No Trick or Treaters

Nobody bashed on the door all evening. And I’d got a big bag of sweets and everything,


I can’t understand why no kids come down here.

Unless it’s the fact the Old Rectory is next to a mediaeval churchyard.

At the end of a yew-bordered lane.

With no street lights.

And the chains in the fence do kind of rattle in the wind.

And, of course, you’ve got to walk past the stile where Jeb gibbets the foxes and crows, as an example to the others.

Apart from that, I can’t imagine what could be putting them off.

If I were to Write a Stereotype of this Government it Would Be…

People huddling together, burning unused PGCE  and B Ed syllabus books (because who needs those?) to keep warm.

In the distance a bunch of wind turbines stand around. Half have caught fire because it was so windy yesterday, the other half are just standing there, limp, because it’s dead calm today. While a taxman with a huge bag full of “green” taxes from the gas bills, goes off to give the swag to a French public servant, who’s going to add it to some more money from the Chinese Government to put a new nuclear power station in Somerset.

Outside, an unnecessary railway line – built by a bunch of people who are currently burning fivers to keep warm, because they can – carries the one train that has been delivered so far to run on the track. A train that does 180 miles an hour, and runs over the badgers which are being tied to the sleepers like women in 1920s silents films by a group of unemployed people, who have to do it to get their benefits….  The passengers  –  who thought it was worth paying extra to get to Birmingham faster – are each being given free copies of the King james Version of the Bible, individually-signed by Michael Gove.

Meanwhile, George Osborne is shouting at a group of bankers, while simultaneously pouring money on their heads.

While people whose benefits are being cut are told there’s no money left, because it’s all been thrown at the pointless train, given to pay for the wind turbines, or poured over the bankers.

Obviously, that’s just if I were to write a stereotype.

Cold sharp mornings

For me, these are the best English mornings. A cold, sharp yet sunny autumn morning, when the last blackberries glint and the firethorn berries shine red and yellow on the brown stone walls.

It’s a day for flicking to the psalms in fingerless gloves, watching the steam from your breath drift across the chancel and planning to walk down the lanes to raise an appetite before lunch.

Obviously, far away in real life there are people hacking into London to work, and people working long hours running farms while every year they have fewer employees. But never mind. I’ve got my idyll and I’m sticking with it.

May invite Sally round later and mull some wine before Evensong.

Reuse, Recycle, Revelation

That Revd Nathan’s a crafty one.

Last Sunday, I sneaked along to Grilsby-on the-Hill, as the early start meant I could make it to the Saints game. Well, they’ve had a bad start to the season. And some help was clearly needed. And, since I found out Old Mr Jones couldn’t make it due to his knee op, it was the perfect opportunity to go along and see some rugby.

So Nathan preaches on 2 Tim 6 – all about the word of God, and how it’s there to inspire us. Good stuff.

So this morning, back at base camp at Great Tremlett, and Nathan preaches – and stone the crows, it’s the same sermon. A slight tweak to put Jesus’s reading of the scroll in, but otherwise – word for word, illustration for illustration – the same sermon. I grabbed him afterwards.

“Oi,” I said, “what’s with preaching the same sermon two weeks running?”

He politely requested I take my hands off the ends of his stole – he had to use sign language, and had gone a strange purple colour – and then he explained that, in his opinion, it’s perfectly reasonable to use the same sermon twice. Not least as, there being a baptism at Gt Tremlett, he’d preached on the baptism and not on the text.

Well I’m shocked. Vicars travelling around the country, re-using their material like stand up comics? Not handcrafting new sermons for each special occasion? Dreadful. I think we should be requesting a refund on the Parish share.

Endorsements on my LinkedIn Licence

I’ve spent quite a while removing all the endorsements from my LinkedIn profile. Honestly, the things some people big you up for.

Now it’s nice of them to be so affirming, but it’s not exactly encouraging. It makes me think they may be wildly endorsing stuff in the hope I’ll endorse them back.  And my expertise in horse whispering, lorry driving, bungee safety inspection, programme management, wheel-changing, marine biology, forestry management, dandruff treatment, origami, airport hospitality, Java programming, peacock (and peahen, presumably) breeding and veterinary science are all less than my LinkedIn endorsements would have you believe.

So I’ve taken radical action. I’ve done the equivalent of unfollowing everybody. And I’ve removed all endorsements. It’s murder – you’d never believe how hard it is to take things off LinkedIn.

Anyway, it’s done now. So the good news is, things will get better. The bad news is, I reckon I’ve got about a month before the phone calls from recruitment consultants specialising in peafowl fertility stop phoning me.

To an Unknown God or Goddess


The image above is an offering at the Rollright Stones that were left over the last day or two. Don’t know who by.

There are some of us who hold Religion and Science as near-parallel layers in our minds – giving us alternative views on life, sometimes overlapping or interpenetrating. The either/or view of fundamentalists don’t really work for us. Like an electron flying through a diffraction grating we choose both options. And for me, the Christian religion, with its mystery and yet incarnational grounding,  reflects and underpins the world we live in.

Yet for others – and understandably – Christianity is a bore, or an institution that grinds intolerance into the pattern of its life from 1,700 years of accommodation with Empire – the religion of the powerful and the oppressor, of the white and the straight and the male.

Yet they don’t necessarily – whatever some might hope – go off to a bright, sterile, godless, hygienic future. Sure, there’s wonder in science – but a hollow wonder in the end. Some of us can see the awe in it – but still want to know the awe below it, the terror behind it.

We don’t know the name or names of the  god, goddess or goddesses and gods that were worshipped at the Rollrights. They sure weren’t Roman, Norse or Germanic ones – and there’s no  particular reason to think they were the Celtic ones, either. They are unknown – shadows guessed at from carvings, grave goods and a dash or two of wishful thinking. But a bunch of fruit and flowers on a Cotswold hilltop tells us that, for some people, the spirit still lives in a god-forsaken age.

The Vicar’s Day Off

I’ll be honest, I was a bit surprised.

When I told Revd Nathan that I was happy to help organise the “Bashy Church”, I realised that – this being the Church of England – a committee would be required.

And I realised that, Anglican priests being the sort of people they are, Revd Nathan himself would ensure he was on the committee.

But when he suggested tomorrow afternoon – as he was “free” then – I was a bit surprised. After all, it is his day off. The meeting’s at 3.30. But the vicar may be a bit late. He has an assembly at 2.30, after all. And the Reader’s away on a holiday, so Nathan needs to get off to lead Evening Prayer at 5. 

Still, that seems fair enough, the vicar doing church stuff on his day off. After all, that’s when the rest of us do it, isn’t it? OK, he had a hard day today – the four services, one of them a baptism with 200 extra worshippers, were a bit much – but he normally just has the three.

Worshipping in the High Places

I’ve been turning the house upside down, trying to find an old Spring Harvest worship tape from the – I think – early 1990s. Could even be late 80s. I was there, going through a keen and evangelical phase (I was both, once) and I bought the tape. And I noticed it when I moved, and put it in a box somewhere.

It’s got Chris Bowater on it, leading a song. A decent singer and songwriter, Chris Bowater. But on this occasion he got my goat. Just one thing he said. If you find the tape, there’s some song where he says something along the lines of “Now I don’t want to offend anyone, but I think it would be really good if everybody put their hands in the air….” 

I want to play that tape really loud. Because I reckon, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the thump just after that, where I hit the bloody ceiling.



Misty Mornings

And so a gentle, enfolding mist clasps the gentle hills and lush valleys of the Heart of England.

In a mist, the outlines of things soften and blur, edges become frayed. And then we read Morning Prayer and I think to myself – that’s not very blurry at all, is it? The torture and martyrdom of Jewish young men in Maccabbees, and Jesus telling us that the World will hate us, if we belong to him.

And so a sudden sharpness – like a hi-viz-clad cyclist, picked out in a headlight, reveals itself to us. Have we blurred the edges too much? Where does being in the world lead us to becoming also of it? When should we not follow this world – and where should we be leading it?

Maybe I’ll forget these musings for now – instead with getting on with making chutney with the bounty of tomatoes and cooking apples with which I’m blessed. It may not be terribly right – but at least I know it’s not wrong.