« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »

August 31, 2005

The crazy rants of Samantha Burns

Found this blog while linking CrossSwords and feel I like this lady already! She calls a spade a spade and sounds like she has some of the same issues with the world that I do.....


Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:18 PM | TrackBack


The subtitle proclaims that "I am one Christian seeking grace, in a world of conflict". Well I think I can share that sentiment! So without any further ado - I am adding him to my regular reads!


Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:54 PM | TrackBack

Two Babes and a Brain

I thought the title a little whimsical, but the content is certainly worth the read. Besides, they said something nice about me and my post on aid for the hurricane.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

Hurricane Katrina damage mounting

My post on the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the Mississippi Delta has attracted some nice comments from the US, and one, at least, has posed another interesting question. Where is Bob Geldof, George Clooney and the rest of the "Celebrity Circus" who are so quick to pour their emotive appeals into anything involving anywhere in the Third World?

Rather conspicuous by their absence as far as I can see.

The blog has an interesting title "Two Babes and a Brain" and I will, having read this and several other posts on their blog, be adding them to my own blogroll for future visits! Thank you ladies for the hat tip and for the compliments concerning my sentiments on this disaster, like you I will be finding someone I can make a small donation to to help out, but I hope that more will do so too!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A snoopers' charter?

The announcement recently that the "moral minority" that dominate Blair's government are to introduce a new set of laws making it illegal to access or download pornography from the internet has overtones of "Big Brother". While the pornography issue is a thorny one, and is rightly regulated in print and distribution laws in every nation, the internet poses a whole new range of problems.

Firstly I would like to acknowledge that the promulgation of violent and degrading images, films, and other forms of this material via the internet is horrendous and should be repugnant to us all. But it is a fact of life - in fact it has been since time immemorial if the paintings in Pompei and other ancient sites are anything to go by! Even our television is now laced with some truly repulsive stuff, particularly if you have access to satelite channels. Regulation doesn't seem to have much impact there either!

It is not so much the regulation of this that I find worrying, it is the powers of enforcement and the interpretation that will be put to it by the enforcers. All very well for ministers to mouth their usual platitudes about privacy and the rest, the reality is that they do not give a damn about how these powers are used and abused by officials. It is stated that the possession of images which "degrade" and show "gratuitous violence", "torture", or "restraint" will be the only ones affected. That depends on someones interpretation, a very subjective subject! A good example is the new Licencing Act, which contains provisions for objections to late opening being lodged by anyone "in the vicinity" of the licenced premises. Sounds good, until you discover that the officials (Yes, you've guessed, the faceless wonders of Whitehall again!) have put a limit on "affected area" of a radius of 80 yards from the licenced premises! I live a mile from a club which has a current "late opening" licence and am regularly woken by drunken revellers shouting and screaming and fighting in the street outside my home - which happens to be a thoroughfare - but I am not allowed to object! The same thing will happen to the new laws, Whitehall "guidance" will licence more of their incompetents to snoop and their interpretation of what is and is not "offensive" pornography will be so wide that I can see grandparents being marched into court for having pictures of their grandchildren in bathing suits!

It would seem that the Police or some even more shadowy government agency will soon have the power to monitor the internet, in particular certain websites, and record the ISP of everyone who visits it. This should worry us all, because this is only one step away from then monitoring all traffic from someone's computer and everything that you do on it or through it onto the web. Big Brother will then know who all your friends are, who says and thinks what, and to whom. Pornography may be the declared target, but is it the only target? Given Whitehall's penchant for snooping and interference in private life, I doubt it. Soon it will be monitoring your views on religion, family life, children's behaviour and politics. It will be all too easy for these powers to be extended as Blair's Dictatorship extends its tentacles ever further into how we live our daily private lives.

I have learned from friends who work for various organisations who write software and who develop hardware/software for looking at and monitoring internet traffic that it is possible now to monitor who is visiting what on the internet. In fact, it is apparently possible to set up a system whereby a computer monitors particular ISP's and locks in the ISP address of every visitor. This is, of course, where some of the more creative users of the internet have developed programmes which scramble or generate false ISP's for their wanderings through programmes such as "Thor" - which is illegal in most Western countries - but, which I learn, is used by most of those generating spam and pornography! It would seem to me then, that the real sex offenders are likely to have access to this sort of programme and it will be the small time offender whose curiosity or boredom and possibly loneliness has led him or her to explore these sites that will suffer the full weight of the law - purely so that the Whitehall nannies can show how effective their snooping is.

As I said earlier, I am not a supporter of pornography, I do however, support a person's right to privacy and to live their lives in their own way - provided it does not impact on anyone else! And there lies my dilemma. Pornography does hit someone. It affects the person who is coerced, inveigled, or simply forced into it by economics, desperation, or abuse very, very badly. Hitting the user may restrict it but I suspect it will have little impact on stopping it.

There is one more thing that I find very difficult in this debate (not that there has been one!), and I suspect I may not be the only person to have spotted this anomaly - the people now introducing this legislation and trying to restrict the use and spread of pornography are the very same ones who fought to scrap censorship of films, rules of decency and behaviour, and are even trying to sneek in legalised prostitution. The leopard changing its spots, or something more sinister? I suspect it has much more to do with "being seen to have done something" than with any real desire to help the victims, and I also suspect that it is simply another way to get their "Thought Police" more powers to snoop into the privacy of our computers and erode further our freedom of speech and thought. Pornography may be the target, but I rather doubt it will be the only thing these powers will be used to access and restrict.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:01 AM | Comments (3)

August 30, 2005

Adrian Warnock's Blog

Adrian is an evangelical Christian and even though I would disagree with a lot of the detail of our respective positions - we are both firmly believers in the one true God!


Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:16 PM | TrackBack

Hurricane threats

The news of the damage caused by the category 5 hurricane which has hit the Mississippi Delta area and New Orleans is bad enough, but I do find it strange that the UK Media is not reporting the fact that there have been an increased number of these devastating storms in recent years. Given that they usually have lots to say from the Doom and Gloom merchants of Friends of the Earth (Enemies of Humanity) and Greenpeace (Ecoterrorists Inc), this seems to me to be a missed opportunity - or, perhaps it has to do with the fact that it hasn't devastated an area in a "Thud Wurld" nation? Could it be that the US and its citizens are not seen as being in need of sympathy or assistance?

If one considers the devastation that arises from flooding of "protected" low lying areas when the dykes are breached (Levees in the US parlance!) and the storm surge produces rises in water levels of three to four metres in populated areas, you do have to acknowledge that the US economy takes a huge hit every time one of these storms strikes. That raises the question; if we are prepared to pour billions of pounds in aid into third world areas where most of the money is misappropriated and seldom results in anything which will prevent the next disaster, why are we not being encouraged to offer the same aid to the affected States in the US? Surely the annual damage to their economy must eventually hit the rest of us, restricting our natural and laudable impulse and ability to offer real improvement and aid to everyone else?

One normally hears a great deal about how we are all one "global family" and "owe it to the world's poor struck by disaster" to pour our hardearned Pounds, Euros, and any other currency into "aid". But, evidently, not for the US. Yet, the US is not universally flush with money, everyone is not "rich" and many of those worst hit in the Gulf States and further inland as the storm blows out across the Mississippi valley, will be people who are poor, struggle to make ends meet and who will not be covered by adequate insurance or even by any form of aid programme. The National infrastructure in the US should also cause us all concern, as it cannot continually absorb damage without degradation and massive investment is needed to put it right. That hits at the funding available for Foreign Aid, for renewal and for growth.

The US is not the "enemy" of the rest of the world, it is the powerhouse and the engine of the world economy, whenever it falters or takes a serious hit, the world catches cold! That is something we all do very well to remember, and it is something that the Liberal Left of the EU and the UK would do very well to learn. The funds they are so generous in handing out to every tinpot dictator of every really deprived and oppressed nation they love to patronise will dry up very rapidly if we do not recognise the damage being absorbed by the US at present affects us all. One look at the oil prices in the last 72 hours will tell you that!

My prayers are with all my friends and acquaintances in the Gulf States as they begin the mammoth task of clearing up, restoring and repairing the damage this latest hurricane has done to them. Their great strength lies in their resilience and their ability as a nation to do what we in the socialist-dominated "rest of the West" have lost the ability to do, to pull together, to muck in, and get on with rebuilding without the whinging, whining, and demands for help from the "state" that accompany any disaster in this country. We need to acknowledge that, and we need to at the very least offer all the assistance we can as their need is every bit as great as that of South East Asia, Africa, or anywhere else. And before anyone attacks me for that sentiment, remember that Third World Aid receives probably its biggest single shot in the arm from US government funding.

We are all one family, and our American cousins, self sufficient and resilient though they are, need our aid and support as much as anyone at this time. The indications from the weather data for the last ten years suggests that they will suffer increasing storm damage over the next few decades and beyond. That poses the very real threat of eventual serious economic damage to what is possibly the most important single economy in the world - we need to acknowledge that, put aside the pernicious prejudice pumped out by our left wing media circus and the Liberal Left and look seriously at what can be done to help.

If not, we will all catch a serious cold in the not too distant future - and we all face being labelled hypocrites for our attitude to those in need just because they happen to belong to a nation our leaders envy!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

August 29, 2005

A Dilbertian response

I have a colleague who is known for his sense of humour and his slightly off-centre view of life in general. He teaches Chemistry, Radiation, and other nasty materials effects on the human frame. Prior to joining us, he worked for the Royal Navy, specifically the branch that deals with matters nuclear. His lectures are, to say the very least, entertaining and unforgettably unpredictable - and very informative. He has placed this response on his e-mail while he is out of the office ...

Until further notice I'll be carrying out some private HAZMAT research in central France. I intend to focus my attention on the hazardous properties of fermented fruit juice and solidified milk products.

It goes some way to explaining his lecture style. It may also help explain, in part, his sobriquet - "Huw the Unhinged". Scourge of the forces of management, doyen of the lever applied to the cracks in any organisation. Dilbert to the life!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:55 PM

August 28, 2005

Animal Welfare Activists? Terrorists by another name!

The news that a family who farmed Guinea Pigs (Not from Guinea and certainly not members of the Porcine family!) for medical research have gone out of business after 16 years of violent attacks, harrassment, and other terrorist attacks on them, their relatives, and their employees by so-called "Animal Welfare Activists", is a sickening indictment of our legal system's failure. Among other nasty attacks, the so-called "Activists" dug up the coffin of an elderly relative and stole her remains, holding them to ransom for over a year now in return for the family giving up its business.

Well, the police have failed utterly to find the perpetrators - despite very real evidence that they must be based fairly close to the farm - and no one has ever been caught or prosecuted despite numerous attacks, plenty of evidence, and even some injuries. Even if they were, the courts would not give them the sentences they so richly deserve.

What sort of sick mind will dream up the idea of stealing the corpse of someone's relative and then holding it to ransom? These people have placed themselves firmly outside of the bounds of any acceptable and normal society. They have the audacity to claim that what this family were doing is "inhuman", but they, and their sympathisers in the RSPCA, Animal Welfare, Anti-vivisection League, and all the rest of this "animals are more important than humanity" rabble, have espoused tactics in no way different to the suicide biombers of the Middle East and no more acceptable in a civilised society!

The plain fact is, whether we like it or not, that some things cannot be tested in a laboratory without first testing it on a rodent. Simply doing a chemical analysis is not going to tell us whether it will have effects like Thalidomide or not.

Perhaps that is the solution. Round these human animals up and use them to test the drugs for cancer, for allergies and for genetic disorders. After all, they have placed themselves outside of humanity - so treat them as outsiders.

There is no excuse for terrorism for any cause, and there is no point in appeasing terrorists. Cut off their funds, cut off their support, and shut down their sympathisers - then you can address the real issues which give rise to it. It is simply unacceptable to have the supporters and sympathisers airing their support in the media and arguing that it is "justified". It is not. It never has been and it never can be. It is time to get tough with these sickening perverts and deal with them effectively. The Police and the Minister responsible should be censured for their failure to act and to bring these criminals before a court. It really has gone far enough;it is time someone answered for this failure in our criminal system.

Someone, somewhere knows who these people are and where they have hidden the remains of the family's stolen grandmother. They should turn them in now - or be treated when the Police finally get motivated to deal with this, as accessories after the fact! They are every bit as bad as those who carry out these acts, whatever their cause!

Terrorism is evil and cannot be tolerated in any form or for any cause.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:08 PM

August 27, 2005

Part of the family

Meet Mausi, undisputed "owner" of my friends in the Rhinelands. Mausi rules the house with a velvet paw and even has her own seat at the breakfast table in the gazebo.

Mausi making sure all is in order - or in her preferred tongue "Alles in Ordnung!"

The wildlife in this little corner of the Taunusstien is very much in this young lady's control. She is, as her name suggests, an energetic "mouser" and keen provider of delicacies such as mice, the odd stoat, birds and many other items for the family larder. Like almost every "Moggy" - old English name for a Black and White cat - she is a character with definite ideas of what is due and to whom by whom!

Exempt from her rule are the local hedgehogs - perhaps from experience of a prickly nature - they go unmolested.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:37 PM

An honest appraisal?

Aside from my "day job" I mark project submissions for a workbased degree programme for a university. Mostly these are of a "technical" nature related to my teaching subjects, but I am also a trained, qualified, and experienced "manager" so I also mark some projects which are strictly management. Recently I marked submission from a student which contained the rather telling statement I quote here ...

"The author is currently a strategic manager, one of six, who compromise the strategic management team, with responsibility for research, development, human resources and operational delivery."

It may be Fruedian, but it has that certain ring of truth to it ....

I thought he deserved a "Distinction" for his honesty!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:07 AM

August 26, 2005

Medical mangles?

It's Friday, so I thought I'd celebrate the fact - and that it's a long weekend - with something funny. I got this list of mangled medical recording from my brother in Cape Town. I think I hope that the medical abilities are not accurately reflected by the mangled reports!

Actual writings in a Mpumalanga Hospital

1. The patient refused autopsy.

2. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

3. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

4. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

5. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

6. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

7. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

8. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

9.The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

10. Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.

11. Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

13. She is numb from her toes down.

14. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

15. The skin was moist and dry.

16. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

17. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

18. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

19. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

20. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

21. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

22. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

23. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

24. Skin: somewhat pale but present.

25. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

26. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

27. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

NO comment!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

Interruption of service?

Munuvia suffered a bit of a blackout as some astute observers and readers may have noticed yesterday - but Pixy Misa seems to have fixed the problem and got us back on the map this morning! Well done Pixy, long may the new server remain functional!

The full explanation can be found on Pixy's own page. Collective sighs of relief all round and compliments to Pixy for the salvation of our blogs!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:17 AM

August 23, 2005

A sister Abbey

Pershore, around 10 miles from Tewkesbury, has an Abbey Church as well. Like Tewkesbury, it was a Benedictine foundation, but predates Tewkesbury by almost 150 years, having been founded around 950 AD. Like Tewkesbury it saw many changes of fortune, and at the dissolution was sold to the townsfolk - as a quarry. They, however, were allowed to maintain the Quire and the Tower as a Parish Church and this survives today. Lost are the original nave, North Transpet, Ambulatory and Coronial Chapels, but the Quire, South Transept, and Tower still stand.

Pershore Abbey from the South East, showing the remaining South Transpet and Quire Presbytery.

Unlike Tewkesbury, the interior of the tower was never vaulted, so it remains as a "lantern" with the ringing platform suspended above the "crossing"! Definitely not for the sufferer of vertigo! It must have been a lovely building in its prime; the remaining bits certainly suggest this!

Interior of the Tower "Lantern" - the "Ringing Platform" is the diamond shaped platform in the centre.

The bulk of the Abbey Church may have gone, but the people of Pershore still have their "Parish Church" and take as great care of it as we do in Tewkesbury. Any visit to this area should include a visit to this much loved building as well.

Laus Deo!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:08 AM

August 22, 2005

Roman Ingenuity

Gloucestershire is rich in Roman remains; in fact it was the seat of the military government, the Comes Britainarium, the Commander in Chief of all Roman Forces in Britain was located at Corinium - modern Cirencester. All roads don't lead to London, they lead to Cirencester - at least the Roman ones do!

Assorted 079.jpg
The beautifully preserved mosaic floor of the "Dining Room" at the Chedworth Roman villa in Gloucestershire. The "hypocaust", underfloor heating can be seen in the opening in the foreground.

Cirencester had a "Stadium" amphitheatre, basilica, and a number of important "palaces". The area around here is full of large Villas which were probably home to local nobles "elevated" by their allegiance to the Romans. Certainly the opulence of the buildings suggests that they did very well, and the remains and excavations show that the area was heavily farmed and well populated. This all began to decay from the late fourth century as Rome itself fell into internal dispute, and increasing bureaucracy strangled its ability to respond to threats from external forces. Then the situation in Britain deteriorated badly once the troops and garrisons were withdrawn in the late 5th Century.

The great houses at first survived, but the craftsmen and women necessary to maintain them probably moved with the money - to Europe and Rome - as increasing lawlessness and invasion gradually eroded life in Britain. A visit to Chedworth certainly gives one a lot to think about - including what would life be like today had the Roman Empire not collapsed? What if we had not lost the skills and the technology between the 5th Century and the 11th? What if we had seen a technological revolution in the early 6th Century, built on the skills of the Roman craftsmen?

Maybe our past failures do have something to say about our future. Maybe we should see what would change the cycle for the better - and act on it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:48 AM | Comments (2)

August 21, 2005

Conflict to come?

Despite the many warnings, and despite the record of history, we still live in a society which believes that the "flower power" philosophy of "love beats bombs" and "jaw, jaw, not war, war" will overcome the Jihadi approach and determination to enslave the world in the name of Islam. The name itself should be a warning since it means, quite bluntly, "submission". I found my way to an interesting article through Dodgeblogium on this subject, and it has provoked my taking a hard look at several matters raised there.

On a site entitled "Private Papers" I came across a well researched and written item entitled "Doublespeak unveiled", which gives some interesting insights into the philosophy driving the Islamist and Jihadi mentality. Nothing less than total world domination is the goal, and nothing less than that will satisfy them. Those who choose to ignore this - particularly those who, like Tony Blair's coterie of cronies and appeasers - are creating an atmosphere in which there is likely to arise a situation which will trigger another global conflict. It may start as a terrorist campaign, but sooner rather than later someone will take advantage of some real or imagined slight and it will explode into a major war.

As Bruce Thorton, the author of the article in question, points out, the failure of both Fascism and Communism was that they tried to replace spiritual values and yearnings with purely material comforts. They did not address the fundamental spiritual needs of society - in fact this is evident even now in post-communist societies where Socialism holds sway. Secularisiation of everything, even the beliefs of millions for the purposes of creating a "multi-cultural and mutually respectful" society, is missing the same thing - it tries to reduce belief and spirituality to logic and reason. The Islamic threat is not one of material gain or even of secular power - although they recognise that secular power comes from success - it is about imposing their beliefs and spiritual values on the world. Where the communists tried to impose a non-belief system and the fascists tried to create a sort of new paganism, the Islamist wishes to impose his spirituality - and therein lies a huge difference, because in a spiritually impoverished world, simple belief and simplistic faith patterns have a huge appeal! For those who do not kowtow to the "Submission" there is a prospect of being removed from all authority and denied equality in anything.

It is worth quoting Thorton:

"The jihadist enemy, on the other hand, is operating on principles and values squarely in the tradition of Islam, and thus unlike fascism and communism is expressing a spiritual need and an orthodox religious mandate: to fulfill by force the will of Allah that all the world be subject to Islam and an Islamic state, the caliphate, ruled by sharia, Islamic religious law. Those conquered infidels who refuse to convert are reduced to dhimmi, subordinated and humiliated peoples whose restricted rights, diminished lives, and circumscribed behavior testify to the superiority of their Muslim overlords and their divine right to oppress the infidel and exploit him economically. This dynamic of jihad and dhimmitude has been extensively documented by Bat Ye'or and other scholars, and is apparent on every page of Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and history from the eighth century to today."

The history of the Near and Middle East is enlightening, for those who think that history has a lesson for our age - but apparently those currently entrenched in power in the West believe that history is simply a waste of time and that they are far wiser and less fallible. A study of the late 7th Century and the 8th to 11th Centuries history in the Middle East should sound a number of warnings. First, Islam infiltrated communities which were nominally at least Christian, Jewish or simply pagan (Zoroastrianism should perhaps not be considered pagan, but some do so label it!). Then, having established communities, they began to make demands for concessions to their faith, and finally to provoke conflict within communities. When the authorities reacted (A large part of the area affected was then a part of the Byzantine Empire) they found themselves under attack from increasingly powerful armies of desert recruited nomads and eventually organised armies as more and more states fell to the Muslim hordes sweeping out of Arabia. Conquered towns and cities were given a stark choice - convert to Islam or die.

So, as I have asked before, is there such a thing as a "moderate" Muslim? I am not convinced there ever can be - it is simply a contradicition in terms. Again, Thorton provides a useful reminder:

"Or consider Dr. Yusuf Karadawi, a British Muslim theologian the mayor of London has praised as a “moderate.” Of course, on cue he will recite the usual “condemnations” of terrorism, but always with his fingers crossed. Once more, Israel is the key to discerning the true beliefs of the “moderate.” Dr. Karadawi has stated that there are no civilians in Israel, that using children as homicide bombers is acceptable, and that the terrorists in Iraq murdering Americans, Brits, and Iraqis are “valiant.” The Muslim Council of Britain has described this apologist for murder as a “distinguished Muslim scholar, a voice of reason and understanding.”

In his attitudes to Israel and to Jews in general, Karadawi points to the smoking gun in the hands of every adherent to the Islamic faith. They simply cannot accept equality or even acknowledge the truth, they must always point a finger at someone else and say "it is their doing, we Muslims are the victims." Yes, they are victims, victims of their own hypocricy.

The real battle is not for possession of Israel or "Palestine"; the real fight is the overthrow of the West. And Mr Blair and other "liberal" "moderates" in the West had better wake up to this soon - or they will be responsible for the outbreak of a war that will make the Great War of 1914 - 1918 and the 1939 - 1945 wars look like Sunday School outings.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

August 20, 2005

Dispossessing the natives

The images currently pervading the news channels on TV with the removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza are disturbing enough, but the abusive language, no matter how carefully delivered by the Palestinian "spokeswoman" will certainly win her no prizes for promoting understanding. She has consistently chanted the mantra of "Evil Jews stealing land and supported by the evil United States to do it!" Sadly, it seems that the hope of peace that has sparked this will prove to be a chimera.

Unfortunately I have also been listening and watching various "human rights" activists - who all seem to be feminist, Muslim, or Atheist (Now there's something to worry at!) and ardent believers in blaming Britain, the British people, or Western Democracy for the ills of the world. One could be forgiven, listening to these people, for believing that Western democratic society is responsible for everything from poverty in the third world to Muslim fundamentalist terrorism and any other "failure". The remarkable thing is that most of them are either born and educated here or have come here as refugees from whatever Islamic "Paradise" on earth they originated from and have enjoyed the benefits of our free and open society to gain first class educations, access to universuities and degrees in law - and then make full use of the freedom this society gives them to attack it!

With the increasingly generous (to Muslim fundamentalists) legislation giving more and more "rights" to ethnic minorities, "special" religious groups, and more and more restrictions on Christianity and any "Western" religions, there is soon going to be a situation in which the majority population in Britain will find themselves in the same position as the Jewish settlers in Gaza, of being steadily disposed of our heritage and our culture and even our religion.

If we are honest, Britain's history is tied very strongly to the Christian ethos. Whether one is a practicing Christian or not, one is influenced by the Christian message. Our laws are framed on Christian principles; even our ideas of fairness and justice are based on Christian ideals. The Islamic teachings on justice, fairness, and equality differ on a number of points with those as Christians understand them - or, dare one say, as those who seem to think that a "multi-cultural" society will produce and honour them as they understand them. The laws our illustrious leaders are busily trying to frame and impose on "religious hatred" favour Islam, they will not be applied to Islamic preachers of hate, and they certainly will not be applied to defend the Jewish community in this country. Thus, by default, Blair and his stooges will succeed in changing the face of this country from a broadly Christian one, to an Islamic Republic. In short, Islam will achieve its aim of Islamisation of Britain, by thedefault of our own legal system.

At that point, with the introduction of the "Dhimmi" principle, we will all face a choice, adopt Islam or be condemned to second class status in our own land. We will not be the first to have been subsumed in this way: Persia and its Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews are second class citizens in modern Iran. Christians and Jews are second class citizens in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and even the UAE; the same fate befalls them in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan. Where they could not defeat the inhabitants in open conflict, they infiltrate and then use the legal system to seize influence and finally control. We will not be the first, and we will not be the last - unless the "liberal" left can be brought to heel before they give away our heritage and dispossess us by their obsession with this failed experiment in "multi-culturalism"!

If it is not checked soon, we will have been neatly and successfully dispossessed in our own country.

Is this the Britain we want our children to be part of?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:56 AM

August 19, 2005

Who do you believe?

The leak recently of a document or documents from within the Police Complaints Authority relating to the case of the Brazilian shot by the Metroploitan Police, are disturbing for several reasons. Firstly, they are disturbing because it would appear that the first accounts we were given of this tragic incident were misleading to say the very least. Secondly they are disturbing because it suggests that someone within the Police Complaints Authority is pursuing a personal agenda to not only embarrass the police, but to influence the outcome of any final report and potentially the course of justice.

The major problem with any investigation is that you will have a mass of conflicting accounts from witnesses. It would be very easy to be selective about which accounts you leaked if your agenda was - say - to have the policy of "shoot to kill" changed. Select all the statements that seemingly deny the "official" line and feed these to a sympathetic journalist who will then emblazon his or her "scoop" across the front page of whatever rag they scribble for. Think "Rita Skeeter" in the Harry Potter books, the truth is not what counts, it is whether or not we can embarrass the establishment and sell more papers!

For all that these revelations are disturbing, I think it is even more important now for the whole mass of evidence to be examined, perhaps in a public inquiry, and to be assessed as a whole, and not in tiny fragments selected for their propaganda value rather than their importance. If there is one thing I have learned in investgating any event, it is not the differences in the witness statements that count, it is the matters on which there is convergence or agreement. In the fianl analysis, it is also necessary to know the sources and the individuals and a bit about their "issues". Only then can you fully analyse and assess the statements they are making, and only then can conclusions be drawn.

I sincerely hope that the person who leaked these documents is found - I suspect it will be a civilian employee who has an issue with uniformed and disciplined services - and that they are duly charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice - because that is what they have attempted to do. I hope, too, that the enquiries will continue on the issue at hand, it is vital that the whole truth in this matter be made public.

Justice must be seen to be done, and no individual in a position of trust within an enquiry team should consider themselves to be above the law or in possession of superior moral values. Both the Brazilian victim and the policemen involved have a right to justice; that will not come from some individual attempting to act as judge, jury, and court.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:04 AM

August 18, 2005

Dispossession and bitter legacies ....

Watching the removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza "settlements", I felt some of the hurt these settlers must be feeling - and some of the anger as well. The propagandists for the Arab/Palestinian cause would have us believe that these settlements have all been built without the conivance of both the Israeli government and the various Palestinian regimes, that the settlements are built on land "seized" from Palestinains without compensation and without legal process. They would have us believe that this land has been in some way "stolen" - and feed the Western media (ever anti-Israel, anyway!) with the mantra that the Israeli occupation of Gaza is "illegal".

Having left one country for another I can sympathise with the upheaval it causes. I left voluntarily, although, among many reasons, one was because I felt that my children's heritage and their right as citizens in a country that my forebears had created out of wilderness, was about to be stripped from them. As it turned out, this happened in Zimbabwe, but not so far, in South Africa. Be that as it may, much of what my forebears - and I in my small way - built in terms of infrastructures, roads, culture and history has all been demeaned, stripped or destroyed. So I can identify with the Israeli's who are being dispossessed of everything they have built - perfectly legitimately - in Gaza.

The land they have built on was purchased, contrary to popular myth, for legitimately agreed prices and without coercion or force. The structures, infrastructures and even the flourishing gardens have been painstakingly built and nurtured by the Jewish settlers. Prior to their arrival there was nothing like this there. That is the primary difference between the Jewish settlers and their Arab neighbours, the Jews are industrious and hard working. They accept hard work in order to improve their lives and their surroundings - and having done it, they have every right to expect to be able to enjoy it.

The settlements should not have been allowed in the first place, yet politicians on both sides saw them as bargaining chips in the struggle to wrest land from each other. Yes, there are the hardliners among the settlers who have made religion and Biblical "proofs" the justification for being there, but the real culprits are the politicians on both sides who have used this as a lever in the corridors of power. Ariel Sharon will not be popular, and I would not be surprised if and when he is assassinated, but he is at least tackling the first steps necessary to try and reach a peaceful settlement!

It will not be easy, and it does require some sacrifices on both sides. For those being dispossessed of the fruits of their labours for the last 20 years or so, it is deeply hurtful, and they will probably never fully replace what has been lost. For the Palestinians, it will seem like a triumph - they have regained land they sold legitimately at no cost to themselves, and it has been redeveloped and converted from desert to flourishing settlement for them. I hope they take better care of it than I have seen them and their cousins do elsewhere in the Middle East!

The Israelis are often criticised, and the Jewish people are currently under attack again by those who use the discredited "Blood Libels" as a weapon in spreading their filthy propaganda, but this is the opportunity for the world to recognise that there is an opening for peace. Will the Arab nations take it? Somehow I doubt it, because they are all sworn - and their press reflects this with its vile portrayal of all Jews as "liars, thieves, and perjurors who practice infamous rituals and are sexually debased" (I quote an article by a Muslim "Cleric" based in Egypt!). They have one objective - the destruction of the Israeli State.

Those who criticise the Jews in Israel would do well to remember that the world has demanded more sacrifices in the last 2,000 years from this people than from any other. They have been dispossessed more than once, and they have still managed to survive. Doesn't this tell us something? Doesn't this sound a warning somewhere? Surely they have given enough, now it is time for the other parties in this dispute to give a little in return.

Israel is the ONLY democratic state in the region. "Palestinians" who live there have a vote and roughly a third of the seats in the Knesset are filled by Muslims. Show me another Middle Eastern State where Jews or Christians have a similar standing. It is all very well arguing that the land was "stolen" from the Arabs in 1947 - the British must accept responsibility for that myth, having promised the Jews a homeland, they reneged and then tried to hand it over to a hostile Arab population who had publically announced their intention of "driving every Jew into the sea!" Having survived the European holocaust the Jews decided it was not happening again - and the land is theirs.

Perhaps attitudes in Europe and the West would be different if we had a similar history of dispossession, but we don't. The resident population of Europe has lived here undisturbed for the last 1,000 odd years, they having, in turn, dispossed the Gauls, the Franks, and the Celts. I wonder how the Celts felt when the Anglo Saxons moved in and moved them on? I wonder how the multi-culturalists will feel when they find that they are being dispossessed and disadvantaged in their own land - as will surely happen to us if current trends continue unchecked.

I feel for those who have been required to make the sacrifices in Gaza, and I feel for those Palestinians who have been dispossessed by the actions the Israelis have felt necessary to defend the heartland of their State. It is now time - and it is easy for me to say this at this distance from the tensions, the politics, and the intractable enmities - for the politicians on both sides to stop posturing and using the people as pawns. It is time to let peace have a chance, but it is also time to gag the preachers of the hatred that permeates the Middle East. It is time to stop the lies the Muslim clerics perpetrate in the name of religion, and to stop vilifying the Jews.

They do have a right to exist; they do have a right to a homeland. It is also the right of the Jews and the Palestinians not to have their existence used as the pawns in a game of power and landgrabbing by their neighbours in the Arab world. Remember that the last three wars in this region have all been initiated against Israel by their Arab neighbours. The occupation of Gaza began after the abortive attempt by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to overwhelm the Israelis in 1967. They lost that war, and they lost again in 1973 when they attacked sneakily on a Jewish Holy Day. They do not seem to have given up, though, and the inflammatory rhetoric in every mosque in the region bears testimony to this. If there is another war it will be the Arab nations that will start it again. The world needs to be mindful of this - and to ensure that it does not happen!

The Jewish settlers and their investments have been sacrificed to the goal of peace - let's hope it is not a chimera and that it does lead to a proper and lasting settlement.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:08 AM

August 17, 2005

Steam for all sizes ...

The organisers were keen to point out that their membership embraces all sizes and types of steam propelled vehicle. This was born out by the fact that some of the show tractors were too small to be ridden - but could still manage to tow a trailer with the driver and often another passenger riding along.

All sizes.JPG
The variety of sizes of the working models on show at the recent Steam Rally can be seen in this picture.

The performance of even the small engines - and their ability to pull disproportionately large loads - says a great deal about the energy released when water is converted into steam! They may not be the most efficient engine in converting heat/energy into power - certainly a vast amount of the heat produced goes up the smokestack - but there can be no doubt that the 20% of that energy which is used is far more efficient than many modern internal combustion engines - if only because it is using ALL the energy from the moment you open the valve and engage the gear.

Now, if we could find a way to produce steam without wasting the heat energy we use to produce the steam ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:04 AM

August 16, 2005

The backstroke of the West?

Thanks to Byzantium's Shores I found a site under the name of Matthew in Beirut" that has an absolutely hilarious set of "Captions" or "Sub titles" to the latest Star Wars movie. Obviously some enterprising individual managed to make a video copy of the original inside a cinema - according to this blogger, in China - and has then done a subtitling job to translate it back into English. Or something!

My sides hurt after laughing at some of the hilarious translations. An example for whetting your apetite is the translation of the Title, "Revenge of the Sith", which is rendered as "The Backstroke of the West"! I hope George Lucas enjoys them as well - I would guess that the pirate copies of this movie are already going like hotcakes in the Far East!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

August 15, 2005

Reverse evolution at work again!

The Blogosphere is a most interesting environment, especially in the way it calculates the "rating" of a blog. On a recent Saturday this blog was rating as a "Large Mammal", on Monday it was down in size to "Adorable Little Rodent" again. The secret seems to lie in the amount of spam trackback garbage that Ozguru and the Monk have dug out of its archives.

A bit back I wrote that the Spammers were driving me nuts - well, it has taken a lot of hours and some tough decisions such as turning off comments after a week and shutting down trackback altogether to make an impact - Ozguru managed to dig out over 4,000 links to online gambling, porn sites, pharmacy supplies and even loan sharks and mortgage arrangers. Along the line we lost a number of links, legitimate or not, but we finally got most of the spam out - or so we thought!

This morning there were another 50 spam links attached to posts for which the trackback function had been disabled!

In themselves these are more nuisance than anything else, they clutter up the Guru bandwidth and slow the whole server down, but far more annoying is the fact that every morning I would open my mailbox to discover 100, 200 or even on one occassion 400 e-mails, almost all of the them advising me that "a new trackback ping has been attached to ...." or "a new comment has been posted on your blog". And when you check them you discover that "you are invited to consider information concerning ..... ".

Now I am fairly broad minded, but I do object to having my blog used to peddle prescription medication, porography, loan sharking, mortgages and credit services. If these people invested the money in actually advertising their businesses legitimately they would get, I believe, a far better return on their money and would certainly avoid making potential customers extremely angry!

In a sense this is a form of terrorism, one that overloads servers, floods mailboxes and generally annoys everyone at whom it is targetted. If we allow it to continue, the good purposes for which blogs can and are being used will be driven off the bandwidth - perhaps that is what is intended.

As an added complication I am informed that many of the servers which generate this trash, are actually owned and controlled by the mafia, the Chinese "Tongs", their Japanese equivalent and other related organisations who have a major interest in subverting the whole internet to their nefarious activities. Governments are almost powerless to stop this as most, if not all, are located in countries where they are able to "buy" protection and ensure that legislation which would shut them down or restrict operation is most unlikely to be passed - or if it were, to be enforced.

This is something that we will all have to get to grips with one way or another - or simply give up blogging! In the meantime I commend to everyone the effort and the exercise to get the spam out of their systems, only if we all take the time and trouble to do this can we ever hope to beat the spammers.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:09 AM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2005

Why VJ Day must be marked

"Victory in Japan" Day marks the real end of the hostilities in the Second World War. It is a source of some hurt to those who fought in that theatre - many who were there from the start and saw it all the way through - that the "folks at home" almost forgot that the war continued in the Far East for a further four months after victory was achieved in Europe. It has been a source of huge anger among ex-servicemen and women, and this government, with its "internationalist" and "anti-military" attitudes (except when it suits them to make use of the military!) have succeeded in causing even more hurt and anger this year by combining the two events into one day - which annoyed both sets of participants!

It should never be forgotten that it was the Labour Party who refused to wait until the war was won and finished before forcing an election. It was the same Labour Party who promptly diverted funds from the war effort that saw the British Pacific Fleet short of fuel and ammunition at a crucial moment. It was the same Labour Party who promptly, having gerrymandered their election win, set about appeasing and doing deals with Stalin - one of which saw 20,000 Georgian Cossacks returned to Stalin to be executed, something Attlee knew was going to happen! This is the same Party who now rule and who are still unable to acknowledge that they owe the men who fought in Burma and the Far East a huge debt of gratitude!

To compound the hurt on the part of the Burma Star and Pacific Star veterans, there is the little matter of record that the US military commanders had to be ordered to allow the British Forces Chief's to be at the signing of the surrender. In fact, Sir Bruce Fraser's flagship, HMS King George V, was the only British ship in Tokyo Bay for the signing, and she was only there as a direct result of an order to the US C-in-C to await her arrival.

While there is a general acknowledgement that the British fought a "holding" action against the Japanese in Burma and along the Indian and Chinese borders, and that the US Forces bore the brunt of the pursuit through the island chains, they were there, and they made a huge contribution to the ultimate victory. Thier restricted role was purely a matter of priorities and resources, as the British Fleets were first and foremost required in the Mediterranean and Atlantic battles, since, a victory for the Axis powers in Europe or Africa and the Middle East, would have meant that the Far East situation would have been infinitely worse. It must also be said that the deployment of the ANZAC forces in Africa and Southern Europe while the Japanese were threatening invasion of Northern Australia from New Guinea was certainly not a popular decision by the War Cabinet in Britain with the Australians!

That said, the British Forces who did bear the brunt of the fighting from 1941 to 1945 in Burma, the Indian Ocean, and the Java Sea area were always short of equipment, manpower, and, for the Naval forces, ships and air cover. Even so, they tied down a very large number of Japanese forces and fire power which, if released to fight and defend the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, or the rest of the islands the US Forces were liberating one by one, would have made that job ten times harder. Even so, the British and Empire forces deployed whatever they could in support - and lost heavily, frequently being committed to battles to defend landing beaches and troop support convoys against vastly superior forces. This resulted in the loss of many fine ships and men in the Pacific battles - but which also provided pivotal support for the US Forces at key stages of the island liberation. It was sad therefore that the then C-in-C Pacific of the US Navy did not like the British. He did his best, when Britain was finally able to send a proper fleet of modern battleships, aircraft carriers, and all the support train, to keep them on the sidelines and as far as possible from the action. Fortunately he was overruled by Presidential order, but it still does not sit well with the men of the Burma and Pacific Star associations. Nor does the annual reminder that theirs was a "forgotten" theatre as far as the British public and politicians are concerned.

Earlier this month we marked the dropping of the first atomic bomb - "Little Boy" - on Hiroshima. A few days later a second, "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki, and within a few days of that event, Japan surrendered unconditionally. The 15th of August 1945 saw the assembly in Tokyo Bay of the might of the US Navy - and one British Battleship - and the signing aboard the USS Missouri, of the instrument of surrender. It is only right, indeed it is important, that we mark this date as the ending of the second World War.

It was not the end of a "War to end all war", nor did it herald an era of peace - the terrorist war is proof of that - but it did mark the end of organised global conflict and the standing down of armies all around the world. All too soon the Communist Regimes of the newly "liberated" States would impose a new form of conflict, when they discovered that a determined "free" world would fight to remain free of their ideological poison. It is a sad reflection that the "War on Terror" is almost entirely a result of the "Cold War" which resulted from that stand off.

If nothing else, the marking of VJ Day should remind us that we can never relax our vigilance in our defence. There are still a large number of extremely evil and dangerous regimes who would like nothing more than to overthrow the free world and impose their evil on the world. We owe it to our veterans to resist that to the very last breath. This is something the Labour Party's ideologues still have trouble understanding.

"Si vis pacem; para bellum."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:23 AM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2005

Lunar anniversary.

An anniversary worth marking slipped past on the 20th July this year which flags up one of those truly wasted opportunities and probably the most high profile failure of vision by politicians. I am talking about the lunar landings in 1969. I must thank Ozguru at G'day Mate for reminding me and stirring me to find the links. Google have a great little map of the landing sites which provides quite a bit of useful information about the targetted area - relatively small and sites quite close together.

It is encouraging that the US is once more dusting off ideas for future landings, stung into action no doubt by the declared intention of the Chinese, Russians, and EU Space Agencies to do this in the next ten years or so. Back in 1969 of course, the hubris of the then NASA adminstrators led them to include predictions that a manned base could be built there "within a decade". The the politicians lost interest and spent the money on vote catching stuff at home.

Visiting the Google Map, I have to say that the definition as one zooms in is remarkable. In fact, it is that good that I think I will soon have Church Mouse applying to go there! It certainly looks inviting, but perhaps a little singular in interest. The only thing the map lacks in fact is a scale marker. That would useful - any Google Operatives out there reading this?

Let's hope that the new plans actually get airborne and then spaceborne before the politicians lose interest again.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:45 AM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2005

The secret heart of the EU exposed

Reading a blog published by a Euro MEP, I thought it might be worth an entry here, since it exposes where Blair and his coterie of closet communists are trying to go. According to Ashley Mote MEP, the real fight over the EU "constitution" was about whether or not it would be the French "vision" of a "social" Europe.

The real issue here is that Brussels is now so stuffed with Apparatchiks who believe that free enterprise and freedom of choice is evil and only they know how we should all live, what we should all eat, drink and how we should have or even who should have access to it, is something that should give us all warning of the things to come. Brussels is most unlikely to give up on trying to get in place a constitution which will allow them to make even more draconian and dictatorial regulations with which to strangle enterprise. The vision of a "social" Utopian Europe is one to which they are far to strongly committed. Perhaps "committed" is the wrong word, perhaps we should say, beholden - as their very existence in such droves becomes suspect if the "social" element is removed.

To quote Mr Mote, commenting on the current EU President of the Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Borrosso's efforts to create an "Enterprise Europe":

"But the truth is - and he knows it - the incumbent bureaucracy is too strong, too deep-rooted, and too committed to a social Europe. They know, and he knows, that they will still be there long after he is gone."

Therein lies the problem for all elected governments faced with entrenched bureaucracies - the bureaucrats are unelected, unaccountable, and unremovable! Mr Mote quotes a very informative letter written by a former civil servant who was in on the creation of the Brussels Bureaucracy, and I make no apology for repeating it here!

"Peter Le Cheminant wrote to The Daily Telegraph at the beginning of June 2005.

He said: “As a young and junior civil servant I had a ringside seat at the birth of the EEC. France and Germany had senior civil servants of high calibre with no small opinion of their own abilities. Both [countries] had lost a war, as they saw it, through the stupidity of their political masters.

“Small wonder then that they should have devised structures that gave real power to themselves, and minimised the roles of the member states. Their underlying doctrine was that democracy was all very well, but only officials were intelligent enough to control the levers of power.”

That last line says it all! That is what lies at the very heart of the problem with Brussels and the EU, but worse, it is the problem that lies at the very heart of the burgeoning bureaucracy in Whitehall - democracy is to all intents and purposes dead - the power rests entirely in the hands of the faceless wonders of the civil service - who have now got themselves so entrenched that it will take a civil war to remove them.

I sincerely hope that we will not need to go that far!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:20 AM

August 11, 2005

Zacht Ei - Doorbakken kan altijd nog.

Zacht Ei (for the non-Dutch speakers - "Soft Egg") is one of my regular reads. From him I can get a lot of amusing insights into how our Dutch and EU cousins see many things in the world.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:02 PM

Rethinking our society

"The time has come, the Walrus said, to think of many things; of shoes, and ships and sealing wax; of cabbages and kings." Thus, in Lewis Carol's famous poem, begins the feast at which the oysters are consumed by their hosts under the guise of a serious debate. I guess you could say that the UK has found itself playing Oyster to the Islamic Walrus ably supported by his sycophantic "Multi-culturalist" supporters. But what is "multi-culturalism"? What is the reality of a "pluralist" society?

To see one in action one would have to look at the Indian State, where, nominally at least, all faiths have equal status and all cultures (which are usually bound to a particular religious view) are equal. But are they? Certainly in some areas it works reasonably well, but dig down and you find certain tensions simmering beneath the surface. Hindu radicals actively attack mosques, and Christians are the target for everyone who has a grudge. In many such "richly mixed" societies you find that to be a member of a particular religion often excludes you from sections of society, certain professions, and any post which would place you "in charge" of someone from a "dominant" faith group.

Is this really the Britain we think we live in? Is it the Britain we want to create? If we are not careful this is precisely what will happen, primarily because the law will be used, and is being deliberately written in a bias against our native religion and culture - ostensibly to "redress" injustices which have more to do with reaction to unfortunate attitudes and behaviours in some immigrant communities than anything else. Do we really need a law such as that imposed by the Australian Federal government which effectively outlaws the expression of anyone's beliefs in public?

A recent leader article in the Daily Telegraph postulates that the "policy" of multi-culturalism is dead. The author states that it died and should die, because: -

"The idea that many cultures could coexist in one country, going their own ways, living by their own values, and cultivating their own disparate and distinct identities, was always a cop-out. But, considering its presumed high-mindedness, it was oddly cynical as well. It seemed to assume that coming to live in a country was like lodging in a boarding-house: new tenants could keep to themselves and do what they liked so long as they didn't make too much noise or block the lavatories. How they lived their lives was nobody's business, not even the landlady's.

Well, as we have apparently now realised, being a country that absorbs migrants involves rather more than taking in lodgers and leaving them to get on with it. Multiculturalism may have been dressed up as cosmopolitan virtue but, at heart, it was a rationale for not really giving a damn, and a cover for the least attractive British traits - intellectual laziness, indifference to the needs of other people, complacency, and contempt for any sort of energetic commitment to a social ideal."

I must say that I agree entirely with her opening statement: -

"Multiculturalism is really taking a kicking. No tiptoeing around anymore. Nobody, so far as I know, has actually gone the whole hog and suggested that the multicultural philosophy was really a form of "separate but equal" development - which is to say, cultural apartheid. But somebody is bound to go there pretty soon. (Come to think of it, I suppose I just have.)"

In fact, I found myself agreeing with a great deal of her argument, particularly when it comes to educating our young folk in civic affairs and in the actual process of government. I would not find the idea of my children and anyone else's being taught to honour the flag or the constitution and to understanding what it actually means to live in a society that exists as a cohesive unit because everyone shares a love of the freedoms that being part of that society brings. Let's face it, if you don't like living here - go live somewhere else! Don't expect the rest of us to change our freedoms for your oppressive idea of Utopia in some sort of fundamentalist dream state ruled by the likes of Abu Hamza!

All of which brings me to my point: simply that British Society has evolved over a long period. It has been, for at least the last 200 years, a fairly enlightened and tolerant society. Yes, that has brought with it some abuses and certainly some aspects that are of perhaps dubious morality, but the concept of a "multi-cultural" society is simply a non-starter. It cannot work, simply because you cannot have mutually hostile cultures sharing the same spaces! As I pointed out in an earlier post on this subject, sooner or later you will run into a problem with the justice system? Which one prevails? The law of the land, or the law according to some religious fanatic? And here I include fanatics of ALL religions.

On my desk is a saying by a great American writer/journalist, H L Mencken, and it sums up the problem of "multi-culturalism" very well because it actually addresses the real problem, twisted morality and ethics as interpretted by a bunch of narrow-minded and intelligence-challenged moralists. It says:

"The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression."

The problem we face with the government's "policy" of multi-culturalism is that it is being driven by fanatics. It is time for reasonable and intelligent people to call a halt to this nonsense and institute the means for addressing a truly integrated and fair society - not this dangerous sham we currently endure.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:37 AM

August 10, 2005

Is Islam due for Reformation? Is Islam able to reform?

A recent leader article in one of the national dailies postulated that Islam is overdue for a Martin Luther style "Reformation". I rather doubt that such a thing could happen within Islam. I take this stand for several reasons, the main one being that, unlike the Western Christian Church in 1500, Islam has no central leadership. Each Imam is more or less independent, in much the same way that their Jewish counterparts, the Rabbis, are. While they all subscribe to a general central understanding of doctrine and interpretation, they are all essentially independent and answerable only to the local mosque committee.

Luther's famous "Articles" were aimed at a centrally controlled and extremely doctrinaire heirarchy in the Catholic Church. Ironically, his counterparts in the "Protestant" movement of the time, Calvin, Knox, and others of the extreme and fundamentalist view of religion, could, in many ways, be likened to the Ayatollahs of today's Islam. Certainly their espousing of extreme positions and their outright condemnation - and often violent outbursts - against Catholicism and anything and anyone who remained loyal to the Catholic teaching, is not unlike the attitude of the extreme Muslim vision, today, of anyone who tries to moderate their world view.

This brings me to my second reason for doubting whether a "Luther style" reformation could take place within Islam. Firstly, it is a religion based entirely on a single tract. The Quoran, and here I risk incurring a Fatwa, is a reworking, for the most part, of extracts from a large range of "extra-canonical" Jewish and Christian writings owing more to the Docetist and Gnostic heresies of Christianity and some of the more extreme sects of Judaism from the 1st to the 7th Centuries than to anything else. It has been "prettied up" and made more poetical, but its origins are still visible if you know the source materials. It is also fundamentally and very clearly opposed to any compromise at any level - even the stricture which forbids its interpretation and insists that only the pure Arabic text is "authoritive" restricts access and debate. Although Islam's Prophet declared that Muslims must acknowledge the "People of the Book" as following a debased and, in his view, invalid, form of the "true" religion, he does encourage his followers to use every means to convert them to his version of the truth. Thus, there can never be a compromise and there can never be a peaceful co-existence. The myth that such a state existed in Spain in the AD 1000 - AD 1400 is just that, a myth. Christians were tolerated but barred from any position of authority, Christian children were routinely seized as slaves and forcibly converted to Islam and any Christian merchant could expect to pay more "tribute" than any Muslim in the same trade.

As John Quincy Adams put it rather succinctly:

"The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force."

Now this is interesting, and I am sure that there will be those reading this, who will declare that Christianity has itself followed this course, and yes, it did, for a brief and disasterous period in the Middle Ages and again under the Imperial banner in the late 18th and 19th Centuries. The major difference is that it is not a tenet of the Christian Faith to convert by force, deceit, or treachery and never has been supported by the scripture on which that faith is based. Islam, by contrast, sees no problem with dishonesty and violence if that will achieve a conversion. Nor does it have a problem, as the Christian reformers of the 19th and 20th Centuries did, with slavery. In many Islamic countries slavery is still practiced; it may be hidden, and it may be very covert, but it is still practiced and allowable under the tenets of the Qoran.

So, could Islam be "overdue" for a "Luther Style" reformation? If it is, it is in the middle of one at present. There is a war going on for its heart and soul - and the forces of violence are winning. Those who pontificate on the needs of Muslims and the disadvantages that Muslims face in the UK, are generally totally ignorant of the fact that Islam is almost as deeply divided between some factions as Christianity. While most people recognise the terms Sunni and Shi'a, few would realise that "Assassin" is actually derived from the name for a small Muslim Sect from Northern Iran and Afghanistan. Nor would many understand the terms Wahabi or Sufi and these are just the most well-known of the various sects vying for superiority within Islam.

Given, then, that Islam considers that deceit and violence are legitimate tools for the conversion of the "heathen" - everyone who does not subscribe to their view of God - I seriously doubt that any meaningful dialogue can be held between this faith and any other. Equally, I seriously doubt that it is "overdue" for Luther-style reformation - because it is already undergoing the much more fundamentalist Calvin style form of reformation. That should worry everyone, including "moderate" Muslims (and that is an oxymoron if ever there was one since, by Islam's own definitions, you cannot be "moderate" and Muslim!) as, given the precept that world conquest is to be achieved by any means available, if it undergoes a Fundamentalist Reformation, which it appears to be doing, a major conflict will shortly ensue.

And no-one can ever win in that one.

To make matters considerably worse, agnostic and secularist politicians in Western Governments are now rushing to put in place legislation which will stifle and prohibit any debate between people who do not accept the Islamist view of religion. Legislation in Australia is already being used to prosecute Christian preachers who dare to express a tenet of their faith - that Salvation is through Jesus Christ and not through any "prophet" before or after him. In the UK we face a similar law coming into force under Blair (who for all his famous declaration of his "Christian" faith and principles behaves in a remarkably Secularist manner!) which will soon see Christian preachers here being prosecuted for expressing views that a Muslim promoter might find "offensive" or "stirring up religious hatred".

Unless the West wakes up to its danger soon, and puts a stop to the active aid it is giving to those who are spreading the reformation of violence and deceit, the future is likely to be violent and very, very dangerous.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

August 09, 2005

Musica Deo Sacra - the finale!

Sunday was extremely busy for those of us in the Ministry Team; for myself it started at 0730 with Church Warden duties getting ready for the 0800 at which I was the Assistant for Communion. At 0900 for the Parish Communion I was able to stand back from the ministry side and act as the Church Warden - taking a seat briefly for the lessons before having to dash off to prepare to be the Bishop's Chaplain for the 1100.

The Solemn Eucharist for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, is, I think, best described as a transport of pure sensory overload. Where does one start with something that begins with an organ interlude, "Passacaglia in D Minor", by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637 - 1707) and then slips effortlessly into the "Paukenmesse" setting by Franz Joseph Haydn. The enhanced choir for this service in the MDS calendar is seated at the West End on tiered seating across the great West doors, with the orchestra, "The West of England Players", in front of them. The small "Elliot" Organ is also placed at this end of the church and accompanies the orchestra as a "continuo" in some pieces and as "solo" in others.

Those familiar with the "Paukenmesse" setting will know that it is by turns boisterous and subtle. The Kyrie's pleading is balanced by the exuberant declaration of the Gloria, the Credo is, as it should be, a firm declaration, and the Sanctus and Benedictus are filled with hope. The Agnus Dei is almost plaintive, but beautifully hopeful and expectant - the ideal foil for the Communion anthem by Mozart, "Ave veram corpus".

The sermon fulfilled our expectations in that the preacher, the Bishop of Edinburgh, spoke movingly and wittily without in any way compromising his message to deliver a really powerful sermon. His theme was man's propensity for harming his own wellbeing, and he cleverly used the example of the researcher who "proved" the symbiosis between plants and animals - a mouse and a plant sealed in a bell jar, where the mouse was able to breath because the plant renewed the oxygen - until the mouse ate the plant.

As was to be expected he wove the feast of the Transfiguration and the revealing of the Godhead of Christ into the body of his sermon, pointing to the opposite revelation in the atomic bombing of Japan of man's propensity for self destruction. A very thoughtful and thought-provoking sermon.

This service, too, ended with a magnificent performance on the Milton Organ of the "Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor" by our old friend J S Bach. As ever Carleton managed to produce a virtuouso performance which Bach himself must have applauded.

The final service of the day was Solemn Evensong and Benediction for which I was the Sub Deacon. The setting was a modern one by John Sanders and has some stunning harmonies in the Preces and responses. The canticles were to Howell's "Gloucester Service", very fitting given that Gloucester is our Diocesan allegiance. Two items stand out in this service: the Introit, "My beloved spake" by John Sanders (1933 - 2003) and William Harris' setting of John Donne's "Bring us, O Lord" which was the Anthem.

The sermon by our Vicar, the "Lord Abbot" himself, was yet another thought-provoking and well presented text. Taking as his theme the words from St Mark's Gospel (14: 22 - 26) which was the second lesson, he built his argument around the words "after they had sung a hymn, they went out and came to Gethsemane". He then spoke movingly of the role that music plays in worship in all societies and in particular the role it played in the ministry and witness of Christ Himself. it reminded us as well that those who sang a hymn with Christ at the Last Supper also deserted Him and saw Him nailed to a Cross a short while later. As he pointed out very effectively, we have enjoyed the music, we have enjoyed the "week of Sundays" - now it is time to take the message, the faith, and the Cross itself out into the world.

Benediction is almost a contradiction in a day and age when almost everyone who attends a church is a communicant. It is essentially a Medieval Service created to include the "great unwashed" who would never be "confirmed" and would thus be excluded from ever receiving the Body and Blood of the Eucharist themselves in the blessings that it brings. That said, and admitting that there is little if any theological reasoning behind the Office, to actually take part in it as one of the Sacred Ministers is a deeply humbling experience.

Let me make clear, it is not the Monstrance or even the consecrated Host within it that we venerate or worship, it is He that is represented and present in our worship that is at the centre of our veneration. And yet again, the music makes it all the sweeter!

"O salutaris hostia" by Edward Elgar and "Tantum Ergo" by George Heschel bring you to the climax, the Benediction itself. During the singing of the Tantum Ergo, the minsiters cense the Monstrance and then prostrate themselves before the altar and the Lord, then rise to say the Collect before the Priest raises the Monstrance to give the benediction. Then, after a short Preces, the Deacon removes the Monstrance to the Founder's Chantry, and the congregation sings the final hymn while the sanctuary party leave the Sanctuary and process to the West end for dismissal.

This week of wonderful worship and music was brought to a close by Carleton playing Marcel Dupre's "Final" (Sept Pieces). There is nothing left to say - except, "thanks be to God for the music, the musicians, and for the opportunity to worship with it!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:11 AM

August 08, 2005


Interesting are the reports today that the government, in the form of the Attorney General, is considering charging our resident Muslim extremist clerics with treason. This could well be a case of far too little and far, far too late! Ever since the late 1970's - in fact, probably much earlier than that if you count the activities of Blair, Hain, and their cronies whilst at university - various governments of these isles have tolerated and given shelter to wanted criminals and terrorists and allowed them to continue their despicable activities - as long as they didn't target the UK.

This present government has blood on its hands, and not just the blood of Iraq or Afghanistan. They must also accept the bloodshed in Africa in long drawn out terrorist wars there, in Israel where they have long sided with the likes of Hamas, Black Spetember, and the PLO, and in South America where our Foreign Secretary spent some of his time providing "comfort" and support to rebel groups there. In Northern Ireland, our Secretary of State is a vindictive and nasty little-minded man whose main interest is to sell out the Northern Irish Unionists to the Republican Sinn Fein - because he and his boss, the Illustrious Tony the Crony-maker - feel that appeasing the IRA is more important than the majority wishes of the people. Never mind that such appeasement encourages other groups, such as the UK Jihad mob, to think they too can pull off a coup d' etat in return for their bombs and bullets.

Well, as the saying is, if you sow the wind, you must also reap the whirlwind. Especially since the early 1990's the increasingly anti-Christian, anti-Western, and anti-Jewish rantings of the militant Islamic preachers our government has given shelter to, have been winning converts to the campaign to overthrow the "decadent" and non-Muslim West. And we the taxpayers have been paying for it in the form of housing, handouts, cars, health services, and constant appeasement of these vicious killers in our midst. Suddenly we, the British people, and our American cousins, are responsible for all the oppression in Muslim countries around the world. Suddenly we are to blame for Saddam Hussain, Ayatollah Khoumeini, and every other dictator who has risen to power in a Muslim state and then murdered and oppressed his own people.

And when we defend ourselves against these psychopaths? It is a war on Islam!

Well, let's see the government bring on the treason trials. Start with George Galloway, and let's include the army of lawyers who make a fortune from their activities for organisations like "Liberty" who abuse the law to frustrate our defence. Let us also do something about the people who have created - as the Daily Telegraph columnist points out - a "new" form of apartheid in their "multi-culturalist" mumbo-jumbo and their twisted vision of society which has actually aided the terrorist grwoth in our midst by promoting separatist enclaves and the idea that some sort of disadvantage attaches to certain groups.

If treason abounds, it starts in Whitehall and in the very heart of the politicians who promote these myths for their own purposes.

Come to that, why bother with reviving the concept of treason? If these cretins want to live in Islamist States, let us revive the even earlier concept of law - exile them to an Islamist State and let them "enjoy" the fruits of living in one! Why should we continue to pay for the "rights" and comforts of people who wish to deprive us of our rights, privileges, and heritage? Even if found guilty, "life" sentences in this country do not mean "life" and they certainly won't stop the poison.

Exile the lot of them, and bring back a capital charge for any act of terror committed in this country for those who perform it and those who promote and support it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:01 PM

August 07, 2005

Requiem Aeternam

Last Friday night's Requiem to a setting by Thomas Luis de Victoria was an interesting experience. Firstly, it was very moving, secondly the music created a tension in the soul which underscored the separation from those we loved and whom we remembered in the Mass. As ever, the choir performed magnificently and the organ accompaniment (some of it is unaccompanied) was superb.

The Requiem service is in itself stark. There are no hymns, there is no sung prayer, and the lessons are read unnannounced and without a closing declaration. The Gospel is read from the nave, the Deacon reading it rather than the usual sung chant, and the acolytes who accompany the Deacon and Sub Deacon do not carry their torches. The intercessory prayers are short and the names of those who are being commemorated are read during these prayers. Even the proclamation of the peace is subdued.

Where there would normally be hymns, special settings are sung as Introit, Gradual, and Offertory (during which the elements of Bread and Wine are carried up to the High Altar by members of the congregation, received at the entrance to the sanctuary by the acolytes who then hand them to the Deacon and Sub Deacon who prepare the altar for the Celebrant Priest.

The Sanctus and Benedictus have their usual place in the "Sursum Corda", the introduction of the Consecration prayers - which are again said and not sung - and the Agnus Dei follows the consecration prayers and the Lord's Prayer and "fraction" - the moment when the priest audibly and vissibly breaks the "Host" the large "Priest's Wafer" which he will share between all the sacred ministers and sometimes with members of the congregation as well.

There is no final blessing, and the post communion prayers are followed by the dismissal "Go in the Peace of Christ!" and the singing of the Lux Aeterna. The Sanctuary party process out in silence followed by the choir - there is no organ voluntary and the congregation, too, leave in silence.

While I personally found the service moving and uplifting, I enjoyed the music, but would not put it among my favourites. But then many others did, so I guess we all take something away from these services.

It was equally appropriate that we should have celebrated this Requiem Eucharist on the eve of the anniversary of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb and the suffering that preceded it and ensued from it. It was not forgotten in our prayers.

May all the faithful departed rest in peace - and rise in glory at the resurrection.

Saturday morning's service of Solemn Matins was enriched by music from Harris, Leighton, Walton, Tippet, and an organ Praeludium by Jackson. The Leighton setting for the Preces and responses is a difficult one, but our choir delivered it perfectly, as they did the settings for Psalms 22 and 23, the psalms set for the day. The Te Deum to a setting by Leighton is techniaclly brilliant, but probably not to everyone's taste, while Walton's setting for the Jubilate is equally challenging but easier to appreciate.

Tippet's Anthem setting for Plebs Angelica is superb, and the choir did excellent work in their rendition of it. As a closer, Carleton's rendition of Leighton's "Paen" was superb and, yet again, demonstrated how fortunate we are to have the magnificent Milton Organ with its amazing versatility - and a Master of the consoles to play it.

Laus Deo! Deo gratias!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:48 PM

August 06, 2005

Vesperae solemnes de confessore

Vespers, the sixth office of the seven conanonical "hours" of prayer is set out in detail in the Rule of Saint Benedict (c480 - c550). It has seven prescribed psalms, readings according to season, and a structured format of "prece prayer" and responses, with the canticle "Magnificat" (St Lukes Gospel 1:46 - 55) at its heart. Mozart's setting of the psalms and the Magnificat for this service was written in 1780 for the then Archbishop of Salzburg who enjoyed both temporal and spiritual authority in the Archdiocese he ruled.

Our service last night began with the rather whimsical, but extremely simple and melodious Organ Interlude, "Adagio for Glass Harmonica", another of Mozart's "little" masterpieces. Using the "Gedakt" Flute and a combination of "Mixture" and possibly the "Vox Humana" in the 2 foot and 4 foot register, it is light, deceptively simple, and exactly right as an introduction to the service. The Introit Preces is said, congregation and choir responding to the Officiating Priest. Then the choir begins the psalms.

"Dixit Dominus Domino meo" (Psalm 110), "Confitebor tibi Domine" (Psalm 111), "Beatus vir qui timet Dominum" (Psalm 112), "Laudate pueri Dominum" (Psalm 113), and finally "Laudate Dominum omnes gentes" (Psalm 117) soared to Mozarts indescribably beautiful settings, each with its own special flavour and its own special feel. Our choir did a magnificent job of singing the music accompanied by a small orchestra sat in their midst, sending the words and the music soaring through our lovely building with its wonderful accoustics. Surely the sound of heaven! Sitting in my stall, I was transported to those wonderful Rhineland Cathedrals - and suddenly the music in its context, became a vision of what it must be like to hear it in, say, Köln or Speyer with their incredible vaults and long narrow naves! It is in these buildings that you suddenly discover what the recordings do not give you - the clarity of the words carried in the rolling sound of the music. Every word is sharp and clear - even in the Latin.

My role in this service was to read the lesson - 2 Timothy 4: 1 - 8 - and lead the responses which follow that. Then I could resume my place in the stall during the singing of the Office Hymn by congregation and choir and then be transported again by the glorious singing of the Magnificat. Words are inadequate to describe the feeling or the sound of this as it is sung in a building such as this within the context of worship. The only way to describe it is to quote the Latin ....

"Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo!"

As a final treat, Carleton Etherington put in another outstanding performance with the Voluntary as choir and Ministers withdrew, playing Mozart's "Fantasia in F Minor and Major". Not until the last echoing note had died away to nothing did anyone move from their place. What more can one say!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:42 AM

August 04, 2005

Political courage - or a deathwish?

I note that the mainstream papers are being very slow to pick up the rather bold statement from the erstwhile leader of the still demoralised Conservative Party, that "Multi-culturalism is dead". I am reminded of another politician in another era and another country, who once declared "apartheid is dead" - only it took another twenty years for it to actually finally die!

I suspect that Mr Davis is right, "multi-culturalism" - another name for the South African concept of "pluralism" (yet another guise of "Apartheid") is unsustainable and ultimately destructive. This is primarily because it creates a sort of vacuum, and nature abhors vacuums, sending something rushing in to fill it as fast as it can! Certainly the concept that allowing imported Middle and Near Eastern cultures to continue to practice their own morality, their own legal systems and even their own "customs" is unsustainable. Sooner, rather than later there will be a clash between whatever that culture demands and the culture of the rest of the population. If it is a clash between some "accepted" practice in that community and the law of the land, it will inevitably lead to confrontation over which should hold sway. If the Law of the Land is to be brushed aside in such a clash, then we have the first steps in the collapse of the law.

Much is also being made of the statement, rather bald, but nonetheless true, by another "senior" Tory, that those who feel dissaffected by British life, should leave. If they want to live in a backwards looking Islamic Republic, then go and live in one, because the rest of us don't want that and won't accept it. I suspect that a couple of promising political careers will come unglued on this issue - the Labour Party Disinformation Unit will see to that - but they are still only saying what any thinking person will recognise as true!

The problem for them, as it was for Mr Koornhof back in the late 1970's South Africa, is that the now entrenched "multi-culturalists" in government and the Civil Service, will work to frustrate every move to change the situation or to limit the damage, just as the Civil Service in South Africa worked to frustrate the political intentions of many of the more enlightened politicians there. Now that Blair and his cronies have effectively got their "placemen" into all the key positions it is likely to take years to undo the harm they have done and are doing to this nation state - and I suspect we do not have the time!

Joan Collins has recently written a leader article for a national daily in which she admits that she fears for the future of the country. The good lady points out that very few strong and self confident nations ever succumb to external threat or attack, but those whose confidence and will have been sapped from within crumble very quickly. As she points out, this nation is now supine, its self confidence completely drained by years of assiduous dis-information from academics, left leaning liberals, and Labour propaganda. We may no longer call ourselves "English", we must refer to ourselves as "Britons", lest we stir up prejudice. Yet, the same promoters of this politically correct garbage encourage anyone living in Scotland, Wales or Ireland to refer to themselves as "Scots", "Welsh" or "Irish" - but not the English! According to our Foreign Secretary (A man who prides himself in his "Scots" ancestory) "there is no such thing as an Englishman".

Joan Collins is right, we have been destroyed from within - and will be consigned to the scrapheap of history in very short order if we do not regain our culture and our identity, taking it back from the appeasers and "diversity" garbage mongers. The French Judge who laughed at our "soft" approach to terrorists was absolutely right. We are now so obsessed with the protection of the rights of these animals that we have forgotten that the nation has the right to defend itself from them by any and every means at our disposal!

This week has seen two British born preachers sound off on national television urging their followers to jihad and suicide attacks, subtly I will concede, but still encouraging them. Will the police act? Of course not, Mr Blair's Minister for Security, one Mrs Blears, attacked the police for saying they weren't going to stop and search elderly white ladies as suspected bombers - but would focus on "risk groups". Her response? "that would be a breach of the law and we must not alienate any section of the community!"

Guess what? She just alienated me completely! If we know that the likley profile of such attackers is Muslim, aged 18 - 30 and likely to be from a certain ethnic group, then surely that is where you focus your attention? But not, evidently, in Blair's "Cool Britannia"!

I fear that both the Conservatives and Joan Collins are right. Multi-culturalism is dead, and it will soon be replaced by a repressive mono-culture that is atheistic, foreign, and anti-British. We will allow it because we have allowed Blair and his poisonous Party to undermine us, to steal our freedoms, and to wage their anti-English campaigns deluding ourselves that it was "fair" and "just". Well, it was neither, and now that the economy is stalling across Europe and particularly here in Britain, we could be facing a very rough ride indeed.

How long before someone has the courage to stand up to Blair in Parliament and use the words of his great hero, that other great traitor and Regicide, Oliver Cromwell. "For too long you have disgraced this House; in the name of God go!"

I won't be holding my breath, but I'm sure as hell studying my options!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:52 PM | Comments (6)

Music of the spheres?

These are my notes written very late Wednesday evening about a day filled with glorious worship and music, but published today

Wednesday's services were a real treat. The problem is: where do I start?

Our first offering this morning was the Solemn Eucharist of the Holy Cross sung to a setting by Frank Martin for Double Choir. The Introductory Organ Voluntary was "O Mensch, bewein dein' Sunde gross" by J S Bach, followed by the Introit, "Miserere mei, Deus" by William Byrd. Now for a Bach fan that was a treat, for someone who likes Bach and Byrd - a feast - and to have that followed by a David Peebles (1510 - 1579) Gradual, "Si quis diliget me" and one is almost transported into Heaven. Then add Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695) and the Offertory "Remember not, Lord, our offences" and the "Crucifixus etiam pro nobis" by Antonio Lotti (1667 - 1740) and you have something which is almost a sensory overload! Then crown it with the Recessional Voluntary "Praeludium in E Minor" by Nikolaus Bruhns (1665 - 1697) and there is little left to say!

The sermon, by Canon David Hoyle of Gloucester, was very thought-provoking, drawing on the imagery that we are so familiar with in terms of the cross and the meaning thereof - but then challenging us to consider what it may really have been like and why such hideous ugliness is so important an image to us. A powerful sermon, delivered in a quiet and thoughtful manner, yet hitting all the buttons to provoke thought. As he demonstrated so ably, the subject of our veneration is key to our faith. The resurrection is important, but so is the brutality of the death that the cross represents.

The evening's offering has been twofold. First there has been yet another stunning performance of a varied programme by our resident organist, Carleton Etherington. Carleton is an amazingly able and talented organist, something he demonstrated very clearly with his selection of Guilmant's "March on a Theme by Handel", J S Bach's "Prelude and Fugue in C", Bairstow's "Evening Song", Ritter's "Sonata No.3 in A Minor", Jean Langlais' "Theme et variations" and Naji Hakim's "Memor". Yet again he demonstrated his mastery of the instrument and, at the same time, the versatility of the Milton Organ. Each of his selected pieces was different, each demanded a different range of sounds, and combinations - and each was well served on this instrument. One can only hope the composers all applauded!

And the finale. Compline. A simple service also known as "Night Prayer". What an understatement that is.

This is a monastic service, intended to be sung unaccompanied and largely to "plain" chant. Except that it isn't "plain". The harmonies are quite complex, and the sound is stunning, every word audible and clear, every note reverberating through the building. It follows a set form, Introit "O nata lux", Introductory Preces, and Responses, Psalms for the evening, a short passage from Scripture and a second short Preces and response, then the Office Hymn, "Christe, qui lux es et dies". The Introit set to music by Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585) and the Hymn set by Robert Whyte (1530 - 1574). These are followed by the Antiphon and then the "Nunc Dimitis" (The song of Simeon - Luke's Gospel), the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, a Preces "Benedicite" and Confession lead to the final Preces and the singing of "In pace", this time to a setting from William Blythe (d 1591). After a short Blessing from the Priest, the choir left the Presbytery and moved to the East end of the Ambulatory to stand before the statue of "Our Lady Queen of Peace" and sing the Robert Parsons (1530 - 1570) setting of the "Ave Maria".

That no one moved to leave their seats for a full five minutes after the choir stopped singing speaks for itself.

"The Lord almighty, grant to us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:06 AM

August 03, 2005

MDS - Mass in honour of Our Lady

The Mass in honour of Our Lady yesterday was stupendous. The congregation of just over 300 had their worship accompanied by the stunning sounds of the Louis Vierne setting of the Mass enhanced by an Introit Anthem by Palestrina, an Ave Maria setting as the Gradual Anthem by Anton Bruckner, and the Offertory Anthem "The sorrows of Mary" by Richard Bennett. Communion itself was accompanied by the Anthem "Emmanuel" by Philip Moore.

The preacher, Canon John Armson from Rochester, preached a powerful sermon on the role of Mary and all women within the Christian Church, pointing out that we cannot truly honour Mary without understanding her as a woman. It certainly rattled a few cages and will give rise to a number of debates in coming months!

What can one say about the music? What can one say about the manner in which the setting, the music, and the prayer of the congregation lifts ones soul as a minister in the midst of this to a level of spiritual awareness that makes prayer natural? I find myself lost for words - which is perhaps as it should be.

To crown it all, Carleton Etherington played Vierne's "Final" from Symphonie III - a stunning finale to a stunning Mass.

This morning we celebrate a Solemn Mass of the Holy Cross, the setting is for Double Choir by Frank Martin, and the Anthems are by Byrd, Peebles, Purcell, and Lotti. We will again be praying for all our friends and acquaintances, both near and far.

Pax vobiscum!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:48 AM

August 02, 2005

Music in the Abbey

The first week in August is always special for the Abbey. This is the week of Musica Deo Sacra, a week of sacred music sung within the context of the liturgy. One hears such things as the Hayden, Bach, and Mozart Masses sung as the accompaniment to a Mass and not as a concert performance in a theatre. There is also the opportunity to sing Vespers, to celebrate Solemn Evensong, and even Compline enriched by the fabulous music that so many talented composers have lent their genius to.

Now this is not to say that we don't do all or most of these things in the course of the year, anyway. What makes Musica Deo Sacra special is that it is a weeklong celebration of both faith and music. There is a Sung Solemn Mass on three days during the week, one a Requiem, as well as the Sunday Masses. There is Solemn Evensong or Choral Evensong every day, Solemn Matins on Saturday and Vespers on Thursday. Wednesday is celebrated with both a Mass and Compline and enriiched in between with an organ recital. Nor is the Word of the Lord neglected, as at each there is a preacher of some standing invited to preach on the word as read in the lessons for that service.

You may well ask where do we find a congregation through the week? You may also ask how big a congregation we could possibly hope to attract. Well, the congregations we get come from all over the world. Many of our local congregations take their annual holiday at this time just so that they can attend as well. Last night's Solemn Evensong was a case in point - a congregation of a little over 400 were there for the first celebration of music in worship for this year.

For those of us who are members of the Abbey congregation it is always good to welcome back, year on year, familiar faces from our scattered world-wide family, and last night it was a pleasure to welcome folk from Holland, from Germany, France, New York, Massachusets and elsewhere in the US and from Australia and New Zealand. All of them regard the Abbey as their home away from home, and it is a real sense of the fellowship that is such a vital part of being a Christian that one gets on occassions like these.

And who are the choir? There, too, we are fortunate; the choir is made up of professional and semi-professional singers and musicians who take time out of their schedules to offer this week to God in this festival. They ask no payment for it and they offer their voices and talents for their praise of God. At the final services on Sunday next we will have them joined by a full orchestra which forms itself every year for this festival and comes together just to perform the music of the Mass and again for the Solemn Evensong and Benediction. Again, all are professional or semi-professional musicians who offer their services and talents for this festival.

Last night we started the festival with a Solemn Evensong. Our preacher was the former Dean of York Minster and he spoke movingly and well on the subject of music in the liturgy, drawing on the prophet Amos and the lessons set for the day, Isaiah 53: 7 to end, and Luke 18: 31 to end, to remind us that the music was the vehicle of worship and not the object, that the Lord sought our devotion and not our tokens, but that the offering of music where it enriched and uplifted our praise and was the offering of joy and fellowship was a very rich offering indeed. And what an offering we had.

The Introit was "Lord, I call upon thee" to a setting by Edward Bairstow, the Preces and Responses and the Lesser Litany were to a setting by Richard Lloyd, the canticles to settings by Charles Wood in F from the Collegium Regale. These were enriched by the Anthem set by John Rutter and entitled "Hymn to the Creator of Light" and the service closed with the Organ Voluntary "Fantasia" by York Bowen.

Last night I had the privilege of being the Assistant Minister at the Somen Evensong. I read the two lessons and did the "continuity" announcements. Today I have the privilege of being the Sub Deacon for the Mass for Our Lady at 1100 which will be accompanied by Louis Vierne's setting of the Mass. Another feast for the soul to look forward to ahead.

A feast of music and prayer, an offering worthy, we hope, of God.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:10 AM

August 01, 2005

It's official?

The Iron Chancellor - no not that mean-spirited curmudgeon we currently call the Chancellor of the Exchequer - but the great Graf Otto von Bismarck, the man who created a United Germany in the 1860's, once remarked "Never believe anything until it has been officially denied"

Well, since several junior Ministers and their civil service poodles have now "officially" denied the Government's intention to adopt the recommendation of the Centre for Policy Studies, a government think-tank, that all workers should now work until they are 67 before retiring, it must be official policy. They argue that this will solve the current crisis in funding pensions - a crisis created almost entirely by this government's raid on pension funds - and it is sustainable, they argue, because everyone is living longer. Well, not if the government's other great "triumph" of ideology, the NHS, gets its hands on you. They seem to be the other solution for the pensions crisis - kill off the pensioners with neglect, refused, or delayed treatment and you solve the problem. I note that no one is suggesting that the worthless denizens of Westminster or Whitehall take later pensions or a cut in their very generous pensions paid for - in large part - by the very people they are saying must delay taking a pension because the government can't afford it!

Well, now its been officially denied, believe it. We will all be required to work to 67 before we can get the pension we have contributed to for all our working lives. But the Whitehall and Westminster crew won't - they are a "special" case and not to be treated like the rest of us "masses".

Remember, you read it here first.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:05 AM | Comments (1)