Wednesday 31 July 2019

Visit To Pastoral Counsellor

Counsellor: Hello again. How are you and how have you been since we last met?

Man: OK ... I guess ...

Counsellor: You don't sound convinced. Last month you were all smiling when you left here. Tell me what's been happening.

Man: Well, last week was our wedding anniversary.

Counsellor: OH ... congratulations to you and Helen. Give her my love will you? How long have you been married?

Man: About ten years!

Counsellor: You don't seem sure ... is anything the matter?

Man: Well ... I forgot about it. I got home from work rather tired and sat to watch the football on TV. She went on and on about her day. How she had taken the dog for a walk. How she met her friend Harriet. And they went shopping together. And Harriet's husband is having an operation on his butt because of a personal problem. And on and on she went on ... I kept saying yes dear ... yes dear ... but I was not really listening.

Counsellor: And why is that do you think?

Man: Partly because I was watching the game and partly because I'd had a bad day at work. I had a million and one things to do. Whilst I was shredding some very secret papers that would embarrass the firm my tie got caught in the shredder and pulled me in. I nearly shredded my beard. I pulled back hard and the shredder fell off the desk on to my foot and hurt it badly. As I pulled back sharply I fell on the photocopier and broke the glass plate where you put the paper. The manageress came in and accused me of trying to photocopy my backside. I explained what had happened and she didn't believe me. Luckily my secretary vouched for me but I still have to pay for the damage to the photocopier.

Counsellor: I understand why you were not paying attention to your wife talking. She obviously had a bad day too and wanted to share it with you. How did she take your not paying attention?

Man: She suddenly screamed ... Are you paying attention to what I am saying? I replied ... Yes ... just after he takes that penalty kick. Then she burst out crying. At first I increased the volume on the TV, then I realised I could record the game. I did so and tried to console her. That's when she told me it was our wedding anniversary and I had forgotten it.

Counsellor: I can see why she was very upset. What happened next? Did you try to hug and comfort her?

Man: No ... I decided to go out and buy her some flowers from the gas station down the road. I got in the car and in my hurry I put it in reverse and hit the car parked behind me. It did a lot of damage. To extricate both cars which were welded together I put the car in forwards and hit the parked police car in front of me. The police thought I was drunk. They took me to the station for drink driving tests. They did not believe my story about the anniversary or the fact that I broke the photocopier. They thought I was a pervert. Eventually they booked me for several things and sent me home with my solicitor.

Counsellor: Oh dear ... I am so sorry ... what happened next?

Man: It was late by the time I got home and my wife was very upset. She believed I had left her. She phoned her friend Harriet who suggested she files for divorce. Harriet never liked me ...

Counsellor: I see ... let us look at this situation in a loving Christian way and see what we have learnt and how we can proceed ... tell me ... what would Jesus do in such a situation?

Man: Well ... He wouldn't get married for a start.

Counsellor: No ... what I meant to say is ... what would Jesus not have done that perhaps you did and contributed to this situation?

Man: He wouldn't have driven the car because there were no cars at His time on earth. Nor photocopiers or shredders.

Counsellor: Oh dear ... tell me, how are things between you and your wife Helen?

Man: Well ... when my solicitor explained all that had happened, including the shredder and photocopier and the car accidents, my wife laughed and she forgave me. She said it was the funniest anniversary we'd ever had. The next day we went out, by taxi, and celebrated at a restaurant.

Counsellor: Oh good ... Praise the Lord ... I'm afraid our time is up. See you next month.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

The Benevolent Magician

When we pray to God, or Jesus, and ask for something, favours perhaps, or even a miracle; who are we praying to exactly?

Is it an invisible benevolent magician somewhere up in the sky whom we have been taught to believe in and to ask for good things? After all, none of us have seen Him; so how can we be sure that He is actually there and listening, let alone giving us what we ask for.

And when we receive what we asked for and we go around happy that He has answered our prayers; are we genuinely sure that it was He who did so, or are we self-deluding ourselves into believing that there is a benevolent magician after all who helps those who love Him?

Let us now consider the people at the time of Christ; when He walked this earth.

When they asked for favours they knew that this Man they were addressing had special powers. They had seen those powers performed on others; or had heard about them. Some even believed that He was a different man from the rest of society. On a higher moral plain. Some even believed He was/is the Son of God.

When Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus had died, Martha reprimands Jesus by saying ""If you had been here, my brother would not have died." She does not say that out of pure faith. She says it because she had probably seen His power elsewhere when he healed others; or perhaps she had heard of His healings.

She then continues, "But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." Yet again, she probably had seen others raised from the dead at the hand of Jesus; so she knew that He could raise her brother if He wanted to.

On His way to Capernaum Christ met a Roman Centurion whose servant was very ill. He asked Our Lord to help the servant, and when Jesus made His way towards the house the Centurion said ‘Lord, I do not deserve that you come under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed.' Here again, we have an example of someone having faith in Jesus, but most probably this faith too is based on experience of other healings he may have witnessed by Jesus.

The woman who dared touch Jesus' cloak knowing full well that she would be healed showed faith, but she too perhaps had witnessed such miracles before and thought, "Why not me? He can heal me too!"

The point I am trying to make here is that the Bible is full of examples of people asking Christ favours and receiving miracles time and again. Those people had faith in the Son of God but their faith was based on facts. Miracles they had seen happen time and again to others. So quite rightly they asked for these miracles for themselves too. Their faith was tempered by the realities they had seen.

But how about us? When we pray and ask for favours, how certain are we that we will receive what we ask for from someone we have never met in real life and seen face to face as the contemporaries of Jesus did?

How greater is our faith than that of those who have seen and witnessed?

Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:28-29)

Smile ... ... ... How blessed are you in the eyes of God.

Sunday 28 July 2019


Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and said, “Hands up all those who have been to Lourdes!”

Quite a few hands went up.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, “now hands up those who went to Fatima, Knock or any other Holy Shrine!”

A few more hands went up.

“OK …” continued the priest, “hands down. Now hands up again anyone who has had a miracle happen to them at any of these places!”

No hands went up.

The priest waited a few seconds and then continued.

“Just as I thought! No one considers that a miracle has happened to them. Which of course begs the question; Do miracles happen these days?

“The truth is that miracles do happen these days; but people are not willing to believe in them.

“Perhaps they expect spectacular miracles to happen … Raising of the dead. Walking on water, changing water into wine … now that was a good one!

“Anything less than that and our Faith has not been stimulated enough to even consider it as a miracle, let alone believe it has happened.”

He stopped once again, as he usually did in his sermons, to allow the challenge to sink into the parishioners’ minds.

“I’d like us to consider for a while what is a miracle and who actually performs it when it happens.

“Spectacular miracles, as you would wish them to be, like healings from incurable illnesses and diseases do happen at Lourdes and elsewhere even today. There is plenty of documented evidence if you wish to research it.

“Many people have been healed suddenly with no explanation from medical or scientific sources. They remain unexplained and are accepted as miracles performed at the many Shrines visited by the sick person.

“Miracles happen elsewhere too … not just at these Shrines. Miracles can happen in churches, hospitals or even at your homes … if it is the will of God that they should happen.

“This then leads to the second question. Who performs these miracles?

“Is it Our Lady, the Mother of God at Lourdes or her other Shrines? Is it the particular Saint you happen to be praying to for help? Or is it God?

“And when we pray to individuals before they become Saints for a particular favor, or miracle even … like Padre Pio, Pere Charbel, and so on before they were made Saints by the Vatican … who performed the miracles do you think? Was it the particular person prayed to or was it God?

“Isn’t it after all the performance of miracles, or the answers to prayers, one of the tests which our Church considers as a requirement to Sainthood?”

He paused yet again.

“There are those who say that only God or Jesus can perform miracles; and to pray to Saints, or even people who have not even yet been considered as Saints, is wrong.

“Let me read you something from Acts of the Apostles … you can look it up yourselves at Acts 3.

“You’ll remember that as Peter and John went into the Temple to pray they met a man at The Beautiful Gate, as it was called, who had been lame all his life.

“The beggar expected money from the two apostles. Peter turned to him and said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold. But what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk!’ And of course the man was healed.

“Later on in Acts 5 Verse 12 we read that many miracles were performed by the apostles. Sick people lay in the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and heal them. And indeed many were healed.

“The important thing to note here is that Peter said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.’

“So yes … the apostles whilst they walked this earth, and now they are in Heaven, can and do perform miracles; they have not lost their ability to perform miracles, in the name of Jesus, just because they’re in Heaven.

“And so does Our Lady perform miracles in the name of her Son Jesus. As do Padre Pio, Pere Charbel and many other Saints. But they do so in the name of Jesus. It is very important to remember that.”

Father Ignatius stopped once again having pressed his point home.

“And now we move on to our last question,” he said, “for today at least!

“What role does our Faith has to play in the performance of miracles?

“Jesus said time and again to the sick, ‘Your Faith has healed you. Your Faith has saved you.’

“He did not say, ‘Wait … let me click my fingers and hey presto you’ll be healed … Because I’m great at miracles!’ ”

The congregation laughed. The priest continued.

“He made a point of saying that the people’s Faith played a great part in their healing and in their salvation.

“The sick did not stay at home and think ‘Oh well … if Jesus wants to heal me, He’ll do so in good time … I don’t need to go and see Him!’

“They went out to seek Him. They believed in this man who was different. A holy man, a teacher, a healer, the Son of God.

“They had heard about Him, and now He’s in their town or village they went out to find Him … in hope, in desperation perhaps, and even in Faith … as small as a mustard seed! But that little Faith, however tiny it was, is what saved and healed them.

“The blind man shouted at the top of his voice to attract Christ’s attention and to be healed.

“The old lady pushed her way through the crowds in order to get close enough to just touch His cloak and be healed.

“The Roman soldier believed in Jesus so much that he thought just one word from Him would bring healing.

“That’s what I mean by true Faith … it plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“It need not be our Faith that saves us … the Faith of others, on our behalf can and does bring miracles and healing to us.

“The Roman soldier was asking for healing for his servant, not for himself. His Faith helped heal his servant.

“The men who broke the roof off a house and lowered the man in his sick bed down to Jesus showed Faith on behalf of their friend … and their Faith was rewarded.

“All the people who lay in the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow may fall upon them showed great Faith too.

“As indeed do all those who visit Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and all the Holy Shrines.

“Let me conclude by saying that miracles do indeed happen today. Both great and small. They are performed by Saints and those yet to be Saints through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“Faith plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“And before you ask … we do not have to go to the Holy Shrines for our prayers to be heard, or for our miracles to happen. All we need is to trust in God and be willing to accept His will in His time and in His way.

“We need a little Faith … not much, just a mustard seed’s worth!”


Saturday 27 July 2019

How to avoid someone ... and fail.

I know that Christians should love, (and like), everyone, including their enemies. But is that really possible?

I am sure there were people around Jesus who were really obnoxious and a pain in the neck working their way downwards. Did He love them? Did He like them? Or did He just tolerate them as one of God's creatures put on earth to teach us to love?

There was this guy at work called Gerard whom I did not like. There was nothing specifically wrong with him. I just did not like him. Maybe it was me ... maybe it was the lack of chemistry between us ... maybe it was something else. But for some reason, I did not like him.

Put another way. If he was a woman I would not marry him. I would not be intimate with him. I would not even date him.

He ... or she ... would be there and that's that. It's like having a chair around. You wouldn't date a chair would you? Unless you were weird that is!

Do you remember Neil Diamond speaking to himself and not even the chair heard him? Well, that was weird. But I digress.

For some reason I did not like Gerard.

Eventually, I decided to change jobs and applied for a post at another firm. I attended the interview and as I entered the room there was Gerard waiting to interview me.

It turned out he was a Human Resources Consultant and in his free time he worked for other firms to help them recruit staff. It was all above board and our employers knew about it.

He asked me why I wanted to leave my present employer. I said that I admired him immensely and wanted to follow in his footsteps and expand my horizons and expertise.

I then went to confession the same day.

I did not get the job.

Weeks later I attended an old friend's wedding in a city miles away. You guessed it. Gerard was the best man. What are the odds that we both knew the bridegroom?

About three months after that I went to London to celebrate the baptism of the daughter of yet another friend of ours. Dash it all ... Gerard was one of the God-parents.

I had to go to hospital for an embarrassing check up. They wanted to know my sense of humour was intact. Gerard was in the waiting room too. I tried to deflate the situation by telling him I'll tell no one he was there!

Often, I would meet him in town in the shops, in a restaurant or coffee bar, or in the street by accident. It was as if he was my shadow. Perhaps he was stalking me, even though I would sometimes enter a place and he was already there. If he saw me, I'd nod and say Hello; otherwise I would leave hurriedly before he noticed me.

Do you think God put him in my life for a purpose? Or did He put me in his life for a purpose?

We continued to work together in the same firm for a while. We never became friends. We just accepted each other.

He was a chair to me. I wonder what I was to him.

Friday 26 July 2019

Hot Me! - Hot Topic!

It has been very hot in the UK lately as I am sure it is elsewhere. Some days it was over 40 Degrees C in the shade. I was clever though and did not stay in the shade.

The weather forecast woman on TV said it's been the hottest day "since records began".

This set me thinking ... when did records begin?

Apparently a long long time ago a man wrote down on a piece of paper, "Phew ... it's hot today. Records have begun."

The next day, he wrote on another piece of paper "Wowie and double phew ... it's been even hotter today. It's been the hottest day since records began yesterday."

This went on for some time with the man writing every day how hot, cool or cold it was.

Then, years later, another man called Thermo, invented the thermometer. It was a small tube filled with coloured spirit and with markings on the side. He could therefore measure how hot or cool it was by reading how far the liquid expanded in the tube.

He reasoned that if he put the thermometer in his mouth for a few minutes he could tell how warm or hot it was outside, or inside a house for that matter. Unfortunately, after a few days of such measurements he realised the temperature he was measuring was somewhat similar every day; regardless of whether it was sunny and hot, or cloudy and cool outside.

His wife scoffed at his invention and suggested he might as well stick his thermometer somewhere else. He tried that for a few days but the readings were still similar to the ones he took before; regardless of the weather outside. He therefore reasoned, quite rightly as it happens, that there was some connecting channel between his mouth and the other place.

He threw the thermometer aside and gave up on the whole idea.

His wife, however, whilst doing the cleaning everyday, noticed that the coloured spirit in the tube moved to different locations depending on how hot, cool or cold it was.

And that's how weather measurements began. As often happens, it was a man's idea improved by a woman. Which also explains why the weather forecast on TV is always more interesting when it's a lady presenter rather than a man.

Today the lady presenter, who's quite hot by the way, said that it's been so hot in the UK that the rails on the railways have buckled and it is dangerous for the trains to run on them. She asked an expert why this happens in the UK and not other countries like Australia for instance where it is more hot.

Apparently, in Australia people have barbecues on the beach where it is cooler and not near railway lines where the heat from the barbecue adds to the already hot weather and can buckle the rails. So it is partly our problem in the UK where people have barbecues in their gardens in towns and cities and add to the overall heat which buckles railway lines.

The lady presenter then asked the expert whether it is advisable to divest in this heat and lie on the beach almost naked or whether people should cover up instead to protect themselves from the sun.

He replied that this depends on the individual. Some ladies are very pretty and look really nice in a skimpy bikini or less. After all, the old masterpiece artists always painted beautiful nudes and not overfed overweight fat men that look like a tub of lard wobbling as they move. Who wants to look at that? He asked.

I switched off the TV and drove to the beach.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Weird ... really weird.

Something really weird happened yesterday. This is a true story folks, not one of my humourous posts to amuse and entertain you.

I was at a pharmacy waiting to collect some medicine for a friend. Two women were also there waiting.

A young lady about 25 years old came in the shop and approached the counter. She said to the pharmacist in a loud enough voice for all of us to hear.

"I have chafing at the top of my legs as my legs rub against each other when I walk. It is itching up there and a little sore. Do you have any cream I could use?"

The two women looked at each other and said nothing. I could not believe my ears. I thought this was a joke or a stunt to see how we would react.

To her credit, the pharmacist spoke in a low voice and said, "Have you tried ...?"

The young lady replied, "Yes I have ... it is too oily and it does not relieve the itch ..."

I felt like screaming, "TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!!"

The pharmacist gave her a tube of some ointment or other and the young lady left.

I looked everywhere to see whether there were any hidden cameras and this was a TV filming to see how the public would react to outrageous behaviour.

There were security cameras ... as always.

I really don't know whether this was all very genuine or I have been had!

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Who's fault is it you're extinct?

There was a program on TV about various creatures facing extinction. Today's episode was about the panda.

He looks cute, big and cuddly, with black rings round his eyes. Everyone loves a panda. Who would not want such a cuddly creature in bed with them on a cold night? Me ... for a start.

I know there are a lot of sentimental people with cuddly soft toy pandas, or other creatures, either in bed or certainly in pride of place in their homes. In fact there are many charities trying to save such creatures by seeking your financial support who would offer to send you such a cuddly toy in exchange for your money. For some reason, the panda is a favourite with many people. They like to have a big, fat, over-stuffed cuddly bear on their beds.

But imagine it was the real thing? A live smelly dirty creature growling and tearing your sheets and bed covers? Imagine him walking all over your house doing his business wherever he wants, and knocking your furniture, and breaking that lovely porcelain vase that your mother-in-law with no taste gave you as a wedding present! You'd soon change your mind wouldn't you?

Soft toys and cartoon characters give us and our children a totally distorted view of what is reality in the animal kingdom and the way they live and survive ... or not.

If the panda is facing extinction then let us consider why; and ask whether it has in any way contributed to its dilemma and dire situation.

For a start he exists on a diet of bamboo mainly.

Secondly, panda bears, especially the males, seem to take very little interest in mating, especially in captivity. What's wrong with them? In their dull world devoid of TV, cinema, music and sports, what else has captured their interest so much to turn them off sex?

Let's focus on their stupid diet. I've heard of being vegetarian but this is taking it to extremes.

If I were taking a young lady on a nice evening out I would probably book a table at a French restaurant, or possibly an Italian one, depending on her taste in food. I would not ask her to chew on a stick of bamboo.

So the panda is starting on the wrong foot right from the beginning. Relying on just one diet is stupid at the best of times. Has he not heard of pizza? You can hardly expect her to flutter her eyelids and smile enticingly as she leans forward revealing her low cut décolleté just to nibble on an old stick of dry grass.

The male panda should realise by now that bamboo sticks are hardly an aphrodisiac, like oysters or asparagus tips or a delicate nice wine and soft music - preferably something like Frank Sinatra or such like.

The male panda should show an interest in his companion. Scientists have tried various methods to get him to mate, including would you believe showing him videos of pandas mating; now that's animal porn! And even giving the male Viagra type medicine. But it was all to no avail. He prefers to chew on a stick of bamboo instead.

Can you imagine the female panda smiling coyly and asking, "Am I the first one to sleep with you?"

And he replies, "Naaah ... they all fall to sleep within a minute or so. I guess they're as tired as I am!"

So you see ... extinction is perhaps its own fault on some level or other.

The same applies to the dodo. It was a large flightless bird who just did not fear humans being near them. Even though humans were much larger than them. They were easy to catch and get eaten and, before long, they became extinct.

Then there is of course the dinosaurs. At one point in life they seem to have ruled the world. They were everywhere and were feared by humans who were seen as easy prey for dinosaurs. Then one day an asteroid hit the earth and killed all dinosaurs, all species, all sizes and all kinds.

Serves them right for all standing on the same spot where the asteroid hit. Humans were scattered around and survived.

I'm sure you can think of other creatures facing extinction through their own fault. I realise that man is a destructive creature and we are all guilty in some way or other of driving many animals to extinction. But then ... there are those animals who do nothing to help themselves. Like all those fish who complain that there is too much plastic in their diets. Well, I have news for them. There is also too much plastic in our human diets too. These days the only way to get a healthy square meal is to get rid or the food and eat the packaging it came in.

Monday 22 July 2019

An Honesty Dilemma

They say honesty is the best policy. Is it? Would you always tell the truth? Really?

A friend of ours went on holiday and I was made to volunteer by the family to go in his house twice a week and feed his pets. By pets I don't mean dogs or cats or something just as ordinary as the rest of us would have. No ... this guy is an entomologist. In case you did not know this is the study on how to be totally and utterly boring.

Believe me, he is the world's most boring person. I believe God must love boring people seeing He created so many of them. Perhaps He created them so we can appreciate more normal people, or jovial people.

This fellow keeps insects in his house. Hundreds of them. All kinds of insects in every room. In glass cages, or tanks or whatever you call glass boxes. Some are under constant lights to keep their contents warm.

He left me a list by his front door as to what creature eats what food and how often.

Did you know that Madagascar hissing cockroaches eat fresh vegetables and dry dog food pellets? No, neither did I. But I had to throw in some pellets quickly in their tank before they got out and escaped. Do they fly, I wonder?

In another tank he had stick insects. Also known as stick-bugs or walking sticks. Basically, they are insects which look like dried sticks; sometimes green sometimes brown depending on their camouflage. They seem to stand there motionless for ages doing nothing.

He had about seven in this glass tank with a few twigs in there to make them feel at home. I looked at them and they looked at me and we made our acquaintance by just staring at each other and ignoring each other. They did look very much like the twigs they were on. I wondered, what do you call a collection of stick insects? A branch, I suppose. Of if there's more of them you call them a tree; or a dead tree.

Speaking of which, I noticed one of the insects was at the bottom of the tank on its back with its feet in the air. At first I thought it was asleep. I tapped the glass tank gently to wake it up. It did not move; but neither did the other insects. They all remained still on their twig. Part of their camouflage I suppose. There is no point in being a stick insect if at the first sight of a predator you jump up and down waving your arms in the air and shouting "Here I am!"

I tapped the glass again a bit louder. No movement whatsoever. Especially from our sleeping beauty on the bottom of the tank.

Perhaps it was a heavy sleeper. Or ... maybe it was hibernating. Do stick insects hibernate? Who knows. And who cares. I certainly was not going to search the Encyclopedia Britannica to find out. The only good use for these heavy books is to beat the hell out of insects in your home.

I remember once in a cheap hotel when I was travelling for a cheap employer I killed a cockroach in my bedroom by hitting it with a book. Within minutes the room was infested by other cockroaches who had come for the funeral.

Funerals are dull events aren't they? Not much fun in there, or hilarity. I had to attend a colleague's funeral the other day in a church I'd never attended before. I remember the church had bad wifi reception. I could not get the football scores on my cell-phone.

Anyway, there I was with a dead stick insect on my hands. Or on the bottom of his tank to be precise. What do I do? Leave him there? Will that upset his companions who might go into mourning, or go on hunger strike perhaps?

What if our friend came back from holiday and found the insect dead. Would he blame me?

Would he think the smell of my after-shave killed it? I tell you, it is the best quality after-shave I buy from the market for a few cents.

I took the lid off the glass tank in order to pick up the insect lying on its back. Perhaps I could tickle it and it would wake up. I'd have to be quick in case the other insects fly out. Do stick insects fly? Who cares?

I picked it up quickly and put it on the table. It did not move one bit. It lay on its side. I pushed it with my finger and it rolled on its back and on its other side. No sign of life whatsoever. It was as dead as the proverbial dodo. It had gone to meet its maker.

Then a thought occurred to me. What if ... ... ...

Anyway, I put a very tiny drop of glue on the end of its many tiny legs, then I opened the tank and quickly stuck it there on one of the twigs.

Now it looked just like its companions. Happily standing and doing nothing.

A few days later our friend having returned from holiday told us that something strange had happened. Apparently the female of the stick insects species lays eggs in the autumn before dying, and the new generation hatches in the spring. He was surprised how one of his females which had died before he left came to life again on his return.

Sunday 21 July 2019

Uphill Young Life

Father Ignatius came out of the Sacristy and found a young boy at the back of the church crying. It was Tim Bryant.

The priest knew the eleven year old well. He came from a very poor family and had a difficult life despite his few years in this world.

Tim often worked hard after school to supplement the family budget. He delivered groceries for Mr Harris to all the customers in the vicinity. The priest had seen him often pushing his bicycle up the steep hill in Carrington Road and Heath Avenue. Those two roads were steep all right … but not as steep as Nelson Gardens right up the hill where Tim often delivered cans of food as well as vegetables and other items purchased from Mr Harris.

He certainly enjoyed the ride down the hill when the deliveries were finished and his bicycle was light; but going up was really difficult, especially when it was dark and cold in winter.

He’d been working for Mr Harris for about a year now and proudly gave his mother the £3 a week he earned to help her pay the rent and buy food.

She too worked hard. She took in washing from a number of people every week to earn a little more than what she got by cleaning people’s homes.

Some time ago Father Ignatius decided to help her without appearing to be charitable and risk losing her dignity. He decided that the Altar boys vestments needed washing and ironing at least once a month, as well as various other church items such as the Altar cloth and other items of linen. He asked Mrs Bryant to take on this task for a monthly fee, which she gladly did.

However, this upset Mrs Davenport, his housekeeper, who felt she was perfectly capable of doing this work as she had done for years … thank you very much!

The priest diplomatically explained that Mrs Davenport’s talents were in the kitchen and that her culinary expertise made many a professional chef green with envy. It would be wrong to waste such skills on washing vestments.

Mrs Davenport acquiesced and peace was restored once again in the Parish House.

Tim’s father, Mr Bryant, was partly the cause of much unhappiness in the poor household. He earned a pittance doing odd jobs as a gardener; but whatever he earned was soon spent on drink. He often got home in a bad state, got into an argument which he started, and then beat his wife and son.

Mrs Bryant often begged Father Ignatius not to say anything to anyone, least of all the Authorities for fear that her son Tim would be taken into care and she’d lose him for ever. The priest understood well this dilemma, yet could not let such a situation continue where mother and child are often beaten up, sometimes violently. He had spoken to Mr Bryant on many occasions, sometimes harshly threatening to report him to the police, yet Mr Bryant would be totally and fully repentant, promising not to lay a finger on his family ever again and to stop drinking forthwith … only to repeat his behavior in a few weeks later.

Understandably, young Tim performed very badly at school. When you work hard delivering groceries every night, and you go home not knowing whether your parents will be there, or whether you’d be beaten for no reason and often went to bed hungry because there is no food in the house, it is very difficult to concentrate on your studies.

And now there he was … the poor eleven year old crying at the back of the church.

Father Ignatius approached him and asked gently, “What’s the matter Tim? Has your dad beaten you?”

“No … it’s much worse.” said the boy wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

What could be much worse, thought the priest. “Would you like to tell me about it?” he asked.

“You know I deliver groceries for Mr Harris?” said the young lad.

The priest nodded.

“Well … today as I was delivering in Wilson Lane someone stole from my bicycle when I left it there to go to one of the houses. They took a few vegetables and packets of sugar and flour.

“Mr Harris got very angry with me and said I stole them. He didn’t believe me when I told him what happened and he fired me.

“Mom will be very upset because she needs the money I give her every week. Dad will go mad … as always.”

“Is Mr Harris the greengrocer just by the corner at the end of the street?” asked the priest gently, not forgetting to say a silent prayer for the Lord to help in this situation.

“Yes!” said Tim.

“Well … I need some fresh air. Let’s walk there and see what the Lord Jesus will do to help us about this! Always trust in Jesus, Tim. He will help change a bad situation for the good, if you trust Him.”

As they arrived at the small shop Father Ignatius asked the boy to wait outside and went in alone.

“What can I do for you Padre?” said Mr Harris from behind the counter.

“We haven’t met,” said the priest, “I’ve come with that young boy outside. He used to work for you until today …”

“Oh … yes …” said Mr Harris looking through the shop window.

“I’ve known the boy for years … he’s not the type who would steal, Mr Harris. I tend to believe what he told you …”

Mr Harris raised his eyebrows.

“Are you the priest from the church up the hill?” he asked.

“Yes, how rude of me. I should have introduced myself. I’m Father Ignatius from St Vincent Church!”

“Yeh … I’ve heard about you …” continued Mr Harris, “you lot buy a good deal from me. Good customers you are.

“Your housekeeper, Mrs Davenport, is always here fussing about what she buys. ‘Must have the best vegetables for Father Ignatius’ she says … ‘These are not fresh enough … these are too big … these are too small …’ and on and on she goes. My wife calls her Mrs Fusspot … behind her back of course.”

“Oh!” said the priest who had no idea where his household purchases came from, “is she here often?”

“Yes … every week! She fills her trolley to the brim and pulls it behind her up the hill. It must be very difficult for a woman her age.”

“Why doesn’t she have everything delivered?” asked the priest.

“She’s too mean …” said Mr Harris, “I suggested the idea to her but she said that the church is short of cash and she will not waste good funds on delivery charges!”

“I tend to agree with you!” Father Ignatius went on, “it’s wrong for her to pull a heavy trolley up the hill every week. She should have everything delivered … if only you had a delivery boy!”

“I see where you’re coming from …” laughed Mr Harris, “perhaps I was wrong to accuse the lad of stealing. He’s a good boy and works hard. Bring him in and tell him he’s hired!”

And that’s how the Lord Jesus helped Tim Bryant get his job back delivering for Mr Harris.

Father Ignatius had a little difficulty explaining to Mrs Davenport why it was better to have everything delivered, but it wasn’t a task that his diplomacy couldn’t handle. Three months later Mr Bryant, Tim’s dad, died suddenly of a heart attack. The beatings stopped once and for all, and in time, Tim started to improve with his work at school.

Saturday 20 July 2019

Beware - I'm Thinking

The other day I got thrown off the bus. Never happened to me before; but the bus driver threatened to call the police unless I got off the bus. I hadn't done anything wrong I tell you. But let you be the judge of that.

Before I relate what happened let me ask you a personal question. Be honest now. How do you read?

You're sitting there, or here, or anywhere really; I can't tell where you're sitting. Some of you may be standing perhaps. So, you're there wherever you are and you're reading this on your monitor. How are you reading it?

You see ... when I read something I read it as I was taught at school. I run my finger over every word and read it out loud.

There I was on the bus reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. 

I started the first paragraph pointing at each word, and reading loudly, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife ..."

The other passengers looked at me and at first said nothing. I continued reading, "My dear Mr Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs Long has just been here and she told me about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

A man sitting opposite me said, "Can't you read quietly mate? I'm trying to read my newspaper!"

I said politely, "Sorry to have disturbed you. But I often see people on this very bus and on the train speaking loudly on their cell-phones. No one ever tells them to quieten down. What am I doing that is so different?"

At this point the bus driver stopped the bus and asked me to get off. No discussion. No argument or debate. Just get off. Which I did.

Anyway, I was sitting in my garden this evening looking at nothing in particular and ruminating about my bus episode when I noticed a moth flying backwards and forwards towards the light.

"What is the point of moths? I thought. What do they do and how do we benefit from their existence? They enter our homes and can eat our clothes if we're not careful.

Do you know how to get rid of moths in your homes? Lavender bags. You need to have bags filled with dried lavender flowers. You pick the bag and hit the moths with it. Very effective.

The problem is that you'll have a house full of old people. Why is it that old people like lavender so much? 

I used to have a grand-mother that always smelled of lavender. You could smell her from a mile away. My other grand-mother smelled of pot-pourri. You could tell which grand-mother was visiting us ten minutes before they arrived.

My grand-father smelled of moth balls. As a child I often wondered whether moths had balls!

My other grand-father always smelled of liquor. He always had a saying for every occasion. He used to say, "Always fight fire with fire!" He lost his job in the fire brigade.

I didn't like my grand-parents because of their smells; although I could tell who was who in the dark.

I tried to confess my sin of not liking them. At church we had a wooden confessional. The priest sat in the middle and we knelt on either side and told him our sins through a small window. 

I told the priest that I don't like my grand-parents' smells.

He told me to keep my voice down because my grand-mother was sitting on the other side of him. He did not tell me which grand-mother it was. 

I could not smell her because the priest was smoking his pipe at the time. Either that or he was getting ready to say Mass. Why do Catholics burn insects in church? What kind of insects do they burn? Do you think it is moths?

Anyway ... as I was saying ... how do you read? Do you run your finger on the monitor and read loudly?

If not, you should try it in a public place like a bus, or coffee shop. It's good fun and it annoys other people.

Friday 19 July 2019

Rare Recording Not Aired Before

Several years ago, when I was young and adventurous, I joined a scientific exploration team deep in the jungle in search of a very rare, almost extinct, bird. This seagull looking bird had learnt the uncanny skill of mimicking sounds it heard around it. Scientists believed this was as a defence mechanism to frighten predators away. Anyway, I was a young reporter at the time, in search of adventure, and I joined this team to record this bird in full song. Here is a sound track from a short film which we made ...

Thursday 18 July 2019

A Valuable Manuscript

One of my many hobbies is visiting car boot sales to see what I can pick up. This is like the garage sales but with cars. Sellers usually gather in a church car park, or other large space, open the back of their cars and display on small tables items they want to get rid off and sell cheaply.

You'd be surprised what people sell at these sales. Mostly what you find are worthless items, but every now and then, if you know what you are buying and have a keen interest in antiques, you can find a gem or two which you can re-sell later on for a fortune.

I remember years ago I was very lucky to find two rare items at the same car boot sale. First I found an oil  painting by Stradivarius, and then later on that day I discovered a violin made by Rembrandt.

I took them to an antique dealer. He told me they were rare but unfortunately Stradivarius was a bad painter and Rembrandt could not make a good violin to save his life. I sold both items for $400.

On another occasion I found a fountain pen and a cell-phone which belonged to King Henry the VIII. I later sold them for $2 each.

I also found a watercolour painting of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, I think it was. The  Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William the Conqueror and an English army under the King Harold.

King Harold was shot in the eye with an arrow, in that battle. You can see it clearly in the painting. King Harold sitting on a horse with an arrow in his eye. Below it there's the inscription: Keep blinking your Majesty. It will work its way out!

Undeterred I continued visiting and searching car boot sales. And that's where I found a very rare brown canary. He was going cheep ... cheep ... cheep. I was told later that he was just a sparrow, so I let him go free. He immediately pulled off all his feathers revealing beautiful yellow plumage.

Anyway ... all this is leading to what I found last week at a sale. An old manuscript which looked very ancient indeed. It was hand-written, (that's why it's called a manuscript), in some very ancient language. I could not make out what language it was, or decipher any of the letters; and neither could the seller. It looked as if it dated back centuries, perhaps even a date B.C. - can you imagine that. It was leather bound and in fairly good condition considering its age. The pages had become brown with age and you could see the writing faintly on every page.

I took it to several experts to try to identify the language it was written in. None could identify it or even place a date as to when it was written, or indeed where.

I was very excited that at last I had discovered something that was worth a fortune. Can you imagine the feeling? Holding something in my hand that years ago could have belonged to some ancient sage, or perhaps a King from a far off land, or perhaps a wizard like Merlin or such like person.

If only I knew what was written in that book and decipher its secrets. Perhaps some ancient cures to many ailments that challenge modern science, or secret recipes for longevity, or magician's potions or spells perhaps.

Eventually I took the manuscript to an ancient language expert in our library. The expert wasn't ancient. He was about fifty years old or so. His skill was deciphering ancient languages; hence him being an ancient language expert. He was also an expert of anthropology. At first I thought this was the study of how ants apologise - ant thropolofy. But he told me he studied humankind; particularly human societies and cultures.

He said: "Do you realise that whilst you've been standing here 3000 people in the world have died?"

"OK," I said, "in that case I'll stand over there!"

He smiled and explained, "What I meant to say, every time I breathe in and out one person in the world dies!"

"You should try a better mouthwash," I replied.

Anyway, he looked at the hand-written manuscript and identified it straight away.

It is a doctor's diary.

Apparently all doctors write this way.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Adverts Influence You

Have you noticed when watching TV the sound is at the volume that you have set it at; and then, as the adverts are on, the TV sound automatically goes up in volume to make sure you are paying attention. I'm sure the adverts are recorded at higher volumes deliberately to attract your attention.

Most of the adverts exaggerate the benefits you're meant to get by buying the product. Why can't they be more honest?

For instance:
Do you have a big backside?
Our corset will only help make it look smaller. 
For real results try going on a diet.

Cream will help hide away the wrinkles of ageing. 
You must not be ugly to start with.
We do our best
Nature does the rest.

Eat Jumbo Burgers for a more rounded figure.
You'll have sex appeal for women who do not care.

HUMPS for men.
The after-shave lotion that smells like a camel.
Efficient insect repellent.

For your building project
The builders from hell !!!

Pizza like Mamma used to make.
With extra additives, preservatives and colourants.
Our cheese tastes like Heaven.

Turns dirty teeth and an ugly smile
Little cleaner teeth and still an ugly smile.

For that smile you'll be stuck with.


Here's an HONEST advert I made myself 

Monday 15 July 2019

I'm not cut out to be a good Christian

I don't think I'm cut out to be a good Christian. It does not seem to work out for me.

Our church has a number of groups which we are encouraged to join in order to help other people less fortunate than ourselves in society. The sermon the other day was about the Good Samaritan and the priest encouraged us to join one or more of these groups.

I decided to visit the old people at the nearby Retirement Home and to cheer them up by reading to them. I thought they would enjoy something classical rather than the modern stuff like chick lit, or sexy books or violent ones. So I took with me a copy of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Unfortunately, I had only been reading for just over an hour when one of the residents tried to jump out of the third floor window where we were. The wardens had to stop him forcibly. Another went to the kitchenette next door and tried to commit suicide by putting her head in a pot of boiling spaghetti. She said she ignored the conventional head in the oven routine because it was electric. She ruined the spaghetti though.

A few days later I joined another group which visits hospitals and spends time with various patients. I took with me a different more cheerful book. Dante's Paradiso. I didn't consider Dante's Inferno appropriate because it does not contain much humour; and Dante's Purgatorio would no doubt confuse all non-Catholics as much as it confuses the Catholics.

This Purgatory thing is a Catholic box of confusion and I would not be able to explain it if anyone asked me anyway. I mean ... no where in the Bible is Purgatory mentioned. It sounds like a laxative to me. When Christ was on the Cross He said to the thief next to Him, Dismas was his name as I recall, Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in Paradise!" He did not say, "... but you'll have to spend some time in Purgatory first!"

Anyway ... as I was saying before my thoughts interrupted me, I took with me Dante's Paradiso. Unfortunately none of the patients I met understood Italian. Did I tell you that once in a restaurant I ordered the whole meal in Italian? The waiter did not understand a word. It was a Greek restaurant.

The following week I joined the Bereavement Group which meets every so often in group sessions in the church hall. That did not go very well either. When we stopped for a tea break the leader of the group asked me to leave because she did not think that telling jokes is an appropriate way to cheer people up at this difficult time in their lives.

A few days later I joined another group from our church. They go out at night to various parks and streets to feed the poor and the down-and-outs.

We parked the van by the roadside and it broke my heart to see literally dozens of people sitting on the wet grass waiting our arrival.

“Word soon gets around,” I was told “they tell each other that we’re here by around 10pm and every time we come there’s more of them!”

“There’s another van parked a hundred yards away,” I said.

“Yes … it’s another church. We’re glad they come too because we couldn’t cope on our own!”

I was given a big box full of pre-wrapped sandwiches which the ladies in church had prepared and I walked by the park edge handing them out as the vagrants got up and went to the van for a hot drink.

By the time I had emptied my box of sandwiches I had reached the other van from the other church.

“Hello … you are new here,” said a middle-aged lady from near her van, “I haven’t seen you before!”

“Yes … this is my first time here …” I smiled back.

“Would you like a sandwich?” she asked, “and a cup of soup? We have chicken and tomatoes, which do you prefer?”

“Oh no …” I smiled, “I don’t need anything to eat … thanks!”

“Do sit down …” she interrupted, “the chicken soup is hot and tasty … I made it myself!”

Before I could answer she was joined by another lady who said, “He’s probably shy, Mary! It’s very difficult for some of them to accept our help.”

I was about to explain when Mary interrupted again, “You look very cold my dear … this jacket you’re wearing has seen better days … we have a spare coat in the van … about your size I should say … let me get it …”

“No … no … you don’t understand,” I protested with a smile hiding the insult at my authentic 12 years old tweed jacket, “I am not one of the poor people. I came here to help with my friends from another church!”

“Now you’ve embarrassed him …” said the other lady to Mary, “either that, or the poor man is hallucinating … it happens when they’ve been drinking … does he smell of drink?”

I’ll have you know dear readers that I do not smell of drink but always of the best after-shave lotion I can buy for a few pennies down the market. This farce had got on too far and it was time I put these two lovely well-meaning ladies straight.

“Look ladies …” I said calmly yet authoritatively, “believe it or not, I am not here to ask for food or drink or clothing. I came with my friends from another church to help feed these poor people. I came in the van parked … parked … over … there!!!

“Where has the van gone? Where are my friends from my church? Did you see them leave?”

“Never mind …” said Mary in her sweet voice, “sit down here and try this soup and sandwich … I’ll go get you the coat!”

As she left I told the other woman, “I don’t know what’s going on. My friends are from St Bartholomew church. Do you know it?

“They have gone and left me stranded here … can you help me please and give me a lift in your van to the church? I left my car there!”

“Oh no …” she replied, “we’re not allowed to take passengers in our van. It’s only for us to come here and serve food …”

She walked away hurriedly and stopped Mary who was coming towards us with a coat. They both moved towards the van at speed. A man came out of the van towards me and said, “Here friend … I have something for you …” and handed me two sandwiches.

He then jumped in the van and they drove off at speed.

I gave the two sandwiches to two men sitting nearby and hurried as quickly as my legs would carry me towards the main road where I stopped a taxi and went home.

“Why did you drive off and leave me?” I asked the leader of our group when I got back to our church.

“We thought you’d gone into town to see the sites,” was the jovial unperturbed reply.

“But … but … I was wearing my cowboy hat with a large feather in it … clearly visible from afar … what do you want me to do? Put on a flashing light on top so you can see it from miles away?????”

Anyway ... unperturbed, I decided not to give up on this being a good Christian thing. So a few days later I joined the team giving out sandwiches to the poor once again. This time they drove to a nearby town I did not know so well and stopped at a street corner near a railway bridge.

I took my box of sandwiches and walked down a side street looking for vagrants who might be hungry. I approached a young woman in her thirties and as I offered her a sandwich suddenly a police car appeared from nowhere and two policemen arrested me for propositioning her.

They said it was a serious offence to frequent "ladies of the night" and that anything I said would be taken down as evidence to be used against me in court. 

They put me in the back of their car with the lady in question and my box of sandwiches. I hasten to add that neither her nor them accepted my offer of sandwiches. Although I'll admit I enjoyed the cheese and pickles one myself.

They put me in a cell at the station and I waited until our priest, Father Semolina, arrived to speak on my behalf.

When we were alone in the cell he asked me if I wished to confess for the sin of lust and wanting to "buy some good time" with a box of sandwiches. He added that this would also constitute the sin of the theft of the sandwiches which did not belong to me in the first place.

I tried to explain but I doubt very much he believed me. He said he will vouch for me with the police but it is only to keep the good name of the Catholic Church out of the newspapers.

Eventually, they released me and dropped all charges. But they kept the box of sandwiches.

As I said at the beginning, I am not cut out to be a good Christian. It is far too difficult.
 This story is dedicated to someone I know who does a lot of good work feeding the poor at night in London.