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

Department of Gobbledegook and Obfuscation

I don’t know exactly where the DOGO is situated — perhaps in the depths of Whitehall or even, these days, on a windblown island in the Outer Hebrides. No, that’s not likely. People who live up there are tough, down-to-earth, realistic and clear sighted.

The Outer Hebrides where people call a spade a spade

However, even though I don’t know where that Department actually is I know it exists. 

Here is the proof:

“We also recognise that there is currently biological essentialism and transphobia present within elements of mainstream birth narratives and discourse. We strive to protect our trans and non-binary service users and healthcare professionals from additional persecution as a consequence of terminology changes, recognising the significant impact this can have on psychological and emotional wellbeing.”

Policy statement of the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.

One sentence of a mere 35 words made to seem much more erudite by all those wonderful polysyllabics.

Surely this lilting prose must come from the same stable as that other Load of Lovely Flannel (Living in Love and Faith) from the Church of England that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

“Secure in its roots, the Christian understanding of marriage has been sufficiently supple to respond to changing cultures, and suitably rich in meaning to all God’s gift to be received in different ages even if its purposes have been lived out with great clarity at some times more than others.”

One clear link between the NHS and the C of E is the Bishop of London, Rt. Revd Sarah Mullally, who was Head Nurse before ordination and is the lead bishop on the Living in Love and Faith production.

essentialism* — [uhsen-shuh-liz-uhm]

*a doctrine that certain traditional concepts, ideals, and skills are essential to society and should be taught methodically to all students, regardless of individual ability, need, etc. (My emphasis.) In other words even if you are never going to be in a situation where you will ever have anything to do with a transgender pregnant parent you’ve still got to be taught what vocabulary to use.

I’ve put this definition in for the sake of any readers who are as old as I am and for whom the word doesn’t roll as smoothly off the tongue as I’m sure it should. It isn’t in my SOD (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) but that dates back to 1970. How quaint! 

I’ll try and translate what I think the NHS means with their statement. 

At the moment there’s a skill shortage in Maternity Units — sorry, perinatal services. The midwives (that term will have to go) and nurses who are there are superb at delivering babies but their language leaves much to be desired. 

“Now, Mother. Are you going to be breast feeding?”

Heaven forbid. Using that language is downright persecution.

“Now, parent. Are you planning to chest feed?” will be quite acceptable. 

Mother, father, sister, brother — those words will all be banned, too. Parent and sibling will do. I don’t know how you cope with uncle and aunt. 

Devil’s Dyke in Sussex. Expect this to be renamed sometime soon.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic like never before. Hospitals and all the staff in them are stretched to the limit. Money is tight. Now is not the time to engage the services of exponents of any sort of alternative language. Now is not the time to start talking about psychological persecution — ridiculously emotive language — as the result of terminological changes. How much did all this New Speak cost? How many ‘pregnant’ (probably a banned word) transgender and non-binary people are we talking about in, say, a year? Surely, all that’s needed, in those rare circumstances, is for someone to forewarn the midwife/midperson involved to watch what they say. After all, workers in midwifery units are well educated and highly trained. If they spot that the human being in the delivery room is sporting a beard they’ll catch on quickly enough that the situation will need careful handling.

A Very Tangled Web

There is a problem with blogs. We bloggers try to keep our posts short, but in making them concise it is easy to give the wrong impression. I think this happened with my last blog, “I’m Back Because I Can’t Stand Sham”. I was trying to explain how I sometimes try to imagine how I would explain some aspects of modern life to my father, were he still alive. He fought all through WW1 and writing about him has emphasised what a different world we inhabit now. 

In that blog I mentioned a man called Freddy McConnell. He is someone presenting with either complicated and complex problems or, at the other end of the scale, a tissue of lies.

So, let me reassure readers that I’m not a full of hate bigot and I do have compassion — a lot of it — for anyone finding themselves in a perplexing and difficult situation.  

What is worrying me about Freddy McConnell and his baby son is the utter unreality of it all. Common sense has flown out of the window. 

I would have nothing against Freddy if I met him – say at a play group – with his beard and moustache, and I would have no trouble calling him Mr McConnell and describing him as ‘he’ and Daddy. I have the evidence of my eyes and, in any case, I wouldn’t want to be rude or hurtful. There is no harm in being courteous in any merely social situation, particularly if surrounded by small children and other parents. This will surely happen frequently as Freddy Jnr grows

But, and it is a big BUT, Freddy was a woman when she gave birth. At that stage she had been registered as a man but had stopped transitioning in order to conceive. So the truth has already been mucked about with and feelings had already trumped facts. It wouldn’t just be stupid, it would be every shade of wrong to change the law so that Freddy appears as his child’s father on the birth certificate and there is no mention of ‘mother’. There’s also the problem of the biological father. Freddy is not a hermaphrodite. Even if he were he couldn’t impregnate himself. The donor of the sperm with which Freddy got pregnant may be just a name or a number but biologically he is the child’s father and to change the law in order to make Freddy the father — the only parent — is another whopping lie.

Two other points in this Freddy saga concern me. 

He went to court to claim anonymity because he says forcing him to register as the child’s “mother” breaches “his human right to respect for private and family life.” Where is his respect for truth and honesty?

National newspaper editors wisely challenged the order after McConnell featured in a documentary film and a newspaper article about his journey to parenthood. Not much anonymity there.

This is a photograph few men will recognise but many women will immediately identify with it. Except that most women in this situation would be without their trousers. I suspect it may have been posed for the film.

Credit: http://www.seahorsefilm.com

According to The Sun newspaper Freddy McConnell wants his child to be the “first child in the world to legally have no mother. Why? Where is the benefit to his son there? Except to make him an object of curiosity.

Changing the law of this land in order to perpetrate a lie is to take the highway to chaos and confusion. 

“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”

Walter Scott was so right, as society will soon discover to its cost. 

I’m Back Because I Can’t Stand Sham

I stopped writing blogs ten months ago. I popped back to comment on Curry and Churchill but that was as long ago as January and February. Now, however, I think there are things I must say or I shall burst! 

I gave up blogging for two reasons. I seemed to be saying the same things in slightly different ways over and over and getting nowhere. Every time I grumbled about something that seemed to me wrong or stupid something even worse happened.

I thought I could find something better to do with my time, so I did. I decided to tell the story of my father’s experiences in Flanders, Greece and Palestine during the First World War. (Yes, I really do mean my Father and not my Grandfather.) Inevitably, I have also been trying to look at the modern world through his eyes, like this item from The Sun on July 16th.

 How on earth would I begin to explain to my father the convolutions and complications involved with a woman who changes to a man and then goes back to being a woman so that she can have a baby – father unknown – and then demands that the law of the land is changed so that he can be registered as the father. Since children need a mother and a father perhaps he should be registered as both — although that is still a lie, because he isn’t.

Let’s get back to my father and my memoir. Everyone knows the horrors of the trenches; most people have heard of the disaster that was Gallipoli; but Palestine? That was something to do with Laurence of Arabia, wasn’t it? Well, yes – he was there, along with many thousands of assorted troops from Britain, France, Australia and India, as well as local Arabs.

It hasn’t been an easy task. While I was describing the first couple of years of his training it was often quite amusing There was plenty of frustration but also a lot of fun. When “Tubby” moved to France in 1916 telling the story became emotionally much more difficult. My father was a small, quiet, very gentle man. The thought of him in the trenches was horrible. Soaking myself in eyewitness accounts and sorting through endless photos day after day left me feeling like a chewed rag.

Then he was sent to Salonika. He’d never talked about Flanders and I had no idea he’d ever been in Greece. This was a strange discovery and very interesting. The whole story became even more fascinating when he went to Egypt.

Let’s get back to my father and my memoir. Everyone knows the horrors of the trenches; most people have heard of the disaster that was Gallipoli; but Palestine? That was something to do with Laurence of Arabia, wasn't it? Well, yes – he was there, along with many thousands of  assorted troops from Britain, France, Australia and India, as well as local Arabs. 

It hasn't been an easy task. While I was describing the first couple of years of training it was often quite amusing There was plenty of frustration but also a lot of fun. When "Tubby" moved to France in 1916 telling the story became emotionally much more difficult. My father was a small, quiet, very gentle man. The thought of him in the trenches was horrible. Soaking myself in eyewitness accounts sorting through endless photos day after day left me feeling like a chewed rag. 

Then he was sent to Salonika. He’d never mentioned Flanders and I had no idea he’d ever been in Greece. This was a strange discovery and very interesting. The whole story became even more fascinating when he went to Egypt.

From there he walked all the way to Jerusalem, interrupted by some rather nasty battles along the way.

In this photo, dated 9th December, 1917, the Mayor of Jerusalem tries to surrender the city to two British Tommies of the London Regiment.

Then he returned to Flanders just in time to win a medal, about six weeks before the Armistice.

I began by telling the story for the family — it’s a wonderful example of how a very ordinary man came to do extraordinary things. Now I’m wondering if it could find a wider audience, because people I’ve talked to are amazed to hear about this “other” war. At the moment I’m struggling to edit the fourth or fifth draft so perhaps I’d better finish that first.

My father was not a churchgoer. He pooh-poohed everything to do with the Church of England,  mainly on the grounds of hypocrisy. He saw hypocrites everywhere and wanted nothing to do with them. The antics of the present Anglican church would have proved how right he was to be wary. On the other hand he would have been horrified to know that these days you can lose your job just for quoting from the Bible.

He wouldn’t have understood “unplatforming” or “safe spaces” either. Foxholes and dugouts were safe spaces for him. He was fairly left wing and delighted in discussion and argument where facts mattered and you could give as good as you got in verbal battles. If I’d tried to tell him that nowadays feelings trump facts he’d have thought I’d gone raving mad.

That is what has encouraged me to begin blogging again.

I don’t want you to get the impression that the book I am writing is unrelieved gloom. Tubby and his mates found plenty to laugh about. In this little scene they are in the Judean Hills in early 1918. They are almost at the end of the supply lines and food is short. 

These hills are what stopped Richard Lionheart and they did their best to stop us, too. For most of our route there was a precipice on one side and a steep hillside on the other. It was a long, arduous trudge, with my pack feeling as though it were gaining weight with every step I took.
Finally we reached the crest of the first range of hills and descended into a valley and to a village called Enab. This place looked closer to paradise than anywhere we’d been in months. The hillsides were wooded, covered with orchards of olive and fig trees or terraced for vineyards. There was even a monastery, where wine was made. Not that that helped the troops much; the officers had most of it before it ran out! Here we stayed for over a week.
Needless-to-say, paradise was an illusion. The trees were bare of fruit and the torrential rain not only soaked everything, but seriously impeded the camel convoys. A camel’s feet are designed for sand, not mountain passes. Heavily laden as they were they kept slipping and sliding on the wet, rocky tracks and too often these falls caused serious and even fatal injuries. After a few days “Someone” found 2,000 donkeys from “Somewhere” which were much more sure-footed on the steep rough slopes. Sometimes miracles still happened! 

The extra supplies they brought in were desperately needed, mainly for the transport animals.
We were utterly exhausted so we stayed in our bivvies and groused. There was quite a lot to grumble about.
‘I don’t want to grumble,’ Charles said, ‘but I’m bloody cold. As well as food I wish they’d issue us with some winter woollies. It would have been bitterly cold last night, even if I hadn’t been soaked to the skin.’

‘Thank God for the socks I got in one of those parcels,’ I said. ‘My boots have had it.’

I stuck out my feet in front of the other three, showing how the sole was coming loose on one boot and the toecap was flapping on the other.
‘Don’t be hard on them,’ George said. ‘Think where they’ve been. First the desert, then the sandhills around Jaffa, then the Palestine plain and now these bloody foothills. No wonder they’re falling to pieces.’
‘Not as bad as the animals,’ Lanky piped up. If he worried about anything it was most likely to be about the four-legged troops. ‘D’you know,’ he paused, looking solemnly around at us. ‘The horses have been on half rations for nearly a month.’
‘So’ve we,’ said Charles.
‘They didn’t get oranges and things when we did,’ Lanky insisted. ‘Those really bucked us up, remember. One transport bloke told me some of the horses have been trying to eat the leather of their harnesses.’
‘I wonder if they’d like my boots,’ I said.
‘Better hang on to them,’ George said. ‘You may be glad to have them to gnaw on yourself soon, by the look of you.’
I looked around at the other three and I could see what he meant. The truth was, like the horses, we were all half starved.
The three of them returned my gaze, then George said, ‘Look on the bright side. Far fewer flies and bugs around now.’ He grinned and his face was transformed. That at least was true, though the cold and wet seemed to have no effect on the lice.

Hero or Villain?

 

 

Screenshot 2019-02-25 at 12.48.01.png

Yes, of course he was — Churchill, that is.

He was a great man so everything about him was larger than life. He drank too much. He smoked too much — even though those cigars were often unlit. He had unacceptable views about non-white people.

 

 

He also had enormous courage, faith in the people he served as a politician and was prepared to tell the truth no matter how unpalatable.

 “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Imagine anyone having the guts to tell us something like that these days.

I can remember seeing him. I was taken to the Victory Parade when I was seven and I saw Mr. Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the Royal Family. Aged 15 I can remember being in a cinema in France. When Churchill appeared in a newsreel there was a burst of applause and cheering.

So, all you, who think you are valiantly fighting for justice and liberty, don’t get too cocksure of yourselves. You need to begin looking at things from the ‘Both/And’ perspective.

Screenshot 2019-02-25 at 12.56.18.png

The solid rock of Snowdon

Can’t you see how limited and illiberal your ‘Either/Or’ attitudes are? Things are almost never strictly one thing or another. Certainly a rock is a rock, solid as the Snowdon Range which I can see outside my window. So was the sand in the Conwy Estuary which I can also see if I turn my head.

Screenshot 2019-02-25 at 13.18.12.png

Sand on Conwy Estuary

People are always ‘Both/And.’ Good and bad. Saint and sinner. Hero and villain. Straight as a die and as crooked as a corkscrew. Right and wrong — all together in the same package.

Please remember that, you who are so sure you are all right, and the rest of us are all wrong. Don’t be so loud in your condemnation of those with whom you disagree.

All you tinpot little heroes, don’t try to stop free speech in order to silence the villains. You may think you are rocks today but you could well be mere grains of sand tomorrow.