Friday, July 30, 2010

In the trough

No-one enjoys the gents toilets in nightclubs. I've worked in attendant toilets and they're cleaner, fresher and almost tolerable but still not a place to spend your evening. Most places, most of the time they're grotty. The smell of cleaning fluid fades fast once the sweaty pissing masses start to trickle through the door and trickle over the floor. It is the unfortunate soul who, while mixing the fine balance of splash soaked linoleum and slight alcohol hydration imbalance, slips on the well signed wet floor and lands in the trough. Hand slipped, elbow slipped, shoulder flank and hip in the vile mix of nightlclub effluent.
warm I discover the scene a few minutes after the event. I walk in to a foul smelling room to find a gent, naked from the waist up, jeans wet over one hip, hanging his dripping shirt under the lukeasthmatic effort of a hand dryer. Not a pretty sight and not a pretty smell either but at least he didn't take much looking after, once he'd got his shirt dry enough he wasn't going to freeze he slunk off homeward. I can only imagine he reasoned the piss stained outfit would impair his efforts with the ladies for the night. I can only say I think he over-estimated the quality of the ladies in the venue.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Getaway

The school holidays have descended upon this little town again. The impact upon the drinking age folks is limited. The last day for A-level students has been and gone and they won't emerge in force 'til results day in a few weeks. The 13-17yr olds that aren't yet old enough to legally drink still enjoy the few venues that don't notice or care. They all seeem to think that getting into a nightclub mid-week will be cool. They all think it'll be fun and grwon up. Little do they know that it's mainly the sad, chavvy and the odd bunch of students that fill out the quiet weeknights of summer.
It is fun to watch their insistent efforts to enter what you know to be a dire quiet night. But it's a night club and it's got to be cool, hasn't it?
I think the alternative, of running to an overpriced overcrowded summer party island and dancing 'til the sum comes up with spirits unmeasured and sunburnt flesh for entertainment for a week of saturday nights, has less appeal to me. At least the more that do that, the less I have to see of them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thought For The Day


At Iona we give thanks for gay and lesbian people who have made a positive influence on our lives. LISTEN HERE Friday 23 July. Presenter: John Bell

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And the difference is ........

The bishop of Hamburg - the world's first female Lutheran bishop - has resigned amid criticism of her handling of a sex abuse case.READ FULL STORY HERE

And earlier: The head of Germany's Protestant Church has resigned, four days after being caught drink-driving.
READ FULL STORY HERE

Sad news for all concerned but did you spot the difference in the response of these two women to the allegations against them and the responses of male Bishops caught up in similar situations recently? I won't spell it out, but to my Anglican friends who worry over the ordination of women to the Episcopate I would point out that a badly needed dose of integrity seems to come with women bishops.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fallout

This post is not, you'll be relieved to read, a reference to the sometimes breathtaking faith larger bodied ladies have in their minimal underwear.
No this a post about the route shit takes to get to me. When a customer has a shit day and decides to meet his mates for a drink, the stress, poorly understood emotions and poorly expressed anger come my way.
underlings, who pass it out to the bar staff. These When a manager gets a roasting for shit profit and loss figures, they pass down the shit to theirbarstaff, give shit to the customers and I end up clearing it up when they make their frustrations known.
When the management of the door-company get a bollocking from the club company for not meeting the service level agreement, my boss gives me shit for keeping a slack door.
None of these is me bringing my shit to work, I don't do that as there's more than enough shit from other people to go 'round.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunday Sermon: Martha and Mary


Luke 10.38 – 42

At the last Parish meal I volunteered to cook. I went home and said to my beloved something like “Do you think you’d be able to help me cook for the parish meal.” A clergy child herself, she tends to take these sorts of things in her stride and, ever practical, enquired “How many people?”

“Up to twenty.”

She paused for a moment and, having reflected, began to suggest menus.

Those of you who were there may not remember seeing much of my beloved. I, who had volunteered to cook, spent most of the meal chatting to the other diners and Rachel who, you remember, had only volunteered to help, spent most of the meal in the kitchen.

It really struck me as I was reading for this morning how like today’s Gospel reading this little incident is. Who was the Mary and who the Martha at the Parish meal? And when we come to think about it, this Gospel story must be mirrored in other relationships in this congregation as we tend to fall into our default roles.
My beloved can multi-task: she can be doing half a dozen things at the same time and still recognise with a sixth sense, through several walls, that there is someone else – me, usually - doing nothing - and that state of affairs can’t be allowed to go unchallenged. That’s a gift, no?

When I was studying on the Yorkshire Ministry Course we went to Whitby on one of our Easter residentials and I have a very strong memory of one of our tutors leading meditations on the key characters of the Easter events using a tool called the Enneagram. A lot has been written about the analysis of Enneagram personality types and its application to the people of the Bible. I was amazed when I did an INTERNET search how much has been published on this.

One of the things that has often frustrated me about many Bible stories is their briefness: the fact that they are often just the bare bones of an event with little of the personal touch involved to flesh them out. An understanding of the personalities of the characters, so often lacking from the wider narrative, would really bring those stories to life as we understand more about what made those people tick: their likes and dislikes, their motivations and so on.

I’d like to try that with Martha and Mary this morning. In brief, the Enneagram has nine personality types and Martha and Mary represent two very clearly.

In this story we see Martha and Mary in dispute over how best to entertain Jesus. Martha rushes around cooking and cleaning and Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to his teaching. Then, eventually, and inevitably, Martha snaps and appeals to Jesus to take sides, which he does - but not in the way Martha had hoped. Certainly Jesus’ response seems odd: I don’t know about you but I rather felt that Martha had a point, and yet Jesus takes Mary’s side.

So, let’s take Mary first. What is it that she does? Overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus and, against all the social conventions, she sits with the men and listens raptly at Jesus’ feet. In the alternative version of this story, told in John’s Gospel (Ch 13), Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil. It is here that we also learn of their Brother Lazarus who Luke doesn’t mention.

Mary is a warm and emotional person who cares a great deal about her relationships and devotes a lot of time and energy to maintaining them. At their best Marys are enthusiastic and unselfish, perceptive of the needs of others, and unconditional in their love for others. Mary’s personality type likes to feel needed: one of the ways she does this is to be emotionally supportive of others and she gains her affirmation this way. Marys, however, can also tend to the manipulative and the love and devotion they exhibit is not always entirely without ulterior motive and self interest: Marys are flatterers. They often have a sense of entitlement when it comes to those closest to them and that would certainly seem to fit in with the way Mary assumes that spending time with Jesus while Martha works is fine. Such people can become intrusive and demanding if their emotional needs go unmet and exhibit an emotional volatility: here she is sitting with the men when convention dictates that she should be with Martha and the other women. Why do we think no one has challenged her? Because she could cause a scene: Marys are prone to outbursts. But it is more than that: the men present surely deferred to Jesus. It was against the social norms certainly, but who in that group of close friends was going to object if Jesus didn’t. Let’s think of John’s extended version here: Mary was spontaneous and intuitive and wanted to do something demonstrative, so with emotion rising from within she broke open the jar of costly ointment and poured it over Jesus’ feet. She then did something impulsive and wiped the feet of her beloved master and teacher with her hair. When, according to John, she hears Jesus say that she had prepared his body for death, she is cut to the quick.

So, how about Martha?

She is also overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus but she deals with it by overcompensating and going into organisation overdrive. She’s the sort who would probably have a system for loading the dishwasher. Martha’s personality type is such that she likes to take charge because she doesn’t want to be controlled and she gains her affirmation from being well organised and competent but at the same time she uses those skills to avoid engaging. Martha’s are strong, hard working and single minded. They are generous to a fault in providing for those under their care but they also tend to be domineering and make no bones about saying if they aren’t happy and, having a strong sense of injustice, are often unwilling to let sleeping dogs lie: intimate relationships are frequently the arena in which their control issues are most obviously played out and where questions of trust assume real significance. At their worst Marthas are controlling, abrasive, self-centred and avenging. They have no problem tackling people head-on and can often drive people away by their bluntness and seeming bullying behaviour.

And Jesus? What are to make of his behaviour? In his presence everything is placed in its proper perspective. He praises Mary because she ministers to his needs before she ministers to those of others. He has no need of Martha’s martyr complex or her manipulitiveness as she tries to get him on her side. Her service is important. Jesus isn’t dismissing it at all but because he recognises where she is coming from he is able to encourage her to see things in perspective. This isn’t about service as such, it is about Martha hiding behind it and using it to express her resentments. If we think Jesus’ response is odd – even a bit harsh – it is because he knows what we don’t: he knows the sisters; their strengths and weaknesses; their motivations and their hidden tensions and rivalries, and on this occasion it is Martha who most needs correcting. “You are worried and upset about many things” Jesus says to Martha. Is this an acknowledgement of all the sleights and resentments she carries? The sleights and resentments that stop her truly letting go and being in the present with Jesus? Marthas are very bad at letting their guard down and being vulnerable to the care and comfort of others. Marys, of course, have no problem with that at all. Martha must learn that hospitality is only one type of service, important certainly, but only one thing is essential while Jesus is with them and while he is with them everything else is to take second place.

How does Jesus lead someone as full of inner turmoil as Mary to inner healing? Mary’s impulsive spontaneity was over the top. Jesus’ response is gentle and he accepts her gift totally. He upholds her gentle spirit and rebukes those who are berating her. However, she must let him go and acknowledge that she doesn’t possess him. Jesus will not play to her insecurity and she has to be freed to rediscover her own life and autonomy. Can Mary be released from her possessiveness in order to reach out to others? Is this also our lesson?

How does Jesus lead someone as controlling and judgemental as Martha to inner healing? It was not Martha’s perfect actions which Jesus wanted but her presence. Can Martha learn to be less obsessive and step back from situations, recognising what she is like? Can she give herself permission to relax and enjoy the moment? There is a lot of Martha in all of us. Jesus loved her very much and stayed with her often. If we identify with Martha we can know that Jesus loves us very much and wants to stay with us.

Can a person change? I have to confess I believe there are probably some “core” aspects that do not change. But, I also believe, (and witnessed in my own life) the power of Christ in us that makes the biggest change of all. In fact, we are promised in many scriptures and in particular, the three noted in the book: Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Philippians 1:6 that Christ can transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh and that we can be a new creation and that “He who began a new work in us …” will complete it. Others in class also had some powerful stories and testimonies of Christ’s power to change a life.

So, are we ready for this journey? Are we ready to step outside the comfort zones of our default positions? Jesus can lead us all to inner healing.

Just to finish. If you still think that Martha came out of the exchange badly let’s remember that she was the one who voiced the astonishing statement in John 11:27: "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

Update: Someone pointed out to me that this confession of Martha's is very similar to that of Peter's confession, only she didn't get any Keys! Fair point!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Face to Faith

"Don't forget us" say Zimbabwean Christians

As I left the Anglican church in a suburb of Harare, my Zimbabwean host said: "Don't forget us." Yet the persecution of Anglicans in the diocese of Harare, which is spreading, is being seen and remembered by few Christian communities across the world. My hosts do not worship in the fine building that was built by the Anglicans themselves – some told me that they even made the bricks with their own hands, freely and willingly giving their labour as a gift to God – but in a colourful marquee in a supporter's garden. READ FULL TEXT HERE Brian Castle, The Guardian, Saturday 10 July 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why you should not cite British Tabloids as a sound source of news.


Every once in a while I see the British Tabloids cited on a blog as a source of information. This usually makes me wince, particularly if the blog is hosted by an American. It also makes me resolve to be very careful about the sources I, in my turn, find on google. It is a timely reminder, as if one were needed, that just because something is on the INTERNET, does not mean that it is either true or accurate. What, for instance would one make of this?

For those who did not know before, the Daily Mail is not known for either its objectivity or its commitment to accurate reporting. It is Britain’s version of Fox News but with a higher reading age.

I offer you the following salutary tale with grateful thanks to those wonderful folk on BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show.

Now there was fury in the tabloids this week and for once it seemed like maybe they had a point. The Sun’s headline was “Pool Blacked out for Muslim swim” The Express had “Swimming pool blacked out to appease Muslims” The Mail led with: “Swimmers plunged into dark after council covers swimming pool windows”

Now I like to think of myself as fairly inclusive and tolerant but I agree that does sound a bit much. I mean it is slightly surprising that apparently there aren’t any electric lights at the pool, but even if there are and “plunged into darkness” is a tiny, forgivable exaggeration, it is genuinely bad enough that all that natural light has been blocked out as we can be sure that it has because the Mail and the Mirror both said

“All 250 windows had been blacked out.”

In which case I can only agree with John Ewart, 63, who, when interviewed in The Mail said “The whole thing smacks of political correctness gone stark raving mad.” and who, when interviewed in The Sun said, “The whole thing smacks of political correctness gone stark raving mad.” and who, when interviewed in the Express said “The whole thing…”
Well let’s just say he remained consistent.

As did Pauline Pool when she told all the papers in identical words how much she had been: “Looking forward to watching the lovely trees while swimming.” Fair enough. Who doesn’t go swimming to look at the lovely trees?

It is a bit funny that all the reporters got exactly the same quotes. It’s almost as if they just blindly reprinted the story that appeared in the local paper the day before. I can’t believe that, at least not of the Express given that they made this story their front page headline:

Muslims force pool cover up

Those pesky Muslims; that lunatic council making old ladies swim in the dark and taking away Pauline’s lovely trees.

The Daily Express went on to write about how the council “covered ground level windows with opaque film.”

Honestly these councils, they just … sorry? Hold on: ground floor windows? Opaque film? Is that the same as blacked out? Hold on Daily Express. Can you clarify?

“Regular users of the pool are furious that the tinted windows ….”

Tinted? The ground floor windows had been tinted? Isn’t that what all swimming pools with ground floor windows do? It doesn’t sound quite the same as Muslims forcing grannies to swim in the dark. I mean, I’m assuming that it was at least those uppity Muslims that made it happen right?

“The complaints had come mostly from the Muslim community … but non-Muslim women had also objected.”

Right, so this fiendish and indefensible window tinting was done after complaints from Muslims and non-Muslims – or to put it another way: people.

And if, like the excellent Tabloid-Watch website you then find a statement from Walsall Council, you discover that what actually happened is that 58 of the 250 window panels on the pool’s floor to ceiling glass wall have been covered with a translucent film that allows in natural light and this was done “for all members of the community and not for any specific group”, because as Chris Holliday, Head of Leisure and Culture, rather poignantly pointed out “Not everyone is confident in their speedos.” Don’t worry Chris, no ones looking. And indeed no one has ever been looking because “a previous modesty barrier made of fabric within the original design had suffered damage and in places had been pulled down." So this story, which you will remember started out as “Swimming pool blacked out to appease Muslims” actually boils down to “Council replace fabric screen with transparent film” Or in other words “Nothing happened.” And then the Daily Express, seeing the opportunity for a headline that would particularly incense its readers, ran it on the front page and deliberately misled their readers into picturing Abu Hamza strolling into Walsall with 5 gallons of black paint swinging from his belt. And true enough the comments pages are now full of outrage and resentment at this fictional event. From Miss Culture from Belfast who suggests

“Local Men should turn up with ladders, stand at the windows and make a point of staring at these women.”

Yes they should definitely do that. That would make everything better. You’re like a latter day Solomon.

And then there’s M. Davies of Wales who said: “I would suggest the local electorate protest wildly.”

Yes, definitely. Sometimes you just have to take a stand. Rage, rage against the tinting of the light.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I have wise friends.


"God is the foundation, who gave us Reason before he gave us Scripture, and when the written word was shown to be plainly insufficient, gave us the living Word of his son Jesus Christ." Tobias S. Haller

Running Around

I'm not happy being led on wild goose chases, even less happy doing it in a hot busy nightclub with the usual workload of drunken numpties to deal with.
The goose chase begins with me ejecting a customer the week before, too drunk, unsteady on his feet, time to go home without any issue about getting back in another night. That was until he ranted and raved at us on the front door, calling us a large number of abusive things, none of which were massively original. This ended when the local constabulary came by and after a whole 5 seconds of observation, hopped out the mini-van and had words to the effect of "go home, now!".
This worked and we decided in his wake that when he returned the next weekend, something we were certain about, he'd be excluded for a couple of nights to establish the point.
The following weekend, we see the punter walking past early doors, on his way to hit a few warm up venues with high velocity vertical drinking and large discounts. We clock his outfit for the evening and make a mental note to block his efforts later on.
I pop inside for a wander round, a glass of soda water and trip to the loo. I return to front door and the new lad on the team, oblivious to the discussions last week and earlier in the night, says to be aware we've just let in X many local chavs. I ask if one was 18-20, 5'7" to 5'9", brown spiked hair in Y brand shirt and Z brand shoes. He says yes.
Here, I could send him back in to dig him out but he'd be in a shit situation and have to about face from letting him in only 2 minutes ago. I wander in and start my search, every seating and standing area, the smoking crowd, the dancefloors, the gents toilets, systematically sweeping through. This is a busy night, it's hot, I spot a dozen folk to put on my mental watch list. Get called over by the barstaff, get all the usual action of a night. I get my sweep interrupted and have to go back and start again.
After half an hour of wandering about inside, I'm sweating, grumpy and figure it for a bad job. One punter sneaking by is gonna happen every now and again, I don't take it personally, I'll just have to up the rest of my game and attempt to nudge the line for order over anarchy a little in my favour.
Getting back to the cooler air of the door, I send the young one back in and cool off a little. Who do I then see staggering up the street towards the door. The punter I'd been searching for. Not his fault, no need to be nasty, but he did get knocked back and told to cool off.
The new lad, he got a roasting, but sod it, he'll learn.


Friday, July 9, 2010

And the truly faithful just get on with it.....


The balance of paower in the church of England is now held by moderate evangelicals. They will go along with women bishops but they won't tolerate openly partnered gay clergy. Rowan Williams, as always, will go along with the majority. The congregations, for the most part, will ignore the fuss altogether.
(Highlighted emphasis my own.) Andrew Brown, The Guardian.

How perceptive.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We live in interesting times


I sometimes feel that I don't either watch or read enough news and I feel that I'm missing out. I had the chance to grab half an hour and my paper of choice and discovered all sorts of good news. I like it when that happens.

Judges: gay refugees must get asylum

Five supreme court justices say gay and lesbian asylum seekers should not be expected to "exercise discretion" in their home countries to avoid persecution ...... anti gay sentiments had gradually worsened in some places, fanned by the rampant homophobic teaching that right wing evangelical Christian churches indulge in throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and the "ultra conservative interpretation of Islamic law that prevails in Iran.".
READ FULL TEXT HERE (The Guardian)

Climategate scientists cleared of manipulating data on global warming

The climate scientists at the centre of a media storm over leaked e-mails were yesterday cleared of accusations that they had fudged their results and silenced critics, but the review found they had failed to be open enough about their work. Sir Muir Russell, the senior civil servant who led a six month inquiry into the affair said that the "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was not in doubt. His investigation concluded that they did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism and that key data was freely available and could be used by any "competent" researcher.
READ FULL TEXT HERE (The Guardian)

If you listen very quietly, you can hear the sound of right wingers gagging. If you listen ultra carefully (on the west coast) you can hear it from across the pond.

I leave the last word to George Monbiot - my hero in these things:

"You are a fucking douchebag. You pathetic fucking phony. I hope there is an earthquake under your fucking house and swallows you into Hell." Does this offend you? If so you haven't been involved in the climate wars. This message, one of many sent recently to climate scientists, and now published by the Guardian, is almost sweet by comparison to the gallant e-mails some of us receive every week. Many of these missives, perhaps revealing more about the senders than they intend, involve promises to insert implausibly large items of military hardware into the recipient's anus. At first they alarmed me. After a while, realising that most of the silver tongued chevaliers who sent them live on the other side of the Atlantic, don't possess passports and would struggle to place the United Kingdom on the map, I stopped worrying.
READ FULL TEXT HERE (The Guardian) I've put George's face at the top. No doubt someone who votes Republican will have apoplexy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The importance of Christian allegory


I have a group of Yr 10 students who are hard work but, although I don't tell them, I am very fond of them. We were doing some work recently on suffering and evil and were considering the holocaust as a primary example.

"SIR!!! CAN WE WATCH THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS? CAN WE? CAN WE? I'LL BRING IT IN." (Georgina only does loud.)

I fended this off for a while and then felt that for our last two lessons of the school year this wouldn't be a bad idea. Yesterday I collared Georgina in the dining area and asked her to bring her DVD in today. She forgot.

"YEAH, BUT, RIGHT. HE ONLY TOLD ME, LIKE, YESTERDAY."

The others are unmoved by this blatant attempt to shift the blame.

"I generally find that 24 hours is long enough to put a DVD in my school bag."

"NO, RIGHT, BUT I WENT OUT STRAIGHT FROM SCHOOL - YOU CAN SHUT YOUR GOB ZOE, NO ONE LIKES YOU ANYWAY - AND MY DAD WASN'T IN RIGHT, SO MY MUM, RIGHT, SHE HAD TO SEE MY GRAN BUT SHE'D GONE TO HAVE HER PALM READ AND..."

"Can we have the short version do you think?"

"I FORGOT IT."

"There we go then. Got there in the end."

"So we aren't watching a film then?"

"Ah, now then, about that...Fortunately I had a plan B....which is to do lots of written work...no...only joking."

"Are we watching Transformers 2?"

"Oh, now let me think for a second..NO! It has to be R.S. related."

"Boring!"

"If you could just get the exercise books then."

"NATHAN, I'M GONNA KILL YOU."

"I didn't forget the DVD dog-breath."

"Anyway... ANYWAY... thank you. These are the options: What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams, which looks at alternative views on life after death or The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is an allegory of key parts of the Christian story."

My loud, streetwise, gobby, attitude-filled class sat in rapt silence for an hour - a world record - while Narnia unfolded before their eyes. Georgina sucked her thumb.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Like so many important issues I am in danger of boredom overload.


So, a few weeks ago the first independent investigation against the University of East Anglia's Climate Change Unit exonerated it in the climate-gate scandal.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Science found the "evidence patently fails to support" the idea of a fraud; the scientists have "no case to answer"; and all the analyses "have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified" by other scientists. That's science-speak for "it was a pack of lies."
TEXT HERE (The Independent) This is a fascinating article for all sorts of reasons but the section that struck me most was:
It turns out the "scientific" claims promoted for decades by whiny self-righteous liberals were a lie, a fraud, a con - and we don't need to change after all. The left is humiliated; the conservatives are triumphant and exultant.

The year is 1954, and the "science" that has been exposed as a "sham" by conservatives is the link between smoking and lung cancer. Welcome to Tobaccogate, as Fox News would call it. The conservatives are championing professor Clarence Cook Little, who says he has discovered insurmountable flaws in the use of statistics and clinical data by "anti-tobacco" (and quasi-commie) scientists. The press reports the "controversy," usually without mentioning that Cook Little is being paid by the tobacco industry. A relieved nation lights up - and so, over the next few decades, millions of them die.


What I felt was also helpful were a number of examples of the credulity of the public in dealing with the pronouncements of the media:
Many readers across the world assume that if a story has been in the news section of a reputable English newspaper, it has been fact-checked. One recent climate "scandal" that spread from Britain shows the truth. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the umbrella organization of the world's climate scientists - explained that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of dying if there is even a slight reduction in rainfall. This is true. It is the view of the most distinguished scientists in the field. The IPCC sourced this claim to a report by the World Wildlife Fund - when, in fact, it should have referred to a peer-reviewed report by Professor Dan Nepstad, whose work is mentioned only in passing by the WWF.


And today comes the unedifying news that American Climate scientists are the victims of a nasty outbreak of intimidation and hate-mail. TEXT HERE
Climate scientists in the US say police inaction has left them defenceless in the face of a torrent of death threats and hate mail, leaving them fearing for their lives and one to contemplate arming himself with a handgun. The scientists say the threats have increased since the furore over leaked emails from the University of East Anglia began last November, and a sample of the hate mail sent in recent months and seen by the Guardian reveals the scale and vitriolic tone of the abuse.


I have always been bemused by gap between public opinion and scientific pronouncements - but then my opinion of the public has never been high. I found THIS recently:
Trust is, perhaps, the most important word within the climate debate at present. "Who do you trust?" is the question that hangs over every discussion on the topic.

Do you trust the vast majority of climate scientists who claim that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are causing a clear and present climatic danger? Or do you trust the much smaller band of sceptical climate scientists who argue that there isn't a problem?

In much of our lives, we rely on the testimony and views of experts. We do so when we feel ill and choose to visit the doctor. We do so when we want to reduce our tax liabilities. We do so when we wish to be ably represented in a court of law. We do so when a strange noise appears from the engine of our car. We will often pay good money to benefit from the many years of training and experience offered by experts in their field - be they doctors, accountants, lawyers or mechanics.

Climate science is a little different, it seems. A notably large – and growing - proportion of society appears to be rejecting the expert view of climatologists and choosing instead to place their trust elsewhere. Needless to say, this has confounded many who work within the climate sciences, but the causes are myriad and much discussed.
Yet 97-98% of climate scientists attest that global warming is man-made and real.

What are we to do? Still the final report on climategate and the University of East Anglia's e-mail scandal is due out tomorrow. I can hardly wait.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A sponsored walk ...with added teenagers.


So, sponsored walk day ...and on one of the hottest and sunniest days of the year. Our Yr 11s and 13s having left that leaves us with something in the region of 850 pupils to organise on a circular walk of ten miles through some very nice countryside starting and ending at the school.

One of my friends has had some "Walk for Steph" badges made in memory of our colleague who died a few months ago. We all think this is highly amusing as Steph was not known voluntarily to have walked anywhere but hopefully Oxfam will benefit from the sale of badges and sponsor money.

As the kids begin to trickle into school I am somewhat perturbed by the fine array of totally unsuitable footwear: we have flip-flops, gladiator sandals and Ugg boots among the selection. It's always good to know that the kids have thought things through.

I will not be walking myself - it's my war wound don't you know? I will be manning (can you say that these days?) the final checkpoint on the edge of Tesco's car park with Will, Rob and Ellie. In fairness I have walked the route on a number of former occasions and have even run it twice, so to be on a checkpoint this year seems only fair.

Having seen them off from the sport's hall at 9.15, we make our way to our checkpoint. Rob has brought some garden chairs so, much to the amusement of members of the public we set up our camp under a large yellow board bearing the legend "10". Our task, at the end of a designated country walk, is to stamp their cards and stop them going through the car park and in to the supermarket and then off home. The walk is not over until they have checked back in at school, a further half a mile on from where we are.

We sit in the sun and chill. It is very pleasant and this part of the walk is popular with cyclists and dog walkers and a fair few pensioners on their morning constitutionals. We ponder what they will make of the tide of humanity meeting them from the opposite direction.

At 10.15 the first of the runners hoves into view and for a short time there is a steady stream of youngsters who are taking their run very seriously. At 10.20 the 15th runner arrives, noteworthy for being the first Yr 7 boy. I hold out my hand to take his card for stamping and he instinctively shakes it. I am quite charmed by this sudden display of old world courtesy and sportsmanship. At 10.25 a group of boys appears walking. There have been no girls yet. They see us and burst into a flurry of running.

"Sir, we've run all this way. Honestly. We've only just started walking."

"How do you think me and Miss got here ahead of you?"

They look speculatively at Ellie. "Did you Miss? Did you run?"

"And never broke sweat James."

At 10.35 the first - and as it turns out the only - staff runners pass us. Will adjusts his position in one of the garden chairs and continues to direct operations.

"I'm like Wellington." he announces.

I look at Ellie and Rob. "What are we then? Foot soldiers?"

Ellie and Rob are both historians. "Actually," Rob says "Wellington called them the scum of the earth."

"Cheers Will."

10.50: the first girl passes.

11.45: the tally so far. 63 boys, 2 girls and two members of staff.

"Sir, Sir, my dad's a taxi driver. His rank is over there at Tesco's. Can he give us a lift back?" Will slopes off for a smoke.

12.15: Eddie, the first Yr 8 arrives. I have a soft spot for Eddie: school life is not easy for him and I make a big fuss of how well he has done.

12.17: the 3rd girl passes.

Will returns and takes up his lolling position in one of the chairs. "I'm back now. Carry on."

"Cheers Will."

"Blimey." (yawn) "It's hard work this!"

12.27: the first year 7 girl, Pagan, arrives. She is a tiny slip of a girl and has clearly been running most of the way.

12.30 sees the first staff walkers, all from the IT Dept.

12.40: the tally is 93 boys, 7 girls and five staff.

"Well done Sweetheart. You're in the top ten girls."

"What about me?"

"You're in the top 140 boys."

12.45: there is now a steady stream of Kids. Will is seen to get off his seat to help.

"Blimey, I need a sit down."

12.55: the first obese child makes it.

1.00: six chavvy boys in track suit bottoms and stripped to the waist arrive smelling of contaminated pond water. One, foolishly I felt, tries to hug Ellie.

"Where have you been swimming?" she demands, fighting him off with a parasol.

"Swimming?"

"Can we go home now Sir."

"You've got to go back to school first."

"Oh no!!"

"You've not enjoyed it then?"

"No! Why did we have to walk ten miles in the sun?"

"It's a sponsored walk."

"Well, I'd rather have been in Maths!"

"Are you mad, child?"

From 1.15 everyone, EVERYONE is moaning - and limping. Several have either just the one shoe or no shoes at all.

I see two pensioners with shopping trolleys hemmed in by about 25 moaning, sweaty teenagers.

"What's the betting they've been trapped there for the last six miles and wanted to get off at Robertown?"

"Can I get a bus?"

"I'm in pain."

A group of girls pass by with mobile phones glued to their ears. "...so I told him: I'm not taking that from someone with acne."

"To be frank with you, I think we've had the hardest job."

"Cheers Will."

"I need a wee."

"Sir, you said we'd be done by 12.00 and it's 1.20."

"Could you have walked faster?"

"How would that have helped? It's still 10 miles."

There seem to be quite a few grazed knees and bramble scratches on show now.

1.40: here come the girls. They are wearing sunglasses, floaty summer dresses, carrying designer bags and wearing statement jewellery. They think it's Cannes.

"Couldn't my mum have driven me?"

"I'm, like, really dying here."

"Sir. Mr. Bennet's sending people the wrong way."

"You've not got a stamp for station 7."

"There wasn't a station 7"

I ask Ellie which station Mr. Bennet is on.

"Six."

A man on a mobility scooter ploughs through the next group like Boudica. "Bloody kids everywhere. Shouldn't be allowed. Shouldn't they be in school or something?"

It's nice to see people entering into the spirit of things.

"Never again. Never, ever again!!"

"Sponsored walk? You'd be better calling it a sponsored amble." Ellie notes. "None of my P.E. group have come through yet."

"What P.E. do you do with them?"

"Aerobics. Their favourite is step 'n smoke."

"We're calling childline. We're holding you personally responsible."

"Ah, Mr. Loxam. You're by far the sweatiest person we've had through so far."

"Sir, Sir, I feel sick."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Is that it?"

"Sadly that's life. A lesson best learnt early I feel."

"But I've got a headache and my left foot hurts. Miss, Miss. Have you got any wheelchairs?"

He could, one feels, write a book on hypochondria.

2.30: the Head Teacher arrives and Will jumps into sudden action. "Let's call it a day." the Boss advises.

Will and I drive back passing the last few stragglers on their last half mile to school and hundreds streaming away having checked in. Later I pass Mr. Bennet on the corridor.

"Some kids complained that you'd sent them the wrong way."

"Only the ones I didn't like."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

In praise of .... The Guardian


There were two particularly interesting articles in today's paper. I always look for the Face to Faith section because you have the option to comment on-line and I like to do that. Today's Face to Faith, Christianity, Arrogance and Ignorance, was penned by the former editor of the Catholic Herald, Peter Stanford, and looks at the areas of ignorance we have about one-another's faiths.

...I found myself wondering whether I was unusual in my ignorance among those in the west who purport to take religion seriously, or whether I had stumbled on a bigger problem. Is our lack of knowledge of not only eastern traditions but also (crucially today) of Islam the rough equivalent of the point blank refusal of most of us to learn any other language than English? Just as we arrogantly and lazily assume that everyone else in the world will be desperate to learn English, do we also assume that our Christian traditions are the lingua franca of world religions against which all other faiths must present themselves?
READ FULL TEXT HERE

The Guardian also runs an ongoing series called Bad Science, illustrated by a picture of Frankenstein's monster. This week, Ben Goldacre, under the heading Challenging Behaviour, was considering the phenomenon that is our propensity to ignore scientific evidence that challenges our pre-existing view, (ignoring it being merely one of the options available: the others include intimidating it, buying it off, reasoning it away or suing for libel.)

When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, it seems, in a desperate attempt to retain consistency in their worldview, people would rather conclude that science in general is broken.
READ FULL TEXT HERE

I think there is a link between the two articles in terms of having our preconceptions challenged and our general unwillingness to hear a well reasoned alternative perspective. Other worldviews? Secondary to Christianity - after all what does the Bible teach?

But surely in the ongoing debates within Christian circles we see the self same approaches in relation to human sexuality and climate change to name but two. Are we really back to science v religion in the search for objectivity and truth?

I really do like a newspaper which makes me think.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Car Sharing and Early Starts


One of the modules I teach is Religion and the Environment. At some stage, whenever I teach it, the topic of car sharing comes up as a strategy to reduce air pollution and to use less fossil fuel. I always lament that there are no colleagues at the knowledge college who live sufficiently near me to make this a realistic strategy.

Recently a 2+ lane has opened up as an encouragement to car sharing and as I sit there trying to stay calm in the slow lane whilst other cars with two or more passengers take priority and whip by, I do ponder the wisdom of so many solitary drivers like myself on the road.

My colleague Will has recently moved house and is now a short hop from me. He gave me a lift in a while ago and I was very impressed by how clean and tidy his car was. He picked me up again recently and the car was a tip.

"Well I wanted to make a good impression then. I know you better now. Do you mind if I smoke?"

"It's your car. They're your lungs."

He also leaves about twenty minutes before me and as I leave at 7.15 and tend to be in school by 7.40 for an 8.30 start I generally think that's good enough. That extra twenty minutes on a cold winter morning makes all the difference and as long as I hit the motorway by 7.35 its O.K. (It looks like a long-stay car-park after that.)

It is Sponsored Walk day at the Knowledge College (more of which later) and at the end of the day I am going on a residential with twenty one sixth formers at the Strensall Barracks in York. I do not want to leave the car at the Knowledge College for several nights and so had approached Will.

"I think car sharing is a good idea" he says "but I'm taking my wife to the airport that morning so I can't take you.

Bugger! What to do?

"I live over your way." says Sarah. Why did I not know this before? "I'll bring you in."

"Oh that's a huge help. Thanks so much. What time do you leave?"

"You're not going to like this."

"Try me."

"Six thirty."

Double bugger.

"Do you mind if I smoke?"

"It's your car. They're your lungs."