« May 2005 | Main | July 2005 »

June 30, 2005

Musings on Easter and other relationships

Trawling the net, I wandered into Da Goddess after a bit of a gap in my reading of her and other blogs - for which apologies all! That said, I was rewarded for this by stumbling across a rather thoughtful item on the "Great Thursday" - an Orthodox Church name for the day the rest of Christianity calls "Maundy Thursday".

It is well worth a read, particularly for her thoughts on tending for her incapacitated father - and his comfort zones about his daughter (a nurse) attending to his needs. Flowing from this she has a few very interesting thoughts on the Eucharist and the relationships between Christ and his followers and naturally with us.

I was particularly struck by her thoughts on the things that we all have little boundaries with - like her father not being comfortable with some of the more basic things that have to be done for the sick or disabled being done for him by his "child". We all have these boundaries, little markers that we are not willing to relax or ignore, the things that make us uncomfortable if we cross them. I can recall having to face this dilemma when assisting a young doctor to get a blood sample from my mother's femoral vein - it was straying far too close to a very private area for her as far as I was concerned, whether she was conscious or not - yet it is a procedure I have had to help with before with nary a qualm.

Many people whose parents have been struck down by diseases such as Alzheimer's have to face this on an ongoing basis. They are forced to watch as all their beloved parent's dignity is stripped relentlessly away until roles are completely reversed and the child must nurse the parent as they would have themselves been nursed when children - only now with the terrible irony that they are dealing with a fully grown adult whose mind has reverted to that of a child.

In the Great Thursday rituals there is a recreation of the moment when Christ shook his disciples - shaking their faith and their understanding of the Messiah and of Leadership. He removed his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist and performed the duty of the most menial of the household slaves - he washed their feet! In both the Catholic and the Orthodox traditions that is still done by the President of the Great Thursday Eucharist. For both the Priest and for thiose whose feet are washed it is a very, very special and moving moment, for it reminds you very sharply that Christ came not to lead us into battle but to serve - and that He calls us to serve as well!

The Gospel account tells us that He said, in answer to His friends and disciples shocked protests: "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Perhaps this is the lesson for all of us. There may come, indeed for some it has already come, a time when we have to cross boundaries and diuscard markers we have long held "sacred", a part of us that is deeply private. A time when we have to surrender ourselves and our pride and accept the ministrations of our children or someone else close to us. It is not easy, but then, it probably wasn't easy for the disciples at the last supper either.

Well done, Da Goddess, on a very thoughtful and thought provoking post!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:24 AM

June 29, 2005

More musical notes ....

Last Saturday evening the Abbey was host to an unusual recital on the Milton Organ. Billed as Four Hands and Four Feet, a musical feast for duets on the organ. The programme spanned four centuries and gave a number of real, and sadly, rarely heard treats from a repertoire that really deserves a wider airing!

Carleton Etherington, the Abbey's resident Director of Music and Choirmaster, was joined at the console by his friend and fellow musician Simon Bertram as they performed, in their words, "an entertaining range of works for four hands, four feet, and many bruises!" They understated the case. We were treated to musical fireworks of no mean order, a stunning feast of music from the 1570's through to the 20th Century. Works by Rutter and Langlais rubbed shoulders with Tomkins (16th Century English composer, in case you wondered!), Albrechtsberger, Merkel, Beethoven, and Hakim. The spread of composers ranged from the 16th Century to the 20th with Langlais' "Double Fantasy" the latest composition. The Hakim piece - "Rapsody for Organ Duo" in five movements - produced some real fireworks with a relentless and unusual "beat" and rhythm. Perhaps the most unusual piece, though, was written by Beethoven - for a mechanical movement to be inserted into a clock!

From the programme one learned that where Carleton had won the Paisley International Organ Competition Prize in 1992, Simon won second prize in the same competition. While Carleton was organist in St Bride's, Fleet Street, Simon was playing in Sacre Choeur alongside Naji Hakim himself and Michel-Jean Langlais, son of the composer Jean Langlais.

During the recital we also learned that Thomas Tomkins (1560 - 1641) had been married in Tewkesbury Abbey - a fitting reason to play his "Fancie for organ" on this occassion.

All in all a fascinating evening of music played by master musicians - and some even more interesting anecdotes later over a few pints in the local hostelry - The Bell!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:00 AM

June 28, 2005

Cruising the Rhine

A visit to the Rhine area cannot possibly be complete without a boat trip on this famous and historic waterway. It has seen invaders, wars, trade, raiders, and migrations. It has provided a highway from the very heart of Germany and the former territories of the "Holy Roman Empire" to the sea for centuries. It is a little over 1600 kilometres from Lake Constance, "die Bodenzee", to the sea exit at Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

A little downstream from the "Mäuseturm, stands this magnificent castle, restored in the 19th Century and now a private residence. Like all Rhine Castles it dominates the river and the surrounding landscape.

Each prominence above the river is crowned by a castle or guard tower fortress, a reminder that this is a territory which has had to be defended ever since the Roman Legions first forced a crossing and set up "Colonia" East of the Rhine. Along the stretch from Rüdesheim to St Goar, the river runs swiftly between gravel banks and steep hillsides - most decorated with vineyards - and is bustling with the traffic of commerce.

A "down bound" barge laden with containers passes the cruise ship, while another barge deep loaded with coal passes upstream.

In some areas the current is swift enough to make it necessary for some motor barges to have the assistance of a tug to enable them to keep steerage way and avoid being thrust ashore in the eddies. The negotiation of some of the bends in the river is an interesting evolution for some craft, particularly those that are deeply laden. An amusing aspect is the number that carry a family saloon car, motor bike, or some other vehicle under a derrick where, in a seagoing vessel, there would be a lifeboat or rafts. Testimony to the need to be able to get ashore and have "wheels"?

The scenery is spectacular, the weight of history immense, but not overwhelming - definitely a great deal more to be explored here!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)

June 27, 2005

When will they learn? Will they ever learn?

The publication of a study by the Sutton Trust, a Trust fund set up to provide assistance to disadvantaged youngsters of a major study into educational opportunity and future employment options, makes damning reading for Blair and his cronies. Essentially it points out that the Labour Party's drive to destroy the system of Grammar Schools which served this country and the Middle Classes and Working Class scholars so well for nearly 500 years has helped to widen the gap between rich and poor, rather than, as Labour trumpetted would happen, close it.

It must be no surprise to anyone with even half a brain that almost all Labour MP's, and certainly all Labour Ministers, have made damned sure that their children have places in either the remaining Grammars or in Public Schools, while everyone else's kids have to suffer under the failed Comprehensive system. It should not escape anyone's notice either that many of the Middle Class Islington types who head up all the policy making "focus groups" and who are so quick to vote for this shower of hypocrites, also make sure that their children have the places in Grammars or Public Schools that Labour has, by its removal of Grammars, denied the very people they claim to be helping or representing.

I have said it before, and I say it again, there is no "working class" representative worthy of the name at the helm of the Labour Party! Blair is a Public Schoolboy, Brown is a Grammar product, as are six more of their cabinet. Ten more are from Independent School backgrounds. In other words, 17 out of 23 have had access to "privileged" education - education opportunities their policies deny to deserving and intelligent children from real working class backgrounds!

This reduction in opportunity for children from lower income backgrounds, whose parents may not be able to afford to move to catchment areas for better schools or who cannot afford the extra coaching for selective schools, has resulted in a widening of the gap between well-off and not so well-off. And it is getting worse all the time! As the Comprehensives continue to sink under the incompetence of Whitehall and political meddling, as the sheer size of the schools grows beyond what teachers and principals can hope to control, more and more children slip through the net and leave schoool with woefully substandard educations.

And all this is voted for by Blair's sycophantic following among Middle Class professionals and semi-professionals - mainly women - who consider that this is "fair and reasonable" and "providing the best education and opportunity for the underprivileged". Naturally Tarquin and Samantha simply have to go to a fee-paying instiutution, dear - they are so bright and MUST have special tuition!

Yet these are also the morons who are, according to the latest figures released by the Watchdogs, paying the Lion's share of the tax burden. Under their hero's leadership the tax burden for anyone in the upper tax bands has risen steadily and is now (inclusive of direct, indirect and stealth taxes) standing at 55% of income! Their personal savings are being demolished by this grasping and wastful government at an unprecendented rate, their pensions have been destroyed (alongside everyone else's!), the "great" public services have never been so poorly managed, so inefficient, or so riddled with nepotism - and yet these idiots will still protest that Blair and his deceitful and dangerous cronies are "the only fair and representative government!"

All the "new" money purportedly being poured into "public services" is actually going straight into a burgeoning bureaucracy and not into service delivery. Most of it is double-accounting - a practice that would swiftly land any private company in court! All of the money is the taxpayers anyway and not the government's, yet we seem to have less and less control over this dishonest and deceitful horde of career politicians who have no hestitation in awarding themselves huge pay rises and perks (And bomb-proof pensions!), and their hangers on, the ever present Sir Humphreys of Whitehall, continue to waste it liberally and without check. Even with the swingeing tax rises this shower of deceivers have introduced, government borrowing is rising steadily and has reached an all time high. So much for Brown's "fiscal probity!" The last Labour shower who borrowed on this scale also devalued the Pound by 50% and then tried to print money to get out of the hole. (Is that the sound of the Royal Mint Printworks we hear thumping away?)

Latest predictions from the Treasury and confirmed by the much more reliable City analysts is that taxes will rise still further - by another 3% at least before the end of this term.

So, will the Middle Class chatterers and Champagne Socialists ever learn? Not until little Tarquin or little Samantha are forced to forgo their places at the fee-paying school because Daddy cannot afford the tax bill and the fees or until they find themselves without the opportunities for the best jobs or professional qualifications - because Blair's tax and spend has caught up with them, or his "selective diversity" policies have barred them from Oxbridge or the better universities.

Then and only then will these Champagne Socialists learn the truth - Labour is a deceitful and seriously vindictive and dictatorial party. Not only that, Socialism is a chimera, one which destroys far more than it offers. There really is no substitute, as our forefathers knew, for self discipline, hard work, and merit in all human effort.

One paper recently asked "Who will fight for the battered Middle Class?" The answer, sadly is "no one" - because too many of them are so wrapped in the thrall of Labour's spin and deceit; they are blinded to the truth. As long as they continue to vote Labour, to donate to Labour, and to perpetuate the lies of Socialism and Labour, they deserve everything they get.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:16 PM | Comments (4)

June 26, 2005

The Mouse Tower

Popular legend says that the local Archbishop (a very unpopular one, evidently!) took refuge here from a plague of mice in the castle on the hill above. According to the legend, the mice followed him, swimming out to the tower where they consumed all the food and then ate him. (They must be BIG mice in Germany!)

The "Mäuseturm" built on a shingle bank and rock upthrust in the Rhine.

On shore the castle is also still standing, now a residence in private hands. The river runs swiftly here, and the navigable channel is quite narrow, something that makes me think that this tower was probably the outpost of the local tax collector - hence the unpopularity of the coffers to which the taxes flowed. I doubt the "mice" or "rats" could have swum the swift flowing channel between the tower and the bank - so perhaps they had help from angry boatmen!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:46 AM

June 25, 2005

Nice logo

You may have noticed that my blog is registered on the Blogosphere at the Truth Laid Bear. NZ Bear, who runs it has always had good graphics on his page, but his latest logo is a cracker.

Nice artwork.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:20 PM

June 24, 2005

The gift of music

Music is a gift. Some individuals have this gift in abundance; the rest of us are able to appreciate it and even contribute to it from time to time in our own often limited way. One of the great joys of working in the Abbey is the music - and we certainly have some very gifted musicians and singers to keep the building filled with the astonishing and frequently breathtaking beauty of their gift.

We are justly proud of the great human inventions, the various instruments which contribute so much to our enjoyment, but few of us really give much thought to the greatest instrument of all - the human voice! In the Abbey we have the privilege of having the three organs - all gems in their own right - but we are also fortunate in having two choirs both blessed with a number of very accomplished singers.

Buildings like the Abbey are acoustic nightmares for sound engineers and speakers - they simply do not carry the spoken voice. But sing - and the sounds rings through the building like a bell!

Recently we had the pleasure of hosting a concert by the King's Singers, a group of superb vocalists who entertained us Royally for almost two hours. Their repertoire and their voices confirmed in stunning style- they sang the entire programme unaccompanied - the properties of the human voice as a musical instrument and those of the Abbey as a musical sounding chamber. No microphones needed for this performance; these voices set the stones ringing with joy, humour, and praise.

Thank God for the gift of music. Thank God for the gift of musicians and for voices like these!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:49 AM

June 23, 2005

Evil book thingy .....

Laban Tall has set me a challenge - how many books do I read, subjects, and thoughts on them. It is part of a meme that is going round the houses, so here goes:

How many books do I own?

I have never counted them, but it is pretty close to 2,000, with bookcases in my livingroom, my dining room, and my bedroom! My collection is pretty eclectic as well. Firstly there is a large collection of Naval History, Military History, general world history, and classic literature tagged on the end of that. Then there is a growing collection of theological and religious works and histories, including a lot on other faiths. Finally there is a large body of fiction, including C S Forrester, Douglas Reeman, Alexander Kent, Terry Pratchett, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Rudyard Kipling. My poetry collection includes Shakespeare, Kipling, Donne, and Herbert among others.

Last book I bought

The Da Vinci Code

OK, OK, I know I said I wasn't going to, but it kept coming up in discussions so I had to read the damned thing to find out what it was all about. I hope that the vast mass who have also read it take the trouble to examine the sources for his material, most of it is from the pseudepigraphica and the apocrypha, books excluded by various authoritative scholars at various times as either being fakes, forgeries, or not adding anything to the principle body of scripture. And before anyone gets going on this, some of the source books are Judaic and were not included in the Talmud for that reason.

A good read, but purest fiction all the way through - pity the anti-Christian and anti-church conspiracy Brigade will use it to argue that this is the truth. Even Da Vinci's famous Last Supper, as we see it today is not original - it was "retouched about two hundred years after his death by a later artist because it was peeling off the wall. Who knows what is now original and what not!

Last Book I read

More difficult because I tend to read three or four at the same time. One fiction and several non-fiction depending on the mood. At present I have two "religious" treatises, one "day job" related, and a Leigh Crichton, "Time Line", on the go. The one I have most recently completed is "The Last Continent" by Terry Pratchett, which is a cheat, because this is a re-read.

As is usual with Pratchett he takes the everyday and gives it that final twist into the fantastic. His Wizards are querulous, irrascible, childish and convinced that they are absolutely the most intelligent life around. My favourite character in this book has to be Mustrum Ridcully, but the God who likes to "build" beetles and has created the cockroach - his "masterpiece" - takes some prizes! Rincewind is invariably accidently cleverer than he appears - when he stops running away - and his escape from jail and hanging is priceless.

Pratchett's send up of Sydney's Mardi Gras, the cult movie "Priscilla - Queen of the Desert", "Mad Max", and several Australian Beer ads must rate as a humorous master work.

Five books that mean a lot to me

The Bible - but then you'd expect that wouldn't you.

The Persian Boy - Mary Renault - Primarily because it introduced me to Alexander the Great in a readable format at an early age and sparked my interest in ancient history. The achievements of Alexander are still influencing our world, so definitely something worth knowing, and this book is very readable and historically accurate.

Another Mary Renault - "Great Lion of God", her life of St Paul. Historically again pretty accurate and very well researched. We know very little of Paul, or of Luke who appears in this book as well, but she has managed to flesh out both men admirably and makes them much more tangible.

Another cheat Winston S Churchill's "History of the English Speaking Peoples"., this collection of Churchill's writing covers many volumes and I read and re-read bits from them whenever I am searching for information on English History. Churchill is regarded today as jingoistic, but his insights are often far more penetrating than the sort of reactionary revisionist stuff dished up today as "history".

Finally another history "set" - "Naval Battles of the First World War" and "The Naval War against Hitler" - both first class reference books which make one all too conscious of just how hard fought the sea war was - and of the commanders on both sides who had to deal with problems from politicians, problems of supply and problems of materiele while fighting a war of attrition. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham's famous signal to a destroyer commander during the evacuation of Crete who reported that his ship had engine trouble, was damaged, and short of fuel summed up just how tough - "This is no time for destroyers to be breaking down. Proceed as soon as possible in any way you are able!"

As Laban has "tagged" me, so I now tag (with apologies!): The Truth Laid Bear, Cynical Cyn, G'day Mate, Rev'd Mike, and Skipjack. Have fun folks. By the way, Laban, I could not reply to your message as your system did not create an e-mail link, just a permalink!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:10 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

Blair Force One?

Sometimes the arrogance of this government simply beggars belief. A little item from the Scotsman alerted me to this latest folly on the part of Blair and his dishonest party.

Having scrapped the Royal Yacht - which used to visit the world promoting British Trade (she saw trade deals for £22 billion signed on her last "official" tour to SA!) and set the Labour Party's Misinformation Unit on the Royal Family for their use of the Royal Train and the Queen's Flight, Mr Blair now proposes to buy a set of four airliners to replace the Queen's Flight with aircraft he and his crony ministers can swan about the world at our expense in! The "estimated" cost is £80 million and will buy a Boeing 777, another smaller (probably an Airbus or a 767) liner and two small passenger "executive" jets which ministers will graciously "allow" Her Majesty to use when they aren't swanning about the world at our expense in them.

No doubt we will be treated to regular press releases telling us how much the Royal Family's use is costing us - but never Mr Blair's little junkets.

As it stands at the moment, this dishonest bunch of liars is costing us an arm and a leg, as every time they go anywhere at all they charter a full sized 747 and then pack it with their entourage of spin doctors, media flunkies, tame reporters, and BBC executives, not to mention the army of civil service "yes" men who carry the bags and the folders with the ministers half-understood papers in them. If it were not so dishonest, it would be laughable.

Just who does this little oik think he is? He and his coterie of gerymanderers have no claim to democratic principle; they aren't even a majority choice by the electorate. Only a 57% voter turnout at the last election and Blair certainly didn't get the share of the vote his majority suggests - that is down entirely to changing round the electoral boundaries to ensure he has a 60 seat majority no matter what.

How much longer will the British Middle Classes continue to believe that this little twerp actually believes in a free and fair society? How much longer will the rich and famous continue to bankroll this dishonest, undemocratic, and totalitarian regime? I suspect until dear Gordon gets his hands on the PM post - and then squezzes the rich until - as a predecssor of his once remarked - "until the pips squeek!"

Blair Force One is the greatest folly this ignorant and incompetent shower of sychophantic cronies have yet launched - and it reveals the full extent of their pretensions and ambitions!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:36 AM

June 21, 2005

The end of "service"?

The demise of the fire and emergency service as a professionally run and efficient organisation is now well advanced. The Inspectorate has been dismantled and suppressed, except that the uniformed and competent inspectors of Her Majesty's Fire and Emergency Services have been replaced by arrogant incompetents whose arrogance is equalled only by their ignorance of the service they purport to "manage".

The Inspectorate, whose remit was to ensure that the emergency response to fires, accidents, floods, and any other civil emergency was efficient, approriate, and properly led; equipped and professional has been replaced by "audits" by none other than the Audit Commission. Here is an extract from their "Mission Statement".

Read it and weep for a service destroyed by political vengeance, incompetent leadership, and the ambitions of a small minority of people whose egos far exceed their ability. Only a set of ignorant and arrogant civil servants could assume that their counting of the beans of how many "targets" for matters not related to emergency service, unrelated to professional standing, development, or management could possibly make for an "efficient" service. One has only to look at the NHS to see where that leads, where the paperwork now exceeds the actual delivery of health care to the patient in importance at every level, and doctors fume in frustration at the insistance that patients must wait in line because they are not a "target" group! Only a bunch of accountants could write the statement below and believe it!

"Comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) for fire and rescue authorities helps them improve the management of services they deliver to local people. CPA is an assessment, at the corporate level, of how well the authority is being run. It does not give an opinion on how well the fire service responds to emergency incidents."

What more can anyone say?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:24 AM

June 20, 2005

A myth we should bury ...

I am not a member of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu fanclub, but I watched the Channel 5 show which featured his reasons for being a Christian with interest. It raised some important issues with which I found myself in agreement, but it also raised my hackles in several areas - especially when the saintly Desmond talked about the "White Christian introduction of slavery to Africa"! Certainly the European visitors to the West African states bought their slave cargoes there - but they bought them from local tribal chiefs and from "Nubian" Muslim traders, who were already buying and selling fellow human beings for the thriving trade in black and white slaves in North Africa.

Further East, along the coast of what is now Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, Arab dhows did a roaring trade in slaves - all heading for the Arabian peninsula, Persia, and other Arab lands. It is high time this anti-European myth was exposed for what it is - a twisted version of the truth which does not do any credit to those who repeat it, knowing that it is only a partial truth! The dear, saintly Desmond should know better!

It is the perpetuation of this lie that is aiding the spread of Islam by painting the very people and religion who still practice and condone slavery as the "Saviours of Africa" from the oppression of White Christian Slavery! White, and possibly "Christian" Europeans, certainly did engage in the slave trade; however they bought these from Islamic traders or from local tribal chiefs - they did not introduce it to Africa, rather Africa facilitated their commercial opportunity in this field - that does not make it right, but it is also grossly misleading to say that it was their custom that sustained it. Look only at Sudan today!

It is high time that this version of history was challenged and exposed for what it is - a lie!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:25 AM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2005

Koln Dom/Cologne Cathedral

The cathedral of Koln is one of those places where you simply run out of superlatives. The picture below in no way does it justice, neither in getting the size of the perspective, or even the glorious colour of the stone and the light from the great soaring windows. A part of what was once the Palatinate, the Archbishops of Koln wielded immense power from this key city on the Rhine.

The soaring nave of Koln Dom, the great length of the cathedral can be seen and an idea of the height can be got from looking at the people. The Statues on the columns are twice lifesize.

This is the seat of the earliest missionary bishops to the German people, and the crypt houses their tombs. Its greatest treasure is the reliquary which holds the bones of the "Three Wise Men", whose mortal remains are purported to have been found and identified in the Crusades and brought home to Germany by returning Teutonic Knights.

The three King's reliquary behind armoured glass at the High Altar.

An unusual feature of this great cathedral is the suspended organ in the nave. It is suspended from the vault by steel bars and accessed from the clerestory walkway a good 100 or more feet from the floor! Definitely not for organists with vertigo!

The narrowness of the nave is deceptive - it appears narrower than it is because of the immense height of the vaulted roof. On each side of it is a double aisle which effectively makes the church at least five times as wide as the nave. The West end is dominated by twin spires - a picture taken from one of these appeared in an earlier post - and the crossing has a decorated turret tower and spire soaring over it. The East End is a wall of glass as the clerestory sweeps round in a half circle to create an Apse encircling the Ambulatory aisle and the coronial chapels - most of these the burial places of former Archbishops of Cologne.

Even filled with school parties, tourists and others, this place has a feel of welcome and holiness. Even for those not interested in the faith that is practiced here still - after 1500 years - the treasury is worth the few Euros to visit, and so is the Roman museum just to the South East of the Cathedral.

We ran out of time here - having spent nearly five hours in the cathedral and the Treasury - so I have the perfect excuse to go back again to see the rest of the museum and all the other sites!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:09 AM

June 18, 2005

Rhineland Germany explored

The Rhineland is full of picture postcard opportunites, and the small town of Idstein is a classic example. The massive gatehouse depicted here is a part of the fortifications once necessary to defend the towns and citizenry of this area from the regular invasions that swept through here in medieval times. The Kaisers of the period even licensed the Bishops to maintain fortresses and garrisons, and in one case, Würzburg, created the Fürstbischof (Prince Bishopric) where the Bishop had a Duchy and orders to defend it!

The "Rathaus" and medieval gatehouse which once guarded the approach to the castle and citadel where the townspeople could take refuge and defend themselves.

Behind this imposing gate (the Rathaus is the orange-coloured building to the left of the picture) stands the original guard tower of the citadel, now known as the "Witches Tower". There is good reason for this, as it is here in the 1670's that women accused of witchcraft were imprisoned before being burned at the stake in the town square below it.

The memorial tablet to the women burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1676 at Idstein.

The ancient Schloss is now a public school, and the courtyard before it a public space in which the memorial tablet commemorating the "witches" is to be found. Erected in 1976, it is a mark that the town recognises the terrible wrong that was done to these women and has made its peace with them and its past. Below the castle mount is a picturesque medieval town, with many decorated half timbered structures still vibrantly in use today.

I will post some more pictures of it in due course.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:08 AM

June 17, 2005

Early motorised pump

The Interschutz exposition included a number of displays by museums and preservation groups. This early converted manual pump has a small two-cylinder "Diesel" engine fitted which employs a lever mounted to a fixed point on the flywheel to operate the pump handle.

The engine mounted on this converted manual pump from the late 19th Century.

It is a two-cylinder positive displacement pump with the usual air vessel stabiliser between the cylinders. The original handles have been removed and a link created from the end of the swinging handle to the flywheel of the engine. As the engine turns, the handles operate the pump pistons, and the water flows. A creative conversion of old equipment to "modernise" it.

The motor linked to the handles. Note the swing limiter device!

As there was no placard that I could find to give any details of its date of build, capacity, or the power rating of the small motor, this is all I can give on it. The whole was still horse-drawn going by the front axle and drawing assembly, so I would put it as being in use from sometime in the late 1880's to around 1935.

If anyone can give a more accurate estimate - or a factual dating - I would be very interested to know. A closer inspection showed that it has been very well restored and maintained, evidently is still run for demonstrations, and was extremely well engineered to begin with.

Definitely an anorak's dream show!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:30 AM

June 16, 2005

Passing of a fellow traveller

MommaBear of On the Third Hand has lost her husband of many years - PoppaBear died this morning.

Pray for his soul and for his family, they need all our support at this time.

May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
Rest in peace,
And rise with the saints in glory.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

A Crackpot? Moi?

Every now and then you come across something you absolutely have to share with a wider audience. The blog "Gutrumbles" is one I infrequently visit, but when I do I am often rewarded. This story on "cracked pots" is one such reward!

It certainly put me in mind of what makes some people seem odd or awkward and perhaps bears out the old saying "never judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:51 AM

June 15, 2005

Decorated buildings

One of the striking features of many older German towns, and Idstein is a very good example, are the wonderfully decorated buildings. Many are also wonderful examples of the sort of structures beloved of the illustrators of Grimm's Fairy Tales and the stories of Hans Christian Andersen.

An interesting building with an almost "modernist" decoration. Behind can be seen the lower portion of the so-called "Witches Tower".

Other buildings in the town are even more decorative and show a long tradition here of artistic embellishment of buildings. It is rather fun to see some of the designs and to consider the thought and effort that has gone into creating them.

A decorated front to a building abutting the Market Square.

Many have been carefully restored in recent years, saved from the developers bulldozers and even the fire bombing of World War 2 in many instances. Some have been entirely recreated, making use of old skills and working from old drawings and photographs so that the character of these towns is retained.

It is an object lesson in valuing one's heritage - warts and all!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:21 AM | Comments (1)

June 14, 2005


I enjoy collecting definitions, and sometimes they help when I am in need of a laugh. This one is a firm favourite.

"Stress is the confusion created when one's mind overrides the body's desire to choke the living daylights out of some dim twit who richly deserves it."

There seem to be a lot of the stress-catalytic twits around these days, at least where I am located and earn my daily crust. So it is good to have some stress relief occassionally. I guess we all have this problem, so I hope the definition helps to put it into perspective.

When you next stress out, just remember it's only the conflict between mind and desire.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:51 PM

June 13, 2005

Biggest fire expo in the world

The Monk spent three days last week in Hanover (or Hannover, as the Germans spell it!) at the Quinqueniel "Interschutz" Exposition. This is a huge exposition, held every five years somewhere in Germany, and is generally acknowledged as the biggest exposition of its kind in the world. Appliance and equipment manufacturers from all over the world are on display - and the world's fire fighters are also there to see them!

Part of the display of "aerial appliances" - there were probably more on display here than many national fire services have "on run"! This picture shows a "Rescue Pump" built for a Scottish Brigade.

The exposition includes a full range of organisations as well as manufacturers and particularly impressive displays were on site from the Johanniter Organisation, the German Lifeboat Service, a search and rescue dog training group, the Maltizer organisation, and an air ambulance provider.

The Air Evacuation service for Germany stand with one of their super modern Eurocopter 135 twin engined helicopters on display.

The show is vast - the show ground covers almost 250 hectare - and the halls are huge. A map and a directory is essential equipment - one thing, though, there is no danger of either starvation or death from thirst. Food and beverage sellers are available everywhere - and the major manufacturers all have hospitality suites - to refresh and revive their potential customers!

This is a fire buff's dream!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:31 AM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2005

A Sunday rant.

Sundays are becoming less and less a day of rest and worship and more and more a "normal" day of trade and business. This secularisation is eating into the concept of having a day or a place "set aside for God", which is a time when one's batteries can be recharged. It is also blurring the edges between what is the purpose of some spaces "set aside for God" and the differences between having a quiet place to pray - and a place of worship.

Recent decisions taken, no doubt with the best of intentions, by civil servants have thrown up in the starkest possible way the lack of understanding of the differences between religions (they all pray to the same person, don't they?) and the differences in approach to spaces used for worship and for prayer.

There is a major difference between a "Chapel" and a "Prayer Room". Something our Whitehall Wonders and their supposedly impartial adherents seem not to understand. Nor do they seem to appreciate the deep offence they cause those of the Christian Faith when they de-Christianise a Chapel so that it can be an "All Faith" Prayer Room. What they really mean is relegate the Christians to the dark and pander to everyone else.

Having to ask where the symbols of my faith have been thrown into this time is something that I would find so offensive I would consider using Mr Blair's latest piece of anti-Christian legislation to bring a few of these people to court.

The sermon I have attached below is a reflection on the events recently to strip Christian symbols and books from all public buildings - as they are deemed by the witless Whitehall Wonders to be "offensive" to non-Christians. This was triggered by the stripping of a Chapel in Newnham Hospital and its re-furnishing with prayer mats and bowls for washing. The fact that a large - indeed the largest - part of the community served is Roman Catholic does not seem to count with the moron who ordered this and now attempts to defened it!

How long before the Cross of St George, England's flag, is banned by this shower of ungodly and offensive bigots?

Tewkesbury Abbey
Trinity 3 Sung Eucharist

+ O Lord, open to us thy word,
and give us grace to know thee better and love thee more;
for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake.

“All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”

Our Collect this morning asks that we, who have a “hearty desire to pray”, may also enjoy our Lord’s assistance in all dangers and adversities. I think I can say that, in the last few days of the week just gone, I have needed plenty of that! St Peter’s epistle speaks of the need for all Christians to be vigilant, to be strong, to be firm in our faith in God and to beware of the temptations and provocations that come at us from every side.

I arrived home from a really enjoyable and welcome break with some very dear friends in Germany last weekend to the headlines in several papers that the crucifix and other Christian symbols had been removed from a hospital chapel in London “because it caused offence” to other users of the “prayer room”. It seemed that the chapel had suddenly been deconsecrated by the hospital’s board and changed from a place of worship and converted to a “space for all faith use”. On being challenged, the management rather huffily replied that “if anyone really wanted them, the ‘decorations’ could be obtained from a cupboard”. In the meantime the floor has been covered by prayer mats and bowls and utensils for washing of hands and feet placed at the door instead of the prayer books and other items normally associated with Christian observance.

In other words, it is no longer a space exclusively for Christian worship. Even in our own hospital in Tewkesbury the wall on which the crucifix is mounted is fitted with curtains – which may be drawn to hide the cross in case it offends someone using the chapel.

Has it come to this; that Christian worship is no longer to be tolerated? That Christian’s must hide the symbols of their faith lest it offend some non-Christian? That it is now up to bureaucrats and politicians to dictate who may display their faith and who may not?

The symbols of our faith are important to us. They sometimes inspire us and sometimes they can actually be a hindrance, distracting us from the real focus of worship or prayer – God. That said, for those who seek comfort in a Chapel, these things may be important to them as they seek to allay their fears, to find answers to difficult questions – or simply ask God for help as they deal with bereavement, impending death or perhaps the diagnosis of some potentially fatal illness. That is why our hospitals have provided chapels. Nor must we overlook the need for the place to have a clear use as a place of worship – something I was reminded of in visiting the former monastery at Eberbach – the great church feels totally lifeless!

Such a space serves a dual purpose. It is a retreat from the world, it is a place to offer thanks and to offer praise. Many find comfort there, and some even find faith there, so it is very sad to have such a space turned into something almost “New Age” in it’s absence of focus. For those already feeling vulnerable, it is something that can cause – and has caused – great distress. It also speaks volumes about the lack of understanding about some of the fundamental differences between faiths!

Do not misunderstand me! As Father Peter reminded me recently, calling on people to “stand up and be counted” is often the call of the bigot. I do not say that provision should not be made for people of other faiths in our consideration of accommodating their needs for prayer, I do say that these should be properly addressed, with full understanding of their needs, symbolism and purpose of prayer in such circumstances. To simply change a Christian Chapel into a “Multi-faith” Prayer Room is not demonstrating respect or understanding for anyone’s faith.

But what does this say of us? What does it say of the Ministry that we bring to the world, that our faith is so misunderstood, that its symbols and worship spaces are so casually treated? Could it be that we are failing to make the Word known to the world in ways that show its true meaning and value?

We speak of Jesus as the “bearer” of the Word, yet this is not correct. He is the Word! If you seek the bearer, look at Mary his mother. That is what sets Christ apart from Mohammed, from the Buddha and from Guru Naranek. They all bore a version of the word, Christ IS the Word. It is our faith that He is the Word Incarnate, something we will affirm in a few minutes in the recitation of the Creed. It is this understanding of our faith which must be restored and which must be brought out into the light of the world if we are to fulfil the ministry we are all called to – that of bringing the Word to the world.

In the alternative lessons for today, St Matthews Gospel tells of the disciples being sent out to the crowds to preach and to teach – sending them first to “the lost sheep of Israel”. As we learn when we read on from there, they did as he commanded and we are told that they found it hard going, just as we do today.

Sometimes, when I am preparing a sermon, I wonder who my audience should be, not because you are not a good audience, but because you are already followers of Christ and we should all be out at the Cross ministering to the passing stranger, the one’s who do not know Christ. But that isn’t the Anglican way is it? So, who are we ministering too and why is our faith so despised and derided that our places of worship are treated with contempt, our symbols of faith seen as “offensive” and our faith itself seen as irrelevant?

Have we allowed our Lord and His Church and faith to fall into the decline suffered by the Ancient God described in Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill, who is choking on burnt offerings offered by priests who no longer even bother to say the proper prayers? For the Gospel message to have relevance in this world and in our society it has to be seen to be working in our lives as we go about our everyday existence. It has to be visible in our work and in our dealings with others.

There is a warning in the words of St Peter:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your enemy the devil goes about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, stand firm in faith, because you know your brothers throughout the world are going through the same kind of sufferings.”

The problem of the removal of Christian symbols from Hospital Chapels is a symptom of the failure of our ministry. Because we are not seen as practicing our religion, others assume it is an irrelevance – something for the superstitious and not something special. The symbols themselves may not be important, the message they represent is – and we have to ensure that their relevance is understood and respected.

We are the body of Christ, we are the sinews, the life, the blood and the breath that keeps that body moving. It is our faith that is it’s heart and it is our faith that must sustain the message of the Gospel and keep it alive. If we fail to do so, if we fail to ensure that the message – and sometimes the places in which that message can be encountered – is respected and maintained with all it’s symbolism intact, we will be failing in our faith. Just as the disciples struggled with their faith on that first missionary journey for Christ, so we must continue to wrestle and struggle with our doubts, our fears and the assaults of an unfriendly and sometimes very biased world.

O Lord, we beseech thee most mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given a most hearty desire to pray, may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:59 PM | Comments (1)

June 11, 2005

Incredible medieval architecture

Speyer Dom - Cathedral - is a fine example of the medieval architects' work. It has seen some dangerous and difficult times in its history. It is also the resting place of four Kaisers (Emperors), three Kaiserins (Empresses), and five Konigs (Kings). This is the burial place of the Salian dynasty - the grandsons and great grandsons of Charles the Great - aka Charlemagne or Karl der Grosser! Founded in 975, it was built in several stages and was, in 1106, the world's largest building.

The soaring Gothic interior of the Nave of Speyer Dom - the Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Stephen.

Fire has been an enemy for this cathedral, destroying the roof and some structure in 1159 and again in 1450 when repair work on the organ is reported to have been the cause. The thirty years war, which ravaged the Rhine Palatinate, also contributed to the damage, with the French burning the city and its Dom in 1689. The 18th Century also saw some traumatic events, with major reconstruction and renovation, only for it all to be undone by the French Revolutionary troops who invaded this area in 1794.

Since 1803, the cathedral has suffered some difficult times - the French used a lot of these buildings as arsenals or stables and looted most of the treasuries - but the later 19th Century saw the beginning of a huge amount of restoration work which is still ongoing. The beautifully restored cathedral as we see it today is the result of much careful restoration since 1945, and it is a tribute to both its congregation, its Bishops and Chapters, and to the people of Speyer that it still stands as a fine example of the Gothic builders' art.

For all its weight of history and the tragedies it has witnessed, it still has a warm and welcoming feel to it - surely a tribute to the faith of those who use and care for it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:46 PM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2005

Administrative Announcement

At long last there is movement on the "moving day front", per latest word from the Ozguru !! What this will mean over the next few days is anyone's guess, but, if things seem to have gone a bit pear-shaped, don't be surprised. The Monk has finally returned to his home base, and the technicals will get sorted, so, as they used to say in the good old radio days: Please Stand By !!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:18 PM

June 09, 2005

More anti-Christian actions by Whitehall.

The revelation that Newnham's, a Borough of London, NHS Hospitals have had their chapels "converted" into "Prayer" Rooms for "All Faiths" by their NHS Trust, shows either crass stupidity or deliberate desecration on the part of the Trusts Board and its executive officers. The fact that the removal of the Christian symbols from a consecrated chapel constitutes "desecration of a religious structure, building, or site" in terms of the 19th Century laws which were enacted to protect the right of freedom of worship seems to have escaped the notice of both the Trust and the the Police. A consecrated "Chapel" is NOT a "Prayer Room"!

This action, without proper consultation and without even understanding the differences between the concepts of different religions' uses of spaces "set aside for God". The fact that this action is deeply offensive to Christians and probably does not meet the needs of the "other faiths" does not seem to have entered into this debate at all. The only consideration here seems to have been the local Trust's denizens' secular and atheistic determination that the "Christian symbols caused offence to members of other religions"! The fact that their actions are deeply offensive to those of us who are Christian seems to be a matter that is not addressed by this government's new law against causing "religious hatred or offence". Evidently only non-Christians can be offended.

This sort of action is typical of the present government's interpretation of what is "offensive" and whom it offends. Strange, is it not, that a government whose leader often publically shows off his "faith", is so frequently active in undermining and attempting to destroy Christian faith, Christian worship, and the very tennets of Christian belief. Mr Blair a devoted Christian? Not in my book.

Yet again we see the crass and blatant bias of this shower of bigots and their equally blatant racial and secularist agenda. White, Christian, and British is evil - anything anti-Christian, anti-White, and anti-British is good. They forget that it was the British sense of Christian Justice which drove the abolition of slavery - something that their favourite religion still espouses and practices in secret - it was the British who did more to bring about the end of racial prejudice and oppression than anyone else, and yet they still try to pervert our history and present us as "institutionally racist".

It is convenient to preserve and project the lie that it was Christianity that held back science in the Middle Ages and forget that it was the great Christian thinkers who founded universities, brought about general education, and nurtured the sciences. Let us not forget that it was the Christian understanding of the ten commandments that, until this shower of atheists, new ageists, and psuedo-liberals came to power, underpinned and informed all our laws.

This stripping of a Christian Chapel of its Christian symbols, the removal of its Bibles and other furnishings, and their "storage in a cupboard" to be avaialbe "if anyone asks for them" is not just deeply offensive, it is an affront to everyone of every faith. I sincerely hope that a prosecution follows this - but I won't hold my breathe - not in Blair's "modern" apostasy!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:55 AM | Comments (3)

June 08, 2005

People over 35 should all be dead!

This little item was passed to me by my brother in Cape Town. Looking at it, I'd say there is only one thing missing - the description of the whimps who today are the ones calling the tune on all of this were the kids we wouldn't have wanted to play with when we were growing up - the ones who always told tales, the ones who were so precious they turned their noses up at our games, who always had the latest toy or the special toy that no one else was allowed to touch - while they had free access to everything belonging to everyone else.

According to them everyone over 35 should be dead. Here's why ............

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 40's, 50's, 60's, or even maybe the early 70's probably shouldn't have survived.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright coloured lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, ... And when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.) As children, we would ride in cars with no seatbelts or air bags. Riding in the back of a ute (pickup) on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.


We ate cakes, bread, and butter, and drank soft drink with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing. We shared one soft drink with four friends from one bottle, and believe it or not, no one died from this.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day.



We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on pay(if we even had a TV), video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms. We had friends! We went outside and found them down the road. We played cricket in the backyard, front yard, neighbours yard - over the fence was a 6. We fell out of trees, got cut, and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

They were accidents.

No one was to blame but us.

Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them. We caught tadpoles in the drains outside our houses and nearby creeks. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade.


Tests were not adjusted for anyone, for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.

They actually sided with the Cops.

Imagine that!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success, and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

And you're one of them!


Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before lawyers and government over-regulated our lives, for our own good !!!!!

People under 30 are WIMPS !

I have no idea who wrote this, or where it came to my brother from - but I think it should receive a wider audience, don't you?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:51 AM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2005

Bridge at Cologne

Seen from the South West spire of Koln Cathedral, the main bridge across the river Rhine.

Just a taster for those of you who have wondered where I had got to, lately. Even Church Mouse has had a lack of contact, as I spent eight very full and busy days with my very, very special friends in their lovely country. They took me to see some wonderful buildings, we explored the history of the Palatinate and the Rhine, and we had some plain old-fashioned fun together.

I have barely had time to change suitcases on my return home, Sunday, and must now return back to Germany - this time to a trade show in Hannover, today. Hopefully I will then have some breathing space to sort out a bit more posting and share some of the photos and things I have learned.

Auf weidersehen!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:49 AM | Comments (2)

June 06, 2005

Flying visit

The Monk is making a flying return to the UK from his holiday in Weisbaden/Taunusstein and the central Rhinelands.

Having been thoroughly spoiled by his friends and having had a fantastic time exploring the legendary Rhinelands, he has returned to the mayhem of work - and straight back to Stress Factor 20!

Tomorrow he is off again to Hannover for a major trade exhibition - but will be back on Friday!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:52 AM

June 04, 2005

Hopefully ?!

Church Mouse is just hoping The Monk will have time to say two words before dashing madly out of his home and back off to Germany, this time 'on the job'. Apparently he's having such a good time on his leave he's not even found time to send a wee postcard !!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:23 AM

June 01, 2005

An interesting blog

Occasionally I trawl the Internet looking for specific information on events or history and in so doing frequently encounter interesting blogs or websites. The most recently discovered source on information from Israel - as a Christian I do have a natural interest and affinity for that beleagured nation - is a blog called One Jerusalem Blog.

The posts are well thought out, informative, and give news and views you certainly won't find in any of the biased and pro-palestinian Western news media. Well worth a read if you really want to find out what is going on there.

The blog is actually a website for a group who are campaigning to keep a united Jerusalem in the face of political machinations to divide it again and give the Old City back to the corrupt and aggressive control of Hamas, Fatah, and other groups who have tried for almost fifty years to bomb, knife, and shoot their way to power. Jerusalem is the capital of the Israeli state and should be recognised as such. The vitriolic and poisonous propaganda that pours from various Muslim sources - frequently repeating the fraudulent and discredited Blood Libels used by the Communists in 1917 and the Nazis in 1936 - 1945 - would, if directed at them in the UK, result in prosecution of the writers and publishers. But, because its directed against the Jews by the poor downtrodden and misunderstood Muslims, its perfectly alright in the eyes of our political masters and the judiciary and police.

If nothing else, this blog gives a different slant on the Israel/Arab question. Well worth a read and a frequent revisit.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:30 AM