Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tickle me 'ell-no

When ladies of an age to know better are left outside by their mates to finish their fag it'd be rude not to say something. I can stand stony faced and immovable when needed but for punters who've yet to warrant it I'll try not to be rude.
I'll often say some banal line to asses whether their up for conversation or happy in their own company. However ladies of a certain age and inebriation are a little too eager to talk and in about 3 seconds I'll be regretting opening my mouth. 3 hours later I'll still be regretting it.
In my head I'm answering. No I'm not single, no I'm not interested, no I'm not interested in your 4 children either. I'm not bothered that your ex used to cheat on you, nor am I bothered that you're really horny, or that your mates have all pulled. I'd rather rip off my own ears than have you flirt with me. I am not cuddly, sexy, or ticklish.
In reality I'm giving monosyllabic answers and hardening my body language and avoiding eye contact.
This is not easy to do when my colleague, who wisely kept his trap shut for the first 5 seconds, keeps rotating between telling the drunken tart details about me and sniggering and snickering like a tit or making lewd suggestions down the radio for only my ears and the rest of the team to laugh at.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Delusions of Grandeur

(Or possibly delusions of adequacy.)

I have a lovely wife. I have photogenic daughters...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So, my Headteacher said...

There's a lot of talk about early retirement at the moment: anyone over 50 is being approached. Apparently if the school can make a case for you as an economic saving, the Local Authority is likely to accept your application. We have a major education restructuring on the horizon, so it makes sense.

I was called in (not that I am anywhere near fifty, you understand). During the conversation the Head said

"If you feel a bit stale, why don't you organise a school outing?"

I don't know: how would I find out who the gay kids are?

Still, if that's what he wants......

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's a funny business this pastor training lark.

The college bit is fine, even with the chellenge of holding down a full time job and maintaining family life and a hobby while studying (although that has its moments, obviously). The mutual support and sense of routine is very comforting and reassuring and often great fun. The relationships are also very important, but they won't always be there. I finish this summer.

On the other hand it has become quite lonely.

Is this typical or is it just me?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Put it away

When you work in a team, each brings their own skills and assets. They also bring their flaws.
One former colleague used to bring his love life to work. He was old enough to know better, had an ex-wife and kids. He also had a haircut not usually seen on anyone over 17.
He'd be energetic and keen at work, when stuff was kicking off or going to. He belonged to the 'he ran into my fist repeatedly' school of doorwork but wasn't at the top of the class.
He would however spend quiet nights having extended text flirts with his current stock of ladies. I think they may not have been very ladylike but they were female with a pulse and usually big shoes, fake blond hair and a conspicuous absence of sense. On some nights, I speculate here, but ones when he was out of battery he'd be chatting away to ladies, continuously. Not the 'how you doing?', 'what you been up to?' kind of nattering, more the 'do you wanna sit on my cock?'.
This got tedious when these lines worked. Instead of taking the early bath offered as the club calmed down, he often did this to drive his small loud car too fast to his lady for the night, he'd stay on, getting paid whilst sitting in a dark corner, ignoring his radio and getting some heavy petting done.
He wasn't the best fun to work with unless it was rammed and hectic. Every other time you just wish he'd taken the bromine rather than the pro-plus.

Oh yes!!!

Comment: What more is there to say?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An historic occasion...

(...only slightly marred by Pluralist telling me that it wasn't as historic as I had believed. Oh well, there you go, then.)

I was in the dark and freezing car park at church house at 7.45 for an 8.00am departure.

Just me.

I ring Pastor Mark who lives in Middlesborough. "Where are you?"

"On my way, only the minbus has a capped speed of 62mph. I've never driven this slow in my life. I'll be there at about 8.40. You're very early for an 8.30 meet."


In addition my key won't work in the back door lock and the secret key isn't the same, so I can't even get in to make myself a cuppa and wait.

Double Bugger.

I drive home.

"Has it been cancelled?" Sleepily from the bedroom.

I return and am gratified to discover I am not the first as Pastor Libby is there with Annette and a very excited dog. Annette won't be going though as she has a kidney infection and has just dropped Libby off. Libby and I leave Annette to walk the dog and go and make a hot drink. Libby reels of a list of those who won't now be going with us for various reasons. A minibus seems to be a bit ambitious in the light of this one feels. The phone rings.

"It's me, Annette. Let me in: my backdoor key won't work."

Jennifer, Bishop Walter's wife arrives ten minutes later as Pastor Mark draws up with his wife and their three very smart offspring ranging from 17-21. Livia, with walking stick, and Dr. John who lives in the church house make up the number.

Bishop Walter is already in London having only just returned from some important conference in Mexico.

The journey down is uneventful - I must have slept, it seemed to pass quickly - until we reach the outskirts of London. We are seven miles from the church which is right by St. Paul's Cathedral and we have an hour to go. Kilburn High St. is a nose to tail nightmare and, we discover later, an underground line is out of commission. Jennifer keeps taking increasingly worried calls from Joan who had gone down yesterday by train. Mark's wife Khadi and daughter Lydia start to change in the mimibus. I am most impressed as Khadi is in the front seat and in full view of anyone. She smiles sweetly at anyone who glances her way. Mark remains serene.

It is at this point that Jennifer tells us that she has been missed off the official guest list. All the other bigwigs are mentioned with their wives but not, it seems, the wife of the presiding Bishop. She is incognito. With her usual aplomb she isn't the slightest bit bothered.

The traffic is at a standstill and Mark's sat-nav says 1.5 miles to the destination and we have 13 minutes left. He has been proud of this gadget and it felt churlish to point out that the M1 joins Leeds to London so it actually fairly hard to go wrong.

Livia points out that the minibus has a yellow light on the roof and we are at the point of seriously considering putting it on flash when the traffic opens up and we are on our way again. Notwithstanding roadworks and diversions we arrive at Gresham St. with three minutes to spare. We all disembark in various stages of readiness and I take my robes, Mark's robes and Bishop Walter's staff and Libby and I head for the Wax Chandlers' Hall. The others head for St. Anne's and Mark goes in search of a parking space.

As I enter the hall I am greeted by a member of staff.

"This way for robing, Your Grace."


The room is packed. I have never seen so many clergy in one place. The Provisional Wing of the C.of E. (The Mothers Union) could have taken the European Lutheran Church out in one deft manouvre had it known.

Everyone else is robed already and Libby and I feel disapproving stares, but confident that Mark, who is a fair few collar sizes bigger than me will make a bigger and a later entrance (hopefully he will make an entrance at some stage), I ignore them and robe quickly, conscious that I have missed all the instructions of who goes where.

Mark does not disappoint, walking straight past Libby and I and his robes and into a phalanx of continental bishops.

Ruffled feathers smoothed and Mark robed with the assistance of Libby - above and beyond the call of duty I felt (the woman is a saint) - we are off. I insinuate myself into the fourth row of pairs behind the crucifer, confident that if I follow the one in front I can't go wrong.

Gresham St. is a quiet street. We do not stop traffic. There isn't any. No-one notices our procession to St Anne's and I feel a pang of regret.

The church is full and I duly follow the one in front to a reserved seat and find that I am behind the pulpit and therefore my view of the key events will be non existant.


Nevertheless it is a wonderful service with fantastic music and it follows seemlessly. The sermon is given by the Bishop of Lund the Rt. Rev'd Antje Jackelin and she makes a storming job of it, concentrating on Job's cry "I know that my redeemer lives." The consecration, when it comes, (not the beatification as one of Mark's sons endearingly called it) is conducted by Bishop Walter, the Rt. Rev'd Alex Gehazi Malasuza of Tanzania and the Rt. Rev'd Elmars Rozitis of Latvia. This bit I miss because of the pulpit. All the way from Leeds and I don't get to see her burst into spontaneous combustion through the Holy Spirit! Still many have come further and deserve a better view so I contemplate the benefits of humility. The exercise is something of a failure.

There is a Eucharist and the Peace is that wonderful chaos that tipifies such gatherings.


I exchange the Peace with the Rt. Rev'd Rupert Hoare of Liverpool and some luminary from the Lutheran World Federation from Geneva. The Eritrean and Swahili congregations both provide wonderful choirs and the intercessions are led by Latvian and Chinese Pastors, a Methodist minister and a Swahili lay member.

Jana passes through it all with a calm regality.


We process out and back to the Wax Chandler's Hall where we disrobe and head upstairs for a reception. It is here that I find myself chatting to a Finnish Bishop, various Latvians, a wonderful Dutch lady whose name I never had a hope of pronouncing and the Rev'd Dr. Ishmael Noko of Zimabawe who is the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Sadly there are no Estonians.

There is a lot of bubbly.

There are also a great many speeches and toasts. Each one seems to require a whole glass of champagne and at one point I seem to have my own personal waiter. It's a hard life. I have my photo taken with Bishop Jana. (Doesn't that sound good?) It is at the top of the page and I am grinning like a loon and saying "This is my Bishop".

Emeritus Bishop Walter seeks me out to introduce me to a charming German Pastor whose name badge I only partly catch. He is called Norbert.

"This is him." Says Walter to Norbert. I have no idea what is going on but enter into the spirit of the conversation with good humour. It seems Pastor (Bishop?) Norbert and his committee is responsible for paying my college fees.

I had not known this. It would have been nice to have been freed from that worry. Bishop Walter is on the left and Norbert the right. Thank you Sir. I am deeply indebted to your kindness and generosity and that of your committee.


Suddenly we are all departing and I am standing waiting for the rest, holding Bishop Walter's staff.

"Suits you." says Marlies, a Lay Minister from Nottingham.

"Well it's the closest I'll get." I quip.

"Oh I don't know" she smiles.

Maris, a dashing young Latvian Pastor tries it out for size. He suits it better.

We arrange to drop Marlies off at Kings Cross station, ten minute's drive from St. Anne's, for her train to Nottingham. Mark sets the sat-nav and we immediately cross the Thames. For those unfamiliar to Britsh geography Leeds is north of London. I (foolishly) supress my misgivings. We have a lovely tour of Southwark and other highlights of South London before Mark resets the sat-nav and we cross the river again. Any hope that no-one elese noticed is blown at this point. It takes us about an hour to find Kings Cross. As Jennifer wryly commented, we could have taken Marlies back to Nottingham and still made better time.

Bishop Walter comes into his own as a back seat driver at this point.

"You should have turned left there Mark."

I wonder if it is an offence against church canons to tell a Bishop, even a Bishop Emeritus, to zip it. We drop Marlies off at Kings Cross.

"Thanks for travelling with Mark's mystery tours."

We stop in Kilburn High St. for Mark, Dr. John, Ben and Josh to buy a Kebab.

"Salmonella for four anyone?" They looked and smelled totally toxic. Disgusting. Jennifer and Livia are vegetarian and the bus smelt all the way back.

It is a long journey not helped by the long detour aroung Derby caused by the moterway being shut between junctions 25 and 26. I overhear Walter telling Jennifer about a forthcoming trip to South Africa. Should I engage my Bishop in a conversation about Environmental Ethics? Perhaps not at 12.30 am when he is, in his own terms, jat-legged.

I worship at the altar of St. Ipod, getting through all of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Elgar's Enigma Variations, Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Shostakovich's Jazz Suite.

I fall into bed at 1 am. A long day but so, so worth it.

Every Blessing on you Bishop Jana. You are going to be a great blessing to many.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Go Blind

Working on your own, will only lead to one thing. If you're working on your todd it really has to be a small venue, with little trouble, probably little passing grief and a sensible clientele. Potentially you'll have other staff nearby to lend a hand if needed.
It's not recommended but in a small place the manager just can't justify a pair and are asked by the local plod to obey the letter of their licence and employ doorstaff when asked to by the self same local plod. Would be corrupt if any plod ever moonlighted as doorstaff but they don't, ever, it seems.
You'll never get everything right. If you're on your own it's only your judgement keeping things as they need be. There's no need to be superman. You're not expected to turf out a full football team's worth of drunken muppets. Maybe don't be letting them in but if they're in, just turn off the beer and be polite and on your toes. If they go aggressive keep the other punters safe and wait for the blue light taxi tag team to get there.
You do have to have good self confidence, a good manner with folks and a good few ways to keep yourself amused. The one thing you will always face is boredom. Having done open 'til close shifts on a football saturday on my todd, in the grey winter, it is all about boredom. It's the one thing you're going to have to beat every hour of every night every week.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Tomorrow Pastor Jana becomes Bishop Jana, so I will be piling into a minibus for the trip to London for the occasion. Pastor Mark is driving: be afraid, be very afraid! I also the suspect that the congregation's phantom farter (who I think I may now have identified) will be travelling with us. Fruity!

It is something of a surprise to me that there has not been any media interest so far as I can see. I know the British media don't really concentrate on religion unless the story has some prurient content or is about Archbishop Rowan, (or ideally both) but I would have thought that the consecration of Britian's first woman Bishop would be an event worth mentioning even if she isn't C of E.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I've not posted for a while as I've been back to the Wakefield Police College for another residential weekend. Some of the members of my cohort delivered some excellent presentations on Franciscan and Ignation spiritualities. I have to say that their work was far superior to some of the tired stuff we have been getting from the staff. Sue and I were late to sign up and we have got Celtic spirituality. Sue works in a bank and is single handedly solving the credit crisis, so we thought we'd just perform River Dance.

Dr. Bob was even later signing up and has got Right-wing Fundamentalist spirituality as expressed by those taught at Hicksville Baptist Bible College. (No formal theological qualifications required to be on the staff.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

So, what prescription are your hermeneutical glasses?

An interesting evening at college where, with our new Principal, we began our module on the New Testament. One of the discussion points was about the lenses we read scripture through.

It was acknowledged that we do not come to Bible reading with 20/20 vision. Dr. Bob and I worked side by side rather than together and I kept sneaking a glance at his answers. It was interesting to see how different our answers were.

My prescription seems to be:

* My dislike of a pat answer
* My predisposition to be liberal/inclusive
* My Lutheran worldview
* A dislike of the use of scripture as a weapon
* A desire for justice
* An innate suspicion of certainty statements
* My sense that the gospel is about love before it is about judgement
* My own comfort with going out on a limb and being radical
* I am a natural questioner of authority
* An antipathy to some strands of North American religious thought

What's your prescription?

Monday, January 5, 2009


As a fellow blogger describes sometimes you just connect. Not through planning and considered application of power, just through the developed reactions and subconscious movement.
In one venue I don't see the inside of much nowadays I was just standing watching the dancefloor when I felt a splash against the back of my head. Turning and legging it up the stairs to the balcony floor above I see one gent on the deck holding his face, one gent running up to him and delivering a kick to his head. I'm still closing the distance and contact the upright gent and give an open two handed shove in the chest. This makes some space between me standing over the victim and the other gent reeling backward. He kept going backward and collided with a balcony rail. This rail, set at well above waist height is not an easy obstacle to clear. The gent I had shoved kept going and going until there were no feet on the floor. One hand on the rail, one grabbing the air in front of him and one bloody big fall onto stairs below. Somehow gravity hadn't quite been overcome and he returned to the floor on the safe side of the rail but it did have me worried my night would have added an accidental death to add to the GBH with intent I'd just witnessed.
Similarly when static in a doorway with 6' of pavement between me and the street one gent didn't get the gist of 'not tonight'. He kept walking up and I kept placing an open hand on his chest and reversing his course. After a couple of efforts he tried running at the door. I set a foot backward, applied myself more energetically and much to both our surprise he flew backward a lot faster then he approached and with flintstone like twinkle toes shot across the road. He came to a halt when he found the far curb, and landed unceremoniously on his arse.
Sometimes you wish you'd connect like this but you can only improve the odds. You can get all the pieces in one place but you can't get that slick connection every time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

And the next Dr. Who is....

Matt Smith

No, me neither.

Face to Faith

More than just a means of transport, flying can take us to new spiritual places too.

Grant us "that peace which the world cannot give". This line from an Anglican evening prayer, it seems to me, defines the essence one strives for in spiritual meditation. That moment of complete peace - spiritual transcendence, if you like - can be awoken by many things, such as poetry, music or the beauty of nature.

I've always been passionate about flying. For me, it offers moments of inner peace that I've rarely found on earth. Whether in a small plane at 2,000 feet or a large airliner at 35,000 feet, I feel the exhilaration that comes from rising into the sky, seeing the earth from a new perspective and contemplating eternity.

I believe, too, that humankind's quest to fly was motivated by a desire to reach the "realms of glory" - where some say God and the angels dwell. I wanted to find out in the course of two programmes for the BBC World Service whether anyone agreed with this theory, and with the notion that flying today can still be a spiritual experience.

Some of the earliest attempts to fly were made by churchmen. I asked Archbishop Desmond Tutu if he thought this quest had a spiritual dimension. "I would say that somewhere in our DNA lies this longing to be set free from the entanglement of the earth," he said. "Up in the sky is transcendence, God's abode, the abode of angels and the good spirits."

The concepts of heaven and angels exist to some degree in all three major monotheistic religions. I heard from Asgar Halim Rajput, a Muslim chaplain at Heathrow airport, about the Islamic belief that in the course of a single night the Prophet Muhammad was taken up to heaven to be told by God how to establish prayer on Earth.

Jewish liturgy, Rabbi Pete Tobias told me, has "a number of mentions of God enfolding us in divine wings. The idea of wings as a metaphor, as well as being spiritual, the talk of rising up into the sky can be quite comforting."

One of the works of contemporary composer John Tavener is called simply Angels. "People think that I have heard the angels because they hear it in my music," he said. "Certainly I look at the sky, but it's a subconscious influence."

But I could not overlook the dark side of flying: the environmental damage and the role of aircraft in war and terrorism. Environmentalist George Monbiot's response to the first issue was blunt: "We simply have to fly less than we do today." Addressing the question of war, Andrew Motion read a new poem, called Coming into Land, based on the writings of a young British airman killed in the second world war. He explained that "as often as we think that leaving the earth is a sort of rise into a transcendent state which defies time and gravity, so coming into land is the equal and opposite, which is to say it is like dying".

Despite this I still found plenty of support for my central thesis. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull author Richard Bach said that when he flew in a small plane he became "part of a creature that has never existed on earth before - a combination of a machine that can fly and a soul that yearns to fly". Indian-born astronaut Sunita Williams spoke of outer space giving one "the perspective of looking back on our planet, and realising there are bigger forces out there."

Perhaps pilots are best placed to experience the spirituality of flight. But there are opportunities for the rest of us, even in these days of mundane air travel, if we look out of an airliner window. One summer evening, after a long and stressful wait at Dublin airport, our plane finally took off. We climbed into an uncluttered, stress-free world, above clouds tinged by an orange glow from the disappearing sun. There in front of me was a full moon, like a giant circle of tissue paper pasted on to a fading blue background, the way it can never look from the earth. I was, for those few moments, in heaven, experiencing that peace which the world cannot give.

Gerald Butt presents Realms of Glory on the BBC World Service's Heart and Soul beginning 3 January

Thursday, January 1, 2009


When you work at venue it's really important to have a consistent door policy.
If you know it's spit and sawdust and upright is about the only criterion for getting in, you'll need to have a numerous heavy team possibly light on the conversation.
If you're keeping out the chav's and going for an older better dressed audience you'll need less staff, more communication and conflict resolution skills.
If you stick to young ones you need staff who keep their eyes and ears open but don't dismantle everything in sight.
Whatever your policy choice, you tailor the numbers, skills and team approach to it. If you want to chop and change policy night by night and week by week expect a team that doesn't match the venue and more importantly you'll have numbers that don't match. Too many staff and you'll get teams cut back when you'll be needing them all when it kicks off next week. Too few staff and you'll get your arses handed to you on a plate.
I don't like that happening. There's only so many folks you can hold back while pinning a coked up 'roider brute in the fire exit. Then you see that every member of the team's doing the same. and there's still half a dozen coming on. Not a good night but one to remember.