“It Beggars Belief!”

That, at least, is what my builder said a month or so ago, after he’d spent a week trying to buy three square metres of Welsh slate for a hearth. He could get Brazilian or Spanish slate delivered in a week, but not Welsh slate. Not only could he not get a delivery date for Welsh slate—“depends how long it takes us to dig it up” he was told—but he couldn’t even get a price for it, beyond the information that Welsh slate would cost about twice as much.

Given that I live a mere 21 miles from Blaenau Ffestiniog I could understand his frustration.

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Blaenau Ffestiniog – The nearer ‘hills’ are actually great heaps of slate

When this photo was taken, in the 19th century, Blaenau’s proud boast was that this was the town that roofed the world. They still use slate today, but mainly to make little kitsch items for visitors’ souvenirs, which in a way sums up this century, so far. Twee and trendy coasters. Nothing like the old slates that have been providing solid floors, impervious to the mud and muck of farmer’s boots, for over 200 years.

Not that the people of Blaenau aren’t trying hard to move into the 21st Tourist century. It’s not just mountains and castles up here.  All the old world is still here but transformed into places of amusement, information and, frequently, thrills. The Ffestiniog Railway offers steam engine tours, in retro railway cars, through the Snowdonia National Park, all the way down to Porthmadog.

In the Llechwedd Slate Caverns you can now experience life in a rock quarry and visit workshops and history exhibits. If that’s not exciting enough a trip to the Deep Mine takes you down the steepest (1:1.8) passenger railway in Britain. There’s also the world’s largest underground trampoline and a zip wire.

Surf Snowdonia’s wave machine provides superb surfing waves every few minutes in what was once an Aluminium works.

And then there are zip wires on a mega scale.

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This zip wire will take you for a mile over the Penrhyn Quarry.

However, to get back to my slate hearth. Nigel is nothing if not persistent and he finally found Richard, in Blaenau, who said he could supply enough Welsh slate, cheaper than the Brazilian quote, and within a week.

‘Yfory’ is Welsh for ‘tomorrow’ — it’s a word we hear frequently. Finally, more than two weeks later, the slate arrived. It was the right slate, but the slabs were far too small. ‘It’s what people want these days,’ Richard said. ‘Not my client,’ Nigel told him.

Finally, big, thick, second hand slates were delivered and have been installed. They’re obviously from Blaenau originally; how do we know? slates from different quarries are different colours.

Apart from being persistent, Nigel is an old fashioned craftsman, highly skilled, knowledgeable, shrewd and with the true craftsman’s appreciation of other fine workmanship.

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I used to use this old range as a sort of “hostess” trolley but my grandchildren all thought of it as part of a scary witch’s kitchen

After he and Mark, his mate, had removed the old kitchen range (c. 1875 and therefore a ‘modern’ addition) he called me to inspect the result. It was clear that, in order to install their new range, the then owners of the farmhouse had had to dig down about 18 inches below the original hearth. This left walls—if you could call them walls—and floor of rubble, soil and clay, apart from one large rock which must have been too big to move.

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To give them their due the people who did this work were probably sheep farmers rather than builders doing their best at a bit of DIY.

Then Nigel drew me into the inglenook to look up the chimney. Above me, arching up 20 feet or more, was the most beautifully shaped and pointed stonework.

“Awesome,” said Nigel. “As good as anything in Caernarfon  Castle.”

This house may not be built on solid rock, there’s quite a bit of rubble and clay underneath it, but those old farmers were faithful chapel goers. At least they knew not to build their home on sand.

As for the slate quarries—I’m glad they are making a new life out of the old, but surely, if there is still a need for slate, and there must be if it is worth importing it more than 5,000 miles across the ocean, why on earth can’t they still do what they used to be best at?

 

 

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Hypocrisy and Humbug

When I took a break from blogging in the summer, I hoped, over the holidays, to be able to update my blog page. I wanted to add all sorts of whistles and bells and links and side bars and . . . . Well, as you know (“May You Live in Interesting Times” —blog Oct 2nd)  things didn’t work out quite like that. I haven’t even been producing my more pedestrian blog very often, either, but please don’t think I have succumbed to the sin of sloth. It’s just that life has become different and, at times, rather more complex, with some very odd problems.

Apart from visually brightening up my blog I had also intended to widen its scope and broaden its horizon. since I was thoroughly fed up with the mediocre shower making up so much of the Moronarchy which is the Church in Wales.

Now, a whole avalanche of news has proved a spur. Much of it makes me think surely this can’t be true? I don’t know how much is ‘fake’ news, but I do believe quite a lot is sensationalised into ‘news’ by the media, especially if it involves Sex, or the C of E, or both—which it so often does.

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Danny La Rue

Archbishop Welby says boys should be allowed to wear tiaras to help stop bullying. (No, sorry. I must have misread that! Since when was cross dressing news worthy!)

In Shakespeare’s day all the girls parts were played by boys. One of the best Lady Macbeth’s I ever saw was a strapping six-foot lad who made no effort to feminise himself. No high voice. No mincing walk. No pretty gestures. He was just so completely in the part that he was totally convincing. I don’t know what has happened to him but I doubt he’s on hormones to give him boobs.

 

 

I was fortunate enough to go to an all girls’ school so when we did Shakespeare we got to play all the male parts. My best friend Judy was a particularly convincing Shylock although I don’t remember any mention of sex or gender.

 

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Glenda Jackson as Lear

Another subject I’ve found jaw-dropping concerns Church maintained schools. Why do they still exist? What on earth is the point of them? One in Birmingham has 80% Muslim children—surely that makes it more of a Madrassa—so why is the C of E maintaining it? They are, of course, exceptionally good schools, which is why so many parents lie and cheat to get their children into them. Presumably Muslim parents and children are deemed ‘Christian’ enough to qualify because they acknowledge Jesus as a prophet. What seems to me ironic and pathetic is that those parents who attend a church in order to “prove” their children are suitable for admission to a C of E school are rarely converted to Christianity by their church-going experiences! I suspect that once they get their child safely “in” no church will hear of them again. But, if a Christian Group is found to be teaching shocking subjects like sin and forgiveness, then the bullying starts, the headmaster sacks the Christian group and the Bishop nods her/his mitre in agreement.

There is always something going on in the Church in Wales to depress one’s spirits still further. It’s gone quiet in the church down south in Llandaff and St David’s but there are things going on up here in St Asaph that reveal how deeply unpleasant “church” people—both clerical and lay—can be. The sheer nastiness occurring in some of the Mission Areas beggars belief. They display all the most notable aspects of the Pharisees. Perhaps that’s why the Bishop of St Asaph has been finding forums away from home.

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Members of the Anglican Oriental–Orthodox International Commission with local Fathers and the Egyptian Ambassador to Ireland in St Maximus and St Domatius Coptic Church in Drumcondra.

The man in red is the Rt Revd Bishop Gregory. The other men include representatives from the following churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church,  the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

+Gregory was Chairman of this Commission which met in Dublin last month. It has been struggling for years to reach agreement on some obscure bit of deep theology. What puzzles me is what is Gregory doing there. The other men all belong to churches which do not admit women as priests. Yet the St Asaph bishop has spent the last few years supporting women bishops, homosexuals, priests in civil partnerships, “proud to be gay” films, innumerable lectures and meetings with speakers like Jayne Osanne and “open tables” dedicated to LGBT+ activities and people. Talk about hypocrisy and humbug!  At least, I hope he left his LGBTQUIA+ chaplain at home.

This month, further demonstrating the breadth of his ecumenism, +Gregory attended a service in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cardiff to commemorate Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Here he was observed turning to face the altar so that he could take a Selfie with the congregation.

Most of the people I meet now on an almost daily basis—medics and paramedics—display the Christian virtues of sympathy, tolerance, generosity and a quite amazing compassion. They laugh at me when I comment on this. “You couldn’t do this job if you didn’t care about people,” they say.

That attitude contrasts starkly with many of the clergy in the Anglican Church, all the way up to the Bishops, who seem perfectly happy to collect their stipends, wear the robes and strut the strut, without giving a second thought to all those of us who still believe in the Bible. We are totally ignored, if we’re lucky; labelled and excoriated if we speak out.

 

 

 

 

But Who are the Bullies?

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This is Milly-Molly-Mandy. Don’t be misled. She’d be a terrible bully if I let her get away with it.

Male maths teachers are like gold dust; an increasingly rare breed; practically an endangered species. Lose them at your peril.
Mathematicians know—and teach—right from wrong. No way can you plump for “good disagreement” with a maths equation.
So what on earth did this particular teacher do that required immediate suspension?
He noticed two pupils working particularly well in his class.
He wanted to encourage such endeavour.
He said, “Well done, girls.”

Are you following me so far?

It looks like a good day in a well organised school with a highly trained teacher, a graduate of Exeter University, imparting solid knowledge to his pupils. But this is Britain in 2017; a State school in Oxfordshire to be precise.
Unfortunately, one of the girls thinks she is a boy.
Even more unfortunately, the teacher, Joshua Sutcliffe, is not just teaching a subject where fudging the truth won’t do. He is also a Christian—he respects Truth. Normally, he gets round the problem of saying ‘he’ and ‘him’ about a ‘she’ and ‘her’ by using the child’s name but that isn’t approved of. On this occasion, no doubt in a relaxed and friendly manner, he made the remark that may well cost him his job.
The family of the girl who thinks she is a boy complained and Mr Sutcliffe has been suspended. Is this an example of bullying? Absolutely. But it is the mathematically trained teacher of truth and exactness and rigorous attention who is the bullied one.
The child’s parents, the headmaster and the people who advocate these policies, against truth and reason, are the true bullies.