Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Cheesecake for breakfast.
Progress on a new faith school.
A new CD to explore.
Theological discussion, a good argument, some questions about mission. Finished a half-hour early.
I got a Dalek and a new briefcase.
Went to the Thai house for a lovely meal.
Yesterday was a good day (forget the traffic jam).

Oh and I still have a birthday cake to eat and share!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bringing Up Baby

I have been quite distressed lately about the row over Catholic adoption agencies, especially since the Church of England joined in. However, I have been distressed for the opposite reason to what some people assumed.

I'll break my thoughts into a few statements.

1. I cannot accept that homosexual couples do not how to bring up children properly ie lovingly. (One of the News Quiz panellists joked that he had a gay dad - well not really but that his dad listened. Another said he wished he had had a gay dad because he liked musicals and then he would have been taken to more of them.)

2. I have been told that it is hard enough as it is for homosexual couples to adopt - given the choice between gay and straight the current position is that straight wins every time. So discrimination already exists?

3. Adoption is still done everywhere by Social Services - at least it better be - they are trained. What the agencies can do is recommend couples. So it is part of the process, but only part. This job could be taken over by other less prejudiced organisations.

4. Even if you believe homosexuality is a sin, whatever happened to "love the sinner"? Discrimination is not love in my opinion. The Gospel is surely about love. It is not about putting up barriers to people's happiness and well-being.

Therefore it seems to me that if some agencies cannot comply with the law on equality then they are indeed in the wrong game. They should disband immediately and go away to pray. For forgiveness, to start with.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Winter Tales

When the nights are long and dark, best beloved, the Knights gather round the great fire and tell the Squires stories of their encounters in the service of the Light. They tell of beasts: the Sloth and the Secretary-Bird, the rapacious Magpies and the Cawing Crows, Tin-Men and Cavemen, and sometimes of rogue Knights.

But the stories the Squires love best are of the monsters that have been faced, and sometimes bested, and they quake at the tales of those Knights who have been defeated.

The Knights tell of the Harpy, with her sweetly charming singing, who beguiles unwary Squires before carrying them off to faraway places from which they cannot return. For lo, the Harpy has talons of iron which sink deep into the flesh and leave a permanent mark, it is said. And if perchance a Squire or a Knight should sense the danger and resist then the singing becomes a foul screeching which is heard across the land, and souls shiver in fear of her terrible revenge.

Then The Knights tell of the Fifteen-Headed Hydra that all Knights are required to face, before initiation, in its deep dark lair. Sometimes the stories tell of more heads or of fewer, but it is always known as the Fifteen-Headed, that breathes flame from any of its heads at random. Even though a Shield-Bearer always accompanies the prospective Knight, many do not survive the encounter; the Knights tease the Squires with the tale that the Shield-Bearer may not act and is only provided to return with news of unsuccessful forays.

A futher story may be told of the Clockwork Swordsman who wields a rapier sharper than wit, and who seeks to pierce the heart and draw blood from all who are sent to face him. When he has tasted blood, he sends the Squire back to the Training Ground with a permanent scar. Many do not survive this but fade away and are not seen again.

Some Knights tell of encounters with a Great Bear, who welcomes Knights into his big warm strong embrace and hugs them harder and harder until all life has been squeezed out.
Some tell of Clouds of Doves who coo gently in the courtyards, but fly away in adversity.
There are many more stories of distant monasteries with peculiar practices, each with its own unique chimeras.

But the most terrifying monster is the Snow Queen, who kidnaps those who have received the distorting mirror into their hearts; she removes them to her lair and attempts to instil her coldness into them, taunting them with further cracked pieces of icy glass. The sojourn in the Ice Palace, where no warmth may penetrate, is daunting indeed to those without a thick skin and warming blanket. Her glacial breath, it is said, can freeze the blood even as it runs in the veins. Even her frosty gaze can chill a man to the bone.
Yet we have heard, best beloved, that the Snow Queen is vulnerable; that at the Passing-Out Parade she has melted, and transfomed into a warm, gushing flood.
But the most terrifying report is that within an hour she always refreezes into a being as hard and and cold as before, and more angular than ever. She cannot help herself. It is her nature.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Johnny Cash, Theologian

He has a particular view of the apocalypse, apparently. The Bible is received and meditated upon.

The Man in Black comes around.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Church Prays for Colombia

This is a slightly expanded version of an article under the above title to be published in the new issue of Frontline Latin America, out shortly.

Last Tuesday, members of Wesley College added their prayers to the work being done to expose and combat intimidation and exploitation in Colombia in a short service of thanksgiving and intercession.
The service began with a recollection of slavery by way of a reading of Psalm 137 and a rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, and celebrated the bicentenary of the Anti-Slavery Act.
Next followed a reflection on modern trafficking and a recitation of a litany of empowerment, and then as part of a meditation on current oppression, staff and students of the Methodist theological college stood in silence as the names were read of 8 murdered trade union leaders from Colombian Coca-Cola bottling plants.
After prayers were offered for the men and their families and for a quick end to the intolerable practices in Colombia, the service concluded with the Lord’s Prayer.

If anyone wants to get a copy of FLA, then I can put you in touch easily.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Match To Remember

I'm not sure Ding Juinhui will see it that way at the moment or whether he'll try to put it out of his mind. But in time he will maybe draw on the experience.

But what I shall remember is not Ronnie's awesome performance (there have been others before and there will be more to come) but his humanity and kindness. How many players put their arm round the shoulder of the player they haven't beaten yet? And take them to their own dressing-room for a break when they are so dazed they don't know the score?

If anyone can help Juinhui with such a trauma, it must be Ronnie - a genius with a heart.

Way to go.

Who's Checking Up on Who?

I'm in my best grumpy old man mode.

Phone rings, Sunday lunchtime. Run down the stairs, it might be important.
(Pause - a very bad sign. I know what's coming. It's not important.)
"Can I speak to Mr Paul H Johnson, please?" (I know for definite.)
"This is (somebody) from - let's call them Company X, it is a company I have dealings with - I need to ask you a few questions to check who you are."
"Hang on. You phoned me, and you asked me if I was he, and I said yes. What's the problem?"
"It's the Data Protection Act, I need to go through a security procedure with you."
"Well I've told you who I am. If that's not good enough when you phoned me, then perhaps you should write to me. Goodbye." (Do they often ring the wrong number? I'd be very worried if they did.)

The cheek of the man. No offer to prove he's who he said he is - I'm supposed to answer "security questions" from a cold caller when he could be anybody. If it really is the Data Protection Act then they're going to have to find another way round it. I'm not even going to listen to the questions. I never buy stuff over the phone unless I've initiated the call anyway. Anyway I know a call centre in India when I hear one.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

January Birthdays

For the second year in a row, I went to a birthday party on the penultimate Saturday in January, although this year it was for quite a different person from last year.

Today, we played Buckaroo, Pop-Up Pirate, Toru, Chinese Whispers, The Music Man and Superman, and we had chicken and sausage and tomatoes and jelly and fondue and we all had a good time, although there was a slight danger of a sulk briefly. Cinderella even put her ball gown on to come, and Dennis the Menace was very well behaved and helpful.

I like celebrating birthdays in January.


I had a lovely lunch today with Ollie, of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, in the Folk House Cafe, off Park Street. Thoroughly recommended. The t-shirt will appear in college next week. More on Coca-Cola to come ...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Racism on the Telly

Questions in Parliament, Gordon Brown apologises in India, headlines all over the tabloids - just how important is Jade Goody?

Racism is important and should be challenged. But why are we so worried?

Because Jade is a role-model and people will copy her? In that case we should get her off.
Or because she is representative of the typical Brit, prone to casual stereotyping as well as deliberately insulting behaviour? In which case we really should be apologising, in addition to voting her off.

Or is she such a figure of fun that racism will be weakened by her joining into it? (Or are the Great British Public too stupid to realise her lack of actual talent or indeed anything desirable at all? Hmm, tricky one.) We could explain that she has made a whole career out of being thick and we are exposing racism as typical of this? But I guess it didn't work when Johnny Speight wrote Alf Garnett into TV history.

One tabloid headline called Jade "The Dim Reaper". Another pointed out that there still are problems in Iraq and Afghanistan and that these might be more important issues.

There is a lot of racism in Britain. How do we reduce it?

Tuesday's Child: Initial Reactions

There have been those who have asked, those who have clearly wanted to ask but didn't, perhaps not knowing if it was allowed, or boring/cliched, and those who have seemed unconcerned. Some at least seem to have understood. Many have been supportive, and complimentary. None have been unsupportive.

A definite shock to a certain party, perhaps partly because of surrounding circumstances.

So is it?
All of the above?
Pretty uninteresting?
A nine-day wonder?
A really bad idea?

You won't know what I'm talking about if you haven't seen me since Tuesday. You might not care. One person will not venture an opinion. Anyway, I like it and I'm pleased with the results.

So, many thanks to Carly, Sarah and Dawn.

New Link

Added a link in the sidebar to my sister-in-law's new blog. She is also candidating to be a minister.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy

Like when you go out for an undisclosed reason, the conduct of which takes longer than anticipated by yourself, and very much longer than anticipated by others, and a vital unexpected call arises causing consternation.

But you do at least get home an hour earlier than expected in the evening.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Feature

This new version of blogger allows posts to be given labels, so you'll now see some of these in the sidebar. I'm still getting used to it and will have to go back over older posts to see if they warrant one. Hopefully in time the label "worship" will have more posts than the label "Chicken-Little".

Mind Your language

We're back to this again - yes it's liturgy. Don't switch off just yet.

I was going to put this as a comment on this post on Richard's blog but the server or something crashed just before it went - and it was a bit long anyway - and the time's gone by a bit, so it's going to be here now.

It's the Covenant service. This is a very important service, which I value and hate to miss. In fact I've been to two this week, but that's another story.

This time it's not me complaining about liturgy, it's someone else, (actually another Richard).

Richard is a young man, brought up in the faith, and a devout believer. He came up to me after the service last Sunday and tore into the liturgy. When was it last revised? Out-of-date, old-fashioned words, that are not the vocabulary of today. That what should be a joyful act of commitment is ruined. I sent him off to talk to Stuart, as I have no answers (the best I could do is "well it's not as bad as it used to be") and in fact can't disagree with him. So here is my attempt to convey his frustration.

Consider the following language (some of these are Richard's examples, some mine, as I can't remember his exact objections):

"Folly". When did you last use that word?
"Beloved in Christ". Per-lease. To be fair, Stuart didn't use that version (Jonathan did).
"In the fullness of time". It does have meaning, but surely can be updated.
"Yoke". I am not a farmer. What is a yoke? (J, not S)

We used version A of the dedication on Sunday, which is not too bad; consider version B from Wednesday:
" .. put me to suffering .." Now there's a use of the word "suffering" which hasn't existed since the 17th Century.
"Rank me with whom you will .." Not a modern turn of phrase.
" .. let me be empty .." Huh?

and even version A "may the covenant .. be fulfilled in heaven". I do at least understand "ratified" in version B, but it's still difficult.

Anyway, don't tell me I'll grow into it. Tell Richard. Tell him why he needs to. (He wants to.)

For the one time a year we do this, (two is unusual, more is absurd) let's make it accessible to those who want to affirm their faith.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Friend

Can't say a new blogger, as there isn't a blog, but a link to fellow-student Anne's area has been added in the sidebar. It may be regarded as under construction, but with more visitors she will hopefully be encouraged to expand it and maybe add a blog, hey? There are at any rate some entertaining pictures to look at.

You'll also notice how pink it is ....

Dropping the Pilot

As PLP's navigation course comes to an end, by agreement with the chartmaster, he is looking forward to seeking for treasure all by himself. Ahoy there!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Killer Coke

This is the briefing paper I took to the Methodist Students' Council. Permission is granted for it to be circulated, providing no amendments are made to it.

Complaints against Coca-Cola

1. India
Coca-Cola is taking water from locals.

It takes three litres of water to make one litre of Coca-Cola. Several community campaigns in India.

In the state of Rajasthan, Coca-Cola established a bottling plant in 1999. There has since been " ... a serious decline in water levels. Locals are increasingly unable to irrigate their crops ... wells in use for drinking, cleaning, washing and sanitation are now in anger of drying up altogether." Water levels were stable from 1995-2000, then dropped 10 metres in five years.
Source: Graph produced by Ministry of Water Resources, Rajasthan.

Locals fear that Kaladera could become a 'dark zone'. (term used to describe areas that are abandoned due to depleted water resources.)

Activists in Chiapas, Mexico fear the same thing is about to happen there.

Land Contamination

Coca-Cola's plants provide a sludge-like waste which the company has sold as "fertiliser". Tests show that it has dangerous levels of cadmium and lead. Contamination, specifically lead, has spread to the water supply.

The Centre for Science and Environment tested Coca-Cola beverages and found levels of 30 pesticides 30 times higher than EU standards. Levels of DDT 9 times higher than EU limit.

Source (all above): War on Want, 2006. Quotes BBC, The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday
Other Reports: Ethical Consumer magazine, January 2006.

Also confirmed by eye-witness account; Sam, exchange student with Wesley College. Sam is a resident of Tamilnadu.

2. Colombia

Coca-Cola increasingly associated with union-busting activities. Eight employees in Colombia have been killed by paramilitaries. A lawsuit has been filed (June 2, 2006) under the Alien Tort Claims Act in the USA against the company and its bottlers.

Also being sued on behalf of 14 truck-drivers and other transport workers for its part in the torture and intimidation of trade unionists in Turkey.

Similar stories from the Punjab, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Russia.

Source: War on Want, 2006.

Action against Coca-Cola

Some of the largest unions in the world, within and outside the IUF (International Union of Food Workers based in Switzerland), support the student movement to ban Coke products from the campuses. For example, UNISON, the largest union in the UK and the 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the world’s largest Coca-Cola union, which represents more than 18,000 Coca-Cola workers, supports the students’ campaign to pressure Coke. Europe’s Food Production Daily reported on Feb. 9, 2006: “Coca-Cola is now facing a labour relations problem in the US, after the Teamsters Union joined protesters calling for boycotts against the company over alleged human rights violations in Colombia.”

Over 23 U.S. universities, including the University of Michigan, New York University and Rutgers University have cancelled or suspended Coca-Cola's supply contracts, costing the company millions of dollars in previously guaranteed revenues, but also, and more important, countless students say they will not drink Coke beverages, thereby breaking the cycle of consumption of this optional product that is tainted with the blood of Colombian workers.

Bristol University students are beginning a campaign. Other universities have voted to terminate commercial relations.

Campaigns as noted above.

Supported by Locals?

It has been said that unions in Colombia and elsewhere do not support colleges and universities banning Coke products.

In Colombia, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT — the TUC of Colombia), issued a public statement from their acting President, reaffirming their commitment and their backing of SINALTRAINAL’s struggle.
In addition, CUT Vice President Fabio Arias said: "Coca-Cola has been a persistent violator of trade unionists’ rights and for this reason various universities in the United States have taken measures to protest against their conduct…The CUT supports the University of Michigan, in the United States, in discontinuing the sale of Coca-Cola within their campus, as a result of accusations of violating human rights and trade union rights in Colombia.

Workers in India want other countries to support their struggle by boycotting Coca-Cola.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Training Courses

Peg-Leg Pete was poring over the maps and charts on his navigational training course and suddenly began to wonder how he got here. Hadn't it started because the captain thought he was having trouble using the spyglass? Because he didn't know how to speak pirate properly (using the present tense only, for example)? What had the captain really intended?
But Pete was enjoying learning how to navigate so he thought he wouldn't go back to the captain and say; he reckoned he'd soon be finished and no-one would know any better. Who cared anyway? And he knew which eye to use for the spyglass.


It's a very divisive colour.

Literally so, sometimes when boys are given/labelled blue and girls pink (do they still do that in hospitals?). Let's reclaim it for the guys. (Not just the gay guys.)

There's all sorts of pink - personally I prefer "shocking pink" ("hot pink" in America). It's bold, it's in your face, it says Hey! and it can say What's your problem? But we can wear pale pink with a gentler, more reflective mood, and we can match pink with others - pink and white stripes are good.

What is pink's claim to fame? In Chambers' Dictionary it has eight separate entries. Beat that. It's a ship, a flower, a stab, a lake, a minnow, the sound of a chaffinch, an adjective for small, and a verb, to decorate.

You can be "in the pink", meaning tip-top health. (Or I suppose you could be snookered behind the pink - pink is second only to black - which is less good).

Pop music - Pink Fairies, Kissing the Pink (also see Debbie Harry), Pink herself - and of course The Pink Floyd. More?

You can write your blog in it, which challenges people. Why? Why not? What are you saying? Are you just playing?

So we finish with a famous icon. Did you ever see a panther that was pink? Think! A panther that is positively pink? Well, here he is the pink panther, the rinky-pink panther, a panther that is ever so pink! Enjoy.

Next week - black?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Frustration of Numbers

5 is about average, target achievable, yet 5 is dark. What is light? Not 10.
What is 35? Too little!
Why not 50 when 60 is possible?
35 becomes 30 and 25 in 30, but is finally beaten by 60, and 20 is light.
28 is too high when 60 vanishes - who planned 3 at 30?
50, 40.
75 is too high, too demanding, but 60 (normal) won't do, for 35 needs it.
Increase, decrease.
Green 44.
47 is made, and is good, for 50 is much more.
Peace is 15.

The Die is Cast

Well it got done eventually. My application to be ordained has been posted. Now I'm told it's exactly four months until I get the result (there are a few more hurdles in between, but we'll worry about those nearer the time).

I can do a lot in four months.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Magic of the FA Cup

... is not what it was, ask any fan of Sheffield United. It is also lessened for me at present after today's result at Anfield. No complaints; Arsenal always looked more threatening on attack. Might have gone better if we'd been given that penalty, though ... The Carling Cup is now the only pot we have a ralistic shot at, and Rafa knows it.

However, a good result for Oldham, 2-2 away at Wolves, 9th in the next division up. Bring on the replay at Boundary Park.

So, one defeat, one draw, but I am consoled with a win in a different game - Dragons 38 Pistols 0. It's the fire-breathing battle against the Blaze next. Don't get burned.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I've saved soooo much money.

Yes for the first time in years I've been properly round the January sales. Normally I don't bother but there are some reasons that I thought I would this time. Never mind what they are. The trouble is it's compulsive. Well, I could do with one of those ... yes, that's a good idea ... well, while I'm here ... oh and that's what I really came out for! Half price? Sold. Half price and then I get a loyalty discount and a student discount? How can I resist? If I don't buy it now, will I have to wait another year?

In truth I'm happy with my purchases. I've refreshed my wardrobe and not just my CD collection ... hang on, didn't buy any CDs ... er. I'm sure that can be rectified ... Oh and half price chocolate! One of the stores I was in today, the assistant was saying that they don't celebrate Christmas (I thought this was a bit sad, but as she went on I understood) but bought presents in the January sales instead. Difficult to argue really. Perhaps the answer is to do like some other countries and celebrate on January 6. OK so there won't be much on the telly but then that's true anyway.

I wonder why I didn't do this in previous years. They say that 80% of most stores sales is done in the last 8 weeks of the year. It should be moved to the first 8 weeks of the year. What economic crisis?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

More Magazines

This is a serious review, but the health warning is that it's done from memory of a quick skim through. This week's women's magazine (yes, we'll come to that later) is WomanAlive (I think it is all one word), a magazine for Christian women. I saw my mother-in-law's copy.

It contains a number of inspirational (I guess) stories about coping with tragedy. I did think it would be nice to hear from someone who hadn't suffered a complete disaster. And, er, that's about all I remember. I do recall there wasn't much about successful career women. Oh there were several books to read this month. Blimey. Just like being at college. Hard work being a Christian woman. Does anyone read it regularly?

What I really wondered was whether it would be possible to produce a Christian men's magazine. The male section in Wesley Owen in London wasn't promising, consisting of only two types - one assuming that all men were obsessed by sex, and the other containing advice that would have caused the Lioness to throw it across the store had I let her see it.

A review of FHM will follow shortly.

(Interim review of Trivium's CD: excellent. I now gather I should investigate Mastodon.)

A Question of Congruence

This is Peg-Leg Pete.

This is a crocodile.

Can Peg-Leg Pete learn to love the crocodile?

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007 - not a prime number

Happy New Year to all my readers. May this be a prime year for you all. May your journey, whatever it consists of and wherever it goes, be exciting, fulfilling and joyful.