Whose Rainbow is it?

This must be the ultimate confirmation of insanity in the Woke Moronochy. LGBT activists are now claiming the NHS has appropriated their rainbow!

Whose rainbow is it, anyway? 

To start with, what is a rainbow?

“A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon caused by the reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets.” 

When this happens it results in a spectrum of light, in a great bow, appearing in the sky. It’s been doing it for millions of years, long before ancient man appeared on the earth, without any human help.

Rainbow by Met Office

It has been one of the best loved symbols throughout time. Give a group of small children a mix of crayons and some paper and it won’t be long before one or more of them will have drawn a rainbow. It seems to be instinctive. We have a big rainbow in the (defunct) children’s corner in our village church. We leave it there because we like the bright colours and hope one day the children will come back. 

It is NOT one of these rainbows. 

An LGBT+ Altar

I can’t remember when, but some years ago, perhaps many years ago, these rainbow flags and banners started appearing all over the place — outside supermarkets and petrol stations and inside churches — as a symbol of something labelled LGBT+. Without any explanation, somehow, it just seemed to happen.

Sometimes we saw rainbows in the sky.

Then along came Covid19. Suddenly there were rainbows all over the place again. Hand drawn in windows, painted outside houses, stuck on boards in hedges, and great banners in towns. And we would meet outside our houses on Thursday evenings and clap and cheer for the NHS and give thanks for all the hospital staff fighting the horrible virus on our behalf. 

Children’s Rainbows

When the weather was right, we would see a rainbow in the sky and we would smile and say a prayer of thanks for the NHS and their equivalents across the world.

“But gay rights campaigners have argued that the rainbow — a long-established LGBTQ+ symbol — has been “appropriated”.  And it’s feared it could undermine new pride badges set to identify medical staff whom gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can feel comfortable talking to. Peter Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner, said that the LGBTQ+ community had been “robbed” and called on the health service to create its own symbol.” The Scottish Sun

I’ve not yet heard of any high ranking cleric bothering to explain what the Rainbow really is.

It is a symbol, but one that goes back thousands of years. In the Bible all the way back to Genesis and the story of Noah and the Ark. But, of course, that’s from the Old Testament and as our former Vicar told us a few months ago, “The Old Testament is irrelevant.” 

Let me tell you where the real rainbow comes from:

In Genesis 10: v13 God said:  I do set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a token or a covenant between me and the earth.

Therefore — Stonewall, Gay Pride, Pink News, Peter Tatchell, Jayne Ozanne et al. – I think it looks as though it is you who appropriated the rainbow for your banners and badges. So stop bleating and let our children put pictures of rainbows anywhere they like.

The Ever-Widening Gap Between Them and Us

I mean, of course, the ever widening gap between them at the top and us at the bottom: specifically, those of us down in the local churches and parishes. There, we try everything we can think of to keep the doors open and the Gospel alive: at the top, the Bench of Bishops seem to be doing any quirky thing they can think of to shut us down and shut us up . . .

Just two examples of what I mean:

At the top, Paul Bayse, Bishop of Liverpool, recently opened the first meeting of MoSAIC. Have you ever heard of it? Nor had I.  The CofE loves initials. LLF – Living in Love and Faith is the current one. I think LLL would be better because there’s little Faith about it. Living in Love and Lust would be more accurate.

Anyway, Bishop Paul Bayse addressed this meeting of MoSAIC a few weeks ago. It’s taken me all this time to work out what he was trying to say and I’ve come to the conclusion it is not good news for simple lay people trying to maintain life and the Gospel in a small parish.

MoSAIC stands for Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church. Clever, eh? Sadly, “supporting Anglicans” doesn’t seem to include bog standard Christian congregations in most small churches, and I think I can speak for all the other 20 to 30 people in the village church I attend. To support MoSAIC we’d have to stop believing what we’ve been believing all our lives.

Here are just two of the many things that worry me about what Paul Bayes says:

First, obviously, is what the bishop chooses to describe as a “gender neutral marriage canon”. He means, of course, same-sex marriage. Needless-to-say he can give no sound theological arguments to support this. That’s not surprising. Bishops aren’t theologians any more. 

Bayes tells us, plainly, “people grow up and fall in love and their mysterious bodies lead them to love as they love, and they will love whom they love, and no amount of harrumphing is going to change that.”

He’s right. No amount of harrumphing ever changed anything. In affirming the truth of the mystery of love, and loving whom they will love is he including pædophilia and incest, polygamy and child marriage? As a Bishop I think +Liverpool should be much more careful in his use of words. Fortunately we have Jesus in the Gospels to guide us through the mysteries of sexual attractions and support us in the Way of Truth.

Secondly, he quotes, without understanding, something the World Council of Churches said way back in the 1960s. “Let the world set the agenda for the Church of England”.

Which world would that be, Bishop? The world of Sharia Law? The world of dictatorships? The world of tribal and/or religious warfare? Surely, if I remember correctly, St Paul has something to say about this world’s agenda in Romans xii. 2.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So much for the view from the top.

Meanwhile, down in deepest Dorset, a simple parish priest is in trouble. His Archdeacon is threatening him with a CDM (Clergy Discipline Measure) — something to strike terror into the most innocent of lowly clegy.

The Reverend Charlie Boyle broke three Covid rules in his church in Poole. One, he hugged someone! Two, he sang in church on Easter Sunday. Third, he put Bibles back in the pews.

In the first instance he hugged a woman, not in lust but in sympathy as she grieved at the funeral of a loved one. On Easter Sunday, as he carried the cross down the nave, he sang a verse of the hymn ‘Thine be the glory.’ He didn’t need to wear a mask because he’s an asthmatic and I don’t know anyone who can stand and merely listen to that wonderful hymn to Handel’s ‘conquering hero’ tune. Lastly, after a year in storage, he replaced the Bibles in the pews. It’s a small church, there were only 15 people there and I’m betting that they were all fairly old and had all been double vaccinated. Nevertheless, those Covid laws must be obeyed to the letter.

As far as ‘Them Up There’ are concerned breaking Covid laws is far worse than breaking the laws of God.

An Old Lady says the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven.”

Well, Lord, it certainly looks like Heaven this morning. Here I am sitting up in bed, lifting my eyes to the hills — and there is nothing to see! Just an impenetrable mist rising up from the valley. That’s what it must have been like, I suppose, in the beginning when Your Spirit moved upon the face of the waters. 

“Hallowed be Thy Name.”

Help me to keep Your name and that of Jesus Christ, in my mind and holy all through this day.

“Thy Kingdom Come.” 

Oh, please, God. Here, in Britain, we seem to be sleepwalking out of your Kingdom and into a weird wokedom where things that I have believed all my life are no longer believed to be the Truth any more.

“Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

Well, I try Lord. I went to church on Sunday. Inside, the building is still festooned with black and yellow tape to make sure we keep our distance, just like a crime scene. And absolutely no singing, although it’s allowed in pubs. Despite everything, I have enough faith in the people of this land not to allow churches to become crime scenes, even though that is happening in some parts of your world. Even here we’ve had the police called in from time to time for Covid infringements. Thankfully, You are always with the persecuted and martyrs and that brings me comfort and hope.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

You do that God —  at the moment with abundance. My veg patch had a difficult Spring – I could have done without the hailstones that flattened the early peas and beans. On the other hand the flowerbeds are more colourful and scented than I ever remember. Despite Brexit fears we can still buy salads aplenty and punnets of gorgeous strawberries.

“Forgive us our Trespasses.”

You’d think, Father, that after 84 years, my trespasses should be getting fewer. Instead, it seems to be the reverse. I still have all my old faults – anger, irritation, frustration, lack of compassion – and now my long memory reminds me of many sins in the past that I would wish I could forget. Forgetting and regretting is hard, even though I know I am forgiven.

“As we Forgive those that Trespass against us.”

And now we’ve come to my biggest problem. It’s a new problem. In the old days the people who I thought were trespassers against me were normal evil doers; murderers and corrupt politicians. And really not that many. Nowadays, the people who I feel are trespassing against me in legions seem to be mean-spirited tyrants who want to dominate the way I speak; even the very words I may and may not use. 

You gave me a love of words, Lord; you taught me their strength and power and showed me how to use them truthfully and to honour them. Now I am frightened that all this, even Freedom of Speech, is threatened.

Yesterday morning I read in the news about a woman called Milli Hill. She is an “Antenatal Guru”; that seems to mean that she offers online advice and encouragement to pregnant women. During lockdown that must have been an enormous help to many women expecting a baby. She was supported by the charity, Birthright, who have just sacked her. 

Why? Simple. She used the word “women”. 

You know, God, all my life I’ve assumed that all the world’s population was made up of men and women; male and female, as I believe you had created them. Now, suddenly, calling a woman a ‘woman’ is a hate crime. We, women, must become ‘birthing people’ in order not to offend transgender people.

I’m sorry, Lord but just at the moment I am finding it impossible to forgive that charity. And not just that charity but the so-called ‘trolls’ who have condemned Mrs Hill, vilified her and threatened her. For what? She has never written about transgender people and she has never objected to a transgender person being described as a ‘birthing person.’ So, I am raging with anger. I’m truly sorry but there is no way I can repent, at the moment, of my fury at their trespasses against me, against Milli Hill and the millions like me who believe we are women. With Your help I hope that I have calmed down enough to be able to pray for forgiveness by the time I say my evening prayers. So help me, God.

“Lead us not into Temptation, and deliver us from Evil”

This is what my friend, Eileen, keeps saying. She tells me to resist the temptation of reading all these examples of wokedom and getting so worked up. ‘What about the threat to free speech?’ I ask her. ‘Someone has to speak up and fight that evil.’ ‘It doesn’t have to be you,’ she says. ‘Not at your age. Do your knitting and smell the roses.’ 

But speech is powerful and precious and we need to be careful. And if you’ve given me a gift with words, Lord, then, even if I’m old and grey, I feel I still ought to keep on keeping on — praying for compassion as I rant!

“For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen” 

A Letter to the Uxbridge Three or Four

Dear Uxbridge Three or Four, 

I am sorry I can’t address you personally but I have not been able to find your names in the reports of the incident which occurred outside Uxbridge Tube Station at 1.35 pm on Friday, 23rd April.  That was when you were caused such “alarm and distress” by homophobic comments that you all felt you had to call the police.

The man who caused you so much upset was a John Sherwood, who is the Pastor of a local church.  Actually, I have to tell you that Mr Sherwood was not breaking the law.  People are allowed to preach in the open air if they wish, even if it tends to upset people.  

Way back in tne the summer of 2018 a London bus driver, called Allan Coote, was stopped from preaching outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, but on that occasion it was the Dean and Chapter who complained**.

Paster John Sherwood and Mr Allan Coote. Both fomenters of alarm and distress.

At the moment, there is no law in England that prevents a person from quoting from the Bible either.  I gather, from the reports, that Mr Sherwood had been reading from Genesis, Chapter 1 v27:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female created he them.”

(I’m sorry if this offends you but it is a very short verse.)

I can understand if you find those words truly shocking but you must remember they are words that people have believed for several thousand years.  New, liberal ideas are often hard for people to adopt overnight. 

Here’s another point that may make it easier for you to understand where bigoted homophobes are coming from.  Mr Sherwood and his partner, Mr Peter Simpson, had been preaching about the value of family, and the benefits to children who are brought up in a stable family with committed parents, one of each sex.  They were not lying when they made these statements.  A wide range of independent studies have proved this over many years and so, inevitably, there are hundreds and thousands of people around today who still believe this to be true.

Thanks to you, Mr Sherwood, who is 71, was pulled down from his ‘soapbox’, hand cuffed after some manhandling by three or four police officers, and taken off to the local police station where he was kept overnight.  A file on this ‘hate crime’ has, of course, been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.  I am sure you will receive many congratulations from Stonewall, Pink News, Jayne Ozanne and many LGBTQUI+ members, who will be encouraged by your brave actions.  However, I think I should also warn you that, with people like Messrs Sherwood and Simpson, you may not have shut them up for good.  Despite the offence and pain they have caused you I suspect that they will go on preaching and quoting from the Holy Bible until the law definitely forbids it. 

I am sure that time may come, and perhaps fairly quickly; then such examples of free speech will be banned.  In fact, I think you can look forward to a time, in the not too distant future, when ‘Woke law’ will have managed to close all Christian churches and “My Truth” rather than “God’s Truth” will be all that matters.  Though, I think I should point out that Muslim congregations will put up a far harder fight than the rather spineless CoE.

Police at the lectern in church for the Good Friday Mass

Until that time comes may I suggest you take some precautions so that you avoid the hurt and misery you suffered in Uxbridge?  For a start, make sure you avoid any people who are standing on ‘soapboxes’.  As well as quoting from the Scriptures they might be telling you there’s no such thing as climate change, for example, or assuring you that you must or must not get vaccinated.  People have such weird ideas these days, and you wouldn’t want to put yourself in danger of hearing anything offensive unawares.  Make sure you are always listening to something on your smart phone so that you can’t hear any conversations going on around you.  Toxic white males and institutional racists are about everywhere, as well, and you can have no idea of the sort of things they might say. 

Perhaps you could be kind enough to pass on this advice to your like-minded friends who get so easily offended and warn them, above all, to steer well clear of St. Paul.

** Blog entitled ‘How (not) to spend £10 million’. August 1st, 2018

What is Truth?

It wasn’t clear when Pilate asked that question more than two thousand years ago.  It’s even less easy to answer it today when we can all have our own ‘truth’ if we wish.  We’ve seen for a long time how feelings trump facts.  This can make for confusion and in some cases lead to roaring farce.  More worryingly, it has lead to people losing their jobs, Jordan Peterson for one, because what they might say could offend the feelings of people who believe a different truth.

The trouble with believing ‘my’ truth is that sooner or later I will come up with people who are convinced by a different truth and then all hell can break lose.

The Duchess of Sussex illustrated this beautifully during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.  She told Oprah she and Harry had been married three days before the official wedding, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She wasn’t lying.  That was ‘her’ truth and she sincerely believed it.  She is a shy, private person and she couldn’t bear the thought of exchanging her marriage vows in front of millions throughout the world on TV.  So she asked Archbishop Welby if she and Harry could have a private ceremony, in the garden of their home, away from even the prying eyes of the staff.

The trouble was, that statement, like the official wedding, was made in front of a global audience. Many of the people watching knew that, at the very simplest, an Anglican wedding needs five people — the couple, the priest and two witnesses.  The witnesses can be anyone, unknown but willing people passing in the street, but they must be in attendance, to sign the register and legalise the ceremony.  Oh, and it has to be on licensedpremises!

The statement wasn’t really a lie; she just mis-spoke.  That is bound to happen often when ‘my’ truth gets muddled up with ‘your’ truth.  The important thing is that Meghan and Harry were legally married in a sacred place by a properly ordained minister before two witnesses, the bride’s mother and the Prince of Wales.

Pilate would probably have been perfectly satisfied with that outcome.  No need for any hand washing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  Many Christians will spend at least an hour in church, meditating, reflecting and praying.  That will be a golden opportunity to ponder on how closely our own truths correspond with God’s eternal truths.

Have a very happy Easter.

It Makes You Think

Sometimes a simple story appears in the newspapers that stops you in your tracks

This is a photo of six year old Siddak Singh Jhamat of Walsall, who was given a fossil hunting kit for Christmas. He was digging for worms and bits of pottery last week when he dug up something that looked like a piece of horn. The fossil markings showed that it was a Rugosa coral that existed between 251 to 488 million years in the Paleozoic Era. 

That means it could be as much as 268 million years older than the dinosaur footprint found in January by a four year old girl called Lily Wilder, in Barry, South Wales.

A 220 million year old footprint

488 million years! That is really, truly old. Certainly makes my 83 years less than the blink of an eye. There’s no way I can get my head round that. How does anyone even begin to count in such numbers? However, it is a very helpful subject for Christians in Holy Week. At least, it is if you think about it in relation to God. God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and also of dinosaurs and rugosa corals. 

I’ve thought for a long time that over the last 60 years we’ve been cutting God down to size. Just as quietly and plausibly, we’ve been turning His Son, Jesus Christ, into more of a human and less a God. Worse than that, into something closer to a universal social worker. 

There are many reasons for this but two trends stand out. We — human beings — are getting cleverer and cleverer. Forget the Moon; we’re now considering the possibility of package tours of space and colonies on Mars. That may not be a good idea, given the bad press ‘colonialisation’ has been getting, for all the harm it’s done in the past. I don’t think it’s a very good idea at all, until we learn to take our rubbish home with us! 

Medically we work daily miracles compared with what we could achieve even 20 or 30 years ago. It’s taken a global pandemic to show us that we’re not quite as all conquering as we were beginning to think. You will be able to think of many other examples of human brilliance.

Psychologically, we have also cut God down to size because we have convinced ourselves that we, you and I as individual human beings, are getting pretty god-like all on our own.

We used to have two sexes but now you can claim to be one of up to 100 different genders. If you don’t like being a woman become a man instead. Anything is possible. What you feel is what you are. 

As a child I used to have it dinned into me by my parents that things were either right or wrong and I had to learn to accept responsibility for my own actions. Now my own truth can prove – at least to my satisfaction – that nothing is my fault. I am a victim.

Consequently, just as I become more and more god-like, God has inevitably shrunk down to a manageable size. These days we think He is only too happy to go along with what we want and the Bishops are happily re-writing the rule book.

Then along comes a bit of coral which is estimated to be 488 million years old. That rather puts the Almighty Creator God into perspective, don’t you think. He hasn’t changed in all those years. He has said so and we really ought to believe him.

Psalm 8.v4 What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday; both days for meditation and contemplation and a perfect time to reflect on How Great Thou Art, my God.

Holy Week and Conversions — are they mutually exclusive?

I have suffered for a month from an antibiotic resistant bug.  That, at least gave me plenty of time to ponder on the liberal, woke world in which I now seem to live.  It’s a world I find constantly confusing. I have come to the sobering conclusion that I must be a misfitting, orthodox, traditional, illiberal dinosaur. But I do grow nice flowers.

In an effort to keep up to date I tried to follow a Parliamentary debate; to be exact the LGBT Conversion Therapy debate held in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House on Monday 8th of March.  I know what the individual words ‘conversion’ and ‘therapy’ mean. Conversion means changing; from bad to good’, or from ‘not too bad’ to ‘much better’ or from ‘the best I can manage right now’ to ‘something pretty special’.  Therapy means ‘curative medical treatment’ or ‘healing’. But ‘Conversion Therapy’ as a danger needing banishment is harder to understand.

Here we are in the middle of Holy Week and for many of us, church-goers and ‘anti-church but pro-Christ’ Christians, this is the greatest week in the Christian calendar when we read, and pray and hope that Christ’s death and resurrection will give us the healing we need to convert us from sinners, to people trying hard to hope more, worship more, love more and, God-willing, sin less.  Who on earth would want to ban all that.

However, when I got to read the debate for myself – pages and pages of it – I realised this conversion is nothing to do with God.  It is all about Sex; more specifically LGBTQI+ sex. 

Eliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington( (Con), who had initiated the debate, began by explaining that the petition is entitled, “Make LGBT conversion therapy illegal in the UK”. 

To clarify exactly what he was talking about, Colburn, MP, said “Conversion Therapy was an umbrella term used to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature.”  Moreover, it was necessary because of the erroneous, “widespread belief that sexual orientation can and should be changed.”  One and a half minutes into the Debate and I was not happy.  I don’t like umbrella terms when it comes to banning things and I’m not happy with that sweeping generalisation that “sexual orientation can and should be changed.” 

As the debate continued I was impressed by how much a politician can say in a short time!  390 words in two minutes, though very few kept to the 2-3 minute rule.  I had ploughed through many pages before a doubt occurred to me. What does the word ‘debate’ mean in this context?  I was thinking in terms of debating societies in school and college.  Two sides, for and against, with arguments back and forth, claim and counter claim, until the final vote.  These speakers I was reading had not had a debate.  There was only one side, no one put points for the opposition, and many (most) speeches were couched in highly emotive language.  Moreover, the so-called evidence lacked any real science; it was almost all anecdotal.

These two rhododendrons (above and below) have been around so long they’ve lost their labels, and I’ve lost the book in which I recorded their names.

When I read on further I still couldn’t see the need to ban anything.  The anti-gay practices of the past – electric shocks, chemical castration and other actions more reminiscent of Tudor times, have already been outlawed.  This liberal age is all about individuals deciding for themselves what they would like to do.  Would like, not should like.  Put simply, if a man, say, who is sexually attracted to other men, nevertheless decides that he would like to marry a woman and have a natural family, surely he should have to right to have psychotherapy if he wants it and thinks it will help him.

One speaker, Crispin Blunt, (Reigate) (Con) included in his comments the issue of trans people.  “They are by far and away the most vulnerable group among the LGBT community.”  Well I agree completely there, as does the recent report of the Quality Care Commission who rated The Tavistock Clinic worryingly ‘inadequate’. Something else that worries me is the fact that many of the children being treated at the clinic are either on the autistic spectrum or have complex mental health issues. That is worrying.   I would certainly like to ban the horrific conversions available to even quite young children who want to change their gender and their physical genitalia.  Not only can children as young as 12 be given puberty blockers, followed by hormone treatment but, after the age of 16, mutilating surgery is also available.  It’s hardly therapy but it certainly converts a female body to a male body, so why isn’t it banned as well.  What sort of conversion therapy for trans people does Mr Blunt have in mind?

There is just one more conundrum I can’t get my head round.  My daughter was a psychiatrist who specialised in anorexia and psychosis.  She preferred her psychotic patients; they were much more fun and their difficulties sorting out what was real and unreal in their lives encouraged her to look at her own life in new and fascinating ways.  There wasn’t so much laughter on an anorexic ward and you needed masses of patience to sit for an hour persuading a stick thin individual to add just one raspberry to a small pot of yoghurt for lunch.  Anorexia is extremely difficult to treat, let alone cure, and frequently fatal.  Yet never once, even when treating a skeletal creature with a body mass of 10, was she tempted to agree with her that, yes, she did look fat and perhaps it would be a good idea to stop eating.

I pray that, despite the threatened ban on conversions, and freedoms of speech and religion, that you will all* have a spiritually uplifting and holy Easter.

*Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3.v28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This shy, humble little periwinkle has been blooming since Christmas!

Moving House

This blog has nothing to do with Lent, beyond showing the amazing possibilities in life if you believe you can. For me, it’s a trip down memory lane. Yesterday I saw this house on the BBC on-line news.

It is a 137 year old house in San Francisco which has been saved from demolition by its enterprising owner. Now it is on its way to a new site! Amazing? Well, yes, but I’ve seen it all before.

In early 1963 I was living in Lexington, Massachusetts which is an old town outside Boston. A very historical town because it’s where “the shot heard round the world” rang out on the morning of 19th April, 1775, heralding the start of the American Revolution. 

On one occasion while we were there I had to drive into Boston to pick up my husband and take him to the airport. A few miles out of the town, breasting (or perhaps chesting) the brow of a hill, I came upon a house in the middle of the road. I don’t mean a caravan or half a mobile home; I mean a whole house, complete with double garage and curtains in the windows! What’s more, after a few startled moments, I realised it was moving. At a snail’s pace it was proceeding down the road in front of me. Finally, the driver of the car behind me, who wasn’t in the state of shock I was in, overtook the house and roared away. With my courage in both hands I followed suit.

The next problem was my husband. ‘You’re late,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘There was a house in the way!’ As an excuse it sounded pretty feeble. Fortunately, one of his colleagues confirmed that I could be telling the truth.

The Minuteman statue on Lexington’s Battle Green

Lexington is steeped in history, centred on the Battle Green where that fateful and fatal first shot was fired. Around the Green there are elegant pre-revoltion buildings like the Buckman Tavern, the Monroe Tavern and the Harrington House. One summer I acted as a volunteer guide on the green and my description of the young, wounded Jonathan Harrington crawling up the front steps to die in his wife’s arms reduced Californian tourists to tears! That was when I discovered Californian history is so completely different from New England history they could have been two separate countries. 

The Hancok-Clarke House on Hancock Street, Lexington, MA

Many years later I was back in Boston and decided to drive my daughter out to see our old house. From the Green I drove up Hancock Street on my way to Blake Road. This was a road I took almost every day when I lived there and on my right as I drove out of town I would pass another famous house — the Hancock-Clarke house. John Hancock and Samuel Adams, two of the leaders of the militiamen, had been warned to expect trouble. They were taking shelter with the Reverend Clarke in the house that had once been home to John’s grandfather. It is also the house where Paul Revere stopped to give warning of the approach of the Redcoats as he took his famous ride towards Concord. As I drove past this famous piece of history in about 1980 I again came to an abrupt halt. The house was on my left.

‘Why have you stopped?’ asked my daughter. ‘That house,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘It says it’s the Lexington Historical Society.’ ‘But it’s on the left! It should be on the right!’ I could see my daughter’s raised eyebrows in the rearview mirror. Clearly mother was beginning to lose it!

Time to phone a friend.

Yes, it was indeed the Hancock-Clarke house. Yes, it had been on the right hand side of Hancock Street as you went up from the town centre. Yes, it had been moved across the road — she thought a few years before; late seventies perhaps. But why? Why on earth would you move an ancient monument from one side of the road to the other?

Early in the last century it had been saved from demolition by being trundled across the road onto a piece of spare land. Seventy years later it had then simply been moved back to where it was when it had sheltered three American heroes: John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.  

Well, why not? Recent news suggests that Stonehenge was originally Welsh. Should we start agitating for the return of our stones? At least that would solve the problem of tunnelling under the A303.

Lent, Blue Peter Style

For readers outside the United Kingdom, I should explain about “Blue Peter”. The Blue Peter is a flag. It was flown from a ship in harbour to show that it was about to leave port and sail away. In 1958 it became the name of what has become the longest running children’s TV programme in the world. 

It was a well-chosen name. The programme aimed to sail the children watching it into other worlds outside the often severe limits of their own sitting rooms. It offered not only more exotic adventures, exiting everyday situations and an amazing number of things to do and make out of any oddments you might have cluttering up the house. Re-cycling, then in its infancy, took over where the “make do and mend” of the wartime years left off”

Animals, particularly cats and dogs joined the TV family to such an extent that John Noakes and Shep became household names. All sorts of animals made regular visits or became part of the family as pet-less children learned the ins and outs of animal care, and coped with mourning when well-loved characters died. There were all sorts of animals as well, including a turtle who joined the show regularly for 14 years. Then there was the visit of a baby elephant. That was the time the programme “went viral” in today’s parlance, when – to put it politely – if the elephant had been wearing a nappy/diaper he would have filled it!

A Blue Peter badge worn by proud watchers of the programme

What has Blue Peter to do with Lent? Several things. Like Lent it opened windows to new thoughts and ideas and shone light into hitherto dark, even frightening, places and situations. On a much lighter level it introduced a time honoured phrase that has entered the language. After cutting up plastic bottles, sticking yoghurt pots together, winding string or ribbon around this and that, one or other of the presenters would produce the finished item, securely glued, standing firm and true, and proudly announce, “Here’s one I made earlier.”

An Aloe Vera leaf and a sprig of a jade tree

I wonder how many “Here’s one (of whatever it may be) I made earlier,” there will be as a result of the Dean of Canterbury’s Lent Project? Poems, prayers, paintings, crafty items or even a Fairy Liquid rocket! Above is my latest effort. A leaf of aloe vera and a sprig of a jade tree.

And here are two I made earlier! Just look at the way the Aloe Vera is sprouting new plants all around the original leaf.

Silence, Study, Service

I did think of calling this blog “Shush”. It’s a word I use a lot because, even when sitting side by side, my granddaughters, aged 7 and 9, speak to each other in modified roars, as if still trying to communicate across a crowded classroom.

Three word slogans are popular at the moment. Did Archbishop Justin Welby start it with his wish that the Anglican church should be ‘Simpler, Humbler, Bolder”? Last Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent, Canon Philip Ursell, in an open church in Cardiff, St Martin’s in Roath, in his sermon, suggested the three words of the title — Silence, Study, Service — as a good guide for Lent.

Silence is perhaps the last thing people want to hear at the moment when so many are living in lonely isolation, listening to the radio, watching TV and talking to the wall. However, it caught my attention because I have been watching three programmes late evening on BBC Channel 4. ‘Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery’. These programmes seemed to take silence to another level; not just lack of sound but something positive.

” A servant with this clause  Makes drudgery divine: Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,  Makes that and th’ action fine.” George Herbert. 

Have you ever been in an anechoic chamber? That’s the place to experience an utter and complete absence of sound. Alone in one, in the dark, I found it a terrifying experience. I ended up feeling my pulse and concentrating on my breath to reassure myself I was still alive!

Silence, in these monasteries, is the reverse. Apart from praying and singing in chapel and readings from The Rule of St Benedict during meals no one spoke. But it wasn’t just the lack of talk. I found myself listening to every other sound. The flip flop of sandaled feet in the long tiled corridors, the rattle of plates, the thump of kneading dough. Even a dripping tap and the slurp of honey filling a jar.

I now know why an iconographer was taking eggs from the kitchen

Study is a part of a monk’s daily life as is service. All kinds of service from the most humdrum tasks like cooking and cleaning to the beautiful work of an iconographer and a rosary maker. Some monks make their own clothes, others use carpentry, both creatively and DIY. One nice touch — the baker monk walked out into a wood to pick wild garlic, which he took back to the kitchen, pounded to a paste in a pestle and mortar, and created garlic butter.

I found myself more and more drawn in to this Silence. No radio, no TV, no chitchat.  Every task provided an opportunity for mindfulness and prayerfulness. The value of concentration was palpable. So much so, that as I watched a young monk filling the thurible with charcoal tablets sprinkled with frankincense I thought I could smell the incense.

I wouldn’t want to be without my hearing aids. I would miss the chatter around the supper table as we catch up on the day; I can still remember getting my first aid and suddenly hearing bird song. When noise gets too much I can cheat and take them out. Then it goes quieter. But it doesn’t come close to the profound and potent silence of the monastery.