Saturday 30 June 2018

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques

Once again ... Mevely ... has provided the inspiration for a humourous story for you to enjoy. Just go back to yesterday's Blog post and read the comment she has left me about "The long trip of coffee". Also don't forget to visit Mevely HERE.

It was a very hot summer and we were travelling in France on holiday in one of those big motor homes type vehicle. You know the one I mean? A large vehicle that includes a small bedroom, kitchenette and toilet facility. We had hired it as soon as we got to France and we intended to tour the countryside for a week or so in La Belle France!!! Olé.... sorry, we may have taken a wrong turning into Spain.

Anyway ... after our short diversion due to my wife reading the map upside down, we were in France and we stopped by the roadside in the middle of nowhere to consult the map properly, having massaged my side due to a sharp elbow in my ribs whilst I was driving. (Some people lack a sense of humour ... ouch ... again).

Anyway ... again ... let's get on with this story with no further interruptions. It is very hot here in the French summer sun.

We'd been stopped for a few minutes when there was a knock at the door of the motor home. I opened the door and standing there was a monk.

Not a chipmunk ... you've miss heard me ... I said a monk. One of those religious people who live in a monastery and grow their own vegetables and make wine and things for tourists to buy. You could tell he was a monk because he was wearing one of those dark brown Saint Francis of Assisi habits or uniform.

I thought he was one of those religious people who knock at your door to tell you about God and salvation. So I said, "Sorry mate ... we are Catholics ..."

He must have been taken aback by my English language. He stammered and said, "Excusez-moi ... eh ... veree soree ... Moi no speakee ze English good ... ere in ze car, (pointing to the car behind him, an old dusty Citroen), zere iz Père Martin ... e iz veree old and e wantz to do ze wee wee veree quicklee ... OK e go in your toilette s'il vous plaît?"

Being a very charitable Christian man whose heart and soul yearn to help others worse off than myself, I quickly replied, "Sorry mate ... the toilet is broken ... la toilette ... eet iz ze broken ..." 

I thought if I talked to him in French he will understand and go away. It was then that I received yet another sharp elbow in the ribs. My wife, being more charitable said from behind me, "Oui ... oui ... monsieur ..." and opened the door widely to invite Père Martin to wee wee in our toilet.

Out of the car came Père Martin, followed by a nun called Sœur Celeste, (Sister Celeste), and Mère Supérieure Anna, (Mother Superior Anna). The original monk introduced himself as Frère Joseph. Would you believe it? They all wanted to use the toilet!!!

I have read about being charitable in the Bible, but there is nothing there about sharing your motor home toilet with complete strangers. What if they were not monks and nuns at all? What if they were gangsters running away from a crime they committed and dressed like religious people? What if they wanted to steal our motor home? What if ... ... ...

I found my old school Catechism in our luggage and I wanted to test their religiousness by asking them some questions. But yet another sharp elbow to the ribs put paid to that strategy.

"Oh ... c'est merveilleux," said Joseph the monk, "vous avez un ... eh ... ah au vin!"

I had heard of coq au vin, a French delicacy cooking chicken with wine, so I thought he was asking me for some wine.

"No ... no ... I have no wine," I said, "no vin ... oui beer ... beer ... glug glug ... good English beer, not like the watery French stuff you have over here ... beer?"

"Au vin ... au vin ..." he repeated pointing to our kitchenette. 

"Ah ... oven? Yes this is an oven," I said having understood what he was on about.

"Voulez-vous des saucisses?" asked Mother Superior, "saucisses de venaison?"

"Venaison?" I repeated, "yes ... France is a great Nation ... so is Britain mind you. Have you ever been to Britain? You know ... God save our gracious Queen ..."

Mother Superior ignored me and opened the boot of the Citroen and brought out a large packet of dry sausages like salami or chorizos 

"Saucisses de venaison ..." she said, "c'est vraiment délicieux ..."

As she offered me her venison sausages the other nun brought out a huge panier type basket full of other goodies ... French baguette bread, a variety of French cheeses, a couple of bottles of wine, and a variety of other goodies fit for a party. The two monks brought out a foldable table and chairs and they sat down ready for a picnic to which we were invited.

They stayed there for about an hour or so, speaking with us in broken English and French and enjoying their food and wine and our beer ... although they were not that keen on our black pudding, haggis and faggots which we had in the fridge.

As we were enjoying this lovely French picnic a police car drew up and two gendarmes came out. At first I thought perhaps we were parked in the wrong place, or no picnics were allowed where we were.

The two policemen conversed with the nuns and monks in their local language. They spoke quickly and I could not understand a word they said.

"They probably are criminals after all," I whispered to my wife, "we'd better move away!"

Then, without asking for permission or anything, the two policemen entered our motor home. I tried, as best I could, to speak to the monks about it. It transpired that the policemen thought the motor home belonged to the monks and they needed to use the toilet too!

After the policemen left, and we finished the picnic, the monks and nuns thanked us and left on their way.

Moments later I saw a big bull from a nearby field approach us slowly. We got in the motor home quickly and left, just in case he too wanted to use the toilet. 

The following day we took a deliberate detour and visited the monks monastery some twenty miles away and spent the day there visiting.

Oh ... and to return the favour, we used their toilets. I went more than once to make up for the four of them using ours!

Friday 29 June 2018

The Long Trip Of Coffee

It was a few years ago when my work colleague Jennifer and I drove to the city for an important meeting with some clients. We'd decided beforehand that she'd drive her own car, giving me the opportunity to read a financial report I needed for the meeting.

On the way back home Jennifer decided we stop at a cafe for some refreshments. She knew that this place served every kind of coffee you could wish for, and of course, she was right.

It was mid-afternoon when we set off again on the way home, Jennifer in the driving seat, and I sitting beside her making notes about the meeting and every so often seeking her advice and opinions on financial matters. She was a keen accountant equal to no one, so her views were invaluable.

An hour into the journey home we met a delay on the highway. All three lanes were full of cars as we slowed down to a snail's pace. Pretty soon we stopped in what turned out to be the longest car park I'd ever seen. Ahead of us, for as far as we could see, there were stopped cars in all three lanes. Behind us, within minutes, a longer queue of parked cars developed into eternity.

Every so often, we moved forward a few yards and stopped again. There'd probably been an accident ahead, or perhaps road works. There was no way of knowing. We were travelling at about 5 miles an hour if not slower.

And that's when the coffee came into play!

I felt I needed to go to the men's room; but unfortunately Jennifer's car did not have such a facility. At first I put up with the slight discomfort which, with every passing minute, grew into ... a more pronounced pain.

"Why are you fidgetting in your seat?" she asked me.

Embarrassingly, I told her. She sympathised by hoping we'd soon be out of this slow traffic.

Fifteen minutes later I became desparate. We'd been at a standstill for quite a while with cars parked all around us.

Jennifer said she had an idea. She got out of the car, opened the boot, and came back holding a small potty in her hand.

"We always keep this in the car for my young son," she said, "perhaps you could use it and then discreetly empty it on the road."

"What?" I asked in a panic, "I couldn't possibly ... besides, it's too small ..."

"I'm not asking you to place it on the ground and stand on the seat aiming at it!" she said irritably, "just do it sitting down."

"With you here beside me watching me? It's too embarrassing ... " I replied crossing my legs together.

"Forget it ..." she said with gritted teeth as she drove forward a few yards and put the brakes on suddenly turning my pronounced pain into extreme agony.

"What I meant ..." I said soothingly, "the potty is too small for me to use fully ..."

"Do it in stages ..." she replied increasing her level of irritability.

"I can't just turn it on and off like a faucet" I pleaded sheepishly.

And that's when I realised the reason for her uncharacteristic bad temper.

"And I can't exactly lift my dress and sit on the potty inside the car, can I?" she hissed under her breath, "or would you prefer me to sit on the potty in full view in the middle of the road?"

She was obviously in the same coffee predicament as myself.

We drove silently for about twenty minutes when we eventually reached an exit on the highway. As soon as we left the highway I asked her to stop by some woodland and I ran behind a tree and some bushes to commune with nature.

Jennifer, on the other hand, was much more of a lady than I ever was, or will be. She got out of the car and asked me to drive.

I sped to the nearest diner a mile or so ahead where we welcomed a much earned comfort break; and then we sat down and enjoyed their variety of coffees.

Thursday 28 June 2018

The case of the missing snails



"Allo ... je suis Police Inspector Ivan My-Grain. I ave come ere to investigate ze disappearance of your entire stock of ze escargots ... zis wiz me is ze policeman Rat ... Ratatouille."

"Rat ... Ratatuoille?"

"No ..." said the Inspector, "just Ratatouille. I ave ze stammer ... who are you?"

"I am ze owner of ze snail farm, and ziz is my wife Madame Leggert!"

"What can you tell us about ze vanishing of ze snails?" asked Ratatouille.

"We got ze idea to farm snails for ze restaurants five years ago," explained Madame Leggert, "my husband and I we were in Paris, e was drunk az always, and e fell in ze river. E was in Seine!"

"And zat is when we got ze idea," interrupted her husband, "we came ere in zis lovely countryside and we started an open air ze free range snail farm. Ze snails are let free to walk in ze grass in ze morning and we get zem in at night. When zey are big and plump we sell zem to the Paris restaurants! C'est délicieux n'est ce pas?"

"Yes, I'm sure zey are delicious," said Inspector My-Grain, "but ow did zey escape?"

"Zey opened ze barn door and zey run away," cried Madame Leggert, "my poor babies ... I miss zem so. Zey were veree precious to me".

"But you intended to eet zem," said Ratatouille, "or sell zem to be eaten. How could zey be precious to you?"

"We get plenty of ze money for zem," she explained, "we sell zem for ten francs ze dozen ..."

"Un moment s'il vous plaît," said ze inspector, ... sorry ... the inspector, "I ave received a report zat a lot of ze snails ave eaten a whole field of lettuces about ten kilometres from ere. Are zese your snails do you think?"

"Will we be charged for ze damaged lettuces?" asked Madame Leggert.

"Probably ... yes," replied My-Grain.

"Zen zey are absolument not ours," she replied, "definitely not zem!"

"Ow can you be so sure?" asked Ratatouille.

"Our snails zey are good with ze garlique sauce not with ze lettuce," she replied crossing her fingers behind her back.

"Zat is true, Inspector," said Ratatouille, "zey are better with ze garlique sauce and ze glass of ze wine!"

Inspector My-Grain looked at his smart phone and declared, "I ave anozer report zat a lot of ze snails ave entered Paris. Zey are evry where. Montmartre, Ze Louvre, Ze Tour Eiffel, zey are running a mocking evry where. Zey are climbing up peuples' legs as far az iz possible. Some ave reached possible. We can not ave ze snails in peuples' private business. Zis iz in Seine!"

"We ave all ready used zis joke Inspector," said Ratatouille.

The inspector ignored Ratatouille and asked the farming couple, "Ave you any idea ow ze snails are moving so fast? Ave you been feeding zem laxative to give zem ze running?"

"Of course not ..." said Madame Leggert, "zey probably took a taxi to Paris!"

"Zis is true," continued her husband, "ze bus from ere eet is veree slow and only come every day or so. Eet iz so not reliable. Ze snails zey probably took ze taxi to Paris!"

"Ring all ze taxi firms," My-Grain said to Ratatouille, "ask zem if zey have ad anee snail customers going to Paris. Not anee where else. Just Paris!"

"Oui mon Capitaine," replied the policeman as he tapped his cell phone.

"And now ... I want to do ze search of ze farm," said My-Grain, "in ze case zere is a slow snail we can interrogate eet!" 

Whilst they were searching the living room the TV was switched on and the Newsreader said: "We understand zat a spokes man for ze snails, Monsieur Slimee Guy, pronounced Gheeee, and not like ze English Gayeee, eet iz Monsieur Slimee Gheeee. Any ways, e as said zat ze snails want to stop ze peuples from ze eeting zem!"

"Oh zut alors ..." cried Madame Leggert slapping her face with her hands, "if ze peuples zey stop eeting ze snails we weel be ruined. No more monee for selling ze snails". 

"You could always farm ze grenouilles ... ze frogs," suggested My-Grain.  

"But ... ow do wee stop zem from running ze away?" asked her husband.

"You just cut zeir legs ..." said Inspector My-Grain.

And that's how a new delicacy was created.


Police Inspector Ivan My-Grain --- Ivan Aspirin
Policeman Ratatouille --- Rat Au Vin
Madame Leggert --- Plaster of Paris
Her Husband --- Under Ze Thumb

Snails supplied by Speedy Gonzales

No snails or any other animals have been harmed in the making of this story.

Based on an idea by Mevely.

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Wednesday 27 June 2018

Strange Encounter of the Restaurant Kind

A most odd thing happened to me at the restaurant the other day. I was at a business meeting and I took the client I was with, Veronique Tombal, to a French restaurant.

She had frogs' legs; but I'll admit the rest of her body was superb.

Anyway, we sat down at table and after ordering our meals I asked for a bottle of Beaujolais. The waiter brought the bottle and, as is customary, he poured a few drops in a glass to be tasted first. Then, to my surprise, he picked up the glass and tasted it himself. I've never ever seen such a thing before. Usually, it is the customer who tastes the wine, and usually says something complementary about it as it is served to all at table.

But this time, the waiter, or sommelier as he is known, tasted the wine himself. Stranger still, he then declared, "Oh non monsieur ... ziz wine, eet haz been corked. Eet ees no good! I will gett anozer bottle!"

He then went away and returned with another bottle, which he opened there and then and pouring a drop or two in a glass he tasted it again.

"Zis one is better!" he said, as he served me and my business client.

Then, even more stranger, he poured wine in the glass he had already used for himself and sat with us at table.

I did not know what to say or do. I did not want to seem ungracious and tell him to go away, and before I had time to speak he said, "Eet eez very important to make sure ze wine eet has not been corked. Zis ees when ze bottle haz been badly opened and ze wine has touched ze cork and ze atmosphere at ze same time. Ze wine eez zen ruined."

"I see," I said, not having understood a word. Veronique smiled and said nothing.

"Wine, ees a very important part of ze meal," he continued, "especially in la belle France!"

Veronique smiled and asked, "Avez-vous toujours été un sommelier?" Meaning, have you always been a wine waiter?

"Oh non, madame ..." he declared, "before zat I was a snail farmer. I used to farm snails for ze best restaurants in Paris. Eet was a slow job sometimes aving to round zem up for ze night! I ad a sheep dog which walked slowly around ze field and he pushed ze snails with hiz nose in ze direction of ze barn where we kept ze snails for ze night! 

"Wee started at about 2 in ze afternoon and got all ze snails in ze barn by 6 in ze evening. 

"Ze next morning wee let zem out again to go in ze field for a promenade and to eat ze fresh grass."

"That's not how you farm snails," I said quietly.

"Oh monsieur, ours were ze free range snails. Not ze snails in cages. Wee let zem out in ze morning to walk freely in ze meadows and to tip ze toe through ze too lips!"

Veronique and I smiled and said nothing.

"One day we ad ze break-out!" he continued as he ordered another bottle of Beaujolais from the waiter serving our meals.

"You mean a break-in!" I corrected.

"Non monsieur," he replied, "a break out. During ze night some snails zey climbed up ze barn door and opened ze latch which held ze door closed. All ze snails zey escaped.

"In ze morning wee started a search for zem. Wee searched all around ze farm for a ten metres radius and wee did not find zem. Not even one. Zey ad all escaped. So wee brought in ze police elicopters to fly up and search wider. Wee widened ze search by anozer alf metre all around but wee found nothing. Zee snails ad travelled more than ten and a alf metres in one day!"

"Why did you not search further and for longer?" I asked.

"Oh monsieur, "he replied, "it waz ze time for the petit déjeuner ... ze breaky fast ... you know ... du pain, du vin et du fromage!"

Veronique and I looked at each other and smiled.

"And now monsieur et madame I ave to go and serve anozer table. Merci beaucoup for allowing me to taste your wine.

"May I try one of your escargots, pleeze?" he said as he picked a snail from my plate and left mumbling to himself, "eet needs more of ze garlique!!!"        

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Veronique Tombal

We had a visitor from France at work this week. A top executive named Mademoiselle Veronique Tombal came over to negotiate a big contract with our Company. We were all on our best behaviour hoping to impress her about the quality and cost of our products.

It wasn’t until our meeting was over when my boss made an announcement without having cleared it with me first.

“I hope you’ll enjoy your stay overnight at the hotel we’ve booked for you Mademoiselle Tombal,” he said with a smile, “Victor will meet you at seven this evening for dinner, and then he’ll take you to the theatre to see a performance of our beloved William Shakespeare!”

“What?” I thought to myself silently, “I have other plans for this evening …”

Mademoiselle Tombal said she looked forwards to a pleasant evening and left with one of our executives to be chauffeur driven to the luxurious hotel we had booked for her.

My boss apologized profusely as honestly as he could possibly lie and explained that he had planned to take her out himself but because of urgent family business he’d be for ever grateful if I did it instead.

“And you speak French so well,” he said flattering me, “she’ll be so impressed by it!”

I didn’t believe him but had no option but to accept his unwelcome decision.

I made sure I was impeccably dressed and my shoes very well polished when I picked her up at the hotel and took her to a first class restaurant. We made polite conversation about this and that and I prayed that this evening would soon be over.

After our meal we were chauffeur driven to the theatre for a performance of Hamlet by some of our top British actors.

My boss, who certainly has style, had booked us balcony seats all to ourselves. There we were, Veronique and I in our own balcony, when two men came in pushing a trolley with a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, two glasses, and a large box of the best chocolate truffles you could imagine.

“My boss is certainly keen to win this contract …” I thought to myself, “he hasn’t missed a trick so far … luxurious hotel, chauffeur driven car, grand restaurant, a balcony at the theatre and now this … I’d better be on my best behaviour … I wouldn’t want to be the reason why this contract is lost!”

Before the performance started I tried to make small conversation about Shakespeare and Hamlet in particular, trying hard to remember what I’d been taught at school all those years ago. But it soon became apparent that Veronique was very well educated in English literature having spent some years at a top British University in her youth.

“Something else which my boss had omitted to tell me …” I thought to myself cursing him in the process.

Thankfully, the performance started giving me the opportunity to remain silent and praying that the evening would soon be over without me making any more silly mistakes. Once this play is finished, I’d accompany her to the hotel and hey presto … I’m free to go home to my family!

As the play progressed I noticed she held a handkerchief to her eyes several times.

“Was she getting emotional?” I thought, “Hamlet is not exactly a comedy, but I saw no reason for tears … Maybe she remembers her time at University in England … an old friend perhaps had come to mind … some handsome young man she once loved maybe … and now she wonders what could have been …”

I didn’t know what to do. I looked ahead pretending not to notice her and every so often I looked sideways at her without moving my head. I think she was crying all right. She kept raising her handkerchief to her eyes every now and then.

If I said nothing she’d think I was an un-caring so and so … and if that’s the way I deal with a person who is clearly upset then our Company certainly doesn’t deserve this big contract. And if we were to lose the contract my boss would blame me and most possibly fire me for ruining it all for him.

On the other hand, if I tried to console her and say something she’d probably resent it and be embarrassed by the whole affair and blame me for making it obvious that she’s distressed. And we’d lose the contract and my boss would fire me anyway.

Perhaps if I offered her another chocolate truffle? No … that might remind her of her boy-friend who used to take her to the theatre and buy her chocolates and …

My mind was doing somersaults and I did not know what to do for the best.

Maybe I should pretend to cry too, wipe my eyes every now and then … that would show her that I am a sensitive man well moved by this magnificent performance of Hamlet. But then, people expect business men to be tough … and we’d lose the contract and …

On the other hand, she might think that it’s nice for a man to show his feelings … in touch with one’s feminine side and all that …

To cry or not to cry? That is the question which repeated in my mind.

It was then that she said, “Would you assist me please? I seem to have lost one of my contact lenses. It just fell to the ground.

“I have another pair in my handbag. They are in a little tube. Would you mind getting them for me please?” And she handed me her handbag.

I placed her bag gingerly on my knees and put my hand in to try and find a little plastic tube containing her spare contact lenses.

Why do women have to carry the whole world and his uncle inside their bags? Why do they need all this stuff?

The first thing I picked out was a tube of lipstick … I put it back in. Then a small bottle with some cleaning fluid for lenses, a tube of cool mints sweets, a small box with needles and thread, a packet of French cigarettes … and several other items too … !!!

“The container is in a side pocket on the left” she said.

I looked left and right and left again but it was far too dark to see anything in her handbag. I pushed my head almost right into the handbag resting on my knees but I could not find her contact lenses.

Then I found a cigarette lighter and I thought “Aha … let there be light!”

I lit the lighter … held it in my hand and carefully put it in the handbag … I put my face right into the handbag and peered down in the darkness therein to see if I could find the contact lenses.

And that’s when it happened.

As the man on the stage was saying loudly “To be or not to be” I set my hair on fire.

I dropped the handbag and its contents on the floor … tried frantically to put the fire out without drawing the attention of the whole audience to a separate comedic performance in our balcony … whilst Mademoiselle Veronique emptied the bottle of champagne on my head, followed by the bucket of ice, and then proceeded to hit me several times with her theatre program to ensure the fire in my hair was well and truly out!

I was soaking wet with champagne and freezing water and quite a few of my curls had perished in the forest fire which took place on my cranium.

Eventually the fire was out and we found her spare contact lenses.

She thought the whole performance was hilarious … and I don’t mean Hamlet!

We did win the contract but I had great difficulty explaining my singed hair to my wife and family … and my boss is pleased that I’d go to any lengths to gain a contract for him.

Monday 25 June 2018

HELLO ... How may I help you?

Travel Agent Lady: Hello ... how may I help you?

Me: Oh hi ... I'd like to book a room in a good hotel in Aberdeen for about a week.

TAL: Certainly Sir, when will that be?

Me: Now, right now ...

TAL: You'd like a room starting today, Sir?

Me: No ... no ... I'd like to book the room right now.

TAL: I understand ... and when would you like to stay in Aberdeen?

Me: Next month ... the week starting the 12th. I'll be staying for the whole week.

TAL: Do you have a preference of hotel Sir?

Me: No ... I don't know Aberdeen that well. I want a good hotel, not just a bed and breakfast.

TAL: Yes Sir. I have one available which I am sure will be suitable. May I have your name and address please Sir? ... ... ... And a telephone number where we can contact you? ... ... ... Thank you Sir. Will you require a single or a double bed room?

Me: Oh double bed ... a large bed. And make sure there's a TV too.

TAL: Yes Sir ... all rooms have a TV, telephone, Internet access, as well as adjoining bathroom and several other facilities. I'll be sending you a hotel brochure Sir. Meanwhile, I need a name for the other guest staying with you, Sir. Will that be Mrs M...?

Me: No ... no ... my wife will not be with me.

TAL: So it's just you, Sir?

Me: No ... me and Maurice.

TAL: Maurice ... That's the other guest ... May I have Maurice's surname please Sir?

Me: Just Maurice ... he has no surname ... Just Maurice and I will be staying for a week.

TAL: I understand Sir ... That's a double room for a week commencing the 12th of next month for yourself and Maurice. Will there be anything else Sir?

Me: Eh ... yes ... does the hotel have room service? Can we order beakfast and other meals to be delivered to our room? We'd rather stay in the room most of the time.

TAL: Yes Sir. There will be a menue in your room and you can phone your order which will be delivered at any time day or night. Some guests prefer to have a meal at all hours, like two in the morning, for example. This hotel will deliver any meal you wish to your room at any time for you and Maurice to enjoy.

Me: That sounds great ... One more thing. Will they also deliver bones?

TAL: Bones, Sir?

Me: Yes... raw bones, for Maurice.

TAL: I don't understand Sir.

Me: Maurice prefers raw bones before his performance.

TAL: I still don't understand Sir.

Me: We're in Aberdeen for the sheep dog trials. You know ... like in the film Babe, the pig who wanted to be a sheep dog. Maurice is my sheep dog. We're coming incognito. We'll enter the trials in the last possible moment. That's why we'll stay in the hotel room for as long as possible. Maurice is a champion sheepdog, and any news of his entrance in the show will affect the betting odds, you see.

TAL: Yes Sir ... I see clearly now ... (deep breath) ... I understand.




Saturday 23 June 2018

Does God Love The Devil?


We are taught that God is love. His love is such that He gave us free will to either love Him back or not. We even have the choice to turn our back on Him. Not believe in Him. And to preach and teach against Him and His existence; and to mock those who believe in Him. His love is such that He allows us all these luxuries and freedoms to choose as we wish.

The devil was one of God's loved creations. He chose to rebel and love God no more. God allowed him this choice. I guess, (although I have no proof of this), God still loved him despite the devil's rebellion. But it was the devil's free choice to go his own way.

Many humans choose the same path of the devil. And, I guess, are still loved by God.

But then, one day, comes decision time. We die either in love with, and in gratitude to, God, for all He has done for us; or in enmity with God.

It is this free choice at death that leads us to Heaven or Hell. It is as if God says to us: "Thy will be done. You choose to go to hell; then go!" (To quote C S Lewis).

Does God still love those in hell, including the devil? My guess is probably yes. If God is love then He loves everyone; even those who rebelled against Him.

Will God forgive those in hell and welcome them back to Heaven, including the devil? There is no Biblical evidence or teaching of that. In Christ's parable about the rich man and poor Lazarus at his door, Jesus says that there is a great chasm between Heaven and hell and neither side can traverse it. So it does seem that those in hell are there for eternity since Jesus taught so. They are there for eternity because they chose to go there. The gates of hell are locked from the inside by those who would rather be there, and had made that choice at the time of their death.  

So to answer the original question: Does God love the devil? My guess is yes, as He has always done, despite his rebellion. Just like many parents would love a child who goes astray.

Will God forgive the devil, and all those who rebelled, and welcome them back to Heaven? There is no Biblical evidence or teaching of that. But then everything is possible to God. The devil and his followers can be forgiven ... ... ... if they really want to!

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Squirrel Whisperer

For the past few weeks I have been taking secret lessons from a colleague at work in being a squirrel whisperer. She is an expert in animal behaviour, or so she said, and I thought it would be a great idea if I learnt to talk to squirrels and then use my newly learnt skills as a party trick when we all met as a family, with friends, and neighbours. Say at our next barbecue gathering, or such like party. Our garden is often visited by squirrels; so I can call them for a chat. What a great party trick that would be to amaze my friends with!

In order to impress everyone I had to learn how to talk to squirrels in secret. So my colleague and I decided that she would visit our home when the rest of the family is away shopping, or whatever, then we'd go out in the garden and try to communicate with the many squirrels we have visiting us.

The first thing my instructor said is that to talk to squirrels I must "be" a squirrel.

She taught me to crouch down on the ground as if I were a little ball, and to balance my whole body on my feet without falling over. I had to put my hands close to my mouth as if I was feeding myself nuts, and try to walk, not hop, in that crouching position; just like a squirrel.

In order to imitate the squirrel perfectly, she brought a big false squirrel tail made out of fur of some kind and stuffed it into my trousers at the back. I must admit that I found that personal intrusion somewhat disturbing. When I was crouching on the ground she pulled out the back of my trousers and stuffed this false tail right in. I mean ... that was a bit too close and personal, don't you think? But I said nothing because I was so eager to learn to communicate with these animals.

She asked me to walk fast in that crouching position and by wiggling my bottom left and right it would accentuate the movement of my tail upright behind me. I must admit I found this rather difficult and fell over a number of times. Walking fast in a crouching position is difficult enough without having to wiggle your bottom at the same time. Have you ever tried it?

Anyway ... having half-mastered the walking whilst crouching bit, her next lesson was to get me to stuff as many peanuts in my mouth as possible so that my cheeks would puff out like a squirrel's. I had to run whilst crouching, and not falling over, stop, pick up some peanuts in my hands from the ground, (in a plate), and quickly put them all in my mouth. Easier said than done. A lot of the peanuts missed my mouth altogether. At one point I coughed and the peanuts shot out of my mouth spraying in front of me like a machine gun. Then the exercise was stopped when a peanut went the wrong way and nearly choked me to death. She slapped my back several times and then resorted to the Heimlich manoeuvre to save me from becoming a dead squirrel.

Not to give up too easily, I decided to continue with the next lesson the following week. This entailed running fast in a crouching position, whilst wiggling my bottom left and right, and climbing a tree as fast as a real squirrel would do. I must say at this point that she seemed to enjoy placing my false tail at the back of my trousers. She kept stopping the exercise to "re-arrange" my tail properly. But I said nothing, so eager I was to learn to communicate with squirrels.

In order to climb up the tree she placed a ladder against a big oak tree in our garden, well hidden behind the thick trunk, and taught me to climb the ladder quickly pretending to be a squirrel. I tell you, this is not easily done in a crouching position but I practised and practised as if my life depended on it.

Last Saturday, whilst the family was away visiting a relative, and I was alone at home, I decided to practise climbing up the tree.

I placed the ladder against the oak tree and ran up it as fast as I could right up to the top of the ladder. Unfortunately, as I reached the top I felt the ladder wobble underneath me. I quickly grabbed a nearby branch and just about managed to hop on another branch thick enough to carry my weight; whilst the ladder crashed to the ground with a heavy thud.

So there I was. Right up the oak tree. All alone with no one to help me down again.

At this point I need to say that this oak tree is right by the fence between our house and our neighbour next door. Our neighbour is a young lady solicitor living alone. From where I was standing I could see her showering in her bathroom.

Anyway ... ... ... the police did not believe my version of events and had an entirely different point of view as to what I was doing up that tree.

My family, sadly, chose to believe the police's side of the story.

I called my colleague on the phone to put in a good word on my behalf. She said that squirrels are very shy and somewhat stupid creatures and that it is not possible to communicate with them. She denied ever teaching me or anyone else at being an animal whisperer.

Monday 18 June 2018

Mystery At Status Manor

When a heavy storm and subsequent flooding cut off Status Manor from the rest of the world the hosts of a weekend gathering and their guests are trapped in what turns out to be a murder mystery situation like they’ve never experienced before.

This tale has all the ingredients you’d expect – believable characters including a beautiful vulnerable young woman, a hapless hero, danger at every corner, a missing backgammon disc, an unexpected attack, visit to the dead, a shower scene, a bloody knife, a body, a threatening note and nocturnal goings-on. Oh … and a good serving of humour too.

What else do you want from a good read? 

Yes folks ... the story which you may have already seen serialised on this Blog in 12 daily posts, written in as many days, is now available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Get your copy today ... CLICK HERE

Sunday 17 June 2018

My secret confession

I think one of the great difficulties of being a Catholic and having to go to Confession is that your local priest, who no doubt knows you from your voice, will eventually build up a picture in his mind of the type of person you are.

I mean ... can you imagine me going to my usual church, where we only have one priest, so there's no chance of spreading my sins around, and telling the same guy every time what I have done ... again!

Let's face it; how can I actually tell him that I fall asleep during his sermons?

(I don't really ... just an example to demonstrate a Catholic dilemma. Although I'll admit to noticing other people asleep, or pretending to be thinking, whilst the sermon is on. In my case, falling asleep is quickly followed by a sharp elbow in the ribs).

No ... my sin is somewhat worse than falling asleep during a sermon. I just could not bring myself to tell our priest about it. He would not see me in the same light ever again.

In order to get round this technical difficulty I decided to do something else. Now I am not sure whether this is allowed in the Catechism or not. I haven't checked.

When I was in London recently on a business trip I decided to go to a church and confess there. The priest doesn't know me ... simple. Tell him my secret sin and go away.

I told the priest in Confession that I find it difficult to be a Christian because I simply do not like people. I am not prejudiced you see. I don't like people in general.

Now before you take offence at this, let me quickly explain.

I don't like certain people mostly ... most of the time ... most of them. I like some people, of course, but not all of them.

I don't like my boss for instance because he is always in a bad mood and thinks of nothing else other than of profits and productivity.

I don't like most of my colleagues because I have nothing or little in common with them. I don't talk football with them, cricket, rugby or any other sport because I don't like sport. I don't talk politics because I know I am right and they are always wrong. I don't talk about anything else with them because none of them likes the arts, opera, ballet, the theatre or can discuss Édouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe".

I don't like the newsagent where I get my papers because he is pompous and pretends to know everything. But I have to go there because he is near where I live.

I don't like the barman in our pub because ... I don't know ... I just don't like him.

I don't like the mother-in-law because of ... many reasons. In fact I like her from afar. The further away she lives, and stays there, the more I like her.

So you see why I could not confess this sin to my priest. He'd think I don't like him either.

Anyway, I told this in Confession to an unknown priest in London. He told me I should try harder to like everybody because God commanded us to love one another. Jesus loved everyone He met. He loved them so much that He forgave them when hanging on the Cross.

I told the priest that Jesus loved everyone because He was God. God is love. Jesus was Divine. There is no way we can love as Jesus does because we are not gods. We are humans with human failings.

He thought I was making excuses and told me to try harder to like everyone.

I told him, surely there are some people he most probably does not like. The Bishop for instance. Or a fellow priest. Or some parishioners. Especially the pompous snooty ones that most churches seem to have.

He thought about this and confessed, perhaps unwisely, he did not like it when the Bishop addressed him by his surname. Or when one of his fellow priests has too short sermons. Or the parishioner who believes she is an expert at flower arranging. Or the choir leader who thinks she is a prima donna at the opera.

It was a long Confession. And we agreed we cannot be like Jesus, but we should try.

I wonder who he will confess his sins to? Maybe he'll visit my church and confess to my priest.