Friday, 28 December 2012

The tale of the African bishop's legover

Last week, on a walk with my Mum, I found this photogenic object.

Called MV Chica, she has a good war record. She (the boat, not my Mum), ran guns through the Mediterranean, smuggled cigarettes and alcohol through the Straights of Gibraltar and according to local folklore, was one of the "little ships" that saved lives at Dunkirk.

Switching sides later in 1940, she is believed to have been a German supply ship sailing inshore waters around Trondheim.

Apparently, an African bishop once "swung his leg over a Chica hammock".  My research has failed to come up with any primary sources to confirm this but I shall believe it none the less.

She now lies rotting at Dutton Lock, near Weaverham, Cheshire.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Women taken in adultery

It was all rather simple for Jesus. He only had one woman taken in adultery to deal with.

Pity the poor civil servants trying to draft the gay marriage legislation. Seems a legal definition of lesbian adultery (to say nothing of consummation) is proving difficult to arrive at.

Apparently, they are going to leave it to the courts to define.

Taxi to the public gallery of the Family Division of the High Court please.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Speaking as a 'Mucky Monk'

Mostly, this blog is better when I talk about things of personal, rather than national interest. My apologies for boring you with yet another opinion on a matter of national interest.

Having appeared in a tabloid as a 'Mucky Monk', I enjoy a crossover on this one.

I have read Lord Levenson's report (in Executive Summary). I agree with all his findings (apart from those relating to Data Protection, which I do not fully understand.)

I urge you to sign the 'Hacked Off' petition. It is right and good.

Love, but do not trust your friends who are journalists, on this matter.

Their opinion, like mine, is not to be taken at face value.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Women Bishops

Apparently no, we're not.

The Rev Rachel Weir, chairwoman of Watch, said tonight: 
"This is a tragic day for the Church of England after so many years of debate and after all our attempts at compromise."

That's as maybe, but it is because of the years of compromise that we still insist on penis episcopii.

If the 1992 measure which embodied discrimination against women  ( "allowing" them to be priests but not bishops) had been defeated, a new measure, that did not discriminate, would have been passed within a decade and Rowan's successor might well have been a woman.

Jesus didn't compromise and it's about bloody time the Church of England stopped doing so. The victorious opponents of today's measure learnt that lesson a long time ago.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

What do we search for?

Over the last year the top ten search terms that have driven traffic to this blog are, in order :

1. "Shit happens"
2. "Cows"
3. "Adrella"
4. "Freddie Mills boxer"
5. "Pictures of cows"
6. "Waste of time"
7. "Jessica Ennis parents"
8. "Soundscape"
9. "Anglesey Abbey"
10. "Herbaceous border"

I'm not unhappy with that list.

Friday, 16 November 2012


I had a difficult meeting with my poorly friend's Consultant today.

I like her a lot, but disagree with her.

My poorly friend will die soon. On that we are agreed. How, and when, is of course up to him.

In the meantime, there is a bit of a battle going on.

I wish he had more power.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Right words. Wrong Order.

Far be it from me to rearrange Oscar Wilde but ...

Might some of the reporting of the current furore surrounding "child sex abuse" be described as  "A Serious Comedy for Trivial People"?


Church or Chapel?

In times of trouble, I have, for better or for worse, often found that Church has helped.

It is very rare for me to deviate and go to chapel instead.

It often surprises me that, as a non-conformist, how little not conforming in matters of faith appeals to me.

Tonight, though, some very dear friends took me to chapel.

It helped enormously that the chapel in question is now a restaurant called Le Chapelle, is within walking distance of home and serves lamb that is softer than butter.

As for the wine, I quote Ralph Waldo Emerson :

"Give me wine to wash me clean of the weather-stains of care."

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Being with the dying

Last night I was called to the hospital because my poorly friend had been asking for, and was being given, a lot of morphine and the consensus was that he might lose consciousness in the next few hours.

I took the call during the interval of  Vaughan Williams' Pilgrim's Progress. Reassured by medical staff that I could stay for the second half and watch the hero die, I did so, before heading off to be with my friend whilst he did the same.

When I got to the hospital the opiates were indeed doing their job. He was very sleepy. We dimmed the lights, I held his hand and, stuck for other conversation, treated him to a rather poor critique of a very poor production as he drifted off to sleep.

Once I was assured that he was both asleep and would "live 'til morning", I came home. I slept, showered and cleared my diary.
I returned to the hospital today prepared for the last 'vigil', however long that might take.

I found him, sitting up in bed, asking not for morphine, but a Macdonalds chocolate milk shake, and wanting to know why he hadn't had any visitors all day.

Now I have a clear diary for the week. Result.
To be with the dying is a roller coaster. It has its highs and lows. It is a privilege like no other, and makes me feel very alive.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

An anti-gay Archbishop?

For pity's sake.

He's not anti-gay anymore than I am.

He apparently shares my reservations about the secular world claiming the sacraments of the church as its own, but that's not "anti-gay". Any more than difficulty with divorce is "anti-straight".

Unlike the previous three Archbishops of Canterbury, this one hasn't had the privilege of meeting me and until he does, I shall hold my fire.

Until then....

I know nothing about him other than what I'm told by Giles Fraser and Ruth Gledhill (and I trust both of them as much as I trust an untrustworthy thing). Not much to go on.

There's no reason on earth that the rational and secular amongst you should share this feeling, but :

I am pleased that the Anglican Communion, of which I am a part, has alighted upon a new head.

I will shout at him louder than most of you when he gets it wrong.

But for now, I feel great affection and gratitude towards a man I've never met, who has apparently agreed to take on a role I wouldn't wish on my own worst enemy.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Shameless Plagiarism

I don't normally indulge in plagiarism because it's naughty. I prefer to call it quoting.

And so I quote from a Facebook status :
"A note to the film crew who are still swarming all over my locale. In case you hadn't noticed, you are location filming on a council estate in the East End of London. Consequently, you're gonna have to accept that 24-7 hollering is par for the course, so can you please desist from telling residents to shush the fuck up. Not only is it futile, but it's demeaning to how we choose to live around here."
The woman who wrote this is wonderful - and that's just one reason I am proud and delighted she volunteers in an East End bookshop I know and love.

Monday, 5 November 2012

How to pick a leader

Tomorrow, after a campaign costing $6bn, about half the population of the United States will bother to express a preference for President.

On Thursday, the Politburo in Bejing will inform us who they have decided should govern China for the next decade.

Yesterday the Coptic church chose their new Pope who will lead their 18 million members. A child, himself picked by ballot, was blindfolded and drew the name of the new Pope from a glass bowl containing three names.

As a way of choosing a leader, I'm with the Coptics.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

How to screw EDF

The first fire of the season. My house is warm again.

The wood you see burning has a tale to tell.

Eighteen months ago, it was tree, growing in the playground of our local parish primary school.

The Headteacher, believing correctly it to be a hazard, caused it to be cut down. The local authority, which employs her, disagreed, and fined her for tree abuse.

Her school duly paid the fine into the coffers from which her budget comes.

Walking past I spotted the, by now horizontal tree, and at the suggestion of the Churchwarden, agreed with said Headteacher that I should pay a sum that matched the fine, to a parent at the school  to chop it up and bring it to my house.

My house is now warm. I am warm. The tree has fulfilled its destiny. And not having used the central heating, EDF have gained nothing.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Day of the Dead

I had a notion earlier that I should name online all those I have loved but are now dead.

Stephen was one, Jack was another, and David was a third.

After that I gave up. Several hundred names would bore you.

As a gay man who has lived for thirty years  through an epidemic that was both avoidable and preventable, the names of those who died are less important than the determination of all of us, that future deaths should be avoided.

Here's a hint.

An interesting day

Yesterday was many things. And on the whole I'm glad it's drawn to a close.

One friend died. Another texted from his hospital bed to tell me he was "in agony".

The builder tells me that the leak in the roof is "nothing trivial" and that it involves a 'coping stone'. Oh dear.

I spoke with a silly man with whom I have conducted a twenty year feud and found myself to be generous in a way I now regret. I should have told him he was a twat. (He is.)

And to make matters worse... It's World Vegan Day.

 On the other hand, it was All Saint's Day.

I heard Mass, sung to a glorious Mozart setting.

Alone, and with others, I rejoiced in the lives of the saintly who "have gone before us".

Tomorrow (today?) is All Soul's Day when we remember the naughty,  misbehaved and just like us.

I fully expect it to be a better day.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Bigots never won fair maids. Calling people bigots won even fewer.

Gordon Brown calling this woman a bigot in 2010 played no small part in landing us with what Norman Tebbit recently characterised as a 'dog of a coalition'.

And now Stonewall are in financial bother for the same thing.

Barclays are threatening to withdraw their sponsorship from Stonewall's annual awards ceremony this year if the award for 'Bigot of the Year'  is not withdrawn.

Apart from the very poor shortlist, that particlar award has probably run its course.

Would it be ever so radical to suggest we stopped the name calling, figured out that Barclays do far more harm than the odd dotty cleric and grew up a bit?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Loveliest of trees the cherries now

Loveliest of trees the cherry now...

And they were lovely. Insofar as I ever grew up, I did so in this street; only we called it a "road", Bower Road, Hale, Cheshire.

My first paid job was as Head Chorister in the church you see in the far distance and my second, was delivering milk, from the float you also see.

However, there was a dark side.

At the back of the house, my french penpal, who we learned to call Freddie, kept my sister captive in a cage, with a rabbit.

I forget for how long but I'm told she is now free.

I forget the rabbits name.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

An eye opener

I first moved to Tower Hamlets in 1979 when I was seventeen. I've lived elsewhere since.  I have tried rural Cambridgeshire, monastic life in France and Hell's Kitchen in New York, and at least a dozen places in between. I enjoyed them all but time and time again I have returned to Tower Hamlets.

I often ask myself why.

This evening I gained some insight.

An extraordinary exhibition of photographs by the likes of Andrew Grainger, Abdul Hamid, and several others, who were either not born or elsewhere when I arrived, has captured the spirit of this amazing place.

As Abdul Hamid says : "I like to draw links between words and pictures to create small stories that people can read into."

I urge you. Go see the pictures. Talk to the people who created them. And wherever you live, learn how to root yourself as they have done.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Half a lifetime ago

Half a lifetime ago my best friend and I resolved, that whatever else was happening in our lives, we would have dinner together on the third Saturday of October.

We have just done that for the twenty fourth time.

There is no appropriate photograph to accompany such an event. So here is one of me picking my nose when I was eight.

Monday, 15 October 2012

What did you do in the storm Daddy?

A quarter of a century ago tonight the great storm swept across southern England. Many of us have our memories and as much as anything it behoves us to remember the twenty two people who died that night.

I have my own particular memory. It was that night, with spectacularly bad timing, that I left the Franciscan community in which I was a novice. I had fallen in love with the Bursar and we had chosen that night to depart.

We borrowed a car and drove from the Friary in Dorset to friends in rural Kent. We were an hour or so ahead of the centre of the storm but it was certainly wet and windy.  I was still driving on a Provisional Licence with ‘L’ plates. As with so many momentous occasions in life it is hard at this distance to distinguish between fact and reconstruction, but I do recall the Magic Roundabout in Swindon being an interesting learning experience.

We arrived at Chiddingstone vicarage in the early hours of the next morning and went to bed.

When we awoke the next morning any thought of rest and recuperation or the chance to reflect on what we had done was banished.  All roads to the village were blocked by fallen trees, the vicarage garden resembled a Canadian logging station.  Genuine care and concern was proffered by our friends for as long as breakfast lasted and then we were handed chain saws. We chopped and sawed and carried fallen trees for three days.  No time for navel gazing and that was a jolly good thing.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Luncheon, censorship and pillow biting

I shall lunch at the National Liberal Club tomorrow.

It is a fine place and supposedly where, in the 1970's, Norman Scott found himself biting the pillow whilst being buggered by Jeremy Thorpe. I understand such dastardly allegations were never proven in court so I should be a little bit careful. But. (Anyone under 45 may need to engage with the internet to discover that the Liberal Party did, once upon a time, mean something more than " I agree with Nick".)

At the time, my Great Aunt Catherine had forthright views on buggery. She once memorably shared them with the room. Me being a teenager, she believed me to be asleep. I wasn't. That's another story.

I shall lunch  tomorrow to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of a little recognised but important milestone in our struggle to challenge such views.

In 1992 a book was commissioned by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK). It was a book to aid those of us, not only afflicted by Christianity but by a homosexual identity also.

At the last minute, under pressure from George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury (and lately a star turn in Birmingham) the book was banned by SPCK.

A to do and hoo ha ensued. Placards and battle lines were drawn. Trouble occurred. But, two decades ago - the book was  published by people with more courage

Raise a glass with me tomorrow to the people, not least Dr Elizabeth Stuart, who made it all happen.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The next Berlusconi?

Anyone who stands for election on a ticket called "Dream" should be distrusted.

Anyone who seeks to govern a country with a GDP less than half his personal wealth should be distrusted.

This man is to be distrusted.

However, within a year, and probably sooner, he will have total control of a country I visited earlier this year and where I left a little bit of my heart.

Some decades ago I pissed off people who knew better than I, by asserting that the election of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe would not end well.

The election of Bidzina Ivanishvilli in Georgia will not end well.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Wigtown Book Festival

Coming down from a week on the Galloway moors I was lucky enough  to spend an afternoon at the Wigtown Book Festival.

I attended a discussion on the legacy of Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring' published fifty years ago and held by many to have heralded what we now call the 'Green Movement'.

The Wigtown Festival is very special. It is small, intimate and hospitable to both participants and audience in equal measure, in ways larger festivals simply cannot be.

It runs until the end of the week. Too late for this year? Then do give serious consideration to next.  It's a doddle to get to if you live in south-west Scotland. If you are unfortunate enough to live elsewhere, then it and its surroundings, will more than reward whatever effort you need make to get there.

I'll see you in the bar of the Bladnoch Inn.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Pussy Riot

I am glad I wasn’t born in Russia. Living there is not easy. The weather and the food would try my patience. The Czar would not have been my friend. I would have been murdered by Stalin. I would not have thrived under the later Soviets, and I doubt very much that I would prosper under Vladimir Putin.

Had I been born in Russia, in any of those periods, I do wonder if I would have thought it kind or proper, to stand before the High Altar of the Cathedral and register my protest addressing the “Mother of God” using the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ whilst people poorer, simpler, and less able than I were present, saying their prayers and trying to get through their day too.

It is an outrage that, having apologised for their misjudgement, the members of “Pussy Riot” should not be forgiven by the Patriarch (Colossians 3.13).

My hope tonight, is that the three women jailed today knew what they doing and are prepared for the consequences.

Because the consequences will be horrible.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Religious Nut Job

My traveling companion took to introducing me to his Georgian friends as a "religious nut job".

I can see his point.

On our way to Georgia, we paused in Istanbul.

It was a Friday evening during Ramadan, and I found myself profoundly moved to be praying at The Blue Mosque.

Later on our trip,  I found myself praying here. At the church of The Holy Trinity, Gergeti. (42.49.0504N 44.51.68284E)

In order to do so we had to get a little over a quarter of the height of Everest and to the highest place on earth I have ever been.

The physical exertion was rewarded by finding myself at the most spectacularly located place of worship I have ever visited.

I commend religious nut jobness to you all.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

I know my limits

My Georgian is limited to the word for "Thank you".

I felt it prudent not to enter this establishment in Batumi.

Any attempt to enquire what precisely was on offer, might have led to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

London 2012

Commenting on the Opening Ceremony the Daily Mail's website said,

"This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up."

Pictured are Jessica Ennis, her parents and fiancee.

They look happy enough to me.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Georgian cuisine

After ten days I thought I'd be happy to eat anything that wasn't a plate of tomato and cucumber, fried potato and mushroom or unidentifiable pig parts.

However I had second thoughts when this menu was put in front of me

Georgian hospitality is second to none but it seems this chap got a warmer welcome than expected.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


I have, of late, taken to imposing a fine of a pound on anyone misusing the word awesome in my hearing.

A surprising number of the guilty, once the error of their ways is pointed out, pay up without protest and resolve not to sin again.

The encore at tonight's Late Prom given by the Kronos Quartet was Clint Mansell's piece 'Death is the Road to Awe'.

Check it out on I-Player dudes.  It was awesome.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Olympics vs Grindr

As the Olympics begin and ruin all our lives.... 

I like many others, have underestimated their impact on our local community.

Within hours of the Olympic athletes arriving in London, the Sun newspaper reports that the GPS based gay 'dating' website Grindr crashed, with their server claiming "overuse".

I'm beginning to regret my decision to flee the city of my birth.

To those that ARE staying.  Please look after the Russian weightlifters for me......

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Banks are tits

It is tempting to despair.

Barclays fix Libor.

 HSBC launder drug money.

The rest...  well we're waiting on that one.

Oh - if you are wondering - the image on the left is what you get if you do a Google Images search for "Banks".

She's called Tyra, apparently.

Might it be time to give up?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Soundscape on a sunny Sunday

It being a sunny Sunday, lunch was called for.

A small collection of planned for, and unplanned for people, assembled in the garden.

As I repaired to the kitchen to interview cook, a sound came upon me.

Laughter. Pure, unadulterated laughter. From people who knew each other and from those that didn't. Joy. Just joy.

Oh. And then I washed up to Wagner.

Please, St Swithen. Let it stop raining.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Higgs Boson goes to Church

The Higgs Boson particle goes to church.

The priest says "Go away, we don't need you here".

Higgs Boson says "Fine Father, but on your head be it. Without me, you don't have Mass."

Monday, 9 July 2012

Mulieres episcopi

In 1992 I caused enormous personal upset in my parish when, encouraged by a priest called Rowan Williams, I voted against the Measure that led to women being ordained as priests in the Church of England.

I did so on the grounds that the Measure, in denying women admission to the Episcopate, embodied discrimination and had no place in the Church.

However the Measure was passed and the Church, and particularly women called by God to serve it as Bishops, have endured a further two decades of VD.  (Vocation denial.)

Had the 1992 Measure been rejected we would have had women serving as Bishops for a decade by now. Today's vote shows that General Synod have learned from the 1992 mistake and appear unwilling to repeat it.

Deo Gracias.

I was asked recently by a friend whether the word 'compromise' had any part in my vocabulary. The answer in 2012 is the same as it was in 1992.

In that at least, I have the luxury of being able to remain consistent.

Deo double Gracias.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A lesson to learn

At this evening's concert given by The Giltspur Singers we enjoyed Ravel's 'Nicolette'.

Nicolette has a great deal to teach us.

She turned down the "handsome page with blue hose and grey doublet".

Instead she plumped for "a grey haired Lord, twisted, ugly, arrogant and potbellied" who asked :

"Hey there, my Nicolette, would you like all of these gold coins?"

Quickly she ran into his arms.

What a sensible girl.