Thursday, November 26, 2009

'I still can't see that I was wrong'

So says Fern Britton in a Times interview on the subject of staying schtum about her gastric band.

Later in the same piece she is asked about her own interviews with Tony Blair and in particular whether he admitted to feeling guilt about Iraq? She continues:

“I said, ‘What about those parents whose children have lost their lives, and will not shake your hand because you have blood on them? That must be painful?” And he said, much more painful to them — they’ve lost a child — and all of that. So I said, ‘But you are the person they will always hold responsible,’ and he said, ‘Yes, yes.’ But he still believes he was right.”

No one ever admits they are wrong, I observe. “No,” she says, “it would be interesting if they did.”

Gastric band? Iraq? How do you admit you're wrong if you believe you're right?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Which War?

Gnotalex, a Canadian blogger, has a go at what he calls this global-warming farce and in so doing makes the much maligned 'War on Terror' sound a more rational option.

"To declare war on '... the 15th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It is present in all known lifeforms, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. This abundance, together with the unique diversity of organic compounds and their unusual polymer-forming ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, make this element the chemical basis of all known life. (Wikipedia)' is beyond parody; only a greedy, preening dolt (c'mon down, Al Gore!) could possibly believe it. The Canadian Government should boycott the upcoming Copenhagen conference and dare Gaia to do her worst."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Funnily enough

This young man was interviewed on the telly. He was said to be autistic.

He told us that he loves words; he's really good at learning languages; he just doesn't like talking to people.

He reminded me of the Yorkshireman who was asked by a visitor to the working-men's club whether the comedian was any good. He is if you like laughing, was his reply.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Whose side are they on?

An extraordinary and unintended comment on the ethic of public service was made today by a spokesman for the British police service. After a flood in Cockermouth, Cumbria, a police officer had been reported missing. Shortly afterwards a man's body was found washed up by the river. Although the corpse had not yet been identified the spokesman stated that they, the police, were 'pessimistic'.

They obviously feared that he might be one of theirs and not just an ordinary . . .

On choosing one's parents carefully

My mother was a troubled and tormented person, but she was not a deep thinker. She just found living life on the sort of terms that were available to her tremendously difficult.

My father by contrast was an incredibly resourceful man who would keep smiling through the worst that the world could do to him. He was the best kind of trickster. He did however entertain deep and troubling thoughts about human existence as such. He protested, philosophically, against what he saw as the supreme injustice that we human beings are not consulted about the two most important decisions affecting our lives: whether we are born, and whether we die.

A special man.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cathedral Communion

I left the chapel where the service had taken place. As I waited for the celebrant whom I had arranged to meet for a chat afterwards, my attention was drawn to a board on which were posted prayer requests. At the top was a card inscribed with a message to David (my name). It said 'Please take care. All my love to you always. From your Mum.' I felt warm. As if it were for me. I reached for an empty card and scribbled a reciprocal solicitation: 'Mum, all my love to you too. From David'.

Later that week I found myself recalling that although my father loved and was loving to me he had some difficulty understanding me. It was mother who really knew me though she did not always behave lovingly towards me.

The same evening we attended a performance of Ibsen's Ghosts. There Oswald Alving is asked by his mother whether he loves her. He replies rather, 'I know you'. I caught my breath.

Communion in more than one kind.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye cruel world

The wonderful Caitlin Moran perfectly captures the gracious quality of internet communication:

" . . . cyberspace has such a gentle civility to it as a method of communication that it makes all other alternative look like acts of borderline war. Telephones, for instance. My God, but as the days go by, they seem more and more brutal. How did we ever start using them in the first place?

"When you call someone, essentially you suddenly materialise in their life, screaming, “ME ME! ME ME! IT’S ME! TALK TO ME!” The telephone was first invented at a time when you could readily purchase cocaine in any chemist. I think we can draw our own conclusions. Using one is an act of superlative self-confidence — the kind of thing only contestants on The Apprentice would do; or, maybe, Bono."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hath not a Jew eyes . . . ?

Susan Hill getting it right again about anti-Semitism, women priests, and so much else:

"I was reading some twitter by the Archbishop of Canterbury about climate change and other nonsense, and it struck me forcibly that the man is forever dodging the real and vital issues. Why do he and his fellow Bishops and all his clergy, never speak out loud and clear, reminding their congregations that Christians and Jews are merely separate branches of a tree with a common trunk, common roots and telling them that all forms of anti-Semitism are wrong ? Wrong, sinful, wicked, evil – use whatever word you like to get the message home. It matters but I sometimes wonder if they even realise how much anti-Semitism there is out there. They’d rather waffle on about women priests. And talking of which, Paul appointed quite a few women to active positions of authority in the churches he founded in a number of different countries so the next time an Anglican clergyman who is anti-the ordination of women starts, ask him about Prisca and Aquila, to name but two. Paul had more sense than the lot of them put together."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lest We Forget

The British Soldier - Poppy Appeal

The average British soldier is 19 years old…..he is a short haired, well built lad who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears and just old enough to buy a round of drinks but old enough to die for his country – and for you. He’s not particularly keen on hard work but he’d rather be grafting in Afghanistan than unemployed in the UK . He recently left comprehensive school where he was probably an average student, played some form of sport, drove a ten year old rust bucket, and knew a girl that either broke up with him when he left, or swore to be waiting when he returns home. He moves easily to rock and roll or hip-hop or to the rattle of a 7.62mm machine gun.

He is about a stone lighter than when he left home because he is working or fighting from dawn to dusk and well beyond. He has trouble spelling, so letter writing is a pain for him, but he can strip a rifle in 25 seconds and reassemble it in the dark. He can recite every detail of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either effectively if he has to. He digs trenches and latrines without the aid of machines and can apply first aid like a professional paramedic. He can march until he is told to stop, or stay dead still until he is told to move.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation but he is not without a rebellious spirit or a sense of personal dignity. He is confidently self-sufficient. He has two sets of uniform with him: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his water bottle full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never forgets to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes and fix his own hurts. If you are thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food is your food. He'll even share his life-saving ammunition with you in the heat of a firefight if you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and regards his weapon as an extension of his own hands. He can save your life or he can take it, because that is his job - it's what a soldier does. He often works twice as long and hard as a civilian, draw half the pay and have nowhere to spend it, and can still find black ironic humour in it all. There's an old saying in the British Army: 'If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined!'

He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime. He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and he is unashamed to show it or admit it. He feels every bugle note of the 'Last Post' or 'Sunset' vibrate through his body while standing rigidly to attention. He's not afraid to 'Bollock' anyone who shows disrespect when the Regimental Colours are on display or the National Anthem is played; yet in an odd twist, he would defend anyone's right to be an individual. Just as with generations of young people before him, he is paying the price for our freedom. Clean shaven and baby faced he may be, but be prepared to defend yourself if you treat him like a kid.
He is the latest in a long thin line of British Fighting Men that have kept this country free for hundreds of years. He asks for nothing from us except our respect, friendship and understanding. We may not like what he does, but sometimes he doesn't like it either - he just has it to do.. Remember him always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have brave young women putting themselves in harm's way, doing their part in this tradition of going to war when our nation's politicians call on us to do so.

. . . say a prayer for our troops in the trouble spots of the world.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

No Quick Fix

The following words of Dorothy Rowe should be set alongside the fashionable support for cognitive behavioral therapy in the British NHS.

" . . . in therapy the presenting problem is never the real problem. In mental distress the real problem always arises from some kind of threat or insult to the sense of being a person. This can be hard to uncover, and difficult to ameliorate. It is never amenable to a quick fix."