Monday, December 31, 2012

Adwords add confusion

Google Adwords gophers have been in touch to say that my advert has been 'disapproved' because it links to a URL that contravenes their Landing Policy. What this techi bollocks means is that they think the site - which has featured in the same form on the advert for over five years - is infected with Malware. However, having run Google's own diagnostic tool over it, my site is clean (; moreover, Google hasn't visited that particular URL at all in the last 90 days. Sounds like the new year's getting off to a good start in Google Ad land, doesn't it? Meanwhile, my site is freely available, boring, yet available to visit in complete safety - you are all welcome to point your browsers to it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

C of E - licensed to discriminate

Maria Miller's cringe-making defence of the Government's religious same-sex marriage 'opt-in' compromise overlooks one important fact with regard to the Church of England. This is the 'established' Church, which means - in addition to having the monarch as its 'Supreme Governor' that forms part and parcel of the Constitutional relationship between Church and State (and 20-odd of its most senior Bishops sit in the House of Lords and have a role in making our secular laws). This means that the permanent 'opt-out' imposed on the Church of England and the Church in Wales from - supposedly - ever being able to marry a same-sex couple, in effect, sees the UK government enshrining in law the right to discriminate on one of the organs of state. Nice work Cameron, but I don't think it's enough to eep your grubby little compromise out of the European Court of Human Rights...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Leaving the Church

I have to admit that I'm not a natural decision-maker. I find there are always so many issues to consider and I fear being seen to rush in. Then again, there are times when you come to see that thing you previously accepted have changed, there comes a tipping-point and the end result becomes obvious. So it has become with my response to the decision of the Bishops' Advisory Panel I attended in April. The word Advisory is really a misnomer – a BAP's findings are invariably followed to the letter, and there is no right of challenge or appeal. It is not the fact of the refusal that has caused me such difficulty, rather the way in which the decision was reached; the report, in particular the part written by the pastoral adviser, contains a series of errors, but I was told, straightaway, that I just had to accept it and that coming to terms with rejection would, somehow, prove to be 'cathartic'. Well, taking my Vicar’s good advice, I took time off from Reader duties, even Church itself, and I talked and prayed about my position, but in the end I have come to the decision that I simply cannot return to St Matthew's. The crux here is the issue of obedience. My Reader's licence states that I am required to be obedient to the diocesan bishop in all things lawful. However, that far-reaching demand is now beyond me because it comes constrained by my realisation that expediency has come before justice; procedure before fairness, and I have been denied any opportunity even to set the record straight, let alone to challenge what I feel to be a patent injustice. It is now six months since I last felt able even to cross the threshold of an Anglican Church. That is a sentence I never thought I'd write, but it is true – and it is also true that my personal faith has probably never been stronger. However, in that six month period, I have also taken time to consider a range of other issues that have caused me difficulties over the years – mainly because they keep recurring in the news and in my thoughts and prayers. I have said many times that I believe divorcees are treated as second-class Christians by the Anglican Church, and this is especially true of the invidious, highly intrusive, but ultimately unnecessary Faculty process that remarried ordination candidates have to endure. In our case, my wife and I both divorced our first spouses a full eight years before we even met, yet the Faculty application was rejected three times, with no reason or explanation given by the Archbishop of York, who has sole jurisdiction to decide – again without any right of challenge or appeal. But this is not the only issue on which I feel that I have to part company with the Church leadership. The failure to accept the fullness of women's ministry, amply demonstrated by the amendment put forward as a failed compromise in the women bishops debate, and the failure to offer any real pastoral lead on issues of human sexuality, in particular the discriminatory treatment of homosexuals, are evidence of failures to accept the diversity of human life or to engage with the human condition, which I feel lies at the heart of the Gospel. So why not work for change from within the Church? Well, I have considered that, but feel it simply is not an option. This is because, as I see it, the Church leadership is adopting an increasingly beleagured stance in the face of its perceived loss of influence in contemporary society. The drift towards extreme, even reactionary, positions when faced with opposition, as evidenced by Lord Carey's recent intemperate remarks at a Conservative conference fringe meeting, taken together with the acceptance of rules and procedures that already routinely deny a right of challenge to internal dissent do not, I most sincerely believe, bode well for the future. Taken collectively, the overall effect is that I see a church that now finds itself a long way behind mainstream society, key elements of which seem to be far more accepting, forgiving and nurturing than the established church: what, as the Occupy protesters asked, would Jesus do? Not, I suspect, selectively quote scripture or mouth empty platitudes before lapsing into often confusing silence. I have been active in the Anglican Church for forty-odd years, the last 23 as a Reader, and I embarked on the selection procedure reliant on three very positive internal diocesan interviews that were fully supported by personal, pastoral and academic references, but these meant nothing in the final analysis, as only the BAP recommendation was taken into consideration. The end result is that I now find myself unable to continue within its structures or accept its authority. I do, however, feel called to a more listening or reflective type of witness, one that is not reliant on hierarchies but a more direct, personal relationship with God.

Eon-ough is enough

Few, if any, of us would buy from an organisation that allowed its telesales staff to harangue us during a 'cold call', yet energy supplier Eon seems to be going out of its way to alienate customers by doing just that, if our recent experience is anything to go by. Last week, my wife was called on her mobile by an Eon representative who asked to speak to me. Having explained that the call had come through to her and that I wasn't available, the caller abruptly hung-up. Yesterday, however, she received another call, again intended for me, but this time the caller insisted, or perhaps persisted, in trying to get the message across. The call came while my wife was at work and she explained that we didn't need boiler cover and that she was busy and couldn't talk. Instead of accepting this, the caller proceeded to speak with increasing volume and speed, doubtless to ensure they reached the end of their script faster than my wife could hit the red button. Caller failed - and now Eon have received a non-too polite email to Customer Services pointing out that another call will result in us changing energy suppliers. Calling the mobile is interesting as our landline is registered with the Telephone Preference Scheme (TPS) and we've told Eon only to contact us via email. It's also interesting that they seem so keen to sell central heating insurance now - is this a response the the government's tariff reduction plans?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Being Watched - then and now

From the tower of St Nicholas's Church in Prague's Lesser Town Square (Mala Strana Nemesti) the secret police used to watch comings and goings from their baroque watchtower. There are few CCTV cameras in evidence in Prague today. But in the UK, on average, you appear on approx 200 CCTV cameras each day you spend in a city or large town. The 1989 Velvet Revolution showed how far people will go to claim their freedom. We, on the other hand, have given ours away without a murmur – no consent was sought, and much of the watching is done for profit, not state snooping, though the authorities have made sure they can get their hands on the results, so that's alright then... And, as the right-wing press are always eager to say, if you haven't done anything wrong, you've nothing to fear.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tramadol – did the doctor really know best?

I was given Tramadol in hospital to relive pain after a left knee arthroscopy. About an hour later, the physiotherapist had to help me back into bed. My temperature had rocketed and I felt about to keel over during her demonstration of how to ascend and descend stairs with a walking stick. She was assisted in her efforts by the ward sister, who left me with the words “if they ever ask if you’re allergic to any painkillers – say Tramadol, it doesn’t agree with you”. Well, my knees are both the same age, and this August it was the turn of my right knee to have its cartlidge tidied-up, as the doctor put it – making it sound more like something you’d do in a garden, rather than in an operating theatre under general anaesthetic. There then followed the painkiller allergy/intolerance question, to which I mentioned the Tramadol incident. “Oh, I don’t think it could have been Tramadol. After all, you’d also been on morphine. And it was an hour after you’d been given it before you had the problem” was his response – to which I replied that I didn’t want to risk a repeat performance; I was also mindful that I was being sent home as soon as I came round from the anaesthetic, and didn’t want to have an adverse reaction when I got home, leaving my wife and sons to have to deal with the immediate consequences of what the medics quaintly call a ‘contraindication’. Funnily enough, the question reared its head when I was in the hands of the anaesthetist and his two theatre nursing assistants as they prepared me for surgery. One nurse backed me to the hilt – she’d also had an adverse reaction to Tramadol and told me to stick to Co-codamol. That was just before the general anaesthetic took effect.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Tesco's wuff attitude towards dogs

Just returned from a short visit to our local Tesco. An over-zealous Advance security box-wallah was po-facedly telling a young woman that she couldn't leave her Jack Russell puppy tied to a rail outside the store. When asked why, he fell into 'more than my job's worth' mode: only following instructions, nothing against dogs, etc. Paid not much more than minimum wage, he probably gets his fair share of crap - and to be fair to the woman, her response was bemused acquiesence, rather than outright hostility or abuse. But since when did it become a no-no to tie a dog up outside a shop? Not very considerate, Tesco. After all, you allow us to insure dogs and probably make a tidy profit selling everything necessary for canine health and welfare, from dog biccies to scented poop bags, so why not let a dog wait outside while its owner is adding to your profits?

King's Lynn, the town that hates to see you leave

Nearly 28 years since my last visit, which I remember being marred somewhat by a one-way system rather lacking adequate turn-off signs, we returned yesterday, having failed to follow the ring-road cum bypass route the A149 takes round the town centre. Taking previous experience into account, I opted for front-seat observer role and Jane drove - both keeping weather eye on the signs. We ended up following the yellow-square with black dot 'all other routes' sign, which duly led us right Morrison's car park. Doubtless it's a really nice spot; my dad's cousin was once lady mayoress, so there is even a tenuous family connection, but it has to be said, signage is not a strong point or a reason to hurry back.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ever been caught by the Short and Curlies?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mind the Garage

So, you know how it is. You've got the car into a tight spot, but a little manouvering should see you right. That's when I hit the wheelie bin (garbage bin - US English) - twice. Then I went forward - that's when I hit the pebbledashed wall of the garage, and the scraping noise was loud enough to bring out the neighbours. Shit, bugger, arseholes: it's going to cost a fortune to put right. And it's my birthday tomorrow. Told the scratch removal company to make the invoice out for something less embarrassing, such as Ladyboy Massage Service...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Bishops' Advisor and the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a device used to identify the psychological and spiritual growth potential of nine different personality types. The system is supposedly based on wisdom teachings from a variety of spiritual sources, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Sufi Islam. From my perspective, however, I rather fear that its principles were used recently to determine that I was an unsuitable candidate for ordination training in the Anglican Church. You see, I was sent to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) by my diocese. It had already been decided that I had a vocation by three internal diocesan advisors, but the final decision in these cases is reserved to three advisors who spend two and a half days observing and interviewing candidates. The Enneagram was highlighted as an area of interest by the advisor who had to discern whether I fulfilled the three criteria of “personality and character”, “relationships” and “leadership and collaboration” and there is a degree of overlap here with the character traits that form part of the nine personality types found in the Enneagram. The advisor interviewed me for 35 minutes (the programme allows up to 50 minutes, and this was the shortest of the three) but was highly selective in the use of my comments and responses when compiling the report. Reading it, I get a distinct feeling that my replies were made to fit – even to the extent of being taken out of context in two areas. Given that BAP advisors are entrusted with a decision-making role that cannot be challenged, reviewed or appealed against, I am worried that Enneagram-influenced thought, which has been criticized for its “new age” or Gnostic-based reliance on “whole universe” connectivity to individual birth-originated personality elements, is being given credence by some in the Anglican Church, when Enneagram use has been questioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sorry, Derrick

Visited Cheddar Gorge at half-term. This place has always been a tourist magnet but now has upped the ante in marketing terms quite considerably. A £50.00 family ticket (almost as steep as the Gorge...) bought us a short trip on an open-top bus, entry to two show caves and a museum with some graphic depictions of defleshing (an essential precursor to the act of cannibalism, apparently). In an apparent attempt to sweeten the pill, the chap who sold us the ticket was keen to point out that we could return to use up any unused part of of our ticket at any time in the next 10 years! The open-topped tour took us from the village car park up to the top of the Gorge before depositing us at Gough's Cave 0 larger of the two show caves. The visit to Gough's Cave is interesting, though the cod-Somerset Burr of the commentary, delivered via a hand-held audio guide becomes irritating after a while. Cave over, we wandered upstairs where the visitor complex is topped with a large Costa, of which the attraction is inordinately fond. We'd found Costa to be a ubiquitous addition throughout the Bath and Somerset area - from full-blown cafes to filling stations offering mini-Costa self-serve stand, the brand is busily penetrating the West with gay abandon. At Cheddar the large outlet dominates the top end of the most commercialised part of the Gorge. Sitting atop the entrance to Gough's Cave, the cafe boasts an outdoor decked area and the usual corporate-themed mismatch of contrasting furniture overlaid with the maroon and cream colour scheme and a smattering of local sepia prints. The drinks followed the usual Costa format, but the taste was enhanced by the contraband pork pies, sandwiches and fruit we smuggled past the barristas. Leaving Costa, we walked downhill and crossing the road, I saw Derrick's – a much longer-established, family-established coffee house. As we continued downhill, I saw a couple of other cafes, all with the owner-managed feel about them that Costa so obviously lacks. Next time, Derrick, we'll call in – and no contraband, promise. The smaller of the two show caves, Cox's Cave, only opens every 30 minutes, so we queued for 10 minutes before the gate opened. No hand-held device here, rather a full-blown sound system. In the first half, you follow a path that leads between pools filled with stalagmites and corresponding stalagtites hang, dripping from the ceiling. The second part, however, adds a way over the top kitsch, cod-Middle Earth gloss to the cave scenery. Best part of the day? The three mile Gorge-top walk (access only as part of the family ticket): best of the best? The Primitive English Billy Goat charging from the undergrowth to our right. They don't sell tickets for that, and Costa can't guarantee it as part of their refreshment 'experience'.

A Centimetre of Porridge - Putting the 'Little' into Little Chef

We stayed at a Travelodge near Bath for a few days this week. Before setting out for home, my wife and I and two boys went for breakfast to the Little Chef next door.

Passing up on the offer of a fry-up, my 13 year-old opted for porridge with maple syrup. When it arrived, we were not amused to see that there was only just over a centimetre covering the bottom of the bowl. When the waiter, a friendly young man wearing the regulation red top and apron, came with the rest of the order, we pointed out the paucity of porridge in my son's bowl. Looking a bit sheepish, he said this was the usual amount. My wife, acknowledging that is might indeed be the case, persisted with the complaint that - Oliver Twist-like - it just wasn't enough for £3.99.

Moving things up a notch, the waiter reported to the manager and returned to tell us that they would give us another helping 'on the house'. We accepted, and another - slightly more generous portion arrived.

LC's menu describes the portion, over-optimistically as 'a bowl of Scottish oats with hot milk'. It isn't, but what arrived at our table represents a hell of a mark-up in terms of raw ingredient cost and the no doubt minimum wage of our waiter. The moral of the story: complain if it's not enough - better yet, don't go to 'Little' Chef.