Tuesday 31 July 2018

Making a Saint

Some people believe that leaders are born not made. An organisation I worked at years ago ran leadership training for their managers in order to improve their leadership skills and abilities. I was not so sure about this and commented at the time that we need more followship training; otherwise everyone will be a good leader and there will be no one to follow them.

Thinking about it years later, I wonder whether Saints are born or "made".

Leaving aside for a moment the Catholic Church's perceived "habit" of declaring people Saints. As a Catholic myself, I am astounded that it seems all you have to do is send the Vatican three packet tops from a corn flakes box and Hey Presto you're a Saint. In olden times, I understand, there needed to be well researched evidence of miracles having been performed by/on behalf of certain individuals before the Vatican declared them Saints.

Let's consider real Saints for a moment. People like the early Christians, the disciples who followed Christ, or those who came later like Paul, who spent their lives preaching the Good News and were often persecuted, beaten, imprisoned and suffered cruel deaths for their beliefs. Now they were/are real Saints. People who died for Christ and deserve special recognition for what they have undergone.

Later Saints too seem to have suffered for their beliefs and for their "saintly" behaviour  whilst on earth.

But how about today? How about you and me? Do we have to undergo suffering and pain in order to be accepted as Saints and to be loved by God?

I believe not. I believe God loves each one of us equally but differently. Equally meaning with no special favouritism between you and me; differently meaning loving each individual according to his need. Very much like a parent would love a disabled child differently from the others but not necessarily more or less.

God does not ask us to suffer joyfully as a pre-requisite to entering Heaven. In olden days many Saints thought so and endured self-inflicted pain and suffering for the love of God.

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

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

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

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

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

Personally, I believe this is wrong. 

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

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

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

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

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

As for self-inflicted pain and suffering in the hope of gaining some sort of Heavenly reward; that is, in my view, wrong.

Yes, some of us bear the pain and suffering of illness and old age. This is natural, and as best we can we live with these pains with the help of whatever is available medically. But these pains, as well as the many other sufferings people endure in life, like cruelty, bullying, unhappy marriages, persecutions and so on, are not a pre-condition in order to be loved by God or to be accepted in Heaven ... or to become a Saint.

God's love for us is already given. With no conditions or expected payment.

Monday 30 July 2018

A sense of fun

I read the other day that most people have two main characteristics in their make-up. One part of them is serious, sensible and responsible whereas the other is jovial, more laissez-faire and full of fun. The exact percentage between the two characteristics varies from one person to another.

This led me to think, seriously, about fun.

Now, I have not been given to much fun in life. I have always been a serious person. Somewhat lacking in humour. Some would say dour even. Taking my responsibilities seriously.

After all, how can we as a people deal with the world's economic and social and all other problems if we go around having "fun".

If it was up to me, fun would be a sin, a crime, punishable by tickling with a wet celery stick.

And yet, there are many organisations set up for the sole purpose of purveying fun.

Funfairs for instance. The very name betrays its evil intent.

You go there and ride into a little vehicle on rails which takes you up to a great height and then drops you down at the speed of gravity so that your heart misses a beat or two, your stomach ejects its contents through your mouth and your bladder echoes the same sentiments. What great fun a roller coaster is!

Or your ride a ghost train which goes through a dark tunnel for the sole purpose of being frightened to death by unexpected noises and cardboard characters appearing from nowhere.

I am sure you can imagine other means of fun at the funfair. Like getting a sugar rush by eating tons of candy floss, or pop corn or whatever else sugar saturated drinks are on offer.

Of course, funfairs are not the only ones guilty of encouraging people to have fun.

Other means of having fun are dance halls with their loud music where people get together and gyrate aimlessly like drunken giraffes.

Or climbing mountains for no apparent reason apart from the fact they are there.

Or squeezing oneself into narrow humid and dark caves, again for no apparent reason I can think of.

Or swimming with dolphins, or sardines, if you cannot afford dolphins.

Or jumping off a bridge or a canyon whilst tied to a piece of elastic and bouncing up and down like a yo yo.

Or ... I don't know ... I am sure you folks out there can think of other ways of having "fun".

Personally, I like the world to be sober and responsible. Sense and sensibility as Jane Austen said.

If "fun" is considered necessary it should be in the form of reading a book quietly at home or in the library. Something like the Encyclopaedia Britannica should do.

Or playing chess on one's honeymoon. Now that IS fun I tell you!!!

If, like medicine, fun is required for health purposes, it should be administered in small doses at long intervals, say once a year or so.

If it was up to me I would put a tax on fun. Now that's something the politicians have missed out on, haven't they? They should study every activity known to man, or woman, and if there is the slightest modicum of fun involved then they should tax it in order to curtail its use or performance.

If we were meant to have fun then we would all have been born with red noses, or other small peculiarities that makes one laugh at or be amused by.

I'll wait for a moment or two for your minds to wonder and list what small peculiarities tend to amuse you ...

OK ... back to attention now ... let us know what makes you have fun so we can tax it.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Hot Hot Hot

It's been hot in Britain ... and everywhere else it seems. Over here the temperature has gone up to 35 Degrees C in the shade. I was clever though, and did not stay in the shade.

The hot weather has brought with it many views and opinions and expected, or unexpected, behaviour.

Some say this is a sign of the end of time. The planet is getting warmer, this will melt the ice cap, the sea levels will go up ... and so on ... and on. Personally, I think that if the sea levels go up then more of us will live near the beach. A good thing, surely?

Here in the UK, as expected perhaps, the hot weather has affected traffic. Tarmacs on roads are melting. Long queues on motorways as cars break-down because of the heat. Trains and planes running late or not at all. Shortage of ice cream!!!!!

Did you hear me, folks? Shortage of ice cream? How can we possibly survive for a week or two without ice cream?

People are asking their employers to shut the business and send everyone home. We can't possibly work in this hot weather.

There should be a law about it. In fact, there should be a law about everything. We need more laws. That's what's wrong. There should have been a law against hot weather. Let's take God to Court for this hot weather. Let's blame Him for everything that's wrong in our lives.

Also, in this hot weather I notice there has been a tendency amongst people to divest more, or wear the very least they can manage within the realms of decency ... whatever that is. Peoples' inhibitions seem to disappear somehow. Men wear shorts with shoes or sandals with socks. Women wear shorter skirts or tiny shorts and boob tubes.

For those who don't know, a boob tube is an elasticated tiny piece of material worn around the breasts and defying gravity by hanging there for dear life. (See photo above).

Wearing such an outfit in public is one thing; but wearing it at work, as some people suggest?
Can you imagine me going to work and finding my lawyer, or accountant wearing a bikini? I wouldn't mind so much if our company lawyer was a young lady; but Mr Fortooth in a bikini?
Or elderly Miss Snodgrass in a swimming costume?
You can call me whatever names you like ... but I think this is the limit. I don't mind what people wear or don't wear on the beach. They can go totally naked if they want to. But not in the office surely? 

Now I just cannot wipe out the image of Mr Fortooth in a bikini from my mind. I shall never see him or Miss Snodgrass the same way again. 

In fact, I think our employer should close the business and send us all home until this hot weather spell is over.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

What has this got to do with it?


Monday 23 July 2018

The Raven and The Crow

A raven and a crow,

Came to my window one evening

As it was getting dark

“Who’s the most menacing?”

They asked.

“It depends” I replied.

“Who are you trying to menace?”

“You … you idiot!”

They said in unison.

“We’re menacing you!”

“Menacing is an indication of an inferiority complex!”

I remarked calmly.

They looked at each other and flew away to menace someone else.

Friday 20 July 2018

Honesty ... Really (?) the best policy

They say honesty is the best policy. Who are "they" who say this? Do they really mean it? Have they always been honest? And never suffered the consequences of their honesty, (some would say stupidity)?

Now, before you all start admonishing me about this seemingly bad advice I am giving; let us all consider what we mean by honesty.

Some legal minds would define it as "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

Jesus used to say to His followers, "I am the way and the truth and the life" yet, even in those days, Pontius Pilate challenged, "What is truth?" (John 18:38).

So let's consider honesty under the spot light for a moment or two; and let's see how we define it and whether we agree it is the best policy.

Many years ago, when I was young and living in London, I wanted to be strong, healthy and handsome, (to attract the ladies). I remember walking past a sports shop selling all kinds of equipments to make one strong and covered in muscles. I walked in, and I must admit that at the time I was all too willing to sign a cheque for a lot of equipment.

First I tried the self-standing bicycles with various gears and speedometers and what have you. Then I moved on to the different types of treadmills. Electric ones, non-motorised ones, some with the facility for an incline and so on. The I looked at the trampolines. I honestly was prepared to buy at least one or two of these contraptions.

A salesman approached me and I asked him a few questions about the treadmill and the bicycle. He advised me not to buy any. He said that I'll probably use them once or twice and then they'll stand there at home gathering dust. I left the shop totally deflated.

Was that salesman honest? Or was he the worst salesman in the world?

Years later, I did buy both a treadmill and a stand-alone bicycle; and I tell you friends, they make very good coat hangers.

So ... what is honesty do you think?

Should we always tell the truth? Even if it hurts? Or should we white lie perhaps to protect and help the vulnerable?

In my book "Visions", (forgive the advert), I relate the story of a woman who tells Father Ignatius that her daughter, a teenager, is not really the daughter of her husband. She is the result of an affair the woman had many years ago, whilst married, which she never confessed to her husband. She is now in a happy relationship with her husband who is a good father, and provider. She asks the priest whether, now ridden with guilt, she should confess the truth to her husband.

What should the priest advise? What would you advise?

What is honesty? Is it the best policy?


Wednesday 18 July 2018


I sat in the car whilst parked on our drive and I turned the ignition on. The engine started running … tat … ratatat … tat … ratatat … It didn’t sound quite right. It wasn’t that smooth running sound you normally get from an engine when all is well. The ratatat bit was new and sounded somewhat off key. Like Luciano Pavarotti singing with one shoe off … you know what I mean. Hobbling with your voice!

“One of the sparkling plugs must be loose!” I said confidently to my wife sitting beside me. I really didn’t know what it meant … I had read it somewhere and I thought it would make me sound intelligent and knowledgeable. It’s good to build up your confidence in the eyes of your spouse … after all, she knows you more than most!

“Should we call the Emergency Repair Services?” she said reflecting her confidence in my mechanical abilities.

“Not at all … it’s a simple matter … I’ll soon have it sorted,” I replied getting out of the car and leaving the engine running.

I lifted the bonnet (car hood) up like a professional would. Quickly and smoothly!

Now I should explain that this is an old car … and it has a little metal rod on the side which you have to pull out vertically and hook it under the car hood so that it holds it up. In modern cars the car hood opens up smoothly and stays open by some clever pneumatic device. But my car is old … so old that the Instruction Manual is written in Latin. You have to lift the car hood by hand … then pull out the metal rod … hook it under the hood in a special place and it keeps the hood up whilst you work in the engine. If you’re a wimp that is … If you’re macho like me you just lift the hood up and hold it firmly with your left hand whilst working with your free hand in the engine.

So there I was holding the hood up in my left hand and looking down at the vibrating engine going tat … ratatat … tat … ratatat … There were wires everywhere but no labels or signs telling you which bit of the engine does what. I mean … what does a sparkling plug look like? Is it a light that sparkles on and off?

With my right hand I just pushed and prodded all the cables and wires confidently.

And that’s when I got the most horrific electric shock you could imagine. It went straight up my right arm through my chest and up my left arm holding the hood. It was like those cartoon videos you see when a character touches a live wire and sparkles on and off.

In my agony I let go of the hood which fell with great weight and a single thud on my head knocking me down into the engine.

I could not decide for a moment which hurt the most … the electric shock I’d just received or the clunk of heavy metal at the back of my head.

Neither of these pains soon mattered because the little fan that goes round and round inside the car engine compartment caught my tie and dragged me in further choking me all the time.

The whole scenario looked like a car eating its driver as the hood bounced up and down as I struggled to free myself from the fan’s throttling grasp. I was slowly being eaten up by my own car as my legs were flying in all directions.

At that particular moment my cat decided to come walking by beside me and I must have accidentally kicked it.

Instead of running away … the cat decided to attack my legs by scratching hard at them and shouting “Vengeance is mine!!!”

This attracted our lazy dog who usually lies on the mat in front of the TV watching the Dog Channel.

Not this time … there was something more entertaining going on outside! So out he came and decided to jump on me biting me several times in the unmentionables …

Luckily my wife switched off the ignition and the engine reluctantly released its grasp on my tie. I was still stuck head down though as I could not loosen the tie enough to slip my head out.

The tie was eventually cut with a sharp knife and I decided to phone the Emergency Repair Services after all.

I told them the tie must have been left in the engine by some careless mechanic at the workshop where I took the car for a maintenance service. That’s probably what caused the odd sound in the engine.

They agreed that this was a distinct possibility although they wondered why I had the remains of a similar coloured tie round my neck.


Tuesday 17 July 2018

At the seaside

I was on business at a seaside town in England and I finished my afternoon meeting early. I decided to take a walk on the beach.

It was warm and everyone was either swimming or lying there on the sand half-naked enjoying the sun and cooking slowly.

Not me. I decided to be as inconspicuous as possible in my pin striped suit, emerald green bow tie with pink spots, hat with a bright feather sticking out of the side, and of course, dark sunglasses. It's good to have dark sunglasses on the beach as no one can tell what you're looking at.

I must admit though, I envied all those people enjoying the cool sea. They certainly looked happy, so I decided to join them. I did what a lot of British people do when at the seaside and they don't have any swimming costumes with them.

I approached the edge of the sea and took off my shoes and socks, which I put inside the shoes. The red sock in the left shoe and the green sock in the right shoe … that way I’ll remember which is which when I get to wear them again. Then I rolled up my pin-striped trousers all the way to just above the knee and I walked into the sea.

Oh … it was lovely. Even though people looked at me suspiciously! I could see the expression on their incredulous faces through my dark glasses and they could not see that I was looking at them looking at me. So I had the advantage on them I think. Even though they were giggling surreptitiously and nudging each other.

Anyway … I ignored them as I am accustomed to doing when people stare at me in the street or on the train in my attire. I stood there in the sea, with water up to my knees, still wearing my jacket, tie and hat, of course. We gentlemen believe in decorum at all time ... what?

Suddenly, I started dancing and hopping from foot to foot in the sea, splashing water everywhere and attracting more attention to myself.

A woman asked: “Is this Candid Camera?”

A number of onlookers laughed at me and someone said “I think he’s filming a comedy film. Where are the cameras Mister?”

I must admit, the same thought would have crossed my mind if I saw someone in pin-striped suit dancing in the sea; but I was in too much pain to see the funny side of what was happening.

I got out of the water to reveal a huge jellyfish stuck to the outside of my right leg. Why is it that with all these half-naked people in the sea the jellyfish chose me to attack? Does he not like business attire perhaps? Or is it the feather in my hat and my green bowtie?

“Jellyfish … jelly fish …” I cried out in pain.

“Oh … quickly,” said a rotund woman sitting nearby, “you must wee-wee on it!”

How could I possibly wee-wee on it whilst wearing a pin striped suit? Or wearing anything for that matter! The creature was attached on the outside of my leg just below the knee. I can't exactly unzip my trousers in public and wee wee on the outside of my leg. It as a physical impossibility. The human wee wee apparatus is not designed for such a task; unless it has an extension!

The woman then said, “Or you can let someone else wee-wee on it!”

As I could not see a queue of volunteers ready to assist me in this manner I continued to jump up and down and hitting the jellyfish with my hat. It broke the feather right off and made the hat quite un-wearable.

A young man came running to my help and said, “You have to pour vinegar on it! Do you have any vinegar?”

“Oh yes,” I thought, “I always carry a gallon bottle of vinegar in my pocket just in case of such an occurrence.”

But I was in too much pain to say anything. I just shook my head.

The man asked someone to run to the Fish and Chips shop nearby and get a bottle of vinegar.

“I have no money!” said the other person standing nearby.

I got out my wallet and gave him a £5 note … the smallest currency I had. He smiled and ran away. I wondered if I’d ever see him again.

Eventually he returned with a small bottle of vinegar which the first young man gently poured on the jellyfish. It shrivelled and let go of my leg.

“You must get this seen to in hospital,” said the young man.

I nodded and thanked him. I turned round to get my shoes only to find that the tide had come in somewhat and taken them out to sea with the red and green socks waving at me happily as they sailed away!

There was no taxi nearby nor a telephone kiosk in those pre-cell phone days. An ice cream truck driver, taking pity on me, volunteered to take me to the hospital.

I hopped bare feet and minus my hat into the ice cream van and was driven to the nearest hospital to the melodic chimes of Mister Softee and Pop Goes The Weasel ... and Jingle Bells too, would you believe !!!

And the moral of this story, dear friends, is: Never go to sea in a pin-striped suit!

Monday 16 July 2018

Watch Out ... Camera About

I’m sure you’ve seen those programs where they stop unsuspecting people in the street and film them in funny situations for showing on TV afterwards. Some of the situations can be quite hilarious and the victims usually laugh and agree to have the film shown on TV.
Years ago I worked as a junior with an independent film maker and we were assigned to do such a film.
As I speak French well, the idea was that I would stop people in the street and ask them directions to a particular place in a heavy French accent. As they spoke, I’d pretend not to understand and I’d keep changing the location where I wanted to go.
The camera was hidden well out of view and the sound engineer explained the technical bits.
“The director will speak to you through this ear-piece” he said, “listen to his every instructions.”
I nodded.
“This is the latest microphone model. Cutting edge engineering technology.” he continued, “It looks just like a £1 coin, just two centimeters in diameter. Yet it picks up sound from a great distance.”
I pretended to be impressed.
“It doesn’t have a clip!” I said, “How will I clip it to my shirt?”
“You don’t” he replied with a smile, “you put it straight on your chest under the shirt. It goes straight on your skin.”
“You mean it is glued on me?”
“Not glued … we use the very latest adhesive solution on the market. Totally invisible, just like water. A tiny drop and the microphone is in place and no one will suspect you’re wearing it”.
Moments later I was ready for my first victim. I stood in the street looking confusingly in a map book and pretending to be lost. A tall man in a white priest’s collar walked towards me from the left. The director said in my ear “Aha … a man of the cloth. He’s bound to be very helpful. Stop him and … ACTION!”
“Scuze moi Monsieur!” I said in my best French accent “I cannot find ze hotel … where iz eet?”
He looked at the map and then proceeded to give me directions.
“Excellent,” whispered the director in my ear, “keep him talking!”
“Tres bien …” I said “Zat is ze hotel … but ze restaurant … eet haz moved … where iz ze restaurant?”
At this point I felt the microphone slip a bit from my chest. Obviously the adhesive wasn’t as good as I was told. It stopped again on my stomach.
“The sound quality has deteriorated,” the voice in my ear said, “get closer to him.”
I moved closer to the priest and asked another question.
“No good,” said the voice “I hear rumbling as if we’re on a train.”
I hadn’t eaten that morning because of nervousness. This was my first live interview. My knees were trembling. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were trembling too. A symphony of hunger pangs and trapped wind played softly into the microphone much to the distress of the director and the sound engineer.
“What the **** is that?” cursed the director in my ear, “fix it quick.”
I surreptitiously pretended to scratch my stomach whilst continuing the conversation in broken English with the priest. I tried in vain to push the microphone up to its original position but it slipped down a further few inches and stopped below the waistline !!!
“The rumbling has stopped” said the voice, “now we can’t hear a thing. Get even closer to him!”
How do I do that? I thought.
I can hardly ask him to bend down and address me down there so I can hear him better!
Can you imagine the conversation?
“Excuse me Father, I’ve had an ear transplant that went wrong and they put my ear down there. Can you speak a bit lower down so I can hear you more clearly?”
I ignored the director’s frantic screams and I tried to move the microphone again. But you can hardly scratch down there in public whilst conducting an interview with a priest … or with anyone else for that matter!
Perhaps if I pretended to get my handkerchief out of my trouser pocket, that should do it … Botheration!!! That didn’t work either. The microphone rolled down my trouser leg and fell on the ground.
“That’s better!” said the director’s voice “We can hear him but faintly. Get him a little closer”.
Easier said than done.
What do I do now? Do I lie down on the side-walk and say “We French are very relaxed people. We don’t panic even when we’re lost. Why not join me down here so we can discuss directions?”
I gave up in sheer frustration.
In my best English accent I said “Thank you Father. You’ve been very kind to help me; I know my way from here!”
He smiled in total confusion at my sudden grasp of the English language. He shook my hand and then … looking down he said, “Someone has dropped a £1 coin. I’ll put it in the Sunday collection plate!”
He picked up the microphone and walked away!

Saturday 14 July 2018

If you don't believe ... leave!

John Chapter 6 has been the source of much debate and confusion over the years ... and the arguments will still go on. No doubt to the amusement of Jesus looking down upon us and saying: "You of little Faith. Why can't you just believe and stop dissecting and analysing everything I said as if I were an insect in your lab!"

I speak of course of the part in that Chapter where Jesus says He is "the Bread of life" and later when He says that unless people eat His flesh or drink His blood they will not have life.

As you can imagine, this was very confusing to His listeners; even His followers and disciples.

"What is He on about?" they asked. "How can we eat His flesh and drink His blood? This is cannibalism surely. This is too much for us. We don't want to follow this guy any longer!"

So what did Jesus do?

He didn't say "Hey ... wait a minute. You didn't understand what I meant. This is what I really meant to say ... let me explain!"

No ... Jesus let them go. He didn't try to justify Himself or what He had just said. It was as if He dissolved the unspoken contract between them. They could not accept a certain clause so He let them go.

Then He turned to His disciples and asked: "How about you? Do you want to go as well?"

As ever, Peter was first to answer: "To whom shall we go?" he asked. "We're in this for the duration, all the way, to the end". Or words to that effect, signifying that he trusted Jesus without question; albeit no doubt he had many questions in his mind. Peter accepted Christ's words without question and stepped out in blind Faith and dared to believe.

So what are we to make of all this after all these years? Did Jesus mean what He said literally or was it all symbolism and imagery using common day articles of the time like bread and wine to signify the sacrifice He is to endure for us? His flesh would be torn by the beating and the nailing to the Cross and His blood would be spilled for us. Was it all symbolism?

Quite frankly, I'm with Peter on this.

I don't believe there is much to be gained in debating this ad-infinitum because in reality I doubt any of us will ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. Wiser heads than mine have argued this matter over the centuries much to the amusement of Jesus looking down from above. Any efforts by me at interpreting this would no doubt have Jesus rolling on the floor with laughter.

So I am minded to accept it for what it is. Something that Jesus said and we're to believe it as best we humanly can.

There's no point in closing your eyes tightly and repeating over and over again "I believe ... I believe ... even though I don't understand it ... I believe".

God who can see deep within our hearts, and knows our human nature and its failings, realises that it is too difficult for us to understand.

But then, He does not ask us to understand Him. He asks us to love Him and to trust Him without any evidence whatsoever.

It's what is called Faith.

To believe when your common sense tells you not to.

By the way: you may wish to visit this link and see what happened to a priest who had difficulties in believing. Please CLICK HERE.

God bless.

Friday 13 July 2018

How the Marsupial got his name

The story goes something like this. Many years ago, when Captain James Cook, a British explorer and Captain in the Royal Navy, sailed the seas he travelled towards a new land now known as Australia. The controversy here is that Captain Cook discovered Australia. This is open to debate.

In those days the ships had a look-out sailor high up on the mast, in the crow's nest, as it was called, looking out for other ships nearby and for land. When he saw land he would shout "Land Ahoy! Land Ahoy!" and the Captain would sail the ship towards it.

So this sailor, a Scotsman, Henry Baker by name, claimed that it was he who first discovered Australia and not Captain Cook; and he wanted it named after him. Because in those days, new discoveries were named either after the person who made the discovery, or the Monarch of the day: for example, Rhodesia. Victoria Falls, Straits of Magellan.

Captain Cook thought this was a half-baked idea. There is no way he would allow Australia to be named Bakerland, or Bakeland, or The Great British Bake Off, or anything to do with this impudent sailor with high ideas in life. So he locked him up in the toilet.

As the ship approached shore, Captain Cook looked on the beach with his telescope to see if this land was inhabited. To his surprise, he saw on shore a lot of creatures with short arms, and big strong legs hopping up and down to and fro. No one had seen such animals before. So he handed the telescope to his second-in-command and asked him, "What is that creature over there?"

At that very moment, Henry Baker, the Scottish sailor, woke up in the toilet, having nursed a whole bottle of whisky. He found the door locked and shouted in his broad Glasgow accent, "Ah ... Kangar ... Oot! ... Ah ... Kangar ... Oot!", meaning I cannot get out.

This sound was echoed by the other members of the crew and the second-in-command, believing that the crew knew what the creature was, said to Captain Cook, "a kangaroo!"

And that's how the kangaroo got its name.

This is a true story. If you do not believe me ask Paula "Thunder Thighs" Hillman.

I went to school with her and she told me this story. I used to carry her books to be friends with her. Ah ... the memories !!!

Monday 2 July 2018

Good Advice for People of a Certain Age

As we all grow older our minds might wander and question what lies ahead and how we will cope. There is a saying I heard once about growing old gracefully. What nonsense. I am not that old myself, but I don't agree about this growing old as a nice person that everyone will like and remember ... blah ... blah ... blah.

If you're a lady you're supposed to sit in an old armchair knitting something or other that no one has asked for and no one wants. Like an old aunt of mine who used to spend her time knitting scarves, woollen hats and other useless stuff. One year for my birthday she knitted me a train set. What use is that? She hadn't even knitted the railway track.

Or if you're an old man you're supposed to sit in a chair smoking a pipe, or reading a newspaper, and be kind to your grand-children.

Total nonsense. If you are a person of a certain age you should behave in such a way that people will notice. Make a mark in life.

By all means draw back on your experiences and your childhood days. The other day for instance I was thinking back to my childhood and I thought, "Well, that was a total waste of time, wasn't it?"

We were very poor you know. So poor we could not even afford a toilet brush. We used to tie a dead hedgehog to a stick and use that instead. The toilet door did not even have a lock. I used to sit on the throne with my leg sticking out against the door. Pity it opened outwards.

Our house was so small that even the mice were hunch-backed. And I remember it was so damp that we had a permanent rainbow in the kitchen. We lived in such a poor area of town that the burglars used to donate some of their takings to us. When I was a baby my mom did not have a pram; she carried me in a plastic shopping bag.

At night I used to lie back in bed and think, "One day I'll be so rich I'll be able to buy a roof for this house!"

I don't think I was well-loved by my parents. They sent me to truant school and when I came back in the afternoon they had moved home. They pretended to play with me; I loved to play hide and seek. I'd lean against a dead tree and count to 100 and turn round and try to find them in Manchester, Oxford, Edinburgh ... and sometimes all over Europe. My father did try to teach me to swim. He used to take me out to sea in a boat and lower me gently in the water and teach me to swim to shore. I always got there before the sharks!

Anyway, as I was saying, regardless of your age, look back on your past but think young, act young, be peculiar, be remembered.

For example, the other day I had to go to the doctor for a routine regular check up. As I entered his insulting room he asked me nicely, "And how are you feeling these days?"

I replied, "What is it to you, you nosey beggar? Mind your own business!"

He was taken aback, but he sure will remember me next time I visit.

He asked me personal questions which I objected to. Like, "How is your libido?"

I said, "Oh ... it's all gone. I had enough of that Italian car. I now have a Japanese Toyota!"

He then enquired, "Do you have difficulty passing water?"

I replied, "I get a little dizzy crossing a river. Doesn't happen when the bridge is across a motorway or railway line; only a river!"

"Dizzy?" he said, "what are the symptoms?"

I said, "They are little yellow cartoon characters on TV. Homer Symptom, Bart Symptom and Madge ... what's this got to do with my medical you old fool?"

I'll say this for him, he was a very patient doctor. I was a very patient patient too. So all in all there were three patients in that room. So much for privacy these days.

He gave me a little bottle and asked me to go behind a screen and give him a urine sample. I asked him, "Do I really have to go behind the screen?" He insisted.

I went behind the screen. I had with me a similar bottle which I was given at a previous visit. I had cleaned it thoroughly and filled it with apple juice at home. So instead of giving a urine sample behind the screen, I put the empty bottle in my pocket and gave the doctor the bottle of apple juice.

He raised it to the light and said, "You are a little cloudy today!"

I took the bottle from his hand and said, "Let's filter it some more," and drank its content.

You should have seen his face!!! He will remember me all right. Not like all the other faceless patients he gets day in day out. From now on, I'll get special treatment when I come to this clinic.

So there you are folks! Whether you are young or old. Act peculiar. Be a fruit cake. Be eccentric. Be remembered.

Take a dog lead with you for a walk. Stop by a tree and ask passers-by to help you get your dog down from the tree.

Take an old newspaper to the library and tell the assistant you have read it, can you change it for a new one.

Put a suppository in your ear and ask people to help you search for your hearing-aid.

Wear a lamp shade on your head and tell people to lighten up.

Eat a banana on the bus and throw the skin in someone's shopping bag. They'll get a pleasant surprise when they get home. It works too with discarded sweet wrappers, or used paper handkerchiefs.

Go to the supermarket and ask to buy one of those dividers they have on the conveyor belt check-out to separate customers shopping.

Don't buy anything from the supermarket and stand in line at the check-out. When it is your turn tell the shop assistant you bought nothing.

Go to the baker and ask him, "Have you got any bread rolls left?" If he says Yes tell him, "serves you right for baking so many!"

If you're an elderly man, wear very large corduroy trousers, preferably beige or brown in colour. Raise them up to your nipples and tie them to your chest with a belt, and braces for extra security. Wear a scruffy shirt and hat and tell everyone you're a sex symbol for women who do not care.

If you're a woman of the same age wear those very tight fitting elasticated trousers, those showing the contours of your underpants; preferably those trousers that end just below the knee, hugging to your body tightly. Wear a loose T shirt with a provocative slogan like, "What are you looking at?" Have a cigarette hanging at the end of your mouth, even unlit if you don't smoke. Tell everyone you do not care!

If you're a Catholic, like me, go to your priest and ask him is it OK to go to Confession online, or via text on your cell phone. If he refuses tell him the church should modernise and get on with technology. (I noticed my priest keeps avoiding me these days!) 

I am sure if you engage your brain you will come up with many varied ideas which will make you stand out in the crowd. People will take notice of you. They will remember you. And who knows ... you might even become a politician.