March 31, 2003

Finishing the War in Iraq

Finishing the War in Iraq – Reason #521

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: now that we’ve started Gulf War II, we have to fight to win.

Apparently the latest count of civilian deaths by the Iraqi regime stands at around 370. As my friend Fr Pat Reardon observed, “Even if this figure is not exaggerated, it is still the safest war in history in which to be a civilian.” I would never suggest that any civilian deaths are good. I would never suggest that any deaths are good, except for those who die in Christ. But given that there are no such things as “what ifs,” we have to live in the world as it is. If the Coalition does not achieve its objectives, there will be a lot more than 370 civilian deaths. There will be a lot more than 3700 civilian deaths, and they will be on the orders of Saddam Hussein.

This is not idle conjecture. We have history to prove it. When George H.W. Bush prosecuted Gulf War I, his administration encouraged uprising among the Shiites and other disaffected groups. These groups rebelled, knowing that surely the Americans and their junior partners were going to back them up and Saddam would be gone. Rather than backing them up, HW backed out. As a result thousands were murdered.

When people say W is just taking after his father by fighting with Saddam, I hope they are right. I hope he is trying to wash off some of the blood that is on HW’s hands and avenging the blood on Saddam’s head and the heads of those who have served him at the same time.

As the mini-revolt erupted in Basra, Tony Blair public encouraged the uprising, saying “We won’t let you down this time.” Tony hasn’t kept any promise on domestic policy yet. I pray that he keeps this commitment. If this foreign policy ends up like his transport, health, agricultural, immigration, or crime policies, the Iraqis are screwed.

Now that the Coalition has put its hand to the plough, there is no time for looking back. It seems trite, but as the US calls in reinforcements and ponders the unexpected resistance to the invasion, the words of Jesus in Luke 14 keep resonating in my head, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?"

Posted by david at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2003

Those outside the UK may

Those outside the UK may not know that today is Mother’s Day on this side of the Atlantic. It is observed here on the Third Sunday of (Western) Lent. It is Mrs Holford’s second Mother’s Day. Aidie doesn’t realise it, but he gave his mother a pot of three hyacinths. She chose them in town yesterday. She got a pot for her mother and decided she’d like one as well.

Hyacinths remind me of my second visit to St Ninian’s Cave in southern Scotland, in mid-May 1992. The walk from the car park to the cave is about ¾ of a mile on a path along a small stream. The hyacinth was in full bloom and the scent was almost overwhelming. To this day, that particular floral fragrance brings me into remembrance of our father among the saints Ninian, apostle to the southern Picts. He was one of the first saints I came to love and venerate, even as a solidly Reformed Protestant.

I would think that normally in relationship to a saint, veneration comes before pilgrimage, as the latter is an expression of the former. In my relationship with St Ninian, the opposite was the case. In 1992, I didn’t understand or appreciate the full significance of the Church in heaven. I had an interest in Church history, but that was about the extent of it. Having been there before, I thought I knew what to expect. (In 1990, when I first visited Ninian’s Cave, it was purely as a tourist. It seemed like a quirky, off-the-beaten-path sort of place to say I had been.) For some reason, I really wanted to go back.

As I stood in what is barely a cleft in the rock and looked out upon waters of the Solway Firth, I caught a glimpse of St Ninian. No not an apparition. Rather a realisation of a place sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the hours of prayer offered to the Father by a man dedicated to bringing a heathen people to the saving knowledge of the Son. It didn’t all fit with my Reformed theology at the time, but I tucked it away in my heart until the fullness of time had come. Now I can appreciate holy people in alive in heaven and the holy places they left behind here on earth.

Perhaps it is good that Mother’s Day falls during Lent. I’m not particularly good at Lent and I need the ascetical encouragement from St Ninian of Whithorn to help me bring my mind and body into subjection to Christ.

Posted by david at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2003

This week in Parenting 101,

This week in Parenting 101, the course I am taking for the next couple of decades, we have been learning about praise.

Now it’s not like I never knew that people like praise. I have used it in various supervisory roles, from school teaching to retail management. Not enough, but I have used it. In those situations, I have been dealing with people who have been praised before – hopefully anyway. They have the concept of being praised and understanding what it means.

For Aidan, however, this is a new concept. Mrs Holford and I have used it since he first began to respond to any sort of external impulse, whether getting him to eat for the first time, sit up, crawl, pick up an object, or whatever. It appears to be the natural instinct for a parent to praise, even when the recipient has no idea what is being said.

Some time ago, Aidan began to understand encouragement. He realised that a particular behaviour made us happy and he was motivated to do it again. But that’s not what we have seen over the past couple of weeks. Now he seeks the praise itself.

For ages we had been trying to teach him to clap his hands. Occasionally he would mimic our action. Now he claps all the time because he knows it is the response to obedience. When we tell him to do something and he responds we the correct action, without thinking we have clapped our hands and said “Good boy!” The chief of these instructions has been to close the door to the living room, so he wouldn’t wander throughout the flat. Everything we would tell him, “Close the door,” he would push it shut, and we would clap and say, “Good boy!”

Then the light came on in his little head. He started shutting doors without being asked. He would then turn around and start clapping, already anticipating the “Good boy!” Now he has move on to the next level. He has started looking for other things about which we praise him. He will even pick up things he is not supposed to touch, just so we can watch him put them down, like he is supposed to do, and then start clapping.

I wonder how much this is like out own spiritual behaviour sometimes. Do we do the things we are supposed to be doing and turn around, looking to see if God is clapping for us? Or do we start clapping for ourselves – for our own good behaviour?

Actions that are impressive in a toddler are not necessarily so impressive in an adult. Have we put away childish things?

Posted by david at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2003

I was surfing the Net

I was surfing the Net last night and I came upon George Grant’s blog.

George used to pastor a church in Humble, Texas called Believer’s Fellowship. I spoke there once, promoting the now-defunct Texas Grassroots Coalition, which was my first job out of college. That would have been in 1985. The thing that sticks out in my mind about that particular spiel was the embarrassment I suffered when George was at the back of the church motioning for me to wrap it up and I couldn’t understand his sign language. Even then I was verbose.

I’ve seen George a few times since then. I think the last time was at one of the annual occurrences of the Appalachian Conference to Rebuild America – must have been in 1996 or 1997. He claimed at that time to remember me. I had heard through the grapevine that he had been visiting an Antiochian Orthodox church sometime after his move to Middle Tennessee, and knowing him to be very firmly in the Reformed camp, I asked him what his impressions were. He enjoyed the Liturgy, but it seems he couldn’t get past the icons. Or, I suppose I should say, he couldn’t get through the icons. He appreciated them on the level of Christian art, but did not embrace them as windows into heaven as the Orthodox do. Oh well, his loss.

Knowing the wide range of religious and political views of my Meanderings, not to mention the unknown views of those who stray into the Diversions, I should mention that George is one of the great popular writers of Christian political stewardship and history. I had no idea this is where he was headed in 1985, when I read his book Bringing in the Sheaves. It tells of how that small church made an impact during the bust after the oil boom in Houston in the early 1980s. It is a real story of conservative Biblical compassion.

Ironically, perhaps, Believer's Fellowship played a signficant role in my journey to Orthodoxy. In 1987, George had left, and I was there to see Frank Marshall, who had taken over as pastor, about implementing the Bringing in the Sheaves model at the church were I was in West Texas at the time. While I was there, Frank gave me a copy of Fr Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World. Apart from Holy Scripture, this is the most important book I have ever read. It took 14 more years before I was received into Orthodoxy, but it was the book that set me on the path.

So how does finding George’s blog affect you, the reader? Well, it inspired me to add a list of links to blogs I read regularly, in case you want to check them out for yourself. (George doesn’t do this, though he recently mentioned some in a recent blog entry. Interestingly, he mentions at least one that I have been reading for a while, which I came across while editing DMOZ.) And if you go to George’s blog, you will find something truly uncanny. We chose the exact same template and the same blogging site. Great minds really do think alike…

Posted by david at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2003

Today I got stranded in

Today I got stranded in the city centre. The Holford crate-on-wheels suffered another set-back. The ignition has been dodgy for a while. It sometimes takes five minutes to get the switch turned. When I left the flat, it took about ten minutes to get it started. Hmm, I thought, I should probably get that looked at while I'm out and about. It was inconvenient to do this first thing, so I headed off to the city centre to drop off a bag of clothes and a set of saucepans at a charity shop. Age Concern has gotten most of our stuff – not because we care that much about old people, but rather because they are the shortest journey from the car while carrying heavy bags of clothes. (Okay, we do care about old people, but that’s still the reason.)

When I got back in the car, it wouldn’t start. Not just for five minutes. Not just for ten minutes. For an hour. Hmm, I thought, I’d better let Mrs Holford know where I am. She will think that I’ve already been to the old flat, cleaned out the garage, and merely found myself stuck in traffic. Unfortunately, I had left the mobile phone at home. (It doesn’t have any time left on the pay-as-you-go, but I needed to buy a card anyway.) So I had to use a pay phone.

I only had a pound coin. Phone boxes don’t give change. And, as I found out, neither do shopkeepers. I went into the City News and asked for change for my pound coin. I was told that they only give change to customers. I shot back that I supposed I wouldn’t become one of those. Well, actually, I thought about saying that, but I didn’t think of it until 15 minutes later. I was, however, just a wee bit irritated. I walked all the way up to my bank at the other end of High Town and got my five 20p coins for a pound.

For most of the day, I thought this was just another example of how unhelpful most shop staff are in this country. If you are coming to Britain and expect to find shops where staff are happy to see you and wish you a nice day when you leave, you will be sorely disappointed. Now that Wal-Mart has opened a store in Bristol, I wonder if they have hired old people to stand at the door next to the shopping trolleys just to ignore customers.

What I later found out from Mrs Holford (who has experience working in shops) is that the banks here charge for providing change to businesses. That’s right. You need £100 in £20 notes? No problem. That’ll be £100. Need £100 in coins? That’ll be £100 plus something for our trouble. If I was a shopkeeper, that would put me in a bad mood, too.

UK banks charge individuals much less than in the US. We don’t have monthly service charges or fees for writing cheques. But banks being banks, they are going to fleece someone. In the UK, they stick it to businesses, charging them even for depositing cheques. That’s right. Deposit money in your business account so the bank can make money by lending it out, and the bank will charge you for the privilege. The more you give them to play with, the more they will charge.

Anyhow, if you want to know how the story ends… I rang Mrs Holford. She and the man-child got a taxi and brought the spare set of keys. These keys never worked before. Mrs Holford sat down in the driver’s seat and the key turned perfectly. Just figures, doesn’t it?

Posted by david at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2003

War has always had rules.

War has always had rules.

The Iraqis have completely ignored the rules. They have executed prisoners of war, use civilians as human shields, pretended to surrender and then fired on their “captors”. Now they have given weapons to children to fire at the Coalition forces.

This last development places a great strain on your average US Marine, who man be a lean, mean, fighting machine but generally doesn’t like killing school kids. But what can they do when being fired upon? This is a win/win situation for the Saddam’s regime. Children can kill unsuspecting US troops, but if a single child gets killed in the process, you know their body will be shown on every al-Jezeera broadcast from now until the end of the war. The Americans will be branded as child-killers.

All I can say is that these Iraqis have a lot of chutzpah. They berate the US for hitting a marketplace and killing a few civilians, and at the same time put their children on the front line.

Posted by david at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2003

War is Hell As General

War is Hell

As General Patton once famously remarked, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” That’s why war is never a good thing. It may be a necessary thing and/or a just thing, but not a good thing. War is about killing people.

I was thinking about the casualties today – so few on the Coalition side that they can be individually named. The news crews here in the UK can go to their hometowns and interview family and friends. I thought of the sadness of their parents. Now that I am the father of a son, I shudder at the thought of investing my life into him, seeing him beginning to realise his potential, and then have that taken away in an instant by a bullet fired by someone who just viewed him, and perhaps only for a second, as an obstruction to an objective. Everything gone.

That must be how every parent of a son in the Iraqi army must feel. And at least the Coalition soldiers have all volunteered, knowing the risks of the job. The sons of Iraq are taken from their families and forced to bear arms in aid of a regime for which they have no affection, and which they probably despise. Poorly fed and clothed, if they attempt to leave they are shot by death squads.

And the thing about dying for your country is that once you’re dead, your country doesn’t matter any more. On the other side of dying, there is only one sovereign entity. Dying for your country doesn’t get you into heaven. I know war is a terrible experience. Fortunately, I only know it second hand, but I do not doubt it. But regardless of the horrors of war, they do not compare to the perdition facing those who die outside Christ. War is Hell.

I pray that during Aidan’s early adulthood years, there will be peace and neither of his countries will need him for war.

Posted by david at 02:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2003

It’s a Beautiful Day in

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

The house move is almost complete.

Moving house is a lot of work. The old flat is devoid of all possessions, save a table my father-in-law is taking, a fan we use on both days of summer, and the radio we listen to while cleaning up and painting. Most of the things have found a place in the new flat, though the lounge is littered with boxes of miscellany.

Even though the new flat is somewhat bigger, the layout is different, so the nooks and crannies are different. The other difference is furniture. The old flat came with built-in wardrobes and associated cabinets, bedside tables with three drawers, and two dressers. It is that sort of storage space which is sadly lacking.

Since this new place is temporary while we look for a more permanent pad, we don’t want to invest too much in furniture that fits the layout here but not where we end up. We could be here a matter of weeks or it could be a matter of months. It just depends on what sort of suitable houses become available.

This afternoon we got more of an idea of the neighbourhood. A group of about 6-8 boys decided to break into an empty first floor (or for Americans, second floor) flat in our building. They moved a dumpster up against the wall and then one boy stood on another boy’s shoulders to reach up and open the window. At least two boys got inside the flat. Another repeatedly kicked a football against the side of the building, reaching the window occasionally.

Mrs Holford noted that she wasn’t about to interfere for fear of being stabbed or otherwise violently assaulted. Nor was there any intervention by the many passers by. I considered ringing the police. However, a brave woman also living on the first floor screamed out her window at them. The authority in her voice indicated that she may have been the mother of one of the perpetrators. So the fun was over (and there is no telling what they did on the inside), they climbed out and off the dumpster.

The window remained open, so a boy repeatedly threw a beam of lumber up at it until he hit it and it closed. It may have broken the pane of glass, but I wasn’t about to venture over for a look. It is often said that kids don’t play outside enough anymore. In this case, somebody needs to invest in a PlayStation or Nintendo.

Posted by david at 01:43 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

History on my Doorstep With

History on my Doorstep

With all the focus on the war in Iraq, I didn’t realise that Herefordshire was witness to a much more important conflict in the history of the world: the Wars of the Roses. I knew of battles that happened nearby, such as Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire. A few years ago, Mrs Holford and I did the whole battlefield walk there.

Only tonight did I discover that I have many times driven past the scene of another of the decisive clashes between Yorkist and Lancastrian foes. It is an event significant enough to have had a movie made about it in 1987, available on VHS, but probably not in stock at Blockbuster.

It was at Mortimer’s Cross that the Yorkists routed Welsh Lancastrian supporters headed to join up with Queen Margaret in her attempt to wrest London from York’s chief ally, the Earl of Warwick. And now finally the marker in the pavement in the middle of High Town here in Hereford made sense. (High Town is the pedestrianized city centre.) It marks the spot where Owen Tudor was executed. I walk past it several times a week.

Owen Tudor was the step-father of Henry VI and was one of the leaders of the Lancastrian contingent. He was captured at Mortimer’s Cross and taken to Hereford, where, probably on the orders of Edward, Duke of York (who ten years hence would become Edward IV), he was deprived of his head. It was Tudor’s family who would have the last laugh, because Edward IV’s brother was defeated in battle at Bosworth Field by Owen Tudor’s grandson, who became Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty.

The great keeper of ancient monuments, English Heritage runs Mortimer’s Cross Hill and Battle Centre. This seems like an excellent day out. Unfortunately, it is only open Thursday afternoons between April and September, so once we were able to carefully schedule a visit, I will report back on my impressions.

Now back to the news network of your choice and continuing coverage of the war in Iraq.

Posted by david at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2003

The World as We Know

The World as We Know It

As my two most recent Meanderings demonstrate, I have been opposed to the commencement of hostilities between the United States (aka “the Coalition”) and Saddam Hussein (aka “Iraq”). Now that those hostilities have commenced, I would like to make it clear that I am opposed to the cessation of those hostilities before the completion of the objectives of the Coalition. In other words, now that they are in there, they need to finish the job.

Today there were anti-war rallies across the UK, most notably in London. In an attempt to repeat the 750,000-strong march before the war, protest organisers managed to bring together 200,000, according to generous estimates. (Not as generous as the 500,000 claimed by the organisers, of course.) I’m not suggesting that 200,000 people is a small turnout. That’s a lot of people against the war. It does demonstrate that 550,000 fewer people felt as strong as they did the first time around.

Just like the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Charles Kennedy, I voiced principled objection to the war, but now that Parliament has voted and backed the action in a sizable majority, it is time to unite. I note that the liberal democrats in both houses of the US Congress agreed with unanimous resolutions to support the war effort. This is one of the few times I have ever agreed with liberal democrats in either the UK or US meanings of that term.

If I believed that the war against Saddam is immoral, I would not care about the voice of the majority. That is the belief and view of some of the protesters. I just believe that he war is inadvisable and unsupportable in international law. If international law has just evolved in a significant way, then we will have to live in the world as it has become.

I hope that Saddam is replaced by a workable and stable political solution for the Iraqi people.

Posted by david at 04:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2003

One of the Most Horrifying

One of the Most Horrifying Things I've Ever Learned

The Anglicans have done a lot of strange things over the last few years, defying virtually every constraint of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. But who would have ever imagined this.

Chaplains in the British armed forces will be giving last rites to Muslims in the current conflict. You might think that this is the sort of thing Anglican clergy would be happy to do. After all, they baptise children willy-nilly without the least concern about whether the parents are even married, not to mention Christians. So what’s the big deal about saying a few prayers over dead or dying Muslims?

If they were Christian prayers, I could almost live with it. I would just say, oh it’s those silly Anglicans handing out sacramental benefits indiscriminately as usual. But that’s not what they will be doing.

As quoted in the Times, The Rev Squadron Leader Andrew Jones, attached to the British Harrier Force in the desert, said: “I will say the words of the shahada (Islamic declaration of faith), which I have written on a specially laminated card, and many other chaplains have it also. I will say: ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, Amen — Allah is great,’ which I repeat four times.” That’s right. Rev Jones will explicitly deny the Faith four times per dead Iraqi. I don’t care that he attempts to excuse himself by saying he may have to cross his fingers. Cross his fingers! Deny the Cross and pretend that God accepts crossed fingers, like a children’s game of tag! I don’t think Jesus said, “Take up your crossed fingers and follow me.” Peter should have thought of that, and maybe he wouldn’t have wept when the cock crowed. But even Peter didn’t proclaim sole allegiance to a false god and a false prophet.

Rev Jones even admits that “Muslim extremists may not take too kindly to a Christian chaplain being there, but we don’t want to upset them.” The Reverend is clearly unable to think without contradiction. The Muslims don’t want us to do this, but we don’t want to upset them by not doing it? Even a Muslim scholar, also quoted in the Times doesn’t think it would be acceptable. He realises that you don’t say a prayer you don’t believe.

Posted by david at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2003

House moving day. I’m sure

House moving day. I’m sure I’ll have reflections upon it when all is said and done and I am sitting in our new flat without broadband, but hopeful with at least dial-up service. You never know how telephone lines are going to get switch off and back on again.

In the meantime, I recommend the blog of Touchstone Magazine: A Journal of Mere Christianity, appropriately called Mere Comments. Touchstone combines the efforts of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant thinkers, "conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content."

Posted by david at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2003

The Ideals of Young Idiots

The Ideals of Young Idiots

As I was shopping with Mrs Holford and the sprog in the city centre yesterday, a not yet post-adolescent young man handed me four-page (folded A3) publication which in the masthead claims to be “Hereford’s favourite FREE anarchist news sheet”. Now call me out of touch, but I wasn’t aware that Hereford had any other anarchist news sheets, or that other such news sheets might only be available in exchange for cash.

This FREE news sheet is published by the Herefordshire Anarchist Group. I was informed within the pages of the sheet itself that until recently the Group was simply called “Hereford Anarchists” but they changed their name because the new appellation “sounded far more inclusive and organised”. Os it just me, or isn’t lack or organisation the whole point of anarchy?

These anarchists contend that “the destruction of capitalism is absolutely vital.” They also “see no purpose in the state.” Somehow I don’t think that they realise capitalism is necessary for their parents to support them and that when their parents are fed up with them as useless leeches, they will need the state to pay their dole money.

Oh, and this news sheet is only FREE if it is handed to me in the street. I can subscribe to receive it six times a year by sending £2 of my capital to their PO Box which is located, oddly, in another county.

Now for something from the opposite end of the political spectrum...

Europe’s Only Absolute Monarchy

This week, voters in Liechtenstein created Europe’s only absolute monarchy. Prince Hans-Adam II joins the likes of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and the Sultan of Brunei. Under the new constitution ratified on Monday, he won the right to veto bills, sack the government and adopt emergency laws. There is also a provision in the constitution to abolish the monarchy altogether by referendum, but this is unlikely anytime soon. The new system won by a landslide 64% of the vote with a turnout of 87% of the electorate.

I can’t actually read the new constitution, as it is in German, but it appears that Hans-Adam II lacks some of the powers of his counterparts elsewhere in the world. There are apparently no provisions for torture or whimsical beheading. How does he expect to get any respect from his fellow absolute monarchs without these?

Posted by david at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2003

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here? You should be reading todays Mental Meanderings!

Come back tomorrow for another Daily Diversion.

Posted by david at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2003

Connecting the Dots with an

Connecting the Dots with an Imaginary Line

It has been well-publicised that the last time the British government tried to prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, they plagiarised an old PhD thesis. Now they have fallen for simply forgeries that a basic knowledge of the countries involved would have exposed.

Supposedly secret documents about Saddam’s attempt to purchase uranium were passed to the US by MI6, the UK’s equivalent of the CIA. The International Atomic Energy Agency has shown that the documents “bore the wrong names of ministers, were stamped with incorrect dates and even carried the imprint of a junta deposed a decade earlier.”
If they are going to do this, they need to do it right.

It’s All in the Name

Osama Bin Laden’s niece is attempting to launch her career as a pop star. Something tells my Uncle Osama wouldn’t approve of his rather unreligious, burkha-less neice collaborating with a producer who has with Madonna in the past.

She may have been disowned by most of her family, but unless she changes her last name, she has little chance of success. The Pop Idol judge Simon Cowell noted, “There’s only one worse surname you could have to launch a pop career — and that’s Hitler.”

Hot Cross Councils

Four local councils, Tower Hamlets, Liverpool, York and Wolverhampton, have taken hot cross buns off of the school menus. They don’t want to offend non-Christians. I kid you not. They are afraid of protests.

In the case of Tower Hamlets, an east London borough, apparently there were objections to pancakes being served on Shrove Tuesday (a custom so common here that Shrove Tuesday is always referred to as Pancake Day by the media and supermarkets stock special displays with the ingredients). The council said they had “a lot” of complaints, but could actually say how many. A council spokesperson said, “We are moving away from a religious theme for Easter and will not be doing hot cross buns. We can't risk a similar outcry over Easter like the kind we had on Pancake Day. We will probably be serving naan breads instead.” So it wasn’t just complaints; it was an outcry.

Call me thick, but I’m not sure exactly what other theme there is to Easter. Pretty much the whole thing is about the Resurrection of Jesus (and by implication all the things leading up to said Resurrection). And I didn’t realise that local councils had authority to pick a theme for Easter.

Even the Muslim Council of Britain described this as “very, very bizarre” A spokesman said: "This is absolutely amazing. At the moment, British Muslims are very concerned about the upcoming war with Iraq and are hardly going to be taken aback by a hot cross bun.

"Unfortunately actions like this can only create a backlash and it is not very thoughtful. I wish they would leave us alone. We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us.

"British Muslims have been quite happily eating and digesting hot cross buns for many years and I don't think they are suddenly going to be offended."

Conservative MP and former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe (who arranged my job as an intern at Westminster in the early 1992) summed it up: "It would appear that we should know about everyone else's culture apart from our Christian tradition. It seems that anything that comes from an ethnic minority is fine, while anything Christian is wrong.”


Following the publication of this piece, I was requested to remove it or face legal action from Tower Hamlet Council. Apparently, the existence of this piece will incite racial hatred in East London. Now my traffic stats would indicate that about the only people in East London reading David's Daily Diversions are apparatchiks of the Tower Hamlets Council. But that's enough for them.

As I have explained in my further story on this, I'm not removing what I have written. In the spirit of fair play, however, I am willing to append hereto the official press release from Tower Hamlets. Of course, as with any governmental statement, I reserve the right to comment upon it. So feel free to read the press release, giving it the same credibility you would give anything immanating from government sources in general and Tower Hamlets in particular:

"Response to Sunday Telegraph article, 16.3.03

"In response to the article concerning Hot Cross Buns (pg 11) in the above newspaper: Tower Hamlets Council would like to make it clear that it has never ordered schools not to serve hot cross buns at Easter. This allegation is entirely without foundation.

"In addition:
"1. Tower Hamlets Council, as the Local Education Authority, has a recommended Religious Education curriculum which encourages schools to celebrate the full range of religious festivals and to take a multi-faith approach to religion.

"2. However, the Local Education Authority is not in a position to order any school on its religious requirements for food. That is a decision to be taken by each school.

"3. The Council respects each school's choice as to whether it takes part in any marketing event regarding school catering.

"4. All schools in the borough were given the option of whether they wanted pancakes to be provided on pancake day and we supplied pancakes to all schools that requested them. We are unaware of any complaints.

"5. Tower Hamlets Council celebrates the rich cultural diversity of its community and the benefits that this brings.

First of all let's cut the crap. Paragraphs 1 and 5 are irrelevant. Nothing wrong with them, but they have no bearing on the truth or falsity of the article in the Telegraph. Of course only a Liberal Democrat-controlled council could make perfectly legitimate statement sound like they don't actually stand for anything. According to paragraph 3, the serving of hot cross buns is a marketing event??? And most paragraph 4 is again irrelevant. Neither the Sunday Telegraph nor I suggested that schools weren't given the option to serve pancakes. But paragraph 4 seems to taint the truthfulness of paragraph 2. If the LEA is not in a position to order, what is it doing giving options?

So you decide. Which is more credible, the Sunday Telegraph or Tower Hamlets Council?

Posted by david at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2003

Ten Months of Waiting for Nothing

One of the things that I received for my birthday was the results of my barium enema. Especially if you haven’t been a regular reader of my Meanderings, you may think it very strange that I would discuss barium enemas at all, not to mention my own. What I’m really offering, however, is a comment on the National Health Service.

The surprising thing is that I got the results so soon. This was all as a result of an attack of what appeared to be diverticulitis on 4 May last year. When I arrived by taxi for an emergency appointment with my GP, he thought I had a perforated bowel and called an ambulance to get me to the hospital. I had gotten in to see the GP immediately and had gotten to the hospital within minutes. Within five hours there was actually a bed for me. They never figured out what was wrong with me and eventually I was given an appointment to see a specialist.

Because of a cancellation I was able to get in early to see a specialist in mid-September. After a quick poke and prod, the specialist couldn’t find anything immediately wrong and ordered the aforementioned barium enema. Again, I got lucky and due to a cancellation was able to have the procedure done in February. The results were sent back to my specialist and I was informed yesterday.

The results are that my colon is normal and I don’t have diverticulitis. So it took 10 months and 10 days to have one investigative procedure that produced no useful information. I have had attacks since 4 May, so it wasn’t a one-off. So now I have to go back to my GP to decide where to send me for further tests. At this rate it could be years before I have any idea what is actually wrong. I wish I was exaggerating for effect. I wish.

I’m Not Alone

In having to wait 10 months for a relatively cheap, basic investigative procedure I shouldn’t feel alone as a victim of the NHS. Though the Labour government had set a target date of 31 March for reducing the waiting list for operations to less than one year, it has not achieved this. A health minister indicated 10 days ago that the target would be met, but it appears that about 7,000 people have still been waiting more than a year.

That isn’t to suggest that progress hasn’t been made. A year ago there were 21,400 people who had been waiting more than a year for surgery. By January 2003, there were still 9,600. Apparently it helps if you make a big fuss. This is difficult for British people, who have been trained to endure with a stiff upper lip. From the Sunday Times: “Olive Wilkes, 78, from Leeds, had an operation to remove her gallstones last week — after her plight was reported in a local newspaper. She had waited 13 months.”

Olive should consider herself lucky. She only has gallstones. Excruciating, but not life-threatening. The newspapers always have stories of cancer and heart disease patients who have had similar waiting times. They drop off the waiting list and into the grave.

Trouble North of the Border

The Public Health Institute of Scotland has revealed the result of a study showing that Scots have the lowest life expectancy in western Europe. Scottish women are at the very bottom of the table, while men are die earlier only in Portugal.

It is not a problem with the fresh Scottish air. In part, it seems to be just the opposite. Scotswomen have the highest rate of death from lung and oesophageal cancer and Scotsmen the second highest, due to the insatiable use of tobacco. The other major factor is the propensity for both genders of skirt-wearing Jocks to drink like fish. Apparently, north of the border they don’t believe that you can have too much of a good (or bad) thing.

And if things weren’t bad enough in Scotland already, a new biography of Rob Roy MacGregor will remove the romanticism and legend. A former professor of Scottish history at St Andrews University has demonstrated in Rob Roy: The Man and the Myth that the quintessential Scottish hero was spy for the English government against the Jacobites. Author David Stevenson notes, “The evidence of this is quite clear, it was printed well over a century ago, but writers on Rob Roy have never mentioned it. Perhaps the evidence was too much at odds with the images of him they were determined to project.”

Posted by david at 10:48 PM | Comments (3)

March 15, 2003

Happy Birthday to Me Well,

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, today is the last birthday that I am thirty-something. This is my fortieth year. As usual, I look back and wonder where the years have gone. I’m on the home stretch of four decades and I have accomplished so little.

I spent 22 years in school, with only a brief gap, and ended up a law degree, the Mount Everest of student debt, and a career that I didn’t really enjoy for six and a half years. Now I’m hoping to go back to school so I can do the one thing I should have done in the first place: teach. Of course I want to teach religious education and history, but my degree is in law, so they may not let me. I’m hoping that the great need for RE teachers will be enough to convince them to take me. If I would have just finished by Master’s thesis, I could have gone into teaching then and there at the secondary level. I doubt that I could have stuck it out to get my Ph.D. and taught at the college or university level. Of course had that happened I can’t imagine that I would have ended up in the UK.

Since the teacher training course takes one full school year, if I get on it then I will be an example of how life begins at 40.

Mrs Holford keeps asking me what I want for my birthday. I honestly can’t think of anything. I thought about some web hosting, but just before I bought it, I remembered that my brother owns a web hosting company. So I pointed my domain at my brother’s nameservers and was back to square one. (I needed hosting because I’m losing my web space with my ISP when we move house in a couple of weeks.) I’ll probably end up ordering a book off of Amazon. If you can’t think of anything to get me, you can visit my Wish List. Just remember the prices are in pounds sterling. And if you warn me ahead of time, I can get you a gift certificate for £5 off your purchase. Just don’t get me Bed and Table Linen: Professional Skills Made Easy which Mrs. Holford accidentally put on my list instead of hers.

No, seriously, just send me a free e-card.

Every birthday especially brings to mind Psalm 90:12 (that’s 89:12 for the Orthodox here): “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Despite this being my favourite psalm and one upon which I did a multi-part sermon series, I clearly haven’t taken it to heart. I fritter away the minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years. And I certainly haven’t gained much wisdom.

That’s what I’d really like for my birthday. Wisdom. Unfortunately, they don’t sell it at Amazon.

Posted by david at 12:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2003

Adherance to a web brower

Adherance to a web brower is not entirely unlike a religious committment.

One of the first things I have discovered with is that it favours Explorists over Netscapists. In the past few months, I am one of the latter. I was converted to browsing by Netscape and remained loyal to it until I moved to the UK. Because the machines at work only came with IE, and all the websites our department designed were optimized for IE, and 85% of the world was using IE, I converted to IE. I know, not a good reason to convert, but I did.

With the advent of Netscape 7.0 with tabbed browsing and other innovations, I returned to my first love. Now with the passion of a new convert, I take umbrage at IE-biased applications and sites.

Apparently, if I want to conveniently link, bold, or italicize in, I have to use IE. Otherwise I have to type my own HMTL. You know what? I might just do that!

Posted by david at 03:16 AM | Comments (0)

Well, I finally have a

Well, I finally have a name for the blog.

I tried to come up with something that gets across the idea of the Mental Meanderings, but in small daily doses. In fact, I thought about "Daily Doses", but it sounded too medicinal.

Now I just need something to say...

Posted by david at 02:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2003

This is the first post

This is the first post to my blog. I still haven't settled on a name for it.

Posted by david at 01:46 AM | Comments (0)