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November 30, 2006

Anniversaries .....

The last month has seens a number of anniversaries, some good, some sad. Today sees another, St Andrew's Day may well be Scotland's Saint's day, it is also the annual speech day of a public schoool of some renown in South Africa - and it is the day one of my mentors, the father of a very dear friend took his own life at the age of 82. He had had several run ins with cancer, all his contemporaries and friends had predeceased him and he simply felt that continuing with a life that required a pharmacy load of pills every day and which did not provide him with any real pleasure was no longer worth living. It was a reminder that sometimes our prowess at keeping people alive exceeds our ability to recognise the fact that their life no longer has any meaning for them. It is a tragedy when that happens.

Earlier this month was the sixth anniversary of my mothers death, again unexpected and perhaps a little premature, but when I look back at how she was at that point, I have to confess that having become housebound and to a large extent isolated, she too had outlived all her friends and no longer enjoyed the quality of life that she would have liked to have. Perhaps she too had had enough. We remembered her and several other of my mentors, friends and family at the Requiem for All Souls, just as we remembered Ashley whose anniversary falls today.

With the passing of these anniversaries I am more and more conscious of my own mortality. It is made the more pointed by the realisation that I have outlived, in number of years, several of my family in the last generation, although, to be fair, there were some pretty good reasons for that. All of my seniors in the family are now gone, I am the senior generation, and its not that comfortable a feeling to look back on.

Why the introspection? Well, it's in part due to the anniversaries falling at this time of the year - the two I have mentioned and slew of birthdays we used to keep as children and young adults - and it's Advent Sunday looming. Advent is about preparation, and to an extent in preparing, we have to look backj and see what we did right, and what we could really do better. Always a sobering perspective ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:05 PM | TrackBack

It never rains ....

Well, the Monk retired round six weeks ago and thought he'd have time to catch up on all the tasks he has not had time to do in the last months he was at work. It hasn't quite worked out like that, for one thing there seem to be more demands on his time than ever before. For another, suddenly it seems to be pouring with work offers - only one problem - they all want his services in the same period. January to April.

So what's the problem? Well. two of the jobs on the table are offering a minimum of nine weeks work - the problem is that they overlap, they are both going to pay well, but they are at opposite sides of the world! One would require the Monk to be in "Forn Parts" for the whole nine weeks - the other would allow him to be at home for most of it, but still working on the primary task. One pays slightly more than the other, but, the lesser pay one also offers the chance of more work in the future, while the foreign one could be a one off, or maybe a twice and then nothing.

In an ideal world the jobs could be kept apart and handled sequentially. This isn't an ideal world. So, while driving to County Durham tomorrow to attend a meeting and then driving back on Friday, the Monk will be giving this a lot of thought.

Pray for him!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:55 PM | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

You have to love those "dam" bureaucrats ....

This was forwarded to me by a friend, its probably been around a few times, but - well, I can't resist having another pop at the bureaucratic mindset ...

This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, State of Michigan. This guy's response is hilarious, but read the State's letter before you get to the response letter. (This is the State's Letter!)

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Montcalm County

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the department's files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts
of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to
restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2005.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized
activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action. We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.


David L. Price, District Representative
Land and Water Management Division

** Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries: **

Re: DEQ ! File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Montcalm County.

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 12/17/02 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan. A couple of beavers are in the process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.

While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials "debris." I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose.

I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this state to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

I have several concerns. My first concern is; aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names.

If you want the stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2005? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality (health) problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!) Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:08 PM | TrackBack

November 28, 2006

And a big congratulations to Mausi - give her a big hand folks!

This morning, while the Monk was fuming at his inability to find the thing he needed, Mausi sent him a Text on his mobile. Now Mausi's text messages are always fun and nice to receive, but this one made the Monk drop his search and reach for the phone!

A big hand for the new head of a very important section of one of Europe's leading criminal investigation bureau! Mausi is now the head of that organisations fire investigation section, and in charge of a team of dedicated and highly qualified forensic scientists. The Monk stands in awe of their work - some of them are specialists in fields he has to look up in the encyclopedia, and sometimes ask how you spell it first! Mausi is herself highly qualified and, for those of you who haven't already worked this out, has a doctorate in carbon particle formation - see her post on nano-tubes - and wonder no more!

Congratulations Mausi! Bad guys watch out, the fire investigation section was good before, it is going to get a whole lot better from here on in!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A confusion of papers ....

The Monk has been having one of those mornings when he planned to do one thing today and hasn't been able to get anywhere near it - because he couldn't find the vital thing he absolutely had to have ......

Well, I suppose every cloud has a silver lining somewhere. Having had to tackle the vast pile of papers and documents that he has accumulated since retiring, his office area is now clean, clear of clutter, re-organised and ready to rock and roll. That has to be a bonus, that and he has now found what he needed, too late to do it today, but its now in the diary for tomorrow which will probably be a better bet anyway. Now that my work area is sorted out anyway .....

Filing? I HATE it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:50 PM | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

Seasonal tides ....

The long dry summer is obviously at an end. The last several days have seen rain, rain and more rain, heavy "bursts" as the weather office describes them, interspersed with just rain! Tonight will see some more apparently as the next front moves over our island home. This afternoon I walked out during a brief period of beautiful sunshine - at least it was over Tewkesbury, about five miles to the South East it was pouring - to take a series of pictures of the Abbey with the Swilgate sream in flood. The Swilgate is a tributary of the Severne, flowing into it near Lower Lode, although, since around 1350 it has been linked to the Mill Avon just West of the Abbey itself.

The flooded Vineyards park on the South side of the Abbey, normally the Swilgate is a lazy little trickle through the park. To the left in the picture is the Georgian frontage of the Abbots House, the interiors and North side still very much the 14th and 15th Century structure.

The Abbey stands on a raised area between the confluence of the Mill Avon (a manmade river from the Old Avon at the King John's Bridge end of town) and the Swilgate. In the days of the Abbey's functioning as a monastic community, the Swilgate provided water for the Fish Ponds and the Lavatorium via a man made diversion which brought water into the Abbey buildings (now demolished) so that the Lavatorium always had running clean water. Another diversion, upstream of the Lavatorium, diverted water into the Fish Ponds where fish were farmed for the Monk's table. Various indications of these features are still traceable, but almost everything recogniseable is now gone. The Mill Avon was cut in the 14th Century to provide water for the Abbey's Mill, recently converted into a number of flats. The barns and stables for the Mill are now all houses at the rear of the Bell Hotel, which was another piece of Abbey property, built to house visitors and pilgrims. When you look at the cut and the embankment the cutting created you are forced to marvel at the effort that must have been expended by simple muscle power.

The picture was taken from the lower edge of the mound on which there once stood the Holme Castle, a Saxon fortress built for the Earl's of Gloucster and in use, despite several fires and rebuildings until sometime in the 15th Century, after which it was "slighted" and then, probably because it was largely a timber structure with a stone curtain wall, it was quarried and destroyed. Only the mound remains.

It is good to see our tide returning, last year we had none, so this year seems to have started early. Of interest to those with a geographic bent - the Severn drains the North Wales hills and mountains and heavy rain there sends the water down the river. The rising Severn causes the Avon and the Swilgate to back up and so Tewkesbury gets a flood across our flood plains and low lying areas even if we have not had a lot of rain. This time round, as I have said, we have had the rain too, so the tide is a little higher. Just as well it is not a full moon as well, because then the High Spring Tide in the estuary, causes the flood level to rise and fall with the tide range in the lower estuary.

Its fun living next to two major rivers!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:13 PM | TrackBack

November 26, 2006

Christ the King

Today was always known - at least in the Anglican Calendar, as "The Sunday Next Before Advent". It was also referred to as "Stir up" Sunday because the Collect for the day began with the famous phrase, "Stir up O Lord, thy faithful servants ..." Traditionally it was also the day on which the Christmas Puddings would be made and each member of the family had to "stir" the pudding mixture at least once in the process of making them.

In more recent years the day has become known, in a restoration of the pre-reformation calendar, as the Feast of Christ the King. Kings are not much in vogue these days, Hollywood always seems to manage to portray them as drooling idiots or as homicidal maniacs which I expect contributes something to the image, but I would argue that there are few more pertinent images than that of King or Sovereign when we think of Christ.

In some circles there is a desire to personalise him to the point of being at our beck and call - a personal trainer type Jesus, always willing to step in a destress you, pick you up when you've done something idiotic and completely human - but that is not how the early church saw him at all. Take a careful look at the imagery of the Gospels, the Incarnation, the Visitation, the Magi, the Revelation on the mountain, and finally the ressurection and the Ascension. None of these are readily identifiable as things an ordinary person or a human does, and it is a mistake to see Jesus the Christ in ordinary terms. He is not.

The writer of the Revelations was clear on this - Jesus is the King of Kings, he has no equal and there is no Higher Authority. Will he invite us to share the throne? Unlikely, we are his subjects and his servants and not the other way round. Uncomfortable it may be to think in those terms, but it is more acurate than the alternate view.

Enjoy my sermon if you like, it is in the extended post below.

Parish Eucharist for Christ the King
Tewkesbury Abbey
26th November 2006

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

+May I speak and may you hear
in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

The Book of Revelation almost didn’t make it into the final canon of the books we now call the New Testament. It belongs to a canon of writings that follow a tradition which is evident in the Old Testament and which make use of allegorical images in order to represent spiritual truths and sometimes stern warnings aimed at the rich and powerful or the rulers of the people. Revelations is full of such images, and perhaps some of the best are of the majesty of God and his Christ. Certainly the descriptions of the majesty of the enthroned Christ that it presents are among the most powerful imagery you could wish for. The Book of Revelation contains much that reflects the Imperial court and the cult of Emperor worship prevalent at the time of its writing, around 83 AD, the growing Christian community was facing persecution from the then Emperor Domitian.

Certainly the many titles with which we are familiar today, Such as Our Lord and God, in Latin Dominus et Deus Noster, was one the Roman Emperor conferred upon himself. Others such as Saviour of the World fall into a similar category. What the writer of Revelations is at pains to stress is that Christ the King of all Creation is above all earthly rulers, kingdoms and boundaries. His realm is beyond the usual metaphors which describe anything related to the earthly empires and courts, it is richer, more powerful and ultimately will bring all into its subjection. This is in part what is being said when Jesus is faced by the examination of Pilate

“My Kingdom is not of this world; if my Kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.”
Jesus is saying – and we are all familiar with this concept today – that He is the King of something far greater than this present world and therefore far greater than any of its Kings or Emperors. In the ancient language of Persia we get another of his titles – the Shah ran Shah the King of Kings and another of the titles used for Christ King of Peace was an Eastern title conferred on the Roman Emperors after their extraordinary achievement in imposing an end to civil wars, piracy and the endless round of territorial disputes the region had suffered until the Romans came in 31 BC.

Revelations presents us with a dual image, on the one hand an image of retribution for those who fail to recognise Christ as King, and on the other reward for those who do. One does wonder, in this modern age of Republicanism and egalitarianism whether these images of King and throne are really as pertinent as they were in the first century – I sometimes get the feeling that we make the mistake of thinking ourselves as having the sort of close relationship with Jesus that we enjoy with equals and frequently take for granted – and these images from Revelations remind us that Christ is our King, and a King is both the ultimate power and the ultimate judge in any matter of law. It is a good thing to remind ourselves that we cannot take that relationship for granted at any time, and this is something that the new lectionary has recognised by including several Feasts which help us focus upon Jesus as the Word Incarnate.

As I said at the beginning of my sermon, the book of Revelation falls into a very specific group of writings known as Apocalyptic scripture putting it into the same group as the book of Daniel, Job, Jonah and several others and as such is written in a way which is meant to bring awe and reflection on one’s own shortcomings. As our Gospel reminds us Jesus suggest this to Pilate –
“You say that I am a King. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
Saying that sort of thing to a judge today could get a rather frosty reception, saying it to a man of Pilate’s standing and power was likely to get you into very deep waters. Yet, according to our Gospel accounts, Pilate seems to have recognised something in Jesus which made him wary and ultimately to his attempt to wash his hands of having to deal with it.

Christ is, as the use of the term “I am the Alpha and the Omega” reminds us, the beginning and the end, just as Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, so Christ is the First and the Last in everything. It is another way of saying, to a reluctant world, that Christ is the everlasting King of all creation and not of some earthly Kingdom whose power waxes and wanes like the moon. The power of Rome was eventually broken, as was every Empire before and since, Christ alone reigns eternal and we should today remind ourselves that we are His subjects, His body on earth and in the promises He gave us, His companions in the future Kingdom, whenever that shall come.

“As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before Him. To him was given dominion and glory and Kingship that all peoples, nations and tongues should serve Him.”

So, as we approach his table in the sharing of his body and his blood, let us acknowledge him to be our King and give ourselves freely in his service.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:33 PM | TrackBack

November 25, 2006

This writing bug ....

This writing bug is fun. At least I find it so, but I do have a serious problem with it. There isn't much point in writing and enjoying writing if you can't get the book published and sold. I recently bought a copy of the Writers and Artists Year Book for 2007 and almost wished I hadn't when I read the Foreward - a forward written by one of our current best selling authors. But, I have to say that what I read there and deeper in the book has made me even more determined to find a way to get into the mainstream. No, I don't want to be on the bestseller list - it would be nice, but I think I would find that a little too demanding at my time of life. All I really want to see is my books on sale in the regular stores where people can see them, feel them and hopefully, because of that, buy them.

Very few authors make millions from their work, and I don't aspire to do so either, but a steady trickle of royalties would be nice to boost my pension and give me the pocket money to do the things I haven't yet had time to do. So, I am now composing letters to various agents and taking a flyer at a couple of publishers as well. We shall see what happens from there, at least I have the book in print, rather well presented if I say so myself, and I have a sequel to it in a state in which I can show a manuscript to an agent or publisher. My biggest stumbling block is myself! I am one of those irritating people who never likes to launch something important into a mail system - I like to deal with people face to face, but that is not the way the publishing world works.

It may come as a surprise to learn that there are something like 178,000 new titles published in the US alone every year. On those odds you do have to ask yourself how do any of them actually get noticed? Well, of course, the answer is that many, like my own, don't. It comes down to advertising and budgets, if you have them you get noticed, if you don't .....

But, there are ways this can be addressed, so I will say to you - watch this space. In the meantime I do have a space on Amazon which is supposed to help me reach a readership. So far its pretty invisible but give it a whirl anyway, see what comes up if you visit Amazon and search for my book and pen name "Patrick G Cox". It will certainly help boost my "hit" rate!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:46 PM | TrackBack

November 24, 2006

Predestination or freewill.....

Last night I attended my monthly Theological Forum and our topic was the question of Freewill and the questions which arise as a result of our expanding understanding of Quantum Mechanics. That's right, God in a Scientific debate. The world of Quantum Physics is a fascinating one and the paper, prepred by Fr Julian our Scientist and Curate, was a very readable and very interesting one. Had I the paper in e-format I would venture to post it here, but sadly I cannot. The question really stems from the discovery that "natural" laws govern just about everything. In fact just about everything can be measured with greater or lesser accuracy and just about everything can be calculated in some mathematical model - except God. And we really don't know about that either.

Playing the Devil's advocate, one eventually has to ask the question "Does God have complete freewill?" If He is, like His creation, bound to act within it, surely he is then bound by the laws which govern it? Or is He?

The debate was a lively one with many aspects explored in the process, but then, that is the purpose of our meetings - to explore the interactions between ourselves and the world around us, our understanding of faith, theology and spirituality. To try to discover where we need to be to do God's will. If one looks carefully at the world of Physics one finds two distinct models, one deterministic and the other Quantum. Both suggest a Dualistic aspect in some areas, yet our faith demands a Monistic approach; ie; God is a part of the His Creation just as we are, there is no separation between the physical and the spiritual, they are bound together in one creation. Dualism says that the two are separate and that there are two states of existence - physical and non-physical. As you would expect our debate rejects this latter vision. Yet, the science and the maths have gaps.

So, do we have freewill? Are we completely free to walk our own road and in making our choices determine our own end result? To answer that we have first to determine what we mean by freewill and then to determine what other constraints lie upon us to determine how we will respond to any given choice. In a sense this means that, even with complete freedom of choice, we are in a sense bound to make that choice based upon a number of influences in our lives. In short, those "influences" will determine our choice - therefore we cannot be said to have completely freewill! A leopard will always be a leopard, it cannot become a tiger, and so with us, our background experience, peer pressure, physical limitations, educational achievements, cultural constraints and personality type all gang up on us to determine how we respond to any given set of choices.

Calvin developed a doctrine of Pre-destination, something most theologians reject since, by that measure, everyone need make no effort at all to modify their behaviour - if you are born damned not even turning to Christ can save you. That is patently a nonsense in strictly Gospel terms. But equally, if we are constrained by our background influences, we may not be far off some form of predestination either!

Judeo-Christianity, Judaism and Islam all accept - in fact it is a crucial tenet of faith - that freewill is an essential element of the grace of God, yet, we find ourselves faced with the question "why do we need it?" Why is it so central to our faith? Our forum agreed after much debate that freewill is the ability to choose between following God or rejecting Him. A simple set of "Yes" or "No" answers, yet, and this is where we ran out of time, for each Yes or No there is a fresh question to be answered and even where you have answered No to the first, these questions ultimately lead you back to God.

It was a good debate - and it is one that stimulated our thinking. I am sure it will continue to do so for a while!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:56 PM | TrackBack

November 23, 2006

Carbon Nanotubes and Ancient Sabres

Up until the 1980's the chemical element carbon was known to chemists in only two modifications: graphite and diamond. Those two could not be more different: graphite is a good conductor of electricity, diamond of heat. Graphite is black and opaque, a diamond usually transparent and so forth. In the 1980's another modification of carbon was detected: the fullerenes, spherical molecules of carbon atoms that are arranged in five- and sixmembered rings. They always consist of 12 pentagons and (n/2 - 10) hexagons where n is the number of carbon atoms. The most famous is C60 which looks exactly like the European soccer balls we had before the last Soccer World Cup. If you take one and count the edges, pentagons and hexagons you'll know what I mean.

The fullerenes where first artificially generated in laboratory experiments and then found to be combustion products in hydrocarbon/oxygen flames, although in very low concentrations. A few years later the nanotubes were detected. They consist only of 'sheets' of hexagons (no pentagons) which are rolled up to form molecular tubes. They have surprising properties and are still very much under research.

Now scientists have found nanotubes from the 17th century! In the blade of an ancient Damascus sabre. Damascus sabres of that time had extraordinary mechanical properties which were not known in their European couterparts and very sharp cutting edges. The process of making Damascus steel was apparently a very complex one and sadly the secret has been lost over by the end of the 18th centuries. The basic ingredients are believed to be small cakes of steel, named 'wootz', which were produced in ancient India.

Other necessary additions to the steel cakes are small quantities of the elements vanadium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, and nickel and carbon to improve its mechanical properties. It is still unknown how exactly the medieval blacksmiths overcame the inherent brittleness of plates of cementite (iron carbide) that forms in steel with a carbon content of 1-2 wt%. With the help of a high resolution transmission microscope German scientists have found that the Damascus sabre they examined contained cementite nanowires and carbon nanotubes. Fancy, blacksmiths creating nanotubes more than four hundred years ago!

The hypothesis is that the thermal cycling and cyclic forging process eventually caused the catalytic elements present to segregate and thereby enable the carbon nanotubes to form. The nanotubes in turn might have initiated the growth of the cementite nanowires. Cementite nanowires are very probably the cause of the characteristic surface pattern of Damascene sabres and knifes. What role exactly nanowires and nanotubes play regarding the mechanical properties and sharpness of the sabres still awaits further research.

The things Nature thinks up - never ending fascination, isn't it?

Posted by Mausi at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

November 22, 2006

Is it a bird? Is it a 'plane? No! It's Super Nanny!

If proof were ever needed that the inmates now run this asylum, then this must surely be it. Having spent most of their careers railing against restrictions, "out of date" ideas of parenting, "traditional" family values and - of course - any form of disciplinary action aganist one's children, our Illustrious Leader and his morally bankrupt coterie of "do-gooders" and Social Engineers, now wants to impose on us all, professional training to be good parents. It seems to have escaped this shower of idiots and bigots notice that most of us manage to do a fair job without his or his army of "social workers" interference. The problem lies, in the main, with the group that Labour purport to represent - the out of work, drug addicted and "victim" class.

I live in an area where parenting skills seem to be to scream at your kids, shout at each other and drink or whatever to your hearts content while the kids run amok and wreck everyone elses peace and quiet - so why do I think this is another of Blair's attempts to impose intereference and will not solve anything? Well, three doors from me is a nest occupied by the most notorious family in Gloucestershire. Daily visits by the social workers haven't cured their kids of truancy, nor have the daily visits by the Parole Officer, the Police and a host of other "visitors". Around here the family are known as "Midnight Movers Inc" and what really needs to happen in most people's view is for them to be removed, en bloc, from society permanently.

This Super Nanny idea is just another attempt by the liberal left to impose their world view, based on the discredited ideas of the infamous Doctor Spock, on how to re-engineer society into a supine dependent and obedient mass to be ruled by our new Lord's and Masters. I am prepared to guarantee that as soon as this latest piece of ill considered and ill judged legislation hits the streets than it will be found that there are too many parents from "poor and deprived" backgrounds, to many "ethnic minorities" and too few "white middle class" families being given these orders. The Social Worker army of witch finders will immediately leap into action and round up every white middle class father and mother whose child has received a slap on the backside and bingo - we have met our quota and solved nothing.

The problem of delinquent children is a very complex one, and the parenting is only one part of the whole. We live in a society which seems to have lost its identity. The Scots know who they are, as do the Welsh and the Irish, the English have been stripped of theirs completely after years of being told they aren't English, that they are Geordies, Manunians, Brummies or whatever - anything but "English". Then we also have the problem of a non-mobile workforce. Unlike Europe where the world wars have caused huge migrations in most countries, Britain has not been a particularly mobile population, so there is a fragmentation in which those living in the Tyneside have almost come to regard those living in the Cornish peninsula as foreigners and vice versa. I hate to think what this is doing to the gene pool! Again, mobility is discouraged by the Trade Unions and Labour because it means that, like Fuedal Lords, they cannot control their peasant workers if the little buggers can wander off to pastures new when they want to or need to for work. Much better to keep them tied to structures and locations where they can be brainwashed into victimhood when the going gets tough or the factories close.

The sixties "sit ins" in universities may have come to an end, but the Students Unions, the debating societies and all the training grounds for social engineers and politicians in the making are still there - though now controlled completely by the socialists and the ultra-left. Blair himself was a member of this "class" and so were all his cabinet and most of his MP's. It was at this point that the parenting started to break down as drug use became the "in" thing to do, children could be allowed "freedom" to develop their own "personalities" and anyone who objected was branded "reactionary". Single parenting became the "new" way to be with men an optional extra for sex or fathering a child for the new feminists - many of whom are now in Blair's government and are no doubt behind much of the "child protection" and "parenting" legislation.

The problem of renegade children is a serious one - but imposing Super Nanny and dictating how families will be run and how parents will deal with their children is unlikely to solve the bigger problems in our fragmented and damaged society. This is another of Blair's "smoke and mirrors" quick fixes and it will be as effective as all the rest of his ill considered legislation since 1997. Mark my words, it will result in more broken families, more hardship for parents and more "protection" for renegade children who will still receive no discipline and no guidance on how to be members of a decent society. All it is likely to rpoduce is more witch hunting against those who believe in traditional discipline and traditional family values.

We live in a society which is no longer ruled by moral principles and common sense, we are now ruled by the principles of prejudice - the prejudices of the left dressed up as morality. If you want to see a model for this look no further than some of Lenin's pronouncements against the bourgeoisie or Hitler's rantings about "the Jews" - or even some of that other group of Blair's "heroes" - the Islamic preachers of hate who want to see Israel destroyed. Welcome to the "new" Britain, no longer the home of the "free" on any level.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:24 AM | TrackBack

November 21, 2006

A fun plug?

One of the Postulant's friends in the US has bought my book - and evidently feels it's worth plugging it! He has posted the photo below on a Forum he frequents and is working on a review. I like this guy - and his T-Shirt slogan says a great deal.


The book is available from Amazon UK or Amazon US or Amazon Germany and I dare say many more as well as from W H Smith (On order) and Waterstones (on order).

The interesting thing about this little exercise has been discovering just how difficult it is to use the book sellers search engines. You would think that "Out of time" is distinct from "Time Out", but evidently not. Even asking for results in alphabetical order produces Time Out (400 plus guides) ahead of everything else. I am told this is because the big publishers pay to have their products come up on any and every combination of search on these sites. The second thing is the revelation of just how difficult it is for the small author making his first entree into the market to get into the system. You are up against the bottomless promotion budgets of the big publishers who think nothing of throwing £100,000 at promoting their latest offering which tends to leave the small man at the bottom of the stack where his or her book is never even going to see the light of a display shelf. Even getting a review published in a magazine, a newspaper or aired on radio or television is down to how much money you or your publisher is prepared to throw at the chosen medium. It seems that the rule is, no money up front, no review.

So, let me say right now that I appreciate the help and support of every single person who has taken the trouble to buy the book or even to vist any of the sellers sites and search for it. I hope it gives you as much fun and pleasure reading it as I had from writing it. Will I give up after this? Probably not, I am one of those who always swims against the current and tackles the man-eating giant, its what I do, so I will keep pushing at doors until someone notices. Anyone who wants tio help me do the pushing is welcome to join my little tilt at the great big windmills.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:32 PM | TrackBack

November 20, 2006

Strange weather ....

Mausi's roses blooming in November put me in mind of a question I have been pondering for a little while. It certainly came back to give me some more thoughts recenetly on considering news from the Southern Hemisphere! I have never liked the term "global warming" since it doesn't actually describe effectively what is really happening. I was reminded of this recently when talking to Ozguru in Australia and he mentioned that they have recently had a bushfire extinguished by snow in the Blue Mountains. Now there are several aspects to that which are interesting. The first is that at this season in the Blue Mountains the temperatures are usually in the upper 20's Celsius, and the second is that for the temperature to drop that low - low enough for snow that is - means that some very strange weather patterns must have come into play over the continent. Coupled with an extremely long dry period this suggests that there is a major shift happening in the weather over the Southern Hemisphere which, far from bringing warming, seems to be bringing cold.

When this information is put alongside my brother's reports from the Western Cape of the winter just past, to the effect that it has been the coldest and wettest there on record for some time, and you do begin to wonder precisely what is going on. I think that there are several things happening and only one of them is human related. Sure, we can probably do something about that, but the real bottom line there comes back to overpopulation in areas where the ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to over use and to the fact that we, in our efforts to control our envirionment, actually pump heat into the system at a phenomenal rate. Think airconditioning, think central heating .... Both are heat exchange systems, and the heat always, as Flanders and Swann have famously said in a song about Boyle's Law - transfers from a hotter body to a cooler one. So if we sink heat into the ocean as a means of cooling the air in our buildings built of glass and steel in places like the Arabian Gulf, you raise the sea temperature. If you heat your home in Europe, the heat seeping into the ground, the walls and the roof heat the atmosphere around the building. Certainly one of the most amazing things you can see is a look through an infrared lens at a modern building. The microclimate around it - and the heat plume above it - is fascinating, and that in buildings which are supposed to be compliant with modern insulation requirements.

The other aspects which are likely to underlie what is happening in our atmosphere and on the surface, quite possibly lie beneath our feet and are well beyond anything we can control. I'm talking here about the planet's own evolution. Plate tectonics mean that everything is moving, albeit at an infinitely slow rate, but still moving. Even in my lifetime that distance between Europe and America has increased by a measurable amount, minute as it happens, but measurable, and the distance between the America's and Asia and the Pacific Rim has shrunk. Everytime a volcano erupts, CO and CO2 emmissions run off the scale, and even a good earthquake can release a huge amount of these gasses if it causes a surface rupture. The planet itself is changing around us, parts are cooling, other parts are warming. Changes in the 80's to the emmissions to deal with acid rain mean that we are now producing less white and fluffy cloud and more grey. Grey absorbs heat, white reflects it. We solved the acid rain, but we now absorb more heat from the sun. Anyone got a plan for losing this somehow? Big sheets of reflective foil in the upper atmosphere perhaps? Giant mirrors in orbit around the planet to cut solar radiation?

The oceans act as heat sinks for a range of natural phenomena and we add to that by using them to cool power station outfalls, steam condenser units and even for desalination treatment plants. The Northern Europe area faces an interesting future as far as I can see, because as the "Atlantic Conveyor" slows down with the melting ice cap, the warm water which flows in to replace the outflow and comes from the warm Equatorial Regions, is diverted or ceases to flow Northward. In effect it is thought that this will trigger another Ice Age - hopefully not as violently as the movie "Day after tomorrow". But this leads me back to the snow in the Blue Mountains. I have no scientific proof of this, and probably will now attract the howls of derision from those who believe it can all be solved by simplistic models and changes to human behaviour - but I find myself wondering if the Southern Hemisphere isn't about to see a return of the ice.

The Great Southern Ocean has been slowly warming for centuries, but the recent meltdown of much of the Antarctic Iceshelf has dumped billions of gallons of fresh water into the oceans there, changing the salinity and changing the ocean currents and temperatures. If this triggers a similar slowdown to that seen in the Northern Hemisphere and specifically in the Atlantic current pattern - the Southern tip of the Americas, the Southern Ocean and the southern end of Africa and even Australia could get a heck of a lot colder.

I wonder if anyone has thought of that one - after all, the last great Ice Age in that half of the world ended just a little over 450 million years ago. It may well be that they are about to have another one!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 19, 2006


I expect al lot of people would associate November in the Northern Hermisphere with cold and inclement weather and Grey as the predominant colour of the season. Until this year I've done the same myself. But yesterday morning I was quite astonished to see my roses in full bloom again for the umpteenth time this year.

061119_rose01.jpg   061119_rose02.jpg
The left one is called 'Winchester Cathedral', an English Rose which gives off the most beautiful scent even in November.

That was bit of a surprise as we are at about 50° 10' northern latitude. Hard to believe it is November. But then a glance at the woods around soon assured me everything is as it should be.

Autumn colouring in full swing

I like the woods around here. It is mostly a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees and the colours at this time of the year are spectacular especially when the sun ventures out now and then. There are quite a number of larches around which add interesting yellow spots to the dark green of the firs.

This year we still have temperatures well in the teens at the moment and hardly any frost during the nights. According to the weatherforecast temperatures will start decreasing next week. I wonder if they will decrease rapidly enough to give us a proper winter. I like winters with low temperatures and lots of snow. Looking at the rate Mausi's winter fur is growing I need not worry. We'll see.

Posted by Mausi at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

November 18, 2006

Not for the faint hearted!

A friend in SA has sent me the hilarious pronouncements in the extended post following this. I have lifted it verbatim from his e-mail as it is one of those cautionary tales that really does need to be considered carefully. I have long had a rule that I do not fly with national airlines that normally fit roof racks for luggage to buses, cars, lorries trains and 747's. I have now added this airline to my list.

My personal favourite announcement from these cowboys is the smoking notice. It's funny, but I think I'll take another airline until I'm feeling terminally insane!

Kulula is an Airline with head office situated in Johannesburg.

Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight "safety lecture" and announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some Real examples that have been heard or reported:

On a Kulula flight, (there is no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"


On another flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."


On landing, the stewardess said, "Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have."


"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."


"Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."


As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport , a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"


After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo, a flight attendant on a flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."


From a Kulula employee: "Welcome aboard Kulula 245 to Johannesburg. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."


"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite."


Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines."


"Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."


"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."


And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"


Heard on Kulula 255 just after a very hard landing in Cape Town: The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault, it was the asphalt."


Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town , on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City . Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"


Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."


An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline. He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?" "Why, no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?" The little old lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"


After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg, the attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."


Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of Kulula Airways."


Heard on a Kulula flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."


A plane was taking off from Durban Airport. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, non-stop from Durban to Cape Town, The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax... OH, MY GOD!" Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger then yelled, "That's buggerall. You should see the back of mine!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 17, 2006

All this Modern Technology

It was brought home to me lately just how unobtrusively new technologies sneak into our every day lives and how quickly we become dependent on them. First I've read the Monk's book 'Out of Time' where he describes how three young men from 1804 are suddenly transported into 2204 on board a spaceship full of all sorts of fancy electronic equipment and computers of course. It soon becomes evident that the people from the future have become so dependent on their computers that they are quite at a loss if those break down. Skills that were a matter of course in 1804 are lost by 2204. The interesting thing about the book is that the people from 2204 can learn as much from the three youngsters from the past as vice versa.

This reminded me that pocket calculators had not been invented when I went to school. When we wanted to solve a trigonometric equation we had to use a slide rule or a logarithmic table. But we knew what we were doing and we knew the definition of sine and cosine. A few years later when I was trying to earn a bit of money by helping young students with their homework and pocket calculators had been introduced in school I noticed that to the pupils 'sine' just meant they had to press certain buttons on their calculators in a certain sequence. They didn't think any longer about what they were doing. Which is quite a common pitfall with calculators and computers: people often feed it numbers, let it do a calculation and then believe the result without ever even cross checking the order of magnitude.

The second experience was the nervous breakdown of my father's computer shortly after his death. I don't think the two events were related as this computer had a breakdown regularly - my father would always push the machine to its limits. For various reasons it took me quite some time to get it reset and to restore its communication with the internet. In the meantime my sister and I suddenly realised how dependent we had become of the latter. How often do you look up information of some kind or other on the internet? Several times a day, don't you? At least I do. I wonder how we ever managed without computers before.

And now I am trying to teach my mother to use a computer herself. After using computers myself for more than 20 years I have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner who has never even used a mouse before. And to whom opening, saving and storing of files and data means nothing. Yet.

I've always thought what an interesting life my grandfather must have led. Born in 1887 he saw the first cars and aeroplanes. He bought his TV set to be able to watch the landing on the moon. And he gave me my very first radio when I was ten. He died in 1972. Life must have been a never ending series of wonders for him. He was always interested in everything new and managed very well. The trick is, I think, to keep an open mind and always find a way round becoming enslaved by technology. I mean, we could write letters again instead of emails, meet friends in person instead of chatting to them, go to a shop instead of buying via internet .... Says someone who feels lost without computer. Sigh....

BTW, my favourite cartoon about is one that our secretary at university had pinned to the door to her room. It shows two neolithic males, one holding up a burning match stick and the other saying: "I can't keep up with all this modern technology." Priceless!

Posted by Mausi at 10:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 16, 2006

How stupid is George W?

Not very, seems to be the conclusion when you do a little digging into his background and history. That he isnb't very articulate is a matter of record, that he is an idiot is perhaps open to question when you realise that he spent some years flying supersonic fighter aircraft which have one of the worst ratings from its pilots for being difficult, unforgiving and lethal to any idiot attempting to fly one. And then there is the little matter of his academic record. He is a Harvard and Yale graduate having gained two advanced degrees from them, neither university is noted for handing out degrees in return for payments, donations or political quedos. Ergo, he must have actually worked for them and passed the examinations.

In Vietnam he succeeded in flying a fairly active war in the F-102 Delta Dagger, an aircraft that was notorious for the number of pilots it killed in accidents. And before anyone suggests that this may have been because he didn't do much flying, again the USAF records prove otherwise. In fact he was quite a successful pilot all round. That is certainly the verdict of another pilot who has written a very thought provoking item on the man entitled "War of the bumper stickers." It makes very interesting reading - and it certainly knocks down a few of the misconceptions about this rather enigmatic man.

George W Bush may not be everyone's idea of the perfect President of the world's currently most powerful nation, but perhaps it is time to stop trying to make out he's an ignorant and stupid pigmy. He isn't.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006


My daughter, The Postulant, recently sent me the story in the extended post below. Having read it I have to say I can agree with just about everything the author of that piece says. It is all very well posturing and declaring our multicultural intentions, credentials and achievements - but its all worthless when dealing with a protagonist who neither recognises the validity of any argument save their own, or wishes to live in harmony and peace with anyone who does not share their own very narrow view.It is one thing to preach that the Lion will lie down with the Lamb - it is another entirely to achieve that happy state, unless the lamb is supper!

This seems to have escaped the notice of all those who continually apologise for the aggression of those who seek to destroy everything in the Western way of life in order to replace it with their 7th Century vision of paradise on earth. According to the current mantra from the Left, if only everyone in the West (particularly those nasty people in the US!) would just learn to be more accomodating, more apologetic for the "evil" that is supposedly caused by our Christian faith in upsetting our loving and friendly Muslim enemies, the world would be filled with peace and harmony. This is the same lame brained thinking that says if you stand with your hands in the air in surrender, your enemies won't take advantage of you. Quite!

I commend to you the following item, it certainly makes you think about the issues.


You’ve probably seen this word spelled out with various religious symbols.

Who can argue with this? Not me, certainly.

What I CAN argue with is the idea that if only enough stupid, warlike Americans would just get on the Coexist train, then the world would be a happy and peaceful garden. Who else are the people with these bumper stickers preaching to, if not their ill-informed, knuckle-dragging neocon fellow commuters?

Unfortunately, here’s where reality inserts its ugly head. There is no more multi-cultural society on earth than the United States. The United States owns the patent on Coexisting religions and ethnicities. Drive half a mile though any major US urban area and you will see more ancient ethnic enemies living cheek by jowl in harmony than any other spot on the planet. Thursday morning water cooler conversations about Dancing with the Stars wallpaper over more ancient ethnic and religious murders than history has been able to record, and this despite Hollywood and the news media’s deepest efforts to remind you on a daily basis that the black or Hispanic or Asian or white friend in the next cube is secretly seething with racial hatred just beneath that placid veneer.

Americans are able to coexist because they have subjugated, if not abandoned, those ancient religious and ethnic hatreds to join a larger family, that larger family being America. And this is why, if you truly value the idea of coexistence, you should be dead set against multi-cultural grievance and identity politics, which do nothing but pit one ethnic group against the others and reinforce, rather than dilute, ancient resentments and grievances.

Now as it turns out, there is one member of the human family that seems to be having a little difficulty with the whole coexist thing. Muslims are at war with Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are fighting Animists in Africa, Hindus in Kashmir, Buddhists in Southeast Asia…they are blowing up nightclubs and schools and police stations and trains and buses and skyscrapers and are under daily orders to kill Jews on sight anywhere in the world.

I don’t mind preaching so much as preaching to the choir. When I see Coexist bumper stickers in Islamabad and Cairo and especially Riyadh to the degree I see them in Venice, California, I will be a happy man. They will make a very welcome sight covering over the Death to the Infidel! stickers that seem to be somewhat outselling Coexist messages in that part of the world. Until then I think we should coexist and carry a big stick.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2006


The last few days have been interesting because I have been juggling showing my friemds around my part of the world alongside having, on Saturday, to lead the short service of Remembrance at 11.00 in the Abbey and then to repeat that on the Sunday alongside being there for the Civic Services, Requiem Mass and all the other services. I find the Remembrance Services very emotionally challenging for a number of reasons, not least because I too have lost friends in war - and I feel that it is something I can offer in remembrance of those who served, and those I knew who also served and gave their lives for others in war and in "peace". Some of those died in vain it often seems as I watch what the politically correct and victim culture promoters do with, and to, the freedom that was so hard won for us. It is especially notable that none of these so called Moralists who now dictate our thoughts, our actions and seek to restrict our freedom of choice and action so assidiously - always spouting their mantra of "fairness" and "moral obligation" - have ever served in any of the armed forces or any of the uniformed services that must daily preserve the peace, uphold the balance of law or protect people from their own folly. Not for them that opportunity to "die for the cause" - that "honour" is always accorded to those they inevitably paint as "institutionally racist", "institutionally sexist" or any other "institutionally -ist" that suits theiur particular beef of the moment.

The pursuit of victimisation - everyone in the mantra of the PC brigade is a "victim" of the system, of slavery two hundred years ago, injustice or poverty today - have turned the freedom that our fathers and grandfathers won at such a fearsome cost into a new slavery. If you are a "victim" of something you are in their power as you can then be made dependent on them for "help" intended to "lift you from your victimhood". In reality this only means that they can feel good about "helping" while they continue to hold you in the "victim state" because only if they have a "victim" to help, can they feel they have a goal in life.

We are all, at some time or another, a "victim" of some form of injustice. There is a solution, but it is an individual one. Get a life, draw a line and move on. If you allow yourself to be sucked into the pit of always feeling you are a victim you become one - but you are the opressor as well. In short you make yourself a victim. Those with the courage and the guts to do so, turn away from that and take on a new challenge and usually succeed. Sometimes it takes more than one restart, but it almost always is rewarded.

As I remembered my own family members who served in the wars of the twentieth century and survived or died, I was struck by the example of my grandfather. Wounded at the Somme, he recovered and continued to serve. Then, targetted by the IRA on returning home, he emigrated and carved a new life for himself in a foreign land, never again returning home. Was he a victim? Yes, in a sense he was, victim to the crass incompetence of the commanders of the first world war and victim of the evil men of the IRA that Blair now lauds and honours. But, he picked himself up and built a new life for himself. He was never rich - he was even deprived of his inheritance by the Labour Government of 1945 - 51, but again he never complained about it, he simply drew a line and carried on. Unlike MrBlair's PC lobbyists who insist on being the Victims for everyone else's sins.

I certainly hope that the world wakes up to the insidious poison that lies at the heart of the victim culture that fuels PC - before it destroys us all. Then the act of remembrance and the sacrifice of the millions of men and women who fought for our freedoms will truly have been in vain.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2006

The Art of being Punctual

I remember The Monk telling me once with deep conviction 'All your German trains are punctual'. I wondered what had put that idea into his head for my own perception had been quite different. And it is corroborated by an article in the newspaper today: The Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) wants 87% of her long-distance trains to be punctual but only 78,5% are! Interestingly, only 51% of the ICE Sprinter, which should provide the fastest connection between two cities, are punctual on the Frankfurt/Main - Berlin line. 60% are punctual between Hamburg and Cologne and 79% between Hamburg and Frankfurt/Main.

The reasons are numerous but mostly due to old railroad tracks that are in urgent need of repair and replacement. Quite a number of 'low-speed sections' are found nowadays even on tracks that are used by high-speed trains. Railroad works cannot catch up fast enough.

Not good enough, if you ask me. What is the justification for demanding an extra charge for the ICE Sprinter if the Deutsche Bahn doesn't get you to your destination on time? And what's even more annoying Deutsche Bahn has creatively redefined 'punctuality'. It means you don't arrive somewhere more than 5 minutes late (at least I think it is 5 minutes, might be 3, but still). That doesn't sound like much but it may easily wreck your schedule if you have to catch a connection.

I remember a particularly nightmarish journey from Wiesbaden to Zweibrücken in the Southwest of Germnay. I was due to appear in court there at 3 p.m. The first leg of the journey was from Wiesbaden to Mainz by a local train, a very short journey, as Wiesbaden and Mainz are situated opposite each other on the banks of the River Rhine. Believe it or not the train managed to lose 10 minutes during a few kilometers. I would have missed my connection from Mainz to Mannheim but luckily that train was late as well. Bit of luck! And still a few minutes to spare for changing trains in Mannheim. I needed those because I had to go to another platform in Mannheim. Or rather run! Good thing I only had a briefcase to carry! I jumped into the train, the doors closed and we were on our way to Homburg. There I would have to take a bus to Zweibrücken which ran every half hour. I had timed my arrival in Homburg so that I would be able to catch the bus at 2 p.m. which would give me half an hour in Zweibrücken to find the right building. Great plan! For some unknown reason the train stopped only a few hundred meters from Homburg and would only continue in its own good time. Okay. I finally arrived in Zweibrücken at 3 p.m. The bus stop was just outside the court building and I rushed breathlessly into the courtroom. Only to find out that the Court had taken the opportunity to have a coffee break!

The journey back wasn't much better because I missed a connection in between and had to wait for ages for the next train. Not much fun in winter! Well, I probably shouldn't complain because I got back home before midnight. If you have to travel with Deutsche Bahn you learn quickly to be thankful for little things.

Posted by Mausi at 06:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 12, 2006


061112_ahorn.jpgOne of hte things I like about living more or less in the country is that you do not need the calendar on the wall to tell which time of the year it is. Every year I am fascinated by the first fresh green in spring which I can watch creeping up our hill every day when coming home from work. But even more spectacular are the colours of autums. One of my favourite inhabitants in my garden is this little maple tree which I try to cultivate as a bonsai tree. I got it when it was still a single twig, about 10 cm high. It has now been in my possession for 25 years. A very hardy little fellow, easy to keep even in winter who always greets autumn clad in this bright red colours.

061112_euonymus.jpgAnother red autumnal dot in the garden is this Winged Spindle, a member of the Euonymus family which for some reason is called 'Pfaffenhütchen' (a little clergyman's hat) in German. I think, the fruits of some spindle trees or shrubs resemble hats as they are worn by the clergy in some countries. Whatever - the red colour is just great.

Another unmistakable sign of autumn are the wild geese and cranes flying south. I always enjoy watching them. Luckily, we live en route and are able to watch them almost every year. It never ceases to amaze me how they keep their formation despite their constant change of positions. And they are talking all the time. I'd certainly be out of breath before long if I had to keep flying and talking for hours at the same time. This year they were rather late. We've had a very warm October and they probably have been discussing if it was worth going south at all. Now they are all on their way and I wish them luck and a safe journey to their destination.

The rest of us who stay here are now looking forward to a comfy time indoors. With the storms howling outside and the rain pounding against the windows there's nothing like sitting inside with a cup of tea and a good book. We are ready for you - Winter!

Posted by Mausi at 10:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

The Fifth Season

Today, at 11.11 a.m. the Fifth Season started in Germany. It is the official beginning of the Carnival season. The highlights of this season are still far away - they will mark the end of Lent next year and consist of parades, marches and public sessions of carnival clubs. The most famous parade in Germany is the one on Rose Monday in Cologne.

The origin of the carnival season reamains a bit of a mystery. One theory is that it even predates Christianity and marks the beginning of spring. Putting on masks, making loud noises and music during parades and processions should help to scare away evil spirits. Only later on the processions were devoted to patron saints. So the celebration of carnival is always closely related to areas of Catholic population.

In Germany the Carnival 'strongholds' are found along the river Rhine, namely Düsseldorf, Köln (Cologne), Koblenz and Mainz. Here Carnival festivities took on added momentum in modern times as a means of expressing anti-Prussian and anti-French thoughts during the times of occupation. Until today this is shown in the famous Rosenmontagsumzüge (Rose Monday Parades). Especially in Cologne the figures and topics displayed there are extremely political. The same is true for the public sessions of the Carnival clubs. Some of these are on TV and the speakers are allowed to tell politicians what they think of their work. Some are very witty and good at that. And you see the quite a number of well known politicians sitting in the audience. Apparently they feel being ticked off in public is better than not being seen at all. That might make people think they are afraid or have something to hide.

The begin of the season on November 11 is marked in many cities by the symbolic handing-over of town halls to the 'Narren' (Fools). This is a big event in Mainz and Cologne where thousands of costumed people are out in the streets and watch the Mayor being taken prisoner and the 'Narren' taking over the Town Hall. From now on preparations will begin for festivities at the end of the season. Wagons have to be assembled for the parades and speeches have to be written for the sessions.

When I was five years old we moved from the Protestant, Carnival-free North to a small town in the Rhineland, right between Düsseldorf and Cologne. We had a great time as kids. Four weeks before Ash Wednesday we would insist on going everywhere in costumes. Mind you, in the sixties, costumes consisted mostly of our everyday clothes which our mothers would alter by adding fringes to the seams of our trousers to make us look like Red Indians. Other favourite costumes were Cowboy, Pirate and Clown - all easily achieved with very little. The more affluent ones among us had cowboy hats or tomahawks - I had at least a very cheap revolver but had to economise on the ammunition. My pocket money didn't take me very far those days. We always thought it a real shame that we weren't allowed to wear our costumes in school. The teachers were afraid that competition and jealousy would spring up among the children. Hmm. Those were the days before everyone tried to walk around in Diesel jeans and Nike trainers.

The hightlight of the season for us was of course being taken to a procession on Rose Monday. Not to Cologne, where survival chances for small children are not very high for the streets are packed, but to smaller ones in the neighbouring towns. During the procession sweets are thrown from the wagons and we kids were busy collecting them. Often the weather in February would be cold and rainy and we had to fish quite a number of sweets out of little pools. At home our loot would be weighed (you had to show off to your friends after all!) and often dried on the radiator in the childrens room. The best sweets we ever had, if you ask me, even if we had difficulties getting the paper off them after the drying process.

I wish everyone a happy fifth season of the year!

Posted by Mausi at 01:07 PM | TrackBack

November 10, 2006

Historical Day

Yesterday the opening of the new Synagogue in München (Munich) made the headline of the evening news on TV. Of course, November 9 is a historical day in Germany. As with all history there's good and bad in it. The good news is that with the completion of the synagogue the Jewish community is has found its place in Munich again. This day, 68 years ago, synagogues in Germany were set on fire and shop windows were shattered by members of the NSDAP. November 9 in 1939 marked the beginning of the darkest chapter in German history: the systematic expulsion and murder of the Jewish members of our society. It is something that must never be forgotten to prevent it from ever happening again.

After WWII Germany was divided into two parts, East and West Germany with the Western Allied Forces controlling the Western part and the Russians the East. Berlin, the former capital, formed a sort of island in East Germany. And even Berlin was divided into different sectors, the eastern part of Berlin again being controlled by the Russians. Without the generous help of the Western Allies West Berlin would never have had a chance to survive.

Then in 1961 the leaders of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) ordered a wall to be built right through Berlin separating the western from the eastern part. It was a very well planned undertaking. While the wall was built soldiers were preventing people from crossing it. Most of the wall was finished within one day and families and friends were separated. People who had gone to the other side in the morning could not return in the evening. Suddenly a frontier ran through the whole of Germany separating West and East.

All through my childhood we were never able to visit my father's relatives who still lived in the Eastern part of Germany and they were not allowed to visit us. Only people over 65, like my grandmother, were allowed to go to the West for a visit. The regime obviously didn't mind the pensioners coming over and not returning.

In 1989 the regime of the GR fell apart and on November 9, 1989, the wall finally fell. That was the first step towards and Germany's reunification. Only in theory, of course. If you keep people forcibly away from each other for 28 years they develop in different ways. The biggest catastrophe was that with the end of the Soviet Union the economy in East Germany had collapsed completely as they had been trading mainly with the Eastern States. It was the end of whatever industry there was in East Germany. Great numbers of people came to the West in search of jobs and employment. This resulted and large areas in East being deserted. Rebuilding the industry in the East has only been partly successful. It is an enormous task and a lot is still left to be done.

Ironically, yesterday also died Markus Wolf, the most famous spy of the GDR. He was prominent member of the MfS (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit), the most repressive instrument of the socialist regime. He was head of intelligence service for foreign countries, which included also West Germany. His masterpiece was placing his spy Günter Guillaume as the former Chancellor Willy Brandt's personal secretary. When Guillaume true identity was revealed Willy Brandt was forced to resign. Markus Wolf died without ever uttering a word of regret for what he had done or whom he had served. Instead, he made quite a bit of money with selling his biography to the media in the 90's and appearing in various talkshows. I sometimes wonder about the role the meida play in our society.

But the MfS was better known for spying on its own people, the inhabitants of East Germany and preventing them from fleeing to the West or gathering information from the western media like TV, newspapers or radio broadcasts. Nowadays, with modern communication devices like computers and internet at our disposal it seems quite unbelievable how a whole country could be kept in ignorance and isolation so effectively and for such a long time. When my grandmother came to visit us for the first time, which must have been sometime in the middle of the sixties, she asked my parents if we were still living in the British sector. By then sectors had not been in existence for years but people in the East were kept in total ignorance of developments in the West..

Trust politicians to make a mess of things. In 1989 promises about the development in the East were made to people there which could not be kept, of course. Likewise financial sacrifices were demanded of the people in the West, which were often only grudgingly given. The politicians somehow felt compelled to give these promises and Chancellor Helmut Kohl thought this a good opportunity to stay in power a bit longer.

Well, growing together again has not been easy. But now that almost a generation of post-wall-people has grown up again in East and West, our economy is taking a turn for the better at last and we even have Frau Merkel as Chancellor, who grew up in East Germany, and doesn't do too bad a job, there's hope that things will brighten up at last and we'll feel as one country again.

Posted by Mausi at 10:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 09, 2006

Book update

A nice surprise yesterday was the receipt of two messages from friends who have finally found and received copies of my book. They are both delighted with the story and the style - and one in particular is over the moon to discover that he is not only named but described in it - doing what he does in real life but rather more earthbound. Or seabound .....

Suddenly it all seems that much more worthwhile, knowing that someone is enjoying the effort you put into something. OK, so it won't make me a million, probably won't even pay back my inmvestment, but what the heck, if it gives my friends and their friends some pleasure it will all have been worthwhile.

For anyone else going down this route, a word of advice, you may find yourselve listed as being on Amazon, but don't expect to find your book on their "Hundred Best Sellers" or even as an easy to find item. I rather naively believed it would get a little publicity that way, but believe me its buried deeply behind layer upon layer of big name promotion and even the search engine has difficulty finding it. Well, you live and you learn, at least it is now in print, it can be ordered through a bookshop or direct from Author House and all you need is the title and the author's name.

Out of time by Patrick G Cox. An extract from my friends comment is in the extended post below.

An even bigger surprise was when I opened it at random and the first thing I saw was my name. No wonder you have been so quiet lately - you must have been beavering away for quite a while to produce such a substantial tome.

I have only read the first couple of chapters so far, and am enjoying the rollicking pace of the adventure. I hope you have the greatest of success with it. We need more light-hearted adventure stories in this sad old world at the end of the age! And of course for me the technical complexities are also great.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:42 PM | TrackBack

Potential for a Darwin award?

The BBC News has just released a story about a 22 year old in Monkweartown in the North East of England who, in my humble opinion should be nominated for a Darwin Award. It is to be hoped that neither he nor any of his equally intelligent "friends" perpetuate their genes into a further generation - I would suggest that the world has sufficient stupidity already. This young man is currently in a serious condition in the local hospital after placing a Black Cat Thunderbolt Rocket between his exposed buttocks and attempting to launch it from there - in defiance of the likely effects already known from an earlier videoed attempt a few years ago to do the same thing.

Somehow or other this candidate for the dubious honour of demonstrated possession of the terminal stupidity gene, managed to fire the thing upwards and into his anal cavity where it lodged in his colon. His injuries are described as extensive. All I can say is that he and his friends can be thankful it was not the sort of rocket the detonates at the top of its flight. As it is, I would suspect that he is unlikely to be using the latter part of his colon in the future for the purpose it was intended as I would think a colestomy is probably the likely outcome of the damage he has suffered.

The spokesman for the hospital says that he hopes this is an isolated incident. Well he should keep hoping, this particular stupid gene seems to be fairly common - this is the third such incident have seen reported and I have video copies of two of them. On object lesson we hope - but I suspect it will not be the last time we will hear of this sort of idiocy! As I said, let's hope he and his friends refrain from breeding this gene on.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

Doing my thing ....

The picture is an old one - but it makes me go off into the realms of memory - happy ones - so I'll share it. It was taken in 1983 and shows the Gray Monk doing what he enjoys most of all, sailing! Extravagance is the only boat he has ever owned and probably will be. She was an Olympic Class Fireball with the pennant number K1013 and was one of the most exciting boats anyone could possibly want to sail.

Extravagance gathers way on a broad reach. The Monk's crew, believe it or not, in this photo was the Sub Dean of Bloemfontein Cathedral.

Fireball's are fast and demanding craft to sail, with only the helmsman/skipper and the single crewman. With every sail set it carries a mainsail, jib and a spinnaker and the centre board gives an overall depth of 3 feet and nine inches. On a reach, with the the wind abeam or over the quarter these boats will get up and plane across the water and even when working to windward, Extravagance was inclined to lift her nose and get onto a plane, something which could work against you in some conditions. Our record run with her was an occassion when we overtook a motor boat towing a water skier. The look on the faces of the speed boat skipper and his tow were priceless.

I have sailed dinghies since I was about fourteen, having started in a Sprog, a boat about 14 feet overall and quite lively and fast. As a Class they are similar to the popular GP14 in the UK, but narrower and faster. They were very popular in South Africa until the advent of the Hobycat which killed off many dinghy clubs because the Hoby's, while faster on the straight runs, invariably cluttered up the marker bouys and got in everyone else's way. Eventually the Hoby's squeezed the dinghies out of the races and finally out of the clubs. A great shame, because, while I will concede that they are fun to sail, they are not good sea keepers. I'll take a dinghy any day.

Ah, for the pleasure of a boat in my dotage - but probably not another Fireball!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:58 PM | TrackBack

November 07, 2006

A poetic Grey Monk

The Grey Monk
Poem lyrics of The Grey Monk by William Blake.

"I die, I die!" the Mother said, "My children die for lack of bread. What more has the merciless Tyrant said?" The Monk sat down on the stony bed.

The blood red ran from the Grey Monk's side,
His hands and feet were wounded wide,
His body bent, his arms and knees
Like to the roots of ancient trees.

His eye was dry; no tear could flow:
A hollow groan first spoke his woe.
He trembled and shudder'd upon the bed;
At length with a feeble cry he said:

"When God commanded this hand to write
In the studious hours of deep midnight,
He told me the writing I wrote should prove
The bane of all that on Earth I lov'd.

My Brother starv'd between two walls,
His Children's cry my soul appalls;
I mock'd at the rack and griding chain,
My bent body mocks their torturing pain.

Thy father drew his sword in the North,
With his thousands strong he marched forth;
Thy Brother has arm'd himself in steel
To avenge the wrongs thy Children feel.

But vain the Sword and vain the Bow,
They never can work War's overthrow.
The Hermit's prayer and the Widow's tear
Alone can free the World from fear.

For a Tear is an intellectual thing,
And a Sigh is the sword of an Angel King,
And the bitter groan of the Martyr's woe
Is an arrow from the Almighty's bow.

The hand of Vengeance found the bed
To which the Purple Tyrant fled;
The iron hand crush'd the Tyrant's head
And became a Tyrant in his stead."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:42 AM | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

Remember, remember, the 5th of November ...

Gunpowder, treason and plot ...

The customary commemoration of the failed attempt to blow up Parliament - and King James I - on November the 5th is, for me, something of a mixed "celebration". There is one school in England where it is never marked, in fact they have a statue of the man outside it as he was an "Old Boy" and apparently no slouch either. Why do I have mixed feelings over him?

Well, we would have to acknowledge that his attempt was inspired by the Puritanical proscription on the practice of Catholicism and the hanging, burning and beheading of Catholic priests and their supporters and followers. Other countries in the 17th Century burned witches, we burned Catholics and witches. We would also have to acknowledge that he is the first recorded would be suicide bomber. He was unlikely to have survived lighting the fuze since he would have had to remain in the cellars to ensure it burned correctly and no one dscovered it in time to stop the train. He is often portrayed as a dupe, someone gullible who could be ensnared by the more influential plotters and then sacrificed to their advantage, but I don't think that is a true picture at all. His school record shows him to have been an intelligent but unremarkable student. He wasn't wealthy, but he certainly was a member of the landed gentry classes. He was also a devout Roman Catholic in an age and in a nation when to be a Catholic was to be associated with the Spanish attempts to invade and certainly to be associated with the Papl attempts to undermine the English Crown. I suspect there may also have been an element of let's dispose of the Stuart usurpers ....

The other part of my difficulty with Guido Fawkes is the fact that he was probably the last, if not the only, man to have entered any Parliament with completely honest intentions. One wonders where his modern day equivalent is now that we need him! I think I shall mark his passing in somewhat quieter style than is usual - and salute him as a man of conviction and honesty.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

All Saints

The question of the Saints is a long and complex one - or not. I suppose to a large extent it depends on the denomination you belong to, the tradition you have received and your interpretation of certain scriptures. Tonight I must preach on this subject for the Solemn Evensong at the Abbey, and it has exercised my mind more than a little as to how to cover this wide topic in a sermon!

My final effort is in the extended post below and I hope it will provide those who read it with a little more insight into the calling of all Christians. We are indeed all called to be Saints of God - that is implicit in our Baptism and in our expression of faith in the creed week on week. Those who are remembered by name and in the calendar are the examples of fellow travellers in this life who have made sacrifices or some other contribution to our understanding of the nature of our calling and of the love and grace that is conveyed in the Gospels. We pray with them and hope that they pray with us as we walk through our lives surrounded by the "faithful cloud of witnesses" described by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews.

May we, with the Saints, be joined in the service of Christ. Amen

All Saints Evensong 2006
Tewkesbury Abbey

O Lord, open to us thy Word, and our hearts to thy Word, that we may love thee better and know thee more; for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake. Amen

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorned its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Over the last few days we have had the occasion to give a lot of thought to the question of Saints and who they where, who they are and what they do or have done for the Church. When we speak of a saint today to a child they generally come up with an image of someone with a halo, usually dressed in white and fitted up with a deluxe set of fairy wings. Older children will usually have a modified version while the more cynical adults will generally associate the saints with a bit of a hygiene problem,, frequently reclusive or thundering about iniquity and probably completely out of touch with the day to day realities of life. But is this a reasonable picture? Would we actually recognise a saint if we met one?

We should, because, in the strictest terms, all those who believe in Christ and who practice the principles of the Gospel in their daily lives, are saints of God. In short, we are all in the company of saints right now.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives us a shortlist of people who were obedient to God in the Old Testament and in so doing changed the world around them in some way. He gives us three categories in which this was achieved – conquering the world, justice for the people of God and the inheriting of the promised salvation. In each category he names three people involved in this saving work – yet, he makes the very important point that they, themselves, could not bring about the full realisation of God’s plan until the Word itself is manifested in the person of Jesus Christ himself. Then, in and through him, they become a part of the great cloud of witnesses who have thrown off all that holds us back from the fullness of God’s love.

Isaiah speaks tonight of the promised Kingdom in which no one need ever again suffer sorrow, hurt or bereavement. A world in which fear is banished and the weak and the powerful are equals. The powerful imagery of the passage –

“The wolf shall and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food.”

Uses powerful allegory to bring a vision of harmony – but also a measure of retribution. For the serpents there is no grace, no reward, only suffering; for their day is now past and it is the servant’s of God who will see the reward and enjoy the fruits of their faith in God.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews draws upon this rich legacy of the Old Testament to illustrate his own point. It is in the Faith of God that the first group of his nine named “heroes” overcame far more powerful enemies. Their faith made them stronger than any enemy and brought them triumph, even though, in Samson’s case it also cost him his life. In the second group again he is pointing to the fact that their devotion to God and their faith that he would give them the strength for the task saw them through to the end, bringing justice, peace and stability to their people for a time. But then he changes the image and he introduces the suffering of others, suffering that was unjust and seemingly, to the world, unrewarded.

As this particular letter makes abundantly clear throughout, we are all called to be saints, to be among those whose names we have in scripture, in legend and in the history of our faith. To be those who make things happen through love of God and through faith. That is the calling of every man, woman and child who professes the faith of Christ. To some of us will be given the recognition that we have succeeded, to others of us, it will be in God’s knowledge alone as to whether we have fulfilled that calling or not.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Now there is a challenge! If we are to fulfil our true calling we must first make ourselves fit for the task. St Paul was a great user of the imagery of the sports field or even of the military discipline of his time and the image of the sportsman training for the race is one of his favourites. And it is not out of place, since, unless we do take the time and the trouble to “train” for the task, we cannot hope to succeed when we are put to the test.

So just how accurate is the image we have received of a saint? Are we called to be so other worldly that we cannot function in this one? Are we called to live in caves dependent on handouts and scraps for survival? Are we called to wander around looking at the world with an expression of acute distaste? Of course not, what we are called to do is to show the world the love made manifest through Christ on the cross. The love made manifest in the babe in the cradle in Bethlehem. The love that knows no barrier of denomination, of colour or of creed and deals with everyone we meet in the same way that we would deal with Christ himself.

No one, least of all the writer to the Hebrews, says it will be easy. No one is promising a rich reward in this life, and no one is promising that the life of the saint we are called to be will be painless, without sorrow or even without some regrets – but it does have the richest reward of all, the sure knowledge of the love of God and of his salvation at the last when we are called to His service in the next.

For some there may well be the process of “official” recognition as a Saint of God, but not all of us will be remembered as a Benedict, as Claire, or Patrick, or David, soldiers of Faith and people whose faith touched and changed the world around them. But each and every one of us changes someone around us in some way every time we meet them. If we are out of sorts and treat them badly, even if unconsciously so, we may leave that person feeling rejected or damaged in some way – and that is not as it should be. Our calling is to give to others the love that is given to us, that is the calling of a saint! It is a calling to serve and not to be served.

Recently I found the answer to something I have long pondered, and in answering it, I have received an insight into another aspect of the faith that drove at least one of the greater Saints. Why did the Celtic Church adopt the shaved fore part of the head as their mark of servanthood to Christ? Why not the Latin tonsure? The answer lies in the early life of Saint Patrick. It was the mark of the slave in Ireland - a slave had their head shaved from ear to ear, leaving the forehead and temples bare, and Patrick adopted it as his mark of his servanthood to Christ – and probably as a reminder of his own early life as a slave in that country. A strong reminder to us that we are the servants of God and of each other and not the other way round.

As we bring to a close our celebration of All the Saints of God, surrounded as we are by a great cloud of witnesses, particularly in this holy place, let us renew our calling to be, with them, Christ’s servants on Earth and to strive to run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:15 PM | TrackBack

November 04, 2006

"The book" is now on Amazon as well!

In case you've missed it - my book is now available on Amazon, but at a higher price than on Author House, although I note with interest that the Amazon prices vary! Even more intersting is the fact that typing in the title only produces masses of entries for "Time out" in cities everywhere around the world, but not the book! You have to use title and author name in full, Out of Time by Patrick G Cox. So, please feel free to visit Amazon or the US Amazon site and shop around for it - or visit Author House or the US and get it there.

cover[1] full.jpg

And if anyone reading this has read the book and would like to venture an opinion, feel free to post your comments and critique on Amazon!

Even more intriguing is the fact that someone has already read it and is selling it on! Yup, there is a second hand copy already on sale. Not sure if thats a good or a bad sign just yet .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

All Souls

The feast of All Saints is followed by the commemoration of All Souls in the Church's calendar. So what is the difference? All the Saints are remembered on the one and all the departed are remembered on the other to be sure, but, if the promise of the Gospel is that all those who are baptised in the name of Jesus Christ are also saints, then surely there is no difference. True - but only God Himself knows who are truly His and who are not.

The commemoration of All Souls is always marked at the Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin in Tewkesbury with a sung Requiem Mass and this latest was no exception. In the weeks preceding the Mass the congregation is invited to place on a list the names of those they wish to remember in the Mass and these are read during the prayers of Intercession by the Sacred Ministers, each reading out ten names in rotation. The Mass was sung by the boys and men of the Schola Cantorum at Dean Close School and the setting used was Gabriel Faure's stunning Requiem. For those who know this setting there is not much more I can say - and for those who don't know it, I can only say you are missing something of great beauty.

Between the three ministers last night we remembered over a hundred people who have gone before us into the company of the Saints. I dare say that some of those remembered may, in life, have been surprised that they would be included. For myself I had added several members of my family, several friends and several people who were important to friends of mine. May they rest in peace - and rise in Glory.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:43 PM | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

The Dilbert Blog

I have been meaning to add this link for a while now. I am, in case you didn't know, a Dilbert fan. Scot Adams is a hero for his expose' of the inadequacies of modern management.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:18 PM | TrackBack

A shocking best seller?

I came across an interesting item on a blog called "Rhymes with right" the other day. In an interesting piece the author has quoted en block from somewhere else, it is revealed that the infamous "Protocols of Zion" , a fraudulent document originally produced in the late 19th Century by the Tsarist Secret Police to justify the pogroms, is currently the best selling book in Iran, Egypt and several other Middle Eastern countries. If that isn't setting the diplomatic alarm bells on fire alert throughout the Western world it damned well should be!

This ghastly concoction has been used throughout the twentieth century to justify persecution of the Jewish peoples, the most ghastly example being the Holocaust during the second world war - an event the Islamic "teachers" and leaders say did not happen. According to the Islamic propagandists that Mr Balir and his Nu Labour cronies love to cuddle up to and appease (Iraq is a ghastly mistake luvvies! Its about the oil, nothing to do with the religion, such a nice cuddly and peaceful religion dontchaknow?) the Holocaust "myth" is an invention of "International Zionists" to stir up passions against Islam and to steal "Arab land".

Unless the world wakes up and puts a stop to this open use of this ghastly rubbish and its spread by the propaganda of the Islamic system of unmonitored and unchecked brainwashing through "faith" schools (Christian Schools in the UK are obliged to take in Islamic students - one cathedral school is now 70% Islamic children! - but Islamic schools are not) we will very soon see Iran using them to justify the fact that they have "nuked" Israel. It will be on the heads and hands of Blair and the rest of the anti-Jewish Liberal Left when that happens - and frankly, it is my opinion that they should then be gathered together and sent to deal with the dead, the dying and the slaughter they have given legality too. At gunpoint if necessary!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:44 AM | TrackBack

November 02, 2006

Media bias

An interesting aspect of our current political view of the world from Britain is the bias of the mass media and its influence on the way we in Britain see the world. I expect that a similar problem exists across Europe and I recently read that many Americans feel the same way about their press and mass media news reporting. I have long wondered about the fact that all Civil Service jobs and ALL BBC positions are advertised in one newspaper only - the Granuiad - or Guardian. The Guardian is used by the Civil Service on the grounds that it is the only newspaper owned by a "Not for Profit" Trust and that this represents the only correct use of public money. What it ignores is that only a left wing liberal with communist leanings is likely to buy this blatantly biased and ultr-left propaganda rag.

Frankly I would not wipe my rear end with it if it was the only paper available!

I suspect that the impact that this biased recruiting policy has had is to be seen in the fact that almost all our Civil Servants are now card carrying members of the Labour Party, or if not, are at least sympathisers. Similarly, it does not take a genius to see the blatant (except to the left wingers who staff the BBC's complaints department) bias in all their reporting of anything involving any moderately right wing view point, anything involving Israel and especially anything about the United States. I recently watched the BBC's Deputy General Director defending his organisation against some pretty barbed questioning and was left with the sad impression of a man who is so convinced by his own propaganda that he simply cannot see that his own hectoring responses were exactly what many of us feel is so wrong with his organisation. Watch any interview with any Labour minion and be sickened by the sycophantic fawning, yet, wheel out a "Right wing" politician and watch the same interviewer refuse to debate, to ask the most barbed questions and draw the most preposterous conclusions to anything the person being interviewed says.

The real problem is that this liberal left drip of constant contempt for anything they don't like is what is undermining our society. Their constant blather about "equality" and "fairness", about "poverty" and "redistribution of wealth" has now terminally damaged our confidence in our own abilities to improve ourselves. Everything is spun, everything is twisted until it becomes a mantra. As Cranmer's Prayer Book says, "we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". Therein lies the heart of the problem, the liberal left cannot see truth, particularly when it disproves their articles of faith in things like "institutional racism" or "equality" or even the latest one that giving access to people from poorer backgrounds to the top places in the best universities will somehow transform them into geniuses of the future, is twisted into a mantra of academic bias or snobbery. The fact is that our education system is in deep crisis, the Comprehensive system is an expensive and ghastly failure and the fact that private schools have abandoned the GCSE exams should send a warning to Whitehall, instead it has evoked accusations of bias and prejudice against the schools concerned. They simply cannot stand people choosing for themselves, they have to control out thoughts and our access to everything, and let's face it, that is the hallmark of dictatorship.

The Left hates anything that smacks of individuality and again, our bias in the media created by hiring only left wing journalists has engendered a view in Britain of anyone who is individual or enterprising as being somehow crooked or an oppressor of one sort or another. They simply cannot celebrate individual success - probably because it flags up the fact they cannot control everything and where they do, they do so badly. The NHS, described recently as the biggest and worst example of Public Sector monopoly is an excellent case in point. And guess where the NHS recruits its managers?

You got it, The Guardian.

We have to break the Left Wing bias and the policy of recruiting left wing clones to all our media and the offices of State. If we do not we will probably be the first country in history to drift into a Communist system without ever fighting over it, or voting on it. Is the media bias affecting our thinking? Of course it is, and it cannot be good for any of us.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:51 PM | TrackBack

November 01, 2006

Dublin botanica!

Wandering around the green houses at the Glasnevin Botanical Gardens in Dublin produced some interesting surprises, like the healthy specimen of the Wollemia pine from Australia in its sturdy cage (these Australian plants are ferocious beasts you understand - the public needs to be protected from them!) and the many varieties of tropical plant with a mini rain forest thrown in just for good measure. Having grown up with a number of these plants growing wild around me it is fascinating to see them on show here as "exotics".

One of the many carniverous plants in the greenhouse set aside for them at Glasnevin. Probably not a good idea to stand to close or poke a finger into these little beasties!

Strolling around the outside gave me a chance to prove that I can also take some good close ups of nice flowers - so the pictures are displayed for your enjoyment.

One of the delightful walks in Glasnevin, flanked by flowers and scents.

There is a lot to see, and there is plenty to interest everyone - and plenty of really beautiful flowers and plants to savour.

Bougainvillea blossoms in one of the green houses. The creeper itself fills the rear wall of the South facing green house - a magnificent sight.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack