Thursday, May 27, 2010

Indulge me here: I don't understand anything anymore.

This one got through to the final: Serbia. Folk dancing in national costume. You don't fool me with your peasant dancing and girly haircut: I remember Srebrenica! Take me now Lord. Take me now!

And this one didn't: Malta What's wrong with no gimmicks?

I rest my case.

Of course we didn't get to vote in Tuesday's semi-final. God only knows what awaits us in tonight's, when we can!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Just to follow the theme that developed from the previous post.

Well, here we go again!

If the quality of what we saw in Tuesday's semi-final is anything to go by, Saturday promises to be a long night!

I used to be an unerring picker of the winner but since all these pretend countries like Armenia, Moldova and Azerbaijan have joined, the level of political voting has made it impossible.

"And finally, we give 12 marks to our dear friends and neighbours........"

Oh puleeese!

After a reasonable attempt at taking things seriously last year the U.K. has reverted to amateur night again. Another national embarrassment. It will all end in tears.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

So, were we good or was he in a bad mood?

Review: Leeds Philharmonic & Festival Choruses

Leeds Town Hall

Gerontius was on his death bed when the Leeds choruses departed for a coffee break. Would he survive until they returned?

With audiences well acquainted with the length of Mahler and Bruckner symphonies, it is surely irrational and irresponsible to divide Elgar's great masterpiece, the Dream of Gerontius, on both sides of an interval.

It could have been doubly irksome had something very special been coming from the stage, but in a age where technical perfection is becoming paramount, we are in danger of music losing the flawed passion of yesteryear.

Such was the case here, the sheer weight and precise intonation was mightily impressive, yet their beautiful tone simply lacked the nastiness required when cast as the Demons to terrify Gerontius.

Brindley Sherratt (Bass) was the striking bass soloist in his differing dual role as the Priest and Angel of Agony, and much though we regretted the absence of the great mezzo, Sarah Connolly, her late replacement, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, was full of good intentions as the Angel.

For too long, Paul Nilon (Gerontius - Tenor) had his head pointing down to his score.

Reliable support from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Wright's conducting always sympathetic.

David Denton

So, less perfection and more flaws then? Paul Nilon had so much to sing, he carried the whole thing and was wonderful. Is the best that can be said of his performance really that he didn't know the work off by heart? As for the interval - you try singing the whole thing in one go in an over warm town hall with no chance to rehydrate! Still as my friend Graeme pointed out, by reading this review free online we haven't added to the Yorkshire Post's profit margins!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Establishing a Christian Ethos

So how do we establish a Christian ethos in an organisation that has a Christian identity but where not everyone identifies as Christian?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oi, No!

One night, busy-ish, the usual blend of little men trying to be bigger, big men with little girls and older ladies looking for thrills. Not a great deal of class to them but not real scum, not expecting too much crazy shit to be happening. I go on a little wander 'round the venue and discover in a fairly high through-put corridor a couple having some heated emotional exchanges. Not tears and pleading but angry stances, air fairly blue from points shouted over each other on both sides.
Not bad for amateur improv dramatics but not what we want in a nightclub. I interrupt, or at least place myself in both of their personal space, and declare it's time they took the argument outside. Neither of them acknowledges the comment verbally but both start moving towards the main door, still screaming over each other. I follow from a little distance and let my colleagues at the door know we're on our way but not in any hurry. No jackets to collect, no friends to say goodbye to, the slow procession to the door continues. I've not been paying too much attention to the type of conversation they've been continuing at full volume.
Just as they reach the door the aggravated lass says something akin to "You're just like Jake" to the aggravated lad. He very explosively snaps and lunges for her. The pair are a pace from the front door pair, I'm a pace behind him, shout out 'Oi No'. One colleague grabs the girl from behind and draws her clear of the oncoming flail of fists. The other lad grabs the nearest arm and tries to pull him out the door. His pull coincides with my surge in momentum and the lad is slingshot into the street. He topples off balance, my colleague sensibly keeps hold and he is slingshot into the wall beside the front door. He splats into the poster promoting another night of discount alcohol and loud music. He then kind of deflates and slumps to the floor. The lass is released and heads across the doorway, looking concerned for her lads state. Looking concerned, she bends down to him, spits on his face, kicks his sprawled legs and struts off smoothly towards the taxi rank. We had a little chuckle to ourselves and waited for the fallen little soldier to raise himself up and make his way on.

Back to College

It was Deacon's Day at the Yorkshire Ministry Course and the graduates were back. The invitation included me which was kind what with me not being a Deacon.

Driving to Mirfield on a sunny Saturday morning with a real sense of anticipation was a nostalgic journey in many ways and, true to form, I arrived unfeasibly early, only beating Daphne by a couple of minutes. We decided we would have a pre coffee-and-welcome coffee and headed for the refectory. This involved us passing the classroom where the remnants of our year group were being taught and I could see them out of the corner of my eye popping up like meercats to see who was arriving.

Stuart and Dr. Bob weren't far behind and we began our own reunion. The refectory soon filled up as the clan began to gather and there was a real buzz of excitement and conversation, added to as the current students broke for coffee and joined us. It was as if we'd never been away. The British Olympic hugging team picked off where we had left off nearly a year before. "We saw you all pass by. It's great." I lost track of the people who asked "Have you been done yet?"

Several cups of coffee, a few biscuits and some fresh fruit later we were ushered into the classroom. Part of the day was designed for us to share our post-ordination experiences with the current finalists and listening to the stories of the others was a fascinating glimpse into the life of the C of E curate - almost overwhelmingly positive.

We were given an excellent presentation by the Wakefield Diocese on collaborative worship: T. E. A. M. Together Everyone Achieves More. There is no "I" in team. But there is a "ME" that has lost his way. My heart sank and I groaned inwardly. Is it going to be like this all day? No, fortunately, it wasn't.

We talked about the strong tendency of the churches to deploy non stipendiary ministers as a pragmatic response to financial constraints. Very few of my contemporaries are in full time paid ministry. The issue here, particularly if we consider the traditional pattern of the three part day, (as in work two parts and keep the third for family, home, hobbies and for the sake of your mental health) is that there is an obvious problem: church for the N.S.M. becomes an extra for those who have already worked a two part day and the church can be emotionally and physically draining. This means that we need to look increasingly to Lay Leadership: other people's personal and professional skills are not only valuable but increasingly necessary to the survival of the church.

The danger here is that if we aren't careful we can look for others who are too much like us. There is a "theology of difference" which is an inherent part of the created order but in general - and it is a generalisation - we aren't good at diversity. It is the P.L.U. effect - People Like Us. Building difference into our structures is a sign of spiritual maturity.

Without wishing to be too self-congratulatory I feel I am good at difference: I love diversity - race, sexuality, gender, age and so on. Affirming different gifts and talents as well as life experience and world-view is exciting.

We also considered the role of ego and were asked to consider what motivates us. The Vicar Of Dibley extract above was both amusing and, for some participants, a little too close for comfort. How many church councils have their David Haughton? Ego runs amok. Power and money seem to be two defining factors and my mind wandered briefly to consider the uppity GAFCON bishops and their agendas.

How much of the following is true for you?

The Church Council is made up of:

* The Treasurer, who's job is to say no.
* The Wardens who have keys to all sorts of places no one else knows about but they won't tell.
* The champion of tangential ideas who adds thirty seven minutes to each meeting.
* The young idealist who wants to change the church council, the church and the world. They usually last about five months and then move on to another church.
* The secretary who writes the minutes which would take anyone else hours but who has a unique and intractable filing system.
* The clock watcher who ensures the meeting stays to time, as in an hour before last orders. He usually fails.
* The cynic who finds something to disagree with about every issue and who asks hard questions at the AGM.

Two gems from the day: Don't assume anything in terms of communication - it makes an ass of you and me. Get it? Hahahaha.

Also in relation to e-mails. Always read e-mails with as much generosity of spirit as you can muster. Don't look for a reason to take umbrage. Good advice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Old haunt

I revisited a venue I've not been at for a few years. I used to work there a few years ago, fairly non stop. It's a six night a week doorwork venue. I used to do all six of them with a couple of other lads, only to have the team padded on the hectic nights. This worked well, we knew the venue, we knew the customers, the staff and the barred list.
It was a pleasant, middle of the night venue most of the time. Punters fuelling up but not staying long, not much to appeal to the illicitly chemically enhanced, well observed toilets and alert staff kept the barred list refreshed. I'd like to think we reached a critical mass of drug users, sellers and fools barred so it became bad business to spend valuable time trying to sell to folks who weren't interested.
I revisited for a couple of hectic shifts, being the padding this time. It seems that a good deal of the work we'd done is still there, most customers have fun, drink and move on. What did seem to have changed was the staff, bar and floor, were not on the ball. I'd not worked there in a while and things inevitably change and their purpose shifts. The staff were less clued up on serving drunks, less aware of broken glass, spilled drinks and dirty tables. I'm sure minimum wage has gone up a good old chunk since I was last there. Still got to find a couple shagging in the loo and a couple of lads with summer colds so all's right in the world. That really does say a great deal about how twisted my view of the world and my role in it has become.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We live in exciting times politically.

I started the day with a good laugh. On the Today Programme (Radio 4) there is always a review of the newspapers. What wonderful headlines from the Murdoch and other right-wing press.

A squalid Day for Democracy howls the Daily Mail.

Nick Clegg faced a growing backlash for cynically double-dealing

shabby deal

double-dealing Lib Dems

the battle to win Nick Clegg's support descended into a squalid and undemocratic auction played out behind closed doors.

a new low in putting party advantage ahead of the interests of the nation.

The Daily Express saw events as a “sordid” political stitch-up.

Mr Clegg was accused of pursuing his party’s “self interest”

accusations of treachery

I don’t know how anyone could have such a bare-face nerve to put such a suggestion.

The quality of the readership of the Daily Express was revealed when one reader commented that there was unlikely to be civil unrest Greek style. Don't bet on it. It works for the muslims - they get concession after consession. Said Marigold.

Lib Dems behaving like every harlot in history claimed the Daily Telegraph

Interestingly when I googled the Sun, it had Football above News on its web page. Ah, the priorities of the Sun reader.

All this really brightened my day. The politics of entitlement and resentment is alive and well in Britain.

These newspapers seem, however, to have missed some significant facts - not that factual inaccuracy was ever a problem to this branch of journalism.

* No one won this election: at a time when the Labour Government with Mr. Brown as Prime Minister, was about as unpopular as it possible to be, the Conservative Party failed to win enough seats - by some margin - to form a majority government.

* The British public effectively voted for - and got - a hung parliament.

* The mood of the public is for change certainly, but that must increasingly be seen as a change from the dominant two party system and a change of the whole political process. That includes the voting system.

* Mr Clegg, the Kingmaker, was keen to give the party that gained the most votes, the Conservatives, the first opportunity to form a government. That shows integrity.

* Party leaders are expected to put the self interest of their parties first.

* A government of "the losers" as a coalition of Labour, Lib Dem and Nationalist parties is constitutionally acceptable. If the party with the most votes can't form a government, what are the other options unless you argue for an election rerun?

24 hours is a long time in politics: let's see what the papers say tomorrow.

Watch this space!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

So, the election is past. The role of Christians in the electoral process

On the Sunday Programme this morning (Radio 4) I heard one of the invited guests assert that the principle of proportional Representation is a moral issue and one the churches should champion. He noted that the churches had been very organised in encouraging people to get out and vote - rightly so - but was disappointed that they seem to have fallen silent on the issue of P.R.

Given that the synod of the C of E is elected by a form of P.R. - a fact hitherto unknown to me - he wondered why there wasn't a greater lead from its Bishops.

I wonder that too now. Is it a moral issue for Christians and if not, should it be?

As regards to the vexed question of the heady mix of religion and politics (see post of May 2nd) I have noted the rise of the Conservative/Fundamentalist wing of Christianity in this election and it disturbs me.

Many Conservative backers - that is backers with checkbooks - belong to the Conservative Christian Fellowship. Amongst its membership appear to be the sorts of Christians who insist on the teaching of creationism in schools, who are anti women's ministry, anti abortion rights and homophobic. Another "Christian" organisation, the Christian Legal Centre, mentioned in my post of April 30th, is linked with the American Alliance Defence Fund, funded by Erik Prinz, founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater.

When I googled the Conservative Christian Fellowship I found these mission statements:

The Conservative Christian Fellowship is a membership organisation of Christians who support the Conservatives. Our members range from those who just vote Conservative and want to pray and encourage decision makers to MPs, Councillors and Peers. The CCF has members all over the UK and is an interdenominational fellowship.

The CCF contributes to the life and thinking of the Conservative Party and seeks to build a strong, relational bridge between the party and the Christian community. The CCF facilitates meetings between the Christian community and the party on various policy areas such as education, international development, home affairs and community cohesion.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with such aspirations, but given that Philippa Stroud who believes that homosexuality is caused by demon possession, is listed as a member, I was disappointed not to find exactly what the CCF actually means by the "Christian Community" nor, perhaps more to the point, what it understands as Christian doctrine, or perhaps even more importantly, whose understanding of "Christian doctrine" it is espousing.

I found this link interesting

Is this what the Conservative party is becoming? Has the party really changed as David Cameron asserts? Have we as a society actually questioned that assertion? To me it seems as if the Conservative party is looking more and more like the Republican Party and that doesn't really resonate here: the cultures - both religious and political - are too different. If the Conservative Party continues like this, and if voters find these attitudes not to their taste in a Britain which is more liberal at its grassroots than Conservatism is reflecting, it will surely be marginalised out of existence.

I am not arguing that candidates with such views should not stand (unless there is an issue of party discipline where someone is going against party policy - that is a matter for the individual parties). This is a democracy but I would like to see more transparency about the lobby groups and other organisations candidates support or are involved with. How can a voter make an educated choice between candidates if there are hidden agendas? I would not knowing vote for any candidate who exhibited attitudes which I find distasteful, regardless of any party loyalty I might hold, and that is my democratic right. That right is compromised if candidates who will seek to influence government policy as a result of their own agendas - particularly if those agendas are not overt within, or stand against, party policy - are not made to declare their interests.

Of course there are voters who would vote for a goat if it had a blue, red or gold rosette on it regardless, which is why the issue also needs to be a matter of party discipline. Any party should be weeding out people with such illiberal views.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Lunatics are taking over the Asylum

I am a great fan of Catherine Tate: she is a very gifted comedian and her Donna was a great companion for Dr. Who. I am less keen on the schoolgirl Lauren. This grotesque is so well observed she is only just a caricature and a hair's breadth away from reality.

Every class has its Lauren: in training if not yet fully formed. I can laugh at her on screen - and, indeed, I use her in my work with student teachers - but it is slightly uncomfortable laughter because I deal with her acolytes on a daily basis. I wonder, too, to what extent Lauren has set a standard and made her own unique contribution to classroom management issues up and down the land.

British comedy doesn't (yet) have its male Lauren: Harry Enfield's Kevin is far too gauche to be taken seriously, but I have my male Laurens too. Consider this Yr 10 incident:

Chris, come and sit here please.


Because you don't sit there.

I've always sat here.

And every lesson I move you to here.

But I haven't done anything wrong.

But you will if you stay there.

What have I done wrong?

You talk when you sit there.

I don't.

You already have. Come and sit here.

But I didn't do anything wrong.

Just come and sit here.

You can't move me.

Yes I can. I'm in charge.

I'm not moving.

Come and sit here please.

And so it went on from bad to worse. Remember too, that while this little floor show was going on, twenty other kids were waiting for their lesson to start.

I'm not moving. I haven't done anything wrong.

Well, you're disobeying my instructions for a starter.

I'm not moving.

Do as you're told.

(The outcome becomes inevitable.)

O.K. Chris you have to leave.

You haven't given me three strikes!

When a student is sent to another room he must take a form with him which he must complete and which invites him to reflect on the incident and on his behaviour. The first question asks: What happened? Chris's answer was: I was sent out for no reason.

Later that day I had a Yr 9 class. We are studying Revelation - as in the phenomenon, not the book. It is a killer topic and we do well to stay on task. Beckie, who needs no encouragement to be off task, is staring at the door. There is a face framed in its window. There should be no one there: everyone should be in lessons. I move towards the door and the face disappears. When I open the door a Yr 10 boy called Mark is standing there.

Move away from the door.

He ostentatiously moves one step away.

No, right away. Back to your class. What lesson should you be in?

None of your business.

(This is going well then. Behind me twenty seven fourteen year olds are getting restless.)

You need to go back to your class.


I change tack.

Come into my room then, off the corridor.


So you won't come in or go away.


So, let's be clear what's happening here: you are choosing to disobey the direct instructions of a member of staff.


(Oh good. I resist the temptation to slug him one.)

Then you have a problem.

Who are you to tell me what to do?

A behaviour support worker arrives. Come away Mark before you get into trouble.

It's too late for that.

I return to my class having achieved the last word and I leave Mark to the tender care of the BSW. There are raised voices outside the room.

It transpired that Mark should have been in Art but had been sent out. This is a regular occurrence. The only problem is that he refuses to go to where he has been sent and ends up on the wander. One wonders how this state of affairs has been allowed to continue without some appropriate resolution - ie, one where Mark is told in no uncertain terms what to do, no options. Having an unpredictable and provocative boy like Mark on the wander unsupervised puts others like me in a potentially vulnerable position.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What we can expect from the "legitimate" BNP.

Hours ago, BNP candidate Bob Bailey - the party's top official in London - viciously attacked a young man in the street.

A camera team caught the attack on video - you need to watch it and then share it with everyone you know.

Watching Bailey mercilessly kick a young man in the head isn't for the faint of heart.

But I urge you to watch it - then take action to make sure the BNP's jackboots don't march into power today:

The man shouldn't have spat on Bailey. But it's clear this moment unleashed the streak of violence that underpins the BNP's entire political agenda.

Just look at the pleasure Bailey took at attacking this lad - and continuing to pummel him as he lay on the ground, defenseless and bloodied.

Bailey and his thugs could be running Barking & Dagenham by this weekend.

I have never been so determined to defeat these racist thugs than I am right now - with polls opening in less than 12 hours. Please, forward this email to everyone you know tonight.

e-mail from Hope not Hate

UPDATE: He didn't get elected. Actually none of the BNP candidates did, and to cap it all they lost all of the seats they held at local level. A result, then!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hope Not Hate and the BNP.

I've had another e-mail from Hope Not Hate:

If you thought Gordon Brown's gaffe was bad last week - just wait till you see Richard Edmonds'.

The former National Organiser for the BNP was spotted canvassing in Dagenham last week, flooding the street with filthy lies. When a woman told him she wouldn't vote BNP, he was caught on film spewing racist filth:

"Silly ******, aren't they? Maybe she's got a black kid, you see? That, I think, is always the explanation around here. Once they go with the blacks, they are part of the black tribe. Wicked, horrible, stupid. I've seen it many, many times."

You think that's bad? It's nothing compared to what will happen if Nick Griffin becomes an MP.

We can stop him - but we need your help. We've only got three days left but we are now completely out of leaflets.

We need you to make a £25 donation to help us produce 90,000 eve of poll letters and leaflets to go into our key wards around the country.

Richard Edmonds isn't the only one infiltrating our neighbourhoods with bigotry and hatred.

The same undercover reporter followed Nick Griffin canvassing in Barking. Here's what he had to say:

"It's something like leafleting central Nairobi isn't it, I'm afraid."

Well Nick, we're afraid too. Afraid of the threat the BNP poses to many of our communities.

Feeling it

The first few good weekends of the summer have arrived. The sunshine of a week last saturday and then the bank holiday pay day weekend brought the first busy nights since the new year. The sunshine, the open beer gardens, the lack of confinement to sweaty, smelly interiors has seen folks out longer, drinking hard for longer days.
For business, it's finally good news, more customers, out for longer, more money spent, lower wage percentages and better profits all round.
For me it means, more muppets to knock back, all day drinkers are not all night winners from a letting in point of view.
More all day all night drinkers, fall asleep more, throw up and fall asleep more, fall over more and get in more drunken brawls.
This all means I've been running around and carrying drunken folks a lot more than I had been recently. I've been feeling old when I get off shift. Time to quit the bulk training, shift to speed, stamina and cv training again. Normally I get ahead of this but this year it's gotten ahead of me, must be old age kicking in, either that or I'm just getting slow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Election, Christians and Politics

On my way to church this morning I passed a Baptist church notorious in the area for its posters. You know, "Traffic Delay? Time to pray!" that sort of thing. Today however it said Christian manifesto and underneath: And What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8)

I was impressed by that and pondered on it on and off during the morning. My beloved came home from her church with a copy of her diocesan newsletter. A heading stated USE YOUR CROSS and for one horrible moment I thought it was going to be an editorial on the issue of wearing religious jewellery. It was not. Bishop John was exhorting Christians to use their votes responsibly and explained what he was looking for in the political parties.

I shall be searching for signs of a concern for those most in need in our society. So in dealing with national debt I shall want the burden of cuts to fall on those of us with adequate resources, and not those who have inadequate housing, who are unemployed or who struggle with debt. They need protection. I shall be looking for safeguarding of foreign aid as we share our relative prosperity with countries facing famine or experiencing earthquakes. I shall be watching for a commitment to green policies to protect the environment. We also need evidence that we are a welcoming society, and hope candidates will adopt the "Sanctuary Pledge" which affirms our desire to help those driven out of their own countries by fear. I hope Christians will scour the election literature for these signs of hope - and then use their votes to support them.

And then I read the Sunday papers and it all went wrong. Here was a different sort of Christian aspiration: RISING TORY STAR PRAYED TO CURE GAY PEOPLE. Given that David Cameron had already deselected Philip Lardner, a primary school teacher, who was standing for the Tories in North Ayrshire and Arran for saying that homosexual conduct is not “normal” I wonder how long Philippa Stroud, who believes homosexuality is the result of demon possession, will last. Of course North Ayrshire and Arran is a lost cause for the Tories but Mrs. Stroud is likely to win for them in Sutton and Cheam. If Cameron is consistent she's history. We'll see. She is, after all, head of the Centre for Social Justice, a Conservative Think Tank which has done much to shape Tory policy.

Many Conservative backers - that is backers with checkbooks - belong to the Conservative Christian Fellowship. These are the sorts of people who insist on the teaching of creationism in schools. Another "Christian" organisation, the Christian Legal Centre, mentioned in the last post here, is linked with the American Alliance Defence Fund, funded by Erik Prinz, founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater.

Philippa Stroud is on record as saying how "massively important" it is for Christians to engage in politics because "we have a unique understanding of the value of human beings."

Well, that's absolutely true. Whose understanding, though, I wonder. Bishop John's of Philippa Stroud's?

Update: Philippa Stroud was beaten into second place by 200+ votes. Given that she was seen as something of a "cert" one can't help but wonder to what extent the adverse publicity about her conservative religious views played a role in her losing the seat.