Thursday 31 January 2019

Why always me

The letter got miss-delivered by the postman. It clearly says on the envelope Number 1245 and we definitely are not Number 1245. I decide to walk up the street and deliver the letter to its rightful owner.

The old lady saw me approaching her house and opened the door.

“Oh, thank you” she said, “come in for a cup of tea!”

“I was just delivering …” I mumbled.

“Oh do come in …” she interrupted, “I often see you walking the dog to the park and back again. I’ve just put the kettle on …”

I looked at my watch and thought, she’s probably lonely, and just a few minutes won’t hurt!

I entered the living room and immediately noticed a large parrot standing on a perch in the corner, and two budgerigars on top of their open cage near the window. An old dog at least one hundred years old sat by the fire and a cat slept on the settee.

The old lady beckoned me to an armchair and went out to make some tea. 

As soon as she left, the large blue parrot moved his head left and right, as they do; looked at me and screeched “STUPID!”
I jumped out of the seat, not expecting him to talk.

He repeated again “STUPID … STUPID …” over and over every minute or so.

The old lady came in with a tray of tea and biscuits and cakes.

“Ah … Polly is being friendly” she said, “he often hears me talking to the dog and repeats what I say.”

At that point the parrot screeched “STUPID HAT … STUPID HAT …”

Let me tell you there is nothing stupid about my cowboy hat with a feather. It’s sartorial elegance in the extreme as I’ve been told by the man in the pub who sold it to me!

“I wonder what he means?” said the old lady trying to cover her faux pas. No doubt she’d seen me wearing the hat on my way to the park and had voiced her un-called for opinions to her pets.

She offered me a piece of cake. As soon as I held a small plate in one hand, and a tea cup in another, the geriatric dog got up ever so slowly from his mat, came towards me and started sniffing my groin.

What is it with dogs and sniffing people inappropriately? I’ll add, in case you’re wondering, that I had just had a shower that morning and had splashed Old Spice after-shave all over, even though I have a beard and don’t shave. So there was no need to sniff there or anywhere else.

“Oh … he’s being friendly” repeated the old lady, making no attempt whatsoever to take the dog away, “It’s his way of greeting you!”

Well … I’d rather not be greeted that way, thank you very much.

I mean … just imagine … what if we humans greeted each other that way? We meet someone for the first time, and instead of shaking hands, we drop on our knees and sniff to our heart’s delight.

Obviously, there should be a protocol as to who goes down first. Otherwise both people would kneel down together and end up bumping their heads.

One person should stay standing, and the other greets him … or her … and then …

OK … better change the subject.

I pushed the dog away … gently … yes … gently; although I must admit that was not what was on my mind when he started sniffing his welcome.

As soon as the dog went back on his mat the cat woke up from the settee and jumped on the arm of my armchair; and then started licking my hand.

I moved away slowly whilst the old lady, totally unaware of my discomfort, continued prattling on about her family and her children all grown up and living abroad. No doubt to escape from her lunatic menagerie.

The cat, still sitting next to me, having been denied the taste of my hand proceeded to lick himself in the most private of places.

Yet again … this is another annoying habit of the feline as well as canine species which, fortunately, we humans do not copy. The mind boggles at the contortions we’d have to make if we were to reach … OK … you get the point; let’s move on.

I moved surreptitiously towards the cat and nudged him gently. He dropped to the floor and walked out the room.

I listened to the old lady going on about her lonely life with no one to visit her; and how she often just goes out on the bus so that she can meet people, or stands at the window looking at people pass by and imagine what kind of life they lead. She said she plays a mind-game when she sees people. She looks carefully at what they wear and then guesses the sort of work they do. She also likes to name people in her head according to how they dress, the way they walk, and their general demeanour.

She said she’d been watching me take the dog for a walk for a very long time. “Do you realise” she said, “that whenever you stop by that tree to allow the dog to sniff at its roots, you always scratch the back of your head? Why do you do that?”

I’ll admit I never noticed that habit. And from being told, I’m sure I’ll resist that particular temptation in future. I’ll do all my scratching that’s needed before I leave home from now on.

She was about to tell me what nickname she had invented for me when suddenly there was a flutter of wings.

The parrot left its perch and made himself comfortable on my shoulder. I did not dare move an inch. Those creatures can be dangerous you know. Once they get hold of your nose in their beaks they will not let go.

“Oh … Polly likes you too!” said the old lady joyfully, “it must be your gentle and kind personality. Animals know when someone loves them. Do you like birds?” she asked.

I hesitated to tell her that the only birds I like are Kentucky Fried Chickens; although right now I would not mind tasting Kentucky Fried Parrot as well.

She didn’t wait for an answer and continued talking ignoring her feathered friend on my shoulder.

The wretched bird, still sitting by my left ear, eyed the big feather in my hat for a few moments, and then, to my horror, jumped at it and attempted to mate with it. I held the hat tightly on my head with my right hand for fear that it might be dislodged and end up matrimonially united with a myopic parrot.

I mean … how short-sighted can he get? It’s only a feather for crying out loud. Who’s STUPID now? Can’t tell the difference between a beautiful lady parrot and a feather in an cowboy hat!

The old lady laughed, not understanding the situation, and said that he was welcoming me into his domain. Whatever that means!

I had absolutely no wish to be welcomed anywhere belonging to that stupid creature, and my hat and feather certainly shared this opinion.

The parrot struggled vainly with his amorous advances at my hat and started to flutter his wings wildly and squawking loudly, no doubt upset at being snubbed by his new-found lady friend.  

Eventually the old lady realised that I was somewhat uneasy, to put it mildly. She got up slowly from her chair and removed the parrot from its clutches on my hat and replaced him back on his perch.

She then turned to me and asked whether I’d like to meet the budgerigars still sitting on their cage preening themselves.

I made an excuse about having a meeting somewhere or other and left hurriedly.

And that’s another cowboy hat with a feather totally ruined!

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Hilda, Kenneth and Robert - Ménages à trois

I received an unexpected phone call from a colleague at work who had retired a year ago. She’s a pleasant acquaintance rather than a friend as such and in conversation she said that her husband had passed away and that she had moved to a two-hundred years old thatched roof cottage out in the country.

She was her usual jovial self on the phone and, somewhat surprisingly, she invited me to visit her for the day so we could catch-up on old times.

I was not that keen on the idea, but she insisted and I was persuaded to go and see Hilda.

She was her usual bubbly self as we sat down to tea and biscuits reminiscing about work. After she retired she left the city and moved with her husband to the countryside and then he died a few months later.

I nodded politely and made small talk wandering why she had insisted on this visit and then it came … right out of the blue.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked. “You know … you having beliefs and all that? Are there ghosts do you think?”

Before I could answer she went on “The reason I ask is because I believe this house is haunted. I wanted to speak to someone about it and then I remembered you from work.”

“What makes you think the house is haunted?” I asked, “Have you seen anything?”

“Not seen as such,” she replied, “but I heard him … Robert … he’s often screeching especially at night.”

“Robert …” I repeated politely and then after a short pause I asked “is Robert your husband?”

“Oh no …” she laughed, “my husband was called Kenneth. He did not die here. He died in hospital. And he’s far too lazy to haunt me! He was so lazy that if he ever fainted he’d need help to get him to the ground” she giggled.

“I see …” I said still not seeing where all this was leading to. “So Robert must have lived in this old cottage centuries ago?”

“No … no …” she giggled again, “He lived here with us. Robert died here four weeks ago and a few days later his ghost started haunting the place!”

My mind started doing somersaults wandering who Robert was. Was he a lodger? A boy-friend? Living with her and her husband? How did he die? Was it a tragic accident? Or something more sinister?

She interrupted my train of thoughts and totally derailed it by declaring “Robert was my parrot!”

“Parrot?” I repeated.

“Yes … he was my parrot. I got up one morning and found him off his perch. He was lying on his back on the ground with his feet pointing upwards as stiff as a board. I buried him in the garden!”

“And you believe a parrot is haunting this house?” I asked tentatively not believing I’d ever ask such a question.

“No doubt about it … I hear him screeching at night when I’m in bed. I think he’s frightened when I put on my face cream and have my hair in curlers … he’s never seen me like that when he was alive!”

I imagined her in face cream and curlers and suppressed a smile crossing my legs tightly for extra security. I suppose the sight of a woman in cream and curlers would frighten the most threatening of ghosts.

“Well …” I hesitated, “I’ve heard of people seeing ghosts but never the ghost of a parrot before!”

“I’ve not seen him,” she said, “only heard him. I’ve asked a ghost exorcist to come today. That’s why I asked you here.”

About an hour later a man in his fifties turned up carrying a small suitcase.

We sat in the main front room and he brought out a small metal plate explaining that first he needed to incense the place. He lit a few pieces of charcoal on the plate and then added what seemed to me an excess of incense.

There was smoke everywhere; so much so that we could not breathe or even see each other, and then we heard the screeching sound … it was the smoke alarms in the corridor and the kitchen which set off simultaneously.

The three of us stood up coughing and wheezing and dancing as we waved handkerchiefs and newspapers around the smoke alarms trying to dispel the smoke and silence the deafening sound.

Eventually all was quiet again and the man asked Hilda about the ghost.

“His name is Robert” she said, “he’s lived with me for 8 years!”

“Was he your husband?” asked the exorcist cum smoke-maker.

“No … my husband was called Kenneth” she replied “Robert has always been very dear to me and I’ve always loved him” she continued in all innocence not realizing how confusing her answers were.

“Can you describe him for me?” asked the ghost hunter “so that I can visualize him as I send him on his way …”

“He was green, about 11 inches tall and he had a wonderful personality.”

The man looked at her in total surprise as I stifled a guffaw and crossed my legs even more tightly; wishing I did not have that second cup of tea.

“I … I … don’t understand” he said hesitantly “green and only 11 inches tall?”

“Yes … our parrot had such a lovely personality. Even though he could not talk!” she explained with a smile.

“A parrot?” he mumbled, “do you mean to say that the ghost is a parrot?”

“Yes … I thought you knew”.

A cold sweat suddenly appeared on his forehead. He stood up and said “You didn’t tell me … I have to go … I have a morbid fear of parrots, all birds in fact … chicken especially. It’s their vicious beaks … I have nightmares about them!”

“But this isn’t a real bird” I said flippantly, “it can’t harm you, it’s a ghost bird!”

“They’re all the same … dead or alive … all birds have beaks … sharp ones. I was once chased by a turkey you know!” he continued as he gathered his paraphernalia in his suitcase.

“What am I to do?” she asked me after the man had gone “how am I to get rid of Robert’s ghost?”

“I thing the ghost has flown away after him to haunt him” I replied jokingly, “you’ll be OK now.”

As far as I know she has not been disturbed with screeching noises since.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Absurd ... yes it was!

I am not the out-going type of person always chatting and starting a conversation with all and sundry. In fact, those who know me will testify, I am a silent, quiet fellow, rather shy, I keep myself to myself and do not wish to be disturbed by complete strangers when I am on the bus, the train, the library, in my car, in a taxi, at work, at home, or in the toilet. 

In fact I do not want to be disturbed or talked to at all by anyone. I am completely devoid of any form of prejudice. I dislike everyone equally. (Except you dear readers).

I was on the bus the other day minding my own business eating pickled cucumbers from a jar, when this old woman, (she must have been about a million years old by the looks of her), came and sat next to me. The bus had several empty seats, but she came and sat next to me.

What makes people do that? Why do they sit next to me? Is it my "Food Range" deodorant that attracts them? I could drive at the local supermarket and the car park is totally empty. I stop my car and some idiot comes and parks right next to me. Why do people do that?

Anyway, I digress. This old woman came and sat next to me in the bus and within a minute or two started to talk about the weather. This happens a lot in Britain. People talk about the weather. They say inane things like, "Cold today, isn't it?" 

How do you respond to that except agree with the comment. I like to confuse them by starting a debate about something completely unrelated. I say, "Actually, scientists have discovered that since this country's Gross Domestic Product has risen due to inflation and the overheating of the economy the temperature throughout the British Isles has dropped slightly by about 2.17%".

This soon shuts them up.

Anyway ... again ... this old lady talked about the weather for a bit and then asked me if I could change a £2 coin because she needed some small change for her shopping. 

I took out my piggy bank out of my pocket. Opened the small aperture and took out its contents in my hand. 
I counted and gave her a £1 coin and a selection of pennies totalling 100 pence; and then I took her £2 coin and put it in the piggy bank.

She proceeded to count every penny I gave her to ensure they were actually 100.

I glanced sideways and said nothing; fishing out another pickled cucumber from my jar.

As she was counting she dropped a penny which rolled out the centre aisle of the bus and landed a few feet away under one of the seats.

"Hey ..." she said, "you've only given me 99 pence. There's one penny missing!"

"No madam," I replied politely, "you dropped it and it rolled over there, under that man's feet!"

"No it didn't!" she insisted, "you diddled me ... you cheat ... I am one penny short ... you owe me one penny!"

Then, deliberately to make a scene, she turned to the entire bus and said, "this man owes me a penny. He is a cheat and a fraud. He is denying me my penny!"

In order to shut her up, I pulled out my piggy bank from my pocket, opened it quickly, and to my dismay, I could only find two-pence coins. There was not one single penny coin in the damn thing.

I gave her a two-pence coin and said, " here you are. Now YOU owe me one penny!"

She took my two-pence coin and said, "That's not going to happen ... fathead!" and she got off the bus.

Now the mathematically minded amongst you will have noted that I am down two pence on this transaction. I gave her the full £1 coin and one hundred pennies in exchange for her £2 coin; plus an extra 2 pence to shut her up.

As I said ... many times before ... I do not like people who sit next to me in public places and start a conversation. Why can't they leave me alone?

Monday 28 January 2019

The Wedding Reception

I know that you dear readers often smile, or laugh at, my misadventures. But last week's was one of my worst, I tell you.

Last Saturday we were invited at the wedding of some friends of ours. We had not seen them for some years, and they live a distance away - but hey ... we received the invitation by post and we accepted (I'd do anything for a free meal).

After the marriage ceremony in Church we jumped in the car and drove to the appointed hotel where the reception was to take place.

I tell you ... this was the biggest and largest hotel in the whole world. If you could transplant it from its position and put it somewhere else it would cover the whole of Texas. That's how big it was.

When we entered the main entrance hall it was so huge you could see for miles around. The chandeliers hanging from the ceiling were as big as planets.

Anyway, as we entered the hotel, I decided to go to the rest room. I asked the family to go on ahead to the reception and I would join them later.

FIRST MISTAKE - When I got out of the rest room I took the wrong turning and went to the wrong reception. Did I tell you the hotel was huge? Well, there were two wedding receptions taking place at the same time; and I didn't know, did I? So I went to the wrong one.

As I entered this big hall where the reception was, I looked left and right for my family. Obviously, I could not find them, because they were not there. They were at the proper wedding reception we had been invited to; somewhere else in this big hotel.

I walked around the wedding guests trying to find my family and I bumped into two colleagues from work. A husband and wife. What an ill-fated coincidence! What were they doing there? Obviously, they had been invited to the other wedding taking place in this hotel.

They said "Hi" and we started chatting about work; what else? I thought I was at the right wedding reception and thought nothing was wrong.

We discussed various projects we were involved in and whether we would save money if we bought large paper clips instead of small ones and save by buying fewer of them. This of course depended on how many bits of paper we have to clip together at a given point in time. But who cares?

Whilst talking I was surreptitiously looking left and right for my family and pretending to be engaged in conversation.

Moments later a man in uniform asked us in a loud voice to take our seats at the tables. He explained that there were no set places. We could sit where we wanted to. Tables were set for groups of six and there were plenty of them to sit at.

My work colleagues, thinking I was alone at the wedding, invited me to sit at their table. They said I could meet their new friends who were into nude skiing in the Alps. Quite invigorating, they said.

SECOND MISTAKE - Thinking that my family was also sitting with other friends, I decided to sit with my work colleagues. The discussion, as expected, was about naked skiing and how liberated they felt coming down the mountains and airing their differences.

I sat there politely wondering about the risk of frostbite to one's extremities with all that snow and icy winds blowing around their personal Alps. Perhaps I should have asked them whether they ski with all the other people, or whether there is an area reserved for nudists who want to expose their bits to each other as well as the elements. What if they suddenly fell and scraped their extremities on the icy crisp snow? 

The meal was OK I suppose, except I did not particularly enjoy the ice cream for dessert. The very thought of all that naked skiing in the snow sent a chill down my spine.

It wasn't until the best man stood up to toast the newly weds, whose names were totally unfamiliar to me, that I realised I was at the wrong wedding. Did I mention it was a big hotel?

Our table was right at the end of the hall; so I could not see the top table very well from where we were sitting. So when the best man stood up and asked for silence, then he toasted the newly weds, I realised that the names he mentioned were not our friends' at all. I suddenly got a brain freeze. Must have been the ice cream, I suppose. For a moment I could not work out what was going on.

THIRD MISTAKE - I made an excuse to leave the table.

My first thought was that we'd come to the wrong hotel. No one had told me there were two weddings here in the same hotel, did they?

I went to the Reception Desk and asked if my family had left a message for me. They hadn't.

I phoned home. No reply.

I phoned all the cell-phones in our family. All switched off. What's the use of switched off phones? I ask you.

For some stupid reason, I went back to the reception hall I'd just left and looked around. What's the point? I thought I was at the wrong hotel anyway and my family probably left and went home! (How could they? It's a long journey and I have the car keys ... unless ... they had a spare set of keys and left me stranded here! No ... they would not do that? Would they? My mind was playing tricks on me ...)

So I looked everywhere again for my family? Where could they be?

Of course, little did I know, they were at the right reception wondering where the hell I got to.

At this point, for some unknown reason, conscience I suppose, I felt guilty for having eaten a meal at a wedding which I had not been invited to.

Do I have to confess this, I thought. Well, I hadn't finished the ice cream, for reasons already mentioned. So that must diminish my sinful culpability somewhat. However, the conversation about naked skiing, and my imagination running wild at the time, must really tip the scales as far as sins are concerned.

I went back to the Reception Desk again and asked if there was a message for me. The kind assistant lady looked at me as if I was an imbecile and assured me that no one had left a message for me.

I asked her if this town had another hotel with a similar name. She smiled politely and said, "No."

I mumbled incoherently that I'd attended a wedding meal just now and the married couple, for some inexplicable reason, had different names to what I expected them to have.

The Receptionist was a quick thinker and realised what had happened. She explained that there were two wedding receptions in the hotel at the same time; and politely directed me to where I should have been all along.

I found my family. The wedding meal at the reception I should have been at was already over and all the speeches had been done.

To make matters worse, as we left the hotel for a long drive home, it started to snow heavily and my mind somehow got back to thinking of naked skiing. I wonder where they keep their money for their après ski drinks afterwards?

My family has still not forgiven me for all this. It wasn't my fault, I tell you.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Moving Mountains

“It was because you haven’t enough Faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have Faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything." Matthew 17:20.

Sometimes, we tend to take the Bible too literally. We forget that when Jesus spoke to His listeners He used the idiom and phrases commonly used at the time.

In Britain there’s a saying, “Keep your hair on”, which means calm down, don’t get so excited and worked up, relax a little.

It would be wrong if 2000 years from now that saying were interpreted to mean an adverse comment on male baldness.

When Jesus referred to moving a hill He did not mean it literally. Miracles are not magic tricks, and the Holy Spirit, for it is He who performs miracles, not the disciples, and certainly not us – the Holy Spirit would not perform a miracle for no purpose. Every miracle performed by Jesus and the disciples has been to do good, for the benefit of others in need.

In this context, the disciples had failed to drive out a demon from a young child. They asked Jesus why they had failed.

Jesus taught them, and us, that a pre-requisite to performing miracles is to have Faith in Him, in God, and in the Holy Spirit.

To have Faith and to believe in the power of the Almighty.

 And yes … miracles do happen in this day and age, today even.

The problem is that we are too unwilling to believe.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Film Director Diploma

I have just been awarded a Diploma as a Film Director after attending a long and extensive three days course at a local establishment of education. Let me share a few of the tricks of the trade which I have learnt from this college.

1 All action films must have a fight. Whether it is people punching and kicking each other in martial arts fashion, or a pub brawl, or a swords fight like the three musketeers. What is important to remember is that it does not matter if the hero is heavily outnumbered; the enemies will always wait patiently to attack the hero one by one, dancing around in a threatening manner until the hero has knocked out their predecessors.

2 The hero must never show any pain whilst taking the most ferocious beating by his enemies; but he must always wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

3 Whenever a large pane of glass is visible on the screen, it is imperative that someone will be thrown through it.

4 All electronic timing devices must have large red readouts to add to the suspense and drama of the scene. The hero must always be seen with cold sweat on his forehead and he must always blindly choose to cut the right wire with seconds to spare.

5 In police films, the detective can only be able to solve the case once he has been suspended from duty. And he is always assigned a partner who is the total opposite in character.

6 Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, the character must always turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments to show that he is driving. He can also look sideways to the pretty woman in conversation for at least a mile without having an accident.

7 In war films the characters can survive any battle unless they show someone else a picture of their sweetheart back home. That's when you're sure they'll die.

8 In bedroom scenes it is important to have a special L-shaped sheet that reach the armpit level of the woman, but only the waist level of the man lying beside her. Apparently, watching male nipples is very suggestive in such scenes.

9 If staying in a haunted house, women should always investigate any strange noises in their most revealing underwear. Even if it is freezing outside and the wind is howling through the open windows.

Now that you have learnt as much as I have, I look forwards to watching your videos.

With this in mind, here is a video I have made. It may not win an Oscar, an Emmy or other awards but I hope you find it informative and entertaining.

Friday 25 January 2019

Look at a Christian in the mirror

I have to be careful with what I say here in case I offend anyone. But then ... we are in a day and age where everyone seems to have a right to be offended about something or other. Taking offence seems to be the latest fad, or profession for some. It's become so fashionable that if you are not offended about something, this in itself will cause offence to someone who will see you as callous and uncaring; and unable to take offence at what is seemingly so obviously wrong yet you have not got the gumption to notice it and take offence at it.

Phew ... pause for long breath.

OK ... so let me get to the point of what may well offend God. Now that's important, so let us all pay attention.

When you look around you in church, or prayer meetings, or other Christian gatherings that many churches have, do you see happy faces, full of joy, and hope and ... I don't know ... happiness ... joy ... and other good things?

Or do you see miserable faces, like they have a permanent bad smell under their nose, as if they have a dead fish tucked in their underpants?

My experience is the latter. People I meet in church or other church groups, appear to be "religious" of sorts, but their demeanour and overall outlook is one of despondency, gloom and the futility of life in general. Where's the joy at the Good News - I ask myself.

Maybe, let's face it, we Catholics are a boring lot and have nothing to cheer about except how much is in the collection plate on Sunday.

Maybe people are too preoccupied with their lot in life and as such they see Christianity as a big Cross they have to bear and carry. They let the weight of their Cross crush them down; rather than  use it to climb up to Heaven to Christ’s welcoming arms.

Some even "Praise God" and look forwards to meeting Him. This means they wish they were dead. I am sure that is not what God intended when He created us - to wish that we would soon die! He created us to enjoy this life, to help one another; not to endure it and wish it is soon over!

Whatever their reasons for looking miserable, the people in my church should realise that this attitude reflects on those they know and meet. They are a role model for someone else. 

Whether you are a parent, offspring, sibling, teacher, doctor, carpenter or whatever else you are in life; you are a role model for someone else. Someone somewhere is watching you and would either copy your behaviour, or avoid totally being like you.

So ... what do Christians portray and represent to other people? A Faith that one would want to learn more about, and perhaps join? Or something to be avoided?

Christians are a bad advert for Christianity ... (sometimes).

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Murder by TV

What a waste of time. I have just wasted a whole hour of my life watching a Murder Mystery program on TV and at the end I am none the wiser.

I want to protest to someone but the chances are that if I write a stiff letter, (on cardboard), to the TV company, the producer, the main actors, or even the writer; none will take me seriously.

Instead, I am writing to you for some sympathy, at least.

No sooner the program started that a man was found murdered in suspicious circumstances. Has there ever been a murder in not suspicious circumstances? I ask myself.

The victim was shot in the chest and buried in the back garden of the local vicarage.

At first the police suspected suicide. Then they looked into the hole where the man was found and decided someone had put him there.

Who was it? Who tried to bury the victim and did such a bad job of it?

Was it the local vicar, the Reverend Cassock, who has a penchant for licorice sweets and growing broccoli?

Was it the church housekeeper, Mrs Murgatroid Tidy, who keeps a hamster in her bedroom and likes to hide in the bell tower drinking herself to sleep?

Was it the local nosey spinster librarian, Gertrude Pepper-Back, (you always need a spinster in a murder mystery), who always looks from behind the curtains of her house to see who is going where and with whom and at what time; and who also grows all her herbs in alphabetical order? At one point the detective asked her where she finds the time, and she replied, "It's next to the sage!"

Or was it the pub landlord, Archibald Brewer,  who often waters down his beer to make it go further and thus cheat his customers who have no other place to go for a drink because it is the only pub for a million miles around?

I hate it when, half way through the program, they introduce new characters and a new sub-plot to the main plot. Like for instance the "Ye Merry Emporium" which serves coffee and English tea with scones and cream and strawberry jam. It is run by Matilda Rowbottom and her lodger/boyfriend/lover/lothario/seducer/Romeo/Casanova/Don Juan waiter and chef named Bacon Risotto who hails from Scandinavia yet is from Welsh descent.

Or the gardener, Ivor Lawnmower, who apparently years ago fathered a child with the spinster librarian, and that child died suddenly, when grown-up, without saying goodbye when a box of Cheerios fell on him at the local supermarket.

At this point, whilst watching this melodrama, I had a craving for Cheerios; but we only had corn flakes in the house. So you can imagine my frustration and anger at this murder mystery with its incompetent detectives.

As you can see, there were plenty of suspects for this murder.

The police have so many potential suspects that Detective Chief Inspector Barnacle does not know where to start. He checks his script to see where to investigate next and finds he has some pages missing; so he makes it along just to keep the TV program going whilst half the population of the village is decimated, (or is it dessicated), by a murderer or murderers unknown. His plan is to wait until the end of the program and the only character still alive must be the culprit.

The police start making enquiries and questioning all and sundry when, (surprise), the vicar is found dead in an industrial washing machine and is thus eliminated from their enquiries; which is a pity since he was the main suspect. At least it was a clean death at 40 degree washing temperature and a spin dry cycle of 1000 revolutions per minute. You should have seen the colour of his cassock after this brutal clean murder.

So the police turn their attention to the church housekeeper whose job includes cleaning the church vestments. But this proves to be a wild goose chase because the lady in question was at the library at the time borrowing a book entitled, "How to murder people using a hamster as bait."

By the time the police go to the library to confirm the housekeeper's alibi they found the librarian dead in the Zoology Section half-eaten by a crocodile which escaped, or was released, from the local zoo.

In any case, the church housekeeper is herself found dead in a barn full of hamsters pretending to be Guinea pigs.

The pub landlord is killed when a barrel of beer fell on his toe resulting in him bleeding to death.

Matilda Rowbottom sells the "Ye Merry Emporium" to a French woman called Madame Leggert.

And Bacon Risotto falls in love with Madame Leggert's daughter, who is only knee-high, only to discover that she wants to live in Portugal instead of being in this Midwinter Village where murders happen every few minutes; including when there is an advert break on the TV programme.

There is no one else to suspect for this series of murders or mysterious deaths except the many cockroaches who inhabit the Tea Emporium. But unfortunately, they all provide alibis for each other thus causing total confusion to the police and all TV viewers who have wasted their time watching the show.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Once upon a time there was Adam. He was alone in Paradise but, to be honest, he was happy. Plenty of food to eat, plenty of walks in the sunshine, sleep when he wants, wake up when he wants. No chores or jobs to do; like taking out the trash, washing the dishes, painting the garden fence ... and all that. Just happiness.

God saw this and created woman ... Eve!

So for a while there was Adam and Eve living happily in the Garden of Eden (another word for Paradise). They had nothing to do except enjoy themselves walking naked all over the place. No troubles, no concerns and no worries, just like before - apart from watching out for the cactus plants and not getting too near them.

All was happiness and joy and bliss.

Then one day Eve asked Adam, "Do you love me?"

Adam looked around and said, "Who else is there? It's only me and you here."

Eve blushed and said coyly, "us ladies like to be re-assured every now and then."

Adam wondered why. A sentiment echoed by all men ever since.

I mean ... what is it with you ladies? Why do you want re-assurance all the time that we love you? We married you didn't we? And every so often we buy you chocolates, don't we? Especially when they are on offer at the supermarket. And we give you flowers when we fill up the car with petrol at the gas station. And don't we write nice things on your birthday cards, anniversary cards and all other occasions cards? Why don't you keep these cards and read them when you want re-assurance that we love you?

We men don't need such constant re-assurance. As long as there's a hot meal on the table we know all is OK.

Anyway, to get on with the story. In Adam's case there was no one else he could fancy instead of Eve. Despite the big hairy wart she had on her nose, Adam still loved her all the same.

There was no point him fantasising about glamourous sexy women like in Hollywood films because cinemas had not been invented yet.

So he told her that she was the only love in his life because there was no one else in the whole world to love as much as her.

"You know ..." she said, "there is someone else here?"

Fearing the worst, and wondering whether his hot dinners were assured, he asked tentatively, "Who else is there my sweet darling?"

"There's a beautiful big snake," she said, "I have seen him often. He is so sweet and speaks so softly. Have you not seen him?"

"A snake!!! If I had seen him I would have covered my bits in case he took a bite," said Adam covering his manhood, "not engage in conversation with him!"

Any how ... I am sure you know how the story ended. You can read all about it in Genesis 2. That's Genesis in the Bible, not Genesis the English rock band with Phil Collins.

Now the thing to remember in all this is that Adam and Eve's sin was not just a sin of disobedience. It was worse than that. It was a sin of rebellion. They wanted to be gods. The snake had told them if they ate the forbidden fruit they will not die; "when you eat it, you will be like God and know what is good and what is bad.”

Monday 21 January 2019

Dog Food Lands Me In Hospital

I am sorry to tell you folks that I am writing this post from my hospital bed. The doctors say I am OK; albeit a bit ruff ... ruff ...ruff ...
OK ... enough with the dog jokes already. Here is what happened.
A friend told me that the quickest way to lose weight is to eat those dog food pellets you get at the supermarket. 
 Apparently,  dog pellets have all the necessary nutrients and vitamins and minerals one needs. All you have to do is load your pockets with a few of them  and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete and it works well; so I gave it a try.
All went well for a week or so until yesterday. I stepped off a curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit me.

Saturday 19 January 2019

Terrible day with St Peter

I don't mind telling you, it was a terrible day when I met Saint Peter. I had been standing there in the queue outside the Pearly Gates for at least an hour. I must have died at a busy time, because there were plenty of people waiting to be let in Paradise. I had already consumed two bottles of soft drinks and a packet of potato chips; and to be honest, I wanted to get to the toilet.

Eventually my turn came to be next by the Pearly Gates. An angel opened it and let me in. He led me to a room and asked me to wait.
I immediately realised by the Saint's absence that he was not taking his job seriously. Here I was, having waited for an hour to be let in, and bursting to go to the toilet, and he was out fishing, or doing something else more important, no doubt!

A few minutes later he came in and sat at his desk. He asked me my name and tapped furiously at his computer.

He then looked at me from on top of his spectacles and asked, "Why do you want to get in Heaven?"

"I want to be with God for eternity!" I replied confidently to impress him.

"And what makes you think He wants to be with you for this length of time?" he asked abruptly.

I hesitated. He continued, "You'd be surprised how many people think they have a personal right to get in here as if it was a hotel with all expenses paid!"

He looked at his computer monitor and then asked, "Why have you been so half-hearted about re-cycling and caring for the environment?"

I was knocked sideways by this unexpected question. There I was, trying to remember my sins since my last confession when the slate was wiped clean, and here he was asking me about re-cycling and the environment.

He noticed my hesitant silence and said, "I see from your records that you never bothered to re-cycle old plastic bottles, newspapers and cartons, metal cans, glass bottles and such materials. You had the choice to return them to the re-cycling centre but you disposed of them as trash."

"Eh ... gulp ..." I heard myself say.

"And you have a terrible carbon foot print ..." he added reading from his screen.

I looked at the bottom of my shoes and said nothing. I did not even know what he meant by carbon foot print.

"You always left all the lights on in the house; even in empty rooms. Wasting electricity and adding to carbon emissions. You had a wasteful car and always drove everywhere; even down the shops only half a mile away, instead of walking. You boiled a whole 2 litres kettle of water to make one cup of tea. Your home was either too hot like an oven, with windows open; or too cool with the air-conditioning at full blast. You were wasteful of the earth's resources and did not care about the environment, the planet, your fellow human beings or generations to come!"

I was totally flabbergasted. Since when did St Peter join the Save the Planet Police? Re-cycling and the environment were never mentioned by the priest in his Sunday sermons. Admittedly, he droned on a bit and sent me to sleep, only to be awakened by a sharp elbow in the ribs, but I never heard him preach about re-cycling.

I tried to justify myself and mumbled, "Excuse me your Sainthood ... I have always been a good man. A good husband ... a good father ... an acceptable son-in-law ... a good employee. I have never cheated on my wife. Even when that young secretary was only too willing and encouraging. I never had impure thoughts towards her ... let alone carry them out. I have been faithful to my wife ..."

"What do you want? A medal?" he interrupted, "being faithful to your wife is your obligation. It is what you promised in your marriage vows.

"Pity you did not also promise to look after and protect your planet. It is your duty to leave the place in a better state than you found it."

"Give me a second chance ..." I cried and pleaded, "give me second chance and I will re-cycle ... I will re-cycle ... I will re-cycle ..."

I woke up mumbling to myself, "I will re-cycle my mother-in-law ..."

For some reason, I got the silent treatment that day. No hot meal either.

Friday 18 January 2019

An up-date on Cosmology

I don't want to be alarmist. This article is factual and true. I have checked all the facts in a scientific book which I am writing.

Not to put too fine a point, let me state here and now that the earth is getting heavier. And like most of us, as we get heavier, and somewhat long in age, we tend to slow down. Now, this may not have a great effect in humans, but in the case of the earth it has very serious and dire effects indeed.

Let me explain. Why is the earth getting heavier? Why is it slowing down?

Let's think about it. Over the years, millions and millions of people have been born, grew up and died. When they die, they either get buried or cremated. Either way, their remains do not leave the earth. They stay on it. Add to this the number of animals, birds and fishes who have also been born and died; and also the number of plants and trees which grew from tiny seeds to huge forests and then got cut down, made into furniture, ships, building materials and what have you; and you'll realise that all these are also added to the earth's weight over the years.

Nothing on earth has ever left earth and not come back. Except of course all the satellites we have out there in space which we can exclude from our calculations.

So in effect, the earth has been putting weight over the years. And as it gets heavier, the earth slows down too.

Ordinarily, we believe the earth goes round once every twenty four hours. But this is not strictly accurate. As it slows down, it takes the earth longer to go round full circle around itself.
Have you heard of the leap second? This is an extra second which the experts add to the clock every now and then to account for the earth slowing down as it spins around itself. The "World clock", as it where is adjusted by experts to account for this slowing down. And we either adjust our own watches manually every now and then, or those of us with self-adjusting watches and clocks will not notice that the change has been made centrally by the world time-keepers.

But that's not all. Also, as it gains weight, the earth is taking longer to go round the sun. Normally we believe it takes the earth a whole year to go round the sun. But again, this is not strictly accurate. We have all heard of leap year when we add an extra day to the year; but it seems, according to my calculations, that we should be adding more than just a day every four years because the earth, as it gets heavier and slower, is taking more than a year to go round the sun.

Let us visualise it another way. Let us assume you are on the dance floor and you pirouette around all by yourself, (this means spinning round on the spot in French - it sounds more classy and makes me look learned).

Let us now imagine that as you continue to pirouette around yourself you also move around the whole circumference of the dance floor. (Imagine it is a circular dance floor, not a rectangular or square one - just work with me for a moment, will you?)

Let us now imagine that as you pirouette around yourself and around the dance floor you are also eating pizzas, burgers, cakes, gateaux and whatever else you can imagine. (I am imagining mayonnaise).

In time, you will get fatter and fatter and heavier and you will slow down. Both in your pirouetting and in going round the dance floor. You might even bump into something or another.

What does all this mean? I hear you ask. (Well ... ask it then!)

OK ... I'll tell you. Because the earth is getting heavier and fatter because of all the weight of dead people and animals and trees and so on over the years it slows down. In this slowing down, it may well lose it's normal trajectory and bump into other planets and stars.

As it gets slower it is exposed to the sun for much longer. Imagine someone lying naked on the beach thinking she's been there for an hour, whereas in fact she has been there for longer.

Oops sorry ... got distracted there. As the earth takes longer to spin around on itself, and longer to go round the sun; this means it is exposed to the sun's burning rays for that much longer.

Hence global warming. The melting of the ice cap. Raised sea levels. Floods and so on.

Now personally, I have no worries about rising sea levels, because if the sea rises and covers the land then more of us will live by the beach. And that's nice, isn't it?

Also, my calculations have shown that if the ice caps melt then the safest place to be is in Australia. Let me explain.

If the Northern polar cap melts then all the water will flood Europe and the Northern hemisphere. If the South Pole melts, the water will not rise up the globe towards Australia will it? It will drip down into space just like when you wash your hair out of the water tub. The water drips down not rise up!

And another thing I have worked out. Global warming has nothing to do with us burning the wrong fuel, and using too many cars and all that.

Global warming is caused by all the candles that we light. Candles create a lot of heat for no reason. Can you imagine how many candles are lit in the world at any one time? Candles in romantic settings in restaurants, at the dinner table at home, in the bath … I ask you … what is the purpose of candles in a bath tub? They are dangerous you know. What if you were to singe your hair, for instance?  Candles in churches ... candles on birthday cakes ... wherever you turn people are lighting candles. Now that’s a lot of unnecessary heat I tell you! That's what's causing global warming. Stands to reason, doesn't it? Ban all candles and global warming will stop.

As for the earth slowing down. I suggest when people die instead of burying them or cremating them we should just catapult them into space.

Thursday 17 January 2019

How Time Was Invented

Let us settle down now and learn some history together. Have you ever wondered how we first learnt to measure time?

Here's a quick lesson you'll never forget. At the end of this session you'll say, "well that was a waste of time wasn't it?"

Many years ago at the time of the Romans there was an Italian called Role. He was the tenth son of a tenth generation of men called Role - in fact he was known as Role the Tenth. Which in Roman times was written Role X.

Anyway Role X, and everyone else for that matter, noticed that it was sometimes daylight and sometimes night. "But how do we measure such a recurring occurrence to see how long is daytime compared to night time." thought Role X.

So he asked the opinion of his friend Galileo who at the time was looking up at the sky and wondering why the sun was always in different locations.

This is not the Galileo physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who lived between 1564 and 1642 - but most probably an earlier ancestor of his; which shows that the Galileo family were very clever for generations. But I digress.

Anyway, after a short discussion with Galileo, Role X planted a big candle which he had borrowed from his local church right in the middle of his garden. (The candle was in the middle of the garden - not the church. Just pay attention).

He measured the candle carefully. He waited until the sun was right above the candle, (i.e. no shadow), and he lit the large candle and left it lit until the following day when the candle had no shadow again. He then blew the candle out and measured the bit that was left. From this he deduced how much candle had burnt over the period it was lit.

He then got another candle with exactly the same dimensions and marked with his pen 24 equal segments from top to bottom. That's the candle's bottom not his bottom that he marked! Are you really paying attention? This is important.

He called each segment "hours"; or because he was Italian he called them "zee hours!"

He quite rightly thought that if he lit the new candle at the same time as the previous day, (i.e. no shadow), he will call that MIDDAY and then every segment as it burnt down would be an HOUR, until the following day when there will be no more segments on the candle; and when there was no shadow (i.e. MIDDAY again).

Role X decided he'd call the 24 segments one DAY; or in Italian "Uno day!"

Are you still paying attention? Good.

So, Role X having set up the candle with 24 sections he waited until it was midday and he lit the candle to certify his experiment of measuring time would work. But the experiment did not work because it was windy that night and the candle blew out.

He went to church and took a third candle. By this time, the priest, (in Italian "il priest"), was getting fed up selling candles to Role X; so he increased the price to two liras a candle!

Role X prepared a third candle like before by marking it from top to bottom. This time he kept the candle indoors. Again the experiment did not work because the sun did not cast a shadow indoors. So another candle was wasted.

In total desperation, Role X invented the watch and solved all his problems about time.

The early Role X watches required a big pendulum worn by the Romans around their necks, (under their togas), swinging left and right to keep time and to wind the watch.
Unfortunately, this proved very unpopular with the Emperor, and embarrassing, to have a big pendulum swinging to and fro under his toga as he walked. That period in history is known as the "Swinging 60s (AD)"

The very angry Emperor commanded Role X to improve on his invention.

The watchmaker designed a new model whereby Romans would walk around all day swinging their arms instead; and this movement would wind the watches on their wrists.

Sadly, this meant that many careless citizens swung their arms in other peoples' faces and the hospitals were full of casualties as a result of this new fad of wearing a time piece as a bracelet. The Emperor banned all swinging in public, whether by hands or under the toga, and commanded Role X to develop another time piece.

That's when Role X invented the electric, battery operated, wrist watch. The early models required a big and heavy battery the same size as the ones used to power cars these days. Many Romans developed hernias and back problems having to carry such heavy contraptions around.

Since then Role X and his family went on to develop arguably the best watches in the world.

Well ... I did promise you a quick lesson you'll never forget. Go buy yourself a watch and forget about lighting candles in the wind.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Baffling Science

I was never good at science at school. Come to think of it, I was not good at other subjects too. One teacher saw my true potential when he wrote on my report: "Victor will go down in history ... and geography, biology, maths, ... ... ..."

At least he predicted my success at being a failure. Yes ... sadly, as a child I had failure written all over me. The other kids did it with their biro pens.

And that's probably why as I grew up there are a lot of things I do not understand about science and technological things. Perhaps some of you, my readers, will be able to explain things to me.

For example, why is it that people are small when they are far away? And as you approach them they get bigger and bigger. Are they eating as you get near them and they grow fast? The same happens in animals when I am out in the countryside. They are small when far away and grow as they graze and come near me.

Now this leads to another mainly historical question. Was Napoleon a small man or was he always far away? If he was far away then how did his troops know what to do to follow his orders?

Another scientific question I have never understood. Why is the sky blue in the day time, when not cloudy, and dark at night? Some say it is the reflection of the sea. But the sea does not change colour from day to night. What about if you are away from the sea, like in a forest. Is the sky green there? Or yellow in the desert; and white in the polar regions?

How about sound and the travel of sound. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it does it make a sound? I'm sure you've heard this question before; but do you know the answer? Sound is a wave which travels through the air, (and water), and eventually reaches your ear and it vibrates the ear drum and consequently, eventually, this vibration is interpreted by the brain and you hear the sound. But if there's no one in the forest then the wave will not reach any ear. Therefore the tree will make no sound.

Also, as I said, sound travels through air and water; but not in a vacuum. In a vacuum you will hear no sound of a tree falling; especially if the vacuum is switched on at the time or the dust bag is full. 

Whilst we're on the subject; if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to see it; does it remain upright?

As a child, I always loved forests. There was one near where we lived. I used to get up early in the morning and run to the forest before the trees got there. They were always there first. Once when I got there someone had stolen the river; because it was all dry.

The universe is full of unexplained questions. For instance, if the universe is always expanding, as scientists tell us, then where is it expanding into? The universe is everything - this means all planets, solar systems, black holes, Star Treks and final front ears. So if the universe is everything, where is it expanding into? There must be something outside the universe for it to expand into.

Medicine is confusing too.
Take that squiggly abacus thing that is inside us all. They call it DNA apparently, whatever that is. What happened to all the people who lived in the past before they found DNA? They didn't bother whether they had it or not? So why invent something knew that only serves to confuse people?

For instance, did you know that in Australia the DNA goes round the other way round than in the Northern hemisphere ... and it is spelled AND?

It's like water when it goes down the plug hole in your bath. In the Northern hemisphere the water goes round anti-clockwise. Whereas in the Southern hemisphere the water goes down the plug hole clockwise. In the Equator the water spurts right up and hits you in the eye!

Now you can see why all this scientific stuff is so confusing. I think education is a bad thing. It plays with your mind and makes you think. And a little thinking is bad because it makes politicians out of us. And see where politicians got us to.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

A Delicate Problem

I have a delicate problem to share with you, and to ask your advice about.

We have received a letter from one of the neighbours. It was posted through our letter box this morning so we can't tell from whom it is. It is anonymous. I will only quote the pertinent part of it.

" ... even though we live in separate houses, both detached and a few yards from each other, we can still hear you yawning loudly of an evening just about bedtime. At first we thought it was thunder making its way towards us, then we thought it was blockage in the drains which were about to overflow everywhere, then we thought it was an earth tremor and we were about to meet our Maker or perhaps be downtrodden by the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. Then we realised it was you yawning. Can you do it more quietly? With your head submerged in a bucket of water perhaps!"

Now many people would be a little upset at receiving such a letter. Be honest; how would you feel if someone wrote this to you? Come on, share your feelings.

Not me ... I was not upset at all. Livid more like. Especially since I do not yawn at all.

Admittedly, sometimes in the evenings whilst watching TV downstairs in the lounge, when some politicians are on TV debating something or other, I do get rather irritated and perhaps stifle a sharp intake of breath. But I do so quietly, especially when I am biting hard at the table leg to stop me shouting profanities at them. But yawning loudly ... never ... not me.

Truth be known ... it is my wife who yawns loudly upstairs in the bedroom. Especially when I am being nice to her. Her yawn is so loud it is like a hyena giving birth to an elephant.

But I can hardly tell the neighbours that. Can I?

So ... just between you and me ... please don't share this with anyone else. What do you suggest I do about this dilemma I am faced with?

Monday 14 January 2019

Super Heroes

We all love a Super Hero. We see them on TV and in the cinema and we all have our favourite. Superman, Batman, Spiderman and many others. Each with their particular skills and super powers. Each willing and able to fight evil whenever it occurs and come to our aid whenever we need it.
Wouldn't it be lovely to have a Super Hero ready and able to help us in every situation. Like Super Janitor to clean our homes, offices and factories? Or Recycle Man to collect all our re-cyclables and make good use of them? Or Laundry Man to wash our socks and un-mentionables?

Would it not be even better if WE had super powers which we could use for the benefit of others?

Just imagine ... ... ...

You're sitting there quietly at home with your family. You receive a message that someone needs help and ... whoosh ... you sweep to your feet and rush to help those in need wherever they are!

If that were possible. What would your Super Powers be?

Personally, I would like to be Tomato Ketchup Man.

Whenever I am needed I would be there pouring tomato ketchup on beefburgers, French fries, sausages, hot dogs, and any other meals that would be improved with tomato ketchup.

Chocolate ice cream and tomato ketchup. Apple pie and tomato ketchup. Peanut and jelly sandwich with tomato ketchup.

I'd be there, throughout the world, improving it with tomato ketchup.

Whenever world leaders are gathered together and about to sign an international treaty or agreement; I'd be there pouring tomato ketchup on their documents to ratify them.

Wherever tourists gather in front of a national landmark taking a selfie; I'd fly in and pour tomato ketchup on them as the camera shutter clicks.

Whenever a newly married couple are about to cut their wedding cake; I'd sweep in and squirt tomato ketchup on them and their guests.

If any one parks their car in a no-parking zone, or crosses the road when the traffic sign says WAIT, or returns their library books late; I'd squirt tomato ketchup all over them.

Oh what great fun the world would be with Tomato Ketchup Man!!!!!

So tell me ... what Super Powers would you like to have?

And why?

Sunday 13 January 2019

What a friend we have in Jesus


Saturday 12 January 2019

Magician Priest

Priests are not magicians. They do not have magic wands to solve the world's problems. There are times when they are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems brought to their doorstep by desperate parishioners needing a quick fix and permanent solution. With enough compassion, caring and love, priests can help the faithful bear their problems if not solve them completely.

One bright morning as Father Ignatius was leaving St Vincent Church after Mass and making his way to the Parish House where a hearty breakfast prepared by his housekeeper, Mrs Davenport, was waiting for him, he was stopped by Roger Farmer, a wealthy parishioner and generous benefactor.

"May I have a moment please, Father?" asked Roger.

The priest visualised for a moment the appetising breakfast waiting for him, especially the toast and ginger marmalade, and then, forcing a smile he nodded and ushered the businessman into the house. You don't turn down such a wealthy benefactor who has helped many church's charitable events.

Moments later they were sitting in the reception room over coffee and biscuits.

"Father, I have cheated on my wife!" said Roger.

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

"This is not a Confession Father," continued Roger, "in Confession you have to feel sorry and resolve not to sin again. But I intend to keep on sinning against my wife!"

Father Ignatius remained calm and said a quick silent prayer; a habit he got into years ago whenever he needed Divine inspiration.

"You see Father," hesitated Roger, "Penelope and I have not got on for a while now. We just grew apart. We sleep in separate bedrooms. In time I got friendly with someone at work. Penelope knows about it and in any case she's been having an affair for a while now. We've remained together for the sake of the children; but now they're grown up and have left home; so we're considering divorce."

"And how do you wish me to help you?" asked the priest quietly, more as an attempt to keep the conversation going rather than intervening at this stage.

"That's the problem, Father," Roger said, "I don't know. I realise that I can't confess and take Communion, not if I intend being with my new lover, and I don't know how you and the Church would view divorce."

Father Ignatius cleaned his spectacles from imaginary dust, a trick he had learnt to gain him more thinking time.

"How I or the Church view divorce is one thing," he said eventually, "what is important is how does God view this break-up of a marriage?

"There are times when sadly the bond of marriage is broken beyond repair. Sometimes this is inevitable, like in cases where there is violence in a marriage, alcohol or drugs abuse, crime, or continuous adultery.

"I am not saying that these examples are acceptable in the eyes of God, because it is evident that one of the partners in marriage has abused and neglected his or her responsibility to love and to cherish and to care for the other partner.

"In such cases, I believe that God is disappointed in our behaviour. But for the safety of the abused partner, and the children if there are any, I also believe that God, and the Catholic Church, reluctantly accepts that divorce is the only solution.

"In your case, it seems to me this is not so. You said that you and Penelope just grew apart, and in time, both of you found comfort with someone else. So you both decided, as grown up adults to call it a day and go your separate ways.

"What do you really expect of meRoger? I cannot condone it or forgive you. And neither can I stop you!"

There followed a short period of silence. A few seconds whilst Roger considered what exactly he expected from the priest. Father Ignatius continued, more to keep the conversation flowing rather than an attempt to resolve it.

"What you need to consider Roger, and so does Penelope, is the vow you made to each other all those years ago. Does it mean nothing? Is your word no longer your bond? Did you mean that you will love her for life or only until you grew tired of each other?

"More important, how about the vow you made in front of God? Was it all just for show, in order to marry in a church and have the photos as a souvenir? Or did it mean anything between you and God?

"Sadly, I have seen many marriages break up for reasons I have already described. But yours isn't such a break-up is it?"

Roger shook his head. "No ... Penelope and I are quite friendly. We just grew apart and have each gone our separate ways over the last few years or so. We've lived together because of the children but each one of us has become friendly with someone else. We now want to make it formal, divorce and get married again!"

Father Ignatius said nothing for a short while and then added, "In Civil Law this is straight-forward enough! There's nothing stopping you from doing what you propose. But I have to ask myself, what happens when either of you grows apart from the new partner once again? Do you start the whole exercise once more?"

"I may have sinned against my wife in the past," interrupted Roger, "but this is now over. We've discussed it openly and my wife and I forgive each other. There's no ill-feelings between us and we both now want to go our separate ways. We're still friendly and we've promised to invite each other to our new weddings.

"Why is the Church standing in our way? Does God not want us to be happy? At least we're honest with each other. Our children understand what is happening and to a great extent we'll remain a family. Albeit not living together."

"The Church is not standing in your way," answered the priest calmly, "you are free to marry again in a Civil ceremony.

"There are times when the Catholic Church does annul previous marriages. This is not like a divorce. Divorce in the civil courts signifies that the civil contract between the marriage partners has been dissolved. A Decree of Nullity signifies that a true bond of marriage never existed. That is not the case in your marriage is it? At the time you both consented before God to marry for life.

"All too often I have heard the phrase 'Does God not want us to be happy'?

"Of course He does, but He also expects us to honour the vow and promise we made to Him when you married; just as He expects every priest and nun to honour their vows when they joined their vocation."

It became obvious in the silence that followed that there was nothing the priest could offer Roger in this sad situation. He continued, as calmly as He could,

"This is not too dissimilar to our relationship with God. We may well have loved Him at some time in our lives, but if we grow too complacent and self-reliant, trusting on our own instincts, we may well drift away from Him and in time meet someone else all too eager to tempt us away from His salvation. In effect, we divorce from God.

"I shall pray for you and Penelope and your children too."

Roger went away with a problem un-resolved but with the love and understanding of a caring priest.