Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Strange Experience

A few days ago, I had to go visit my doctor to get something checked out. It was nothing of great concern, but I wanted a medical opinion, so he had a quick look, fixed an appointment to have some more checks, and gave me a prescription. Like I said, it was nothing of great concern, but since the medical advice is always to 'have something looked at', it's what I did... just like we all do. It was all sorted in the space of an hour, and the medication afterwards cost me £8.50. Have you ever stopped to ponder the amazing simplicity of this?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Hunting Grizzly Bears with Mrs PGD

(Artist’s impression)

‘Bearitory’ (as the park rangers called it) was just a few miles from Lake Louise, in British Columbia. After taking a gondola ride up from the valley floor, we’d passed through a heavily reinforced steel gate defended on either side by Jurassic Park-style electrified fencing. And then finally, yes, there we were, walking straight into ‘Bear country’- completely alone Where the Wild Things Are, without a guide, and unprotected. We’re talking about Grizzly bears, here, the real deal. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Seasick Steve and the Joy of Fakes

I like Seasick Steve. Jools Holland likes Seasick Steve. Glastonbury loved Seasick Steve when he wowed the crowds a few years ago. I mean, who wouldn't love a guy who bummed his way around the USA for years, panhandling for dimes, riding the freight wagons and generally living on handouts- and then somehow started making excellent bluesy hit records?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

How to write about Christianity - A guide for perplexed journalists

Thanks to our American friends, 'Faith' (as in Evangelical Christianity) is hitting the news media and being badly reported. Again. Trump is all our fault, you see.

Many journalists, social commentators and other cultural pundits spend a great deal of their time trying to produce instant pen-pictures of global shifts in opinion and events. You might even be one of them. It’s hard, really. Sometimes, Life is just one damned thing after another, the Editor wants it yesterday, so where do you start? In puzzlement, usually. The irritating tendency of world religions to not fade away (as predicted very frequently through the 20th century) has led many to wonder not only ‘What is going on?’ but also ‘How can I write this piece about religion when actually I know nothing about the subject since not going to Sunday School all those years ago?’ No journalist likes to feel awkward or uninformed.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Assassin's Tale (Alternative Bible Stories)

I am going to find him. That little rat Belshazzar has scampered between the shadows of this palace for far too long. But tonight – that idiot Emperor's years of misrule will come to an end. By tomorrow, a new head will wear the Golden Diadem of Power, that of Cyrus the Persian- my employer.

Our preparations have been exacting. His close bodyguards have been threatened, then bribed to look the other way. Of course, they will then be blamed for the assassination, but intelligence and anticipation was never their strong point. The normal palace guards have either been distracted with drink, or sent out on spurious missions to keep them busy elsewhere. Afterwards, it will be blamed on an unfortunate and regrettable breakdown in the Emperor's personal security.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Brighton Pavilion- a rare moment of military genius

Ever been to Brighton pavilion?

This oriental fancy was built as an insane folly to house the antics of Regency fops in the 18th century. But in 1914, something amazing happened. It actually became useful.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Beach – a Remembrance Day story about the Dunkirk evacuation, 1940

Everything was going wrong for William when he arrived at Dunkirk with the rest of his regiment. If Hell had a beach, then he was standing on it now. The whole seafront was a mass of defeated, tired, dispirited soldiers. The British and French armies had been soundly beaten, pushed back to the coast by the Germans- and thousands of young men in khaki and blue were now trapped on this long sandy beach, waiting to be either killed, captured or possibly rescued if they were lucky. William was only 16. Was he going to die?

The harbour was out of action, so hundreds of smaller boats had bravely sailed over from England to ferry the soldiers out to the larger ships that could take them back across the Channel to safety. The defeated servicemen, British and French together, were queuing up in long lines stretching down into the water, out into the shallows where they could be picked up. William stood in line, waiting.

Another German plane flew overhead firing at the lines of men, and everyone dived for cover in the sand. When it had gone, they all took their place in the queue again. Soon, William was standing ankle-deep in the water. As his line shuffled forward, cold waves were soon lapping round his waist. More boats came. He was near the front. Would he make it? There was a great big soldier standing in front of him, a Guardsman. Another boat came. ‘We can take fifteen men!’ shouted a sailor. One by one, the exhausted soldiers in front were pulled out of the water into the boat. William was nearly there! Would they take him? The big soldier in front was just climbing in.

‘That’s all!’ shouted the sailor at William. ‘Any more, and we’ll sink! You’ll have to wait! Wait? William couldn’t stand it anymore. Suddenly, he felt small and frightened and lost – and started to cry. Then he heard a big splash beside him. He was being lifted up by big strong arms, out of the water, into the boat. It was the big soldier who’d been in front, the Guardsman, who was now back in the water. He had given up his place.

‘You go first, son’ he said, gently. The boat turned away, leaving him and the queue behind. William never saw him again. 
(based on a reminiscence by a Dunkirk veteran)
In Memory of all those who paid the price.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

What Donald Trump is showing us about Christianity’s greatest weakness…

On the other side of the Atlantic, weird things are happening. To us Brits, the whole Trump phenomenon is puzzling. Why are so many Yanks giving passionate support to someone who says all the things he does? And one significant group allegedly seems to adore him – the American ‘evangelical’ Christians, allegedly. Why are so many of them treating him like God’s anointed?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

I, Daniel Blake- That's Entertainment?

Oh dear, the director Ken Loach really has made a lot of people very cross. (By a lot of people, I mean of course, the right wing press.) 'I, Daniel Blake' is a cracker of a film, telling a difficult story with humanity and wit. What should a man do when he's had a heart attack, been told not to work by his doctor, but is then told by the Benefits Office that he has to find work if he's going to receive financial assistance? Doesn't sound like great entertainment, does it?