four years old!”

“Yes … I remember,” said Father Ignatius, “I’m so glad you and your husband decided not to proceed with the abortion … she’s such a pretty girl. I’m sure you love both your children.”

“Oh yes … we do love them very much, my husband and I. We’re ever so happy. If it were not for you I would not have my precious Hilary!

“I still work at the supermarket … part-time like … I have to look after the kids and all! You don’t go to that supermarket anymore … ‘cos I haven’t seen you for ages!” she said, “My husband Alec works at the bus depot you know … he asked me to come and see you … since you helped us the last time when I were pregnant with Hilary … Alec said perhaps you can help us again!”

“I’ll do my best …” he said gently.

“Well, it’s about Hilary here … I took her to the Catholic school down the road and they wouldn’t let her in … the Head Mistress there was a proper snooty fancy pants she was … She said she couldn’t accept Hilary because she didn’t have a Baptismal Certificate. So Alec, my husband, suggested I come to you for a Baptismal Certificate. And could we have one for Mark as well while we’re at it … I hope they don’t cost much! ”

“It’s not that simple …” said Father Ignatius, “I take it the children have not been baptized!”

“No … I don’t think so. I was brought up a Catholic on my mother’s side … she taught me the Hail Mary and showed me a little chain with beads … but I don’t think I got baptized … it was too expensive in them days … is it expensive now?”

“No … you don’t have to pay” he replied gently, “what the Head Mistress at the school meant is that before your children are accepted at the school she has to give priority to Catholic families and their children. I’m sure you understand that.”

“Yes I do … I’d like to come to church with my husband and the kids and learn about God and all that … only I was put off by a woman I work with.

“She said the Catholics are expensive … they have two money collections and sometimes more on Sunday and even on weekdays if you go to church to pray. She said you have to pay to get a Baptismal Certificate … which is what the Head Mistress asked for.

“This friend … Diane is her name … well she said you also talk in a foreign language in church … Italian was it? No … no … Latin. That was it. Only we don’t know Latin Alec and me … I left school at fifteen and can just speak proper English … never mind Latin.

“She also said Catholics have to eat fish every Friday … well we can’t do with that … It’s expensive for a start and Alec is allergic to shell-fish … brings him out in spots it does!”

“There appears to have been a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith …” said Father Ignatius, “what I mean is that you’ve misunderstood about the Catholic Church … never mind. Many people make the same mistakes.

“Can I suggest perhaps that you and Alec come to a few meetings when we can talk about God and Jesus and the Catholic Faith? You said you were willing to learn.

“It’ll be just you and Alec and me, or Father Donald if I’m not here. You can bring the children too and I’ll ask Mrs Davenport, whom you’ve just met, to look after them.

“It’s just once a week, in the evening or at weekends … and in time, if you wish, you can have the children baptized and you and Alec too … if you wish.

“And it will be in English … not one word of Latin will be spoken, I promise.”

She smiled broadly and asked “How much will it cost?”

“There’s no charge at all …” he replied smiling back, “the Love of Christ is priceless but you don’t have to pay … He already has!”

“And what about the fish?”

He held back the urge to laugh and said “Don’t worry about that … you don’t have to eat fish or anything else you don’t want to eat … on Fridays or any other days!”

And that’s how it was that the Cocktail Queen and her husband Alec attended Catholic teachings at St Vincent and in time, the two of them and their children were baptized at a private ceremony attended by both priests and Mrs Davenport.

Hilary now attends the Catholic school and Mark has been registered to attend the following year.

The family is now part of Father Ignatius’ flock!


Wednesday 7 February 2018

The Cocktail Queen

Father Ignatius was washing his car in the church’s car park one afternoon when he was approached by a young lady wearing a low-cut T-shirt, a short skirt, and knee-length boots.

“Are you the priest that works in this church?” she asked.

He was still wearing his white collar and replied, “I am the Parish priest. How may I help you?”

“Can we speak privately please?” she asked again.

Father Ignatius put down the bucket of water and invited her into the Parish house. He sat at his desk in his office and she made herself comfortable in the armchair by the window.

After a short silence she said, “This isn’t easy for me …”

“Take your time,” replied Father Ignatius gently.

“Don’t know where to start …”

“Start at the beginning … what can I do to help?”

“I serve drinks at the Bitten Apple Night Club … I’m a barmaid … they call me Cocktail Queen …” she interrupted.

The priest nodded and said nothing, encouraging her to go on.

“Have you been there? The Bitten Apple … just by the cinema?”

“No, I’ve never been there,” he answered calmly, and wondering where all this is leading to.

“If you ever want to go let me know … I can let you in without paying the entrance fee … get in at the back …”

“Well … that won’t be necessary,” hesitated Father Ignatius, still wondering what this young lady wanted.

“I’m not a bad person you know … people look at me and think I’m a bad person!”

“I’m not here to judge you,” he answered, still remaining calm to help her say what she had on her mind.

“This is very difficult, but I have to tell you because I believe in God and all that …” she stopped for a few seconds and sighed. He let her pause for a while until she continued, “I’m pregnant … there I said it!”

“That’s good news … isn’t it?” he said with a smile.

“A nuisance more like … it’ll interfere with my work … and my boy-friend is mad about it. It’ll be Christmas soon … and a right present he’s given me!”

“I see …”

“Well he said we should get rid of it … he is willing to pay and all. If I don't get rid of it he'll leave me. And I love him, you see. I was wondering whether God would forgive me if I got rid of it … because I can’t give up work you see.”

“What you intend to do is kill a living human being; and you are asking me to condone it. Do you realise what it is you intend to do?” said Father Ignatius sternly.

“I’m asking for forgiveness,” she said, “I was brought up Catholic years ago as a child, although I don’t go to church now. I’m too busy you see. I was told if you confess your sins the priest has to forgive you.”

“It doesn’t work quite like that …” he said hiding his temporary loss of patience. “You can’t ask for forgiveness for something you’re about to do. Something which you know is wrong; and yet you intend to do it all the same.”

“It's either that or I lose my job and lose my boy-friend. Then where will I be?”

“You do realize what abortion is Miss, do you not?” he asked gently trying to calm down the situation before it got out of hand. “It is the ending of a life. It is not a matter to be considered lightly and in a cavalier way as you and your boy friend seem to think. I do not believe that it is right, and I must advise you against it in the strongest way possible. I urge you to re-consider what you’re intending to do …”

She looked at her watch and interrupted him once again, “Do you think if I go to another church the vicar there would forgive me?”

It was obvious that she was not listening and that her mind was made up. All she needed was re-assurance from the church, or any representative of a Deity she happened to vaguely believe in, that what she was doing was right.

“I doubt that you will find any vicar or priest who would …”

“I’ll have to go now,” she said looking at her watch again, “I’m on at the Bitten Apple in half-an-hour!”

“Before you go, just wait a second … I’d like you to get in contact with these people if you can. They may be able to help you. They will talk to you about your pregnancy, but I must tell you, they will never agree to you having an abortion. On the contrary, they will help you see what a gift you have living within you right now …”

“Whatever … I’ll think about it … I don’t think they’ll help … I just have to get rid of it. I’m not into having babies and all that …” she said taking the card from his hand and making her way out.

As he saw her leave Father Ignatius prayed silently for that living human being threatened with death before breathing his first breath.

All that happened some months ago and the priest never met the young lady again … until yesterday.

He was at the supermarket and about to pay for his purchases when the cashier recognized him. She told him that the baby is six months old now, and that she gave up work at the night club and was now working at the supermarket and living with her boy-friend, the baby’s father.

As he drove away the priest praised God for saving the unborn-child and prayed that maybe … one day … this young family may get to know and love the Lord.


Monday 5 February 2018

Scientific Facts to change your life

Scientists have counted the number of heartbeats a mouse has in a lifetime and found a direct relationship with its size and weight. They then did the same with an elephant and found the relationship/ratio between the number of heartbeats and the size of the elephant to be the same as that of a mouse.

This means that all creatures have a number of given heartbeats in a lifetime commensurate with their weight and size.

A mouse being small and fast-running has a very fast heart beat. He therefore uses his allotted number of heartbeats quickly and dies in a matter of a few months.

The elephant on the other hand has a slower heartbeat per minute and lives much longer.

From this we deduce that humans too have a given number of heartbeats allocated to them at birth; give or take a few heartbeats either way.

And the faster we use our heartbeats the shorter our life would be.

This is a good reason why we should all be fat and sit in front of a TV with a large pizza rather than waste our heartbeats jogging, playing football or other sporting pursuits.

Two more scientific facts about elephants. They are particularly attracted to smelly socks so if you are to visit a zoo or a circus be very careful that you have changed your socks that day, and other underwear which might attract the elephants' attention.

Additionally, it is not true that elephants never forget. I have never received a birthday card from any of them, thus disproving this theory.

Another interesting fact about animals, or insects, 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 zero degrees centigrade the insect does not chirp at all because he is frozen solid out in the cold.

In England every year people gather for a worm catching contest. They go out in a field and tap the ground with sticks imitating the sound of rain. This excites the worms which come out of the ground and are quickly caught and put in a bucket. The winner is the person who catches most worms in a given period of time.

Last year no one caught any worms in the contest.

It rained all day and they held the contest in the local church hall and the worms could not dig through the concrete floor.

Women who wear perfume are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than those who do not. That’s because mosquitoes are attracted to the gentile scent of perfume.

The same does not apply however for men who wear after-shave. This is because men tend to use too much after-shave lotion and they smell like mature manure thus attracting flies instead.

Men who drink a lot, especially liquor such as whisky, rum, vodka and so on, tend to turn mosquitoes into alcoholics when they suck their blood.

An old friend of mine used to drink at least a half-bottle of whisky or rum a day. He lived to age 92 and when he died he was cremated. It took the fire brigade a week to put the flames out.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Laughter in Heaven

Friday 2 February 2018

I will never understand women

Let's be honest. None of us is a Saint. There must be things in life which irritate us beyond words and make us less than Saints.

For me, it is people talking whilst watching TV. I could be sitting there quietly watching something serious about the downturn in the economy when someone would say, "we used to have a car like this one on TV!" Now I tell you, how has this piece of information enhanced my life or improved my understanding of what is a complex subject being explained so clearly and succinctly by this TV expert?

It is even worse when the sideline comment is in the form of a question. For example the TV program would mention Birmingham and someone would say, "Did you know that at university I had a friend from Birmingham? Julie ... do you remember her?"

Now do you think I care whether Julie, whoever she is or was, came from Birmingham or from anywhere else? Whilst trying politely to answer the inane question I have missed the next bit about who scored at football and how.

In order to stop such interruptions whilst TV viewing is in progress I have put forward some modest suggestions to be adhered to by one and all:

Whilst the TV is on there will be no talking or interruptions whatsoever. If you have something to say, or a question to ask, just write it down on a piece of paper and we will discuss it later at an appropriate time prearranged for this specific purpose.

TV viewing is no different to being in the cinema. You would not expect people to discuss their friend from Birmingham at the cinema and disturb everyone else; so why do it when the TV is on? People usually keep quiet at the cinema. That is unless they are sitting in the back row at the movies. Since we do not have a back row at home we will remain quiet when the TV is on.

Should anyone wish to consume potato chips, biscuits, corn flakes or anything else of a crunchy nature they will do so quietly by placing the potato chip in their mouth and softening it until fully moist and then swallowing it. 

Needless to say, before I could continue with my list of perfectly reasonable suggestions they were met with the silent treatment. Dear Lord ... did I get the silent treatment; which lasted for an eternity and a half.

I will never understand women.

So tell us, what does irritate you in life? And what suggestions have you put forward to remedy the situation?