May 31, 2003

Stranger in His Own Land

Stranger in His Own Land

Here in England, Scots are foreigners. I got no problem with that. They live in a different country and have a different legal system. Logically, in England, Gaelic is a foreign language.

But where else is Scots Gaelic a foreign language? In Scotland. When a Scots father tried to register the name of his newborn daughter in Gaelic, the local Register Office in Inverness refused. So he refused to register her birth.

The Inverness office told him to contact Edinburgh. The father, Austin Boyle, recounts, “When I got on to this fellow he said that Gaelic as far as their policy is concerned is a foreign language. He added that wanting to register the name in Gaelic would be similar to registering it in Sanskrit.”

This isn’t just the bungling of bureaucrats. A Scottish Executive spokesman confirmed that first names can be registered in Gaelic, but surnames and place names cannot. But that’s no different than with any other foreign language. Scottish newborns can be given first names that are Spanish or German or Swahili, but the surname must be in English. Gaelic, which has been spoken in the far reaches of northern Scotland since long before English was even a language, has no legal status.

This is the difference between Scotland and Wales. Scotland has a different legal system but no legal language, whilst Wales has the English legal system but full legal equality for the Welsh language. In Scotland you can learn Gaelic in school; in Wales you must learn Welsh in school and as of a couple of years ago even have to take a Welsh GCSE.

Back in Mr Boyle’s village of Erbusaig (and that is officially an English word?) he is still holding out. The General Register Office has said it will reconsider his request.

The Not-So-Loyal Opposition

One more bit o’ Scottish news…

The Queen will be visiting the Scottish Parliament next week. Pretty much everyone will be turning out in their good clothes. But not the six Socialist members. The Socialists are the ones who got left in the political lurch when the original socialist party, called Labour, shifted to right to get electable.

The Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan said, “Our MSPs have better things to do with our time than attend the nonsense of royal openings and receptions.” Given that they have no real power and being an MSP is a full-time job, I can’t imagine what they have better to do, other than searching far and wide for newspaper reporters who will listen to their anti-royalist drivel.

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

May 30, 2003

For those of you across

For those of you across the Pond who thing of Britain as eternally cold and rainy, you would normally be right. This week is has been uncomfortably hot. It has been mostly sunny with temperatures in the 80s. If you are thinking that isn’t so bad, remember that we don’t have air conditioning in either the house or the car.

We drove up to the Leominster to the M&M Sports factory shop to get Aidan some trainers (that’s Britspeak for tennis shoes). Aidie’s friend Harry had gotten some there really cheap, so Mrs Holford was keen to get some Aidie as well. Does this child ever have enough shoes? Anyhow, we got him a pair of Reeboks for £7. Something tells me he will grow out of these size 5s much sooner than he will wear them out. As I prophesied in my Meandering of the Annunciation, we will going through a lot of shoes over the next few years.

And now to the news…

Well, just a brief note on the educational fiasco. 1,400 teachers got redundancy notices today.

And speaking of redundancies…

This even made the evening news on the telly. The administrators of a company in receivership sacked 2,500 workers today, mostly by sending text messages to their mobile phones. They were sent a phone number to ring. The answering machine said "All staff who are being retained will be contacted today. If you have not been spoken to you are therefore being made redundant with immediate effect. Unfortunately there are effectively no funds available to pay the salaries for May."

Let there be light!

Believe it or not, until Monday, there is still one village in Britain without electricity. The 31 villager of Cwm Brefi in West Wales have never been connected up to the mains. This wasn’t such a problem in the 6th century when St David preached there, but technological developments elsewhere in Britain, especially in the last two centuries, have left Cwm Brefi in the dark.

The bulk of the cost of stringing of the wires to the village were covered by a European Union Regional Development Fund, with a additional £100,000 from the Ceredigion Council. Nonetheless, each home owner had to put up an additional £5000 to be hooked up.

Posted by david at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2003

Defining Moments In Iraq today,

Defining Moments

In Iraq today, Tony Blair called the liberation of that country from Saddam Hussein's regime "one of the defining moments of the century." It seems to me that this is a difficult judgment to make, being in only the third year of the century.

I wonder if in hundred years, this will be a plausible claim. In 1903, who would have contemplated the First World War, The Second World War, the worldwide Great Depression, either the rise of Communism or the fall thereof, the Atomic bomb, the first man on the moon, the development of antibiotics, the transplant of organs, or any of the other extraordinary developments in every area of life.

Going, Going...
One thing that may not be here in 100 years it the Tory Party. Apparently the Party is out of money. Independent auditors fear that it it is no longer a going concern. The Conservatives are £9 million in the red and spend £10 million a year.

The biggest problem seems to be that the Treasurer is withholding his own money. Traditionally the person named Treasurer of the Conservate Party is a huge contributor. To get them to give more, the party Leader sees that they get a peerage. The former Treasurer Lord Ashcroft gave £1 million a year. The mere Sir Stanley Kalms is probably on the list of four Tory peers that Ian Duncan-Smith will be submitting to Downing Street. Hopefully Lord Kalms will then open open up his wallet just a little wider.

Posted by david at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2003

Once again there is more

Once again there is more news worthy of comment than I can hope to cover. So here are the highlights…

More Missing Money

I know I have been harping on about schools having to cut teachers and everything else because there is a £500 million shortfall, even though the Government has increased education spending by 11%.

Monday we found £800 million wasted. Yesterday, I found another £650 million. The Government spent this on a programme to reduce truancy. What did they get for our money? A 15% increase in truancy since Labour came to power, that’s what. They’ve even started putting parents in jail because of their children’s unexcused absences and it has had no effect.

More Jailed Parents

Legislation is being introduced by the Labour Scottish Executive (that’s what we call the devolved Scottish government) to jail the parents of re-offending teenagers. That’s right, sort of a two-strikes-and-someone-else-is-out law.

The way it works is that if a teenager gets an antisocial behaviour order made against them and they defy the order, the parent can be ordered to “act in the best interests of their children”. Any failure to act in the child’s interests would be regarded as an offence, punishable by anything from fines to prison time.

Setting aside for a minute legal quagmire which would result, I just have note that this is the same Executive that wants to ban spanking in Scotland (but they’ve had to withdraw their proposals because of lack of support). So, the way this government wants it, you can’t spank your kids when they are little, but you will go to jail if they don’t behave when they are older.

The Italian Way

Keeping on the same theme, the Italians have a different approach: jail the parents for what they kids do when they are little. I kid you not.

The Italian police have arrested a seven year old English boy little pieces of stone from the bell tower of the Duomo, the cathedral in Florence. It’s not that the stones hit anyone. In fact, no one actually saw him throw or drop anything. The little boy had a piece of decorated terracotta in his possession that he had picked up a souvenir and it was similar to terracotta that appeared to have been thrown from the cathedral.

Quoted in The Times, the boy’s father said, “It was just unbelievable, like something out of a film. We were walking down from the tower and suddenly we were surrounded by police, frogmarched to a car and driven away. Simon was absolutely traumatised. It was humiliating and frightening.”

They were released after three hours in custody, but after returning to England they were told by the Italian authorities they could have the charge dismissed by paying a fine plus the prosecutor’s fees, totally £350. Otherwise the father has to return to Italy to be tried in his son’s place, because the child is under the age of criminal responsibility. In other words, he is too young to have known what he was doing (even though no one saw him do anything), but somebody’s gonna pay.

Now Back to Our Own Injustice System

They can seem to keep poor ol’ Tony Martin out of the news. I mentioned some while back that he was denied early release because he was deemed dangerous for believing he was right in using a shotgun to defend his house against burglars. In case you missed it, yes, that’s right, because he believes the wrong things.

Now the chairman of the parole board has taken it a step further. David Hatch believes Tony is a dangerous man because he could influence others into believing he was right. It is not enough that the country already believes Tony Martin was right. It’s not enough that the newspapers have come out saying Tony Martin was right. It would seem that Mr Hatch believes there is yet one unconverted soul who would have been swayed into the heterodoxy of self-defence if Tony had allowed to return home six months early.

More Heterodoxy

I just found out yesterday that the Church of England officially stopped believing in hell in 1996. The things you find out reading the newspaper. Quoting as usual from The Times:

In its 1996 report The Mystery of Salvation, by the Doctrine Commission, the Church of England said: “Hell is not eternal torment, but it is the final and irrevocable choosing of that which is opposed to God so completely and so absolutely that the only end is total non-being.”

This came up because although the 38 Anglican primates meeting in Brazil declined to endorse services blessing services for gay couples because it is “still a cause of potentially divisive controversy,” because “there is no theological consensus about same-sex unions”. Nonetheless, the Canadians are charging ahead with these rites which originate from that same place the Church of England doesn’t believe in.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is convinced that the Church will eventually change its mind and that such outdated attitudes will eventually go the way of other discarded doctrines. I don’t doubt that this is true of the Anglican Communion in the northern hemisphere. They’ve discarded just about everything else on the path to that place they don’t believe in anymore.

Posted by david at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2003

A new Meandering today! Click

A new Meandering today!

Click on over...

Posted by david at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2003

Today I was working on

Today I was working on what I thought would be part of my blog entry, but it has grown to become my upcoming Meandering. I’ll try to send that out and post it tomorrow, so in the meantime, here’s the rest of the news…

I hate to say I told you so…

One of the reasons I was initially opposed to the war in Iraq was the danger a regime change posed to Christians. Seems like my fears are already being borne out.

Under Saddam, it was okay to sell alcoholic beverages. Sure, your average radical Shi’ite didn’t approve, but he didn’t want to run foul of Saddam’s version of law and order. In the Shi’ite dominated south of the country, the only purveyors of such intoxicating libations were Christians. I know it may shock some of my American readers that Christians own all the liquor stores, but you have to remember that the teetotal indoctrination of some indigenous Protestant groups in the States is not generally shared outside the its bounds.

According to the reporter for The Times in Basra, at least 100 stores selling alcohol have been burnt down and two owners have been shot in the head and killed. In a move that would please the voters of Bowie County, Texas and other similar jurisdictions, all 148 stores have closed and a city nearly the size of Houston is dry as a bone.

What are the British forces doing to help? Nothing, it seems. Christian families are fleeing the city. And it’s not just over the reign of terror on the liquor stores. Christian women are being threatened in the streets for not using Muslim headdress. This is probably particularly shocking to Christian women, who, unlike their Muslim counterparts, are not used to being beaten. As I discovered in an entirely unrelated article in The Times, three years ago, in neighbouring and not particularly fundamentalist Turkey, a state-funded foundation published a “Muslim handbook that allowed men to beat their wives as long as they avoided the face and did not strike too hard.”

And speaking of wife-beating…

The Government is proposing to create a domestic violence register modelled on the sex offenders register. This would allow police to track the movements of anyone who has received at least a six-month sentence for assaulting a partner.

The list would be made available to various agencies and some employers. These agencies would then decide whether to inform the any new partner of the listed individual after carrying out a risk assessment. Of course since relationships in this country are general amoral, I suppose the agencies in question will have to decide whether a particular relationship constitutes a “partnership.” Will the law require that the listee submit their appointment diary so the police will know when and if they have been on a date? Will the police conduct surveillance of the offender’s residence to see if anyone else is coming and going on a regular basis?

Does anyone else see the combination of a logistical and civil liberties nightmare?

So that’s where all the money went…

I hate to mention the problems in education three days in a row, but I’ve found the money that school need. Seems it is all being spent on a programme that is achieving absolutely nothing. Now there’s a big surprise.

The Government has dumped £800 million into Excellence in Cities, a flagship programme that was supposed to transform schools in the inner city. It is based upon the usual philosophy that you can buy better education. But as one source told The Times: “It has had an effect but it’s not on attainment. It’s mainly been on changing attitudes of disadvantaged kids, basically making them feel better about underachieving at school.”

One of the reasons there is no money for teachers is the creation of nearly 400 “learning support units” for disruptive students. In other words, they have to bring in teachers to babysit one or two little yobs that have to be segregated from the general population. This is because they can’t expel them. The Government has also set targets for schools to reduce exclusions. Schools are held hostage by the criminal element they are forced retain and them expected to improve overall performance.

Posted by david at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2003

So many things in the

So many things in the news today, I don’t know where to start. For the full story on most all of this, you can go to today’s Sunday Times. Of course if you live outside the UK, you will have to £39.99 per year (at your credit card’s exchange rate into US$, I presume) to read it, so you’ll probably just take my word for it.

First there’s Madonna. You know, the one who is only named for a Virgin. It seems that she has found religion. Not the Christian religion in any shape or form, mind you. She has become a Kabbalist.

I don’t know if Kabbalism teaches tithing, but it has put her in the giving mood. She and husband Guy Ritchie are giving £3.65 million (about $6.2 million) to buy property to house the London Kabbalah Centre in the West End.

While Madonna will have a place for spiritual healing when she is in England, and other music star has been looking for property for another reason.

He'll do (well, almost) anything for love...

For when he is in the UK, Marvin Aday wants to buy a house in Hartlepool. Seems he’s become of a fan of local football club, though he’s apparently not actually been to a match in person. Marvin followed Hartlepool United through its successful promotion this season to the Second Division, even using the club’s monkey mascot.

[A quick aside for those not familiar with the Hartlepool Monkey… During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship wrecked off of Hartlepool and the sole survivor was a monkey dressed in a military uniform. The fishermen of Hartlepool, unfamiliar with the appearance of Frenchmen, assumed the monkey was a spy. As the simian refused to speak in its defence, it was sentence to be hung. The mast of a fishing boat was used as the gallows. ]

The problem with Marvin’s real estate acquisition is that his advisers and estate agents can’t seem to find a property worth more than £600,000. They are doing better than I am. The most expensive property I could find for sale in Hartlepool has an asking price of £310,000. Not that I would buy it if I had the money. Hartlepool isn’t on my list of places I would ever want to live. If I lived there, I would leave like a bat out of hell.

In case Marvin Aday’s name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s always been known professionally a Meat Loaf.

And speaking of football promotion…

Today Cardiff City won promotion to the First Division, which is not actually the top division, since the top division is the Premier League (which until it broke away from the Football League in 1992 was known as the First Division). The last time Cardiff was in the First Division was in the 1980s (when, as you have probably guessed, it was known as the Second Division).

I don’t know how I feel about Cardiff City AFC. I used to consider myself a supporter. In fact, the only Football League match I’ve ever attended in person was at Cardiff’s Ninian Park, when they hosted Peterborough United in 1998. (I do support Hereford United, a member of the Football Conference, having been relegated out of the League in 1997.) At that time Cardiff were a mid-table team in the Third Division.

But back to my ambivalence about Cardiff City. I want to support Cardiff because it is the capital city of Wales, Mrs. Holford homeland. It is the hometown of my mother-in-law. I have visited Cardiff a lot, because Mrs Holford likes to shop there. I’ve even preached in Cardiff. If you are coming to the UK, I encourage you to visit Cardiff. The only bad thing in Cardiff are the football supporters.

Cardiff City has a notorious following of hooligans. Want trouble at your football ground? Play in the same division as Cardiff. Want to get beaten up at an away game? Follow your team to Ninian Park.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time for mindless thugs. But I’ll talk about the Government in a minute. I don’t like football hooligans either.

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste, but it’s too late to help the Education Secretary…

I wish I didn’t have more to say about Charles Clarke. Either he has run amok or he’s being used by the Government to reverse all of its policies, take the blame, and get dropped like a hot potato.

England and Wales have long had two types of state secondary schools, grammar schools and comprehensives. Grammar schools focus only on academics and are selective in admission, based upon exams taken in the final year of primary school by 11-year-olds. Comprehensives take anyone and everyone and have vocational programmes as well as the usual academic subject offerings.

In the House of Commons earlier this year, Tony Blair said that “had no plans to abolish grammar schools.” At present, a grammar school can only become a comprehensive if the parents of pupils attending the feeder primary schools vote to change it. Seems fair enough. After all, these are the parents and children who are directly affected by type of school the children attend (or might not be eligible to attend). This favours those wanting to keep the grammars, because given the chance, parents want the possibility of a grammar school education for their children. This was borne out in the only vote since Labour introduced this scheme the year it came to power, when anti-grammar school campaigners attempted to abolish the grammar school in Ripon, Yorkshire.

Though they may have promised not to abolish them, this Government inherently doesn’t like them. For the masses, of course. On a more practical level, members of the Government and the Labour back benches are perfectly happy to send their own children to grammar schools and posh private schools in order that their kids get the best possible education.

Now Mr Clarke wants to extend the vote to parents who have children in schools that don’t feed the grammar school. This would allow the anti-grammar folks a better chance to impose their social philosophy. By increasing the voter base to encompass a more socialist electorate, they hope the politics of envy will win out.

There’s more news, but it will have to wait until tomorrow…

Posted by david at 09:45 PM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2003

I have recently come to

I have recently come to the shocking realisation that I have not read the whole Bible. I suppose I’ve known this in theory, but it only just hit me.

Before I became Orthodox (or was convinced of Orthodoxy), I thought that I had. I had read the whole thing cover to cover when I was twelve years old. Okay, it was the Living Bible, but still no small feat for a twelve-year-old to accomplish in eight months and nine days. (I started on March 20 and finished on November 29.) And I’ve read lots of it since.

But what I read has only been considered the whole Bible for less than 500 years, and then by only a fraction of Christians. Why the Protestant Reformers decided to use just the Hebrew Old Testament is unclear. It may have been that there was stuff in the other bits they didn’t like. But whatever the reason, all Protestant Bibles have left out twelve books and bits of others that the Eastern Church has been using all along. The Orthodox canon is based upon the Septuagint, the Old Testament used by the early Church.

However, to accept only the Hebrew canon (which wasn’t established as the Jewish canon until well after the time of Christ) is to say that God didn’t provided His Word to His Church for the 1500 years before the Protestant Reformation. So Jesus must have been lying when He said that Holy Spirit would guide the Church in all truth. What He must have meant was that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church in some truth for the first millennium and a half.

For three-fourths of the Church’s existence, it read all of the books of the Old Testament as Holy Scripture. Most of the Church still does.

Now I have to rework the cadence of rattling off the books of the Bible in order – something that goes back to my childhood days in the Baptist Church. I’ll have to revisit the Sword Drills of Sunday night Training Union, this time flipping instantly to Tobit or II Maccabees.

I’ll be very glad when they finally get the full Orthodox Study Bible off the presses. Reliable sources tell me that I’ll have to wait until at least 2005.

It looks like I have a lot of catching up to do.

Posted by david at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2003

Today I have made some

Today I have made some changes to the left of your screen.

I have added links to two more Orthodox bloggers: Clifton D. Healy's This is Life: Revolutions Around the Cruciform Axis and James Ferrenberg's Paradosis.

I have also followed the example of some and included information about my offline reading. You know, the kind where you have to actually hold something and turn the pages. I do a bit of this. Not as much as I should, I'm sure, but with parenting, husbanding, blogging, and DMOZ meta editing, there's not a lot of time left. Books are mostly reserved for those times when Mrs Holford is looking online for new sewing patterns or deals on eBay. And of course for visits to the "Sitting Room".

Now to the news… The Government has botched so many things that I just don’t know where to start. But today, class, we’ll look at education.

The last Education Secretary was so bad even she admitted it and resigned. She presided over the A levels fiasco and I didn’t think it could get any worse. Charlie Clarke has proven that it can and has.

It is disputed as to whether he no use for historians or others that apparently don’t benefit the economy. He may or may not have suggested that they should not be funded by the State. (For American readers: all universities in the UK are funded by the State.)

What is not in dispute is that he has created a funding shortage in primary and secondary education. For all of Labour’s talk of spending more money on education, school are suddenly in a shortfall. There is already a shortage of teachers. They are creating all sorts of incentives to get more teachers. Now at the same time, they are making the teachers they have redundant. It looks like 3000 teachers across the country may get their P45s (kind of like a W-2, handed out upon leaving employment) by the end of this month.

One school in Croydon has a £500,000 shortfall and is having to send student home early to save money. Even though it still leaves him £80,000 in the red, the head teacher is firing six teachers, increases the size of classes, cutting books and class materials, and cancelling school trips.

And it’s not just money that’s the problem. When it came to power in 1997, the Government set a target that 85% of 11-year-olds would meet set standards in math and English by 2004. When last year’s target of 80% wasn’t met last year, the Education Secretary resigned (after having weathered the A levels scandal). Mr Clarke isn’t about to follow in her footsteps out of the Cabinet. He has decided that the best way to keep his job is to simply abolish the targets. In an amazing turnabout for a Government that believes it always knows best, Charlie has told the schools to set their own targets so that the Government’s aborted level is reached “as soon as possible”.

But it isn’t just 11-year-olds who are thicker than molasses on a cold morning. Because the Government wants to send everyone to University, they have dropped standards to the floor in a hope of scooping up anyone with the slightest inkling for higher education. They are making up the easiest possible degrees to get them graduated.

What’s the resulting assessment of university dons? They have called the students currently walking the hallowed hall of learning the worst in living memory.

Posted by david at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2003

There are so many news

There are so many news items about which I could blog. Perhaps I'll save them for tomorrow.

Today in Parenting 101 we learned about icons, but not how we expected.

My parents left for Texas yesterday. Aidie and I took them to the train bound for Gatwick, from whence they departed this morning. I could tell that he didn't understand what was going on when they boarded the train and the doors shut and it pulled away from the station. He probably didn't think it was any different than Papa going out for a walk.

When he got up this morning, he went looking for Papa and couldn't figure out why he wasn't around. Then he went into his bedroom, where they had been staying, looking for Honey (what we have called my mother since I was 18 months old) -- no doubt because she always fed him toast. All day he kept climbing up on the window sill looking out the window for their imminent return.

He has been saying "Papa" for a while now, though he always says it in a whisper for some reason. He would wait until today before he would start to say "Honey". He kept saying both over and over and looking for them everywhere. Finally, this afternoon, he saw the picture we have of them holding him. It is in a frame on the dresser in the lounge, just out of his reach. He kept pointing at it, saying "Papa" until I got it down for him.

Even though they are not here, he knows they are represented in the picture. Well, he doesn't understand what representation is. Yet he definitely knows that the people in the picture are the people he loves. He wouldn't let go over the frame. And he wouldn't stop kissing the picture. He would distinctly kiss both Papa and Honey. When we asked him, "Where's Honey?" he would touch her image. Likewise with "Where's Papa?".

In kissing the picture, he wasn't kissing the glass covering the photographic paper. He was kissing his grandparents. Kelly was the first to grasp what he was doing. She said, "That's icons!" She realised that he had never seen us kissing photos before. It was an innate response. She also realised that kissing is the innate and natural thing for us to do when we see icons.

That's exactly what we are doing when we kiss icons. They too are our family. They are our fathers and mothers in the faith. In kissing their picture, we are kissing them because we love them. Just like Papa and Honey, they aren't with us anymore, but they are just as alive in a different place. Heaven may even be closer than Texas. (With all due respect to those readers who remain convinced they are one and the same place, I hope heaven is cooler in the summertime.) And just like Papa and Honey, we will see them again. Probably not as soon, but one day.

Until we see our fathers and mothers among the saints, we will kiss their picture. And until he sees Papa and Honey again, I'm sure Aidie will kiss theirs.

Posted by david at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2003

Today its back to the

Today its back to the usual problems with the most incompetent Government to ever elected by a free people.

In its infinite wisdom, the Government keeps changing the tax system. First, they introduced Working Families Tax Credit. Then they abolished that and created the Working Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The Government ran a big campaign to get everyone to apply for the new scheme. Everyone did.

Of course the Government didn’t hire any people to handle this workload. The people they did have are completely clueless. You think I’m using hyperbole. I’m not. They are completely and totally incompetent.

When you can get them on the phone, that is. And you have to get them on the phone, because it seems they have lost every application that has been sent in. They lost ours and those of over 500,000 people who have not had their forms processed. Mrs Holford tries to reach them on the phone everyday without success. The one time she got through, they said she had sent it to the wrong desk, even though that is where she was told to send it. And apparently, no one could go to where she sent it and retrieve it.

The Times has reported today that the 500,000 people who have not been paid may be entitled to compensation. Seems that the Paymaster General mentioned this in the fine print of a House of Commons Treasury Committee report.

Mrs Holford has not taken her frustration to the point that Mike Maddison of Enmore, Somerset has. He lost his job because he need the tax credit money to be able to afford to drive to work. After weeks of trying to get through on the phone, he finally got through to someone who told him to watch his bank account for the money. They he got a letter asking for the details of his company car. In Mr Maddison’s words, “How could an assembly-floor worker have a company car? I decided then that enough was enough.”
He walked into his local Inland Revenue office and superglued his hand to the desk. It worked. Within 30 minutes, he had a cheque for six weeks worth of credits.

The police had wanted to arrest him for breach of the peace, but the Inland Revenue staff urged them not to do so, as they feared the publicity would incite copycat incidents. Maddison may have been disappointed, because it was his intention to get arrested and embarrass the Inland Revenue.

The Government, by the way, never wavers from its denial that the system is in a state of chaos.

Posted by david at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2003

I’m sorry I’ve been so

I’m sorry I’ve been so long finishing my thoughts about what is good about Britain and getting the last “S” posted. This has been the last few days of my parents’ visit, plus I’ve had to put together a presentation.

What’s great about Britain? There’s scenery, sustenance, and…


If you have an eye for such things, you really don’t have to go far in any direction to come across places associated with those venerable fathers and mothers who have walked this island before us.

It was raining yesterday when we were out with my parents and it prevented us from visiting Llanthony Priory. Llanthony (pronounced llan-tony’ with that Welsh ll sound) is actually a contraction of Llan Dewi Nant Honddu, or “church of St David on the Honddu brook”. Dewi is the Welsh word for David. It was built on the site of St David’s monastic cell. Yes, the St David, before he moved out to West Wales and founded the monastic community around which the village and cathedral of St David’s eventual developed. But Llanthony is where St David spent a lot of time fasting and praying and getting serious with God.

Holiness so permeated this place that five hundred years later, when Sir William de Lacy was out hunting and came across the spot, he immediately laid down his sword and renounced the world. He dedicated himself to prayer and fasting. A couple of years later, at the behest of Queen Maud’s chaplain, he founded a monastery on the site, which eventually houses about forty Augustinian monks.

Llanthony is about 25 miles from here. But only 10 miles from here is a church on the site of the first church founded by the father of Welsh monasticism, St Dyfrig. It was St Dyfrig who elevated St David to the episcopate. At two different locations in Herefordshire he trained over a thousand missionaries.

Long before I moved to Herefordshire, I adopted St Dyfrig as a patron and he is the patron of our family. When Mrs Holford was in labour 16 months ago, it was to St Dyfrig’s Church that I went to pray.

These are but two little examples within a few miles of here. I could go on and on with more, but the point is that amidst this heathen land, there are still holy places. They are ignored for the most part, because they don’t appeal to the modern tourist. There’s nothing exciting about most of these places – not all of them are as scenically beautiful as Llanthony. There may only be a few stones to mark where they are, and sometimes not even that. But they have been sanctified by the holy prayers of holy men and the power of the Holy Spirit.

For me this has more substance than either the scenery or the sustenance this island has to offer.

Posted by david at 10:41 PM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2003

It may appear from my

It may appear from my mutterings and murmurings that there is not good on or about this island where I live. I know I have exploded the myth and legends held dear by various Americans, and I will no doubt continue to do so.

So what is good about the United Kingdom? First of all, let’s write off politics. But there’s more to life and the quality thereof than politics. This is especially true for Christians, because our citizenship is in heaven.

Three things come to mind when I think of what is Great about Britain.

The first is scenery. I took my parents for a drive today. We went from here to Ludlow, then across to Llandrindod Wells, and returned home. We drove though some of the loveliest countryside in the Marches and mid-Wales. I live in a truly beautiful place. All around me I am surrounded with reminders of the innate goodness of creation reflecting the glory of God which managed to shine through the fallen condition.

We often complain about the weather in Britain, how it is cool and rainy all the time. It was rainy all day today. But as my father wondered how the fields could be so green, my wife observed that they aren’t bleached and withered by the sun. Not only did this make sense, but it reminded me of why I prefer to live here. The temperature in my hometown today was around 95F. As an expat in the US, I can see what Tom Jones can sing with such conviction about the green, green grass of his home in South Wales.

The second great thing is sustenance. (I would have just said “food” but I needed an “s” word.) I know that Brit-food has a reputation for blandness. I suppose if you are talking about much of the native fare of roast dinner, bangers and mash, Lancashire hotpot, Cornish pasties, the full English breakfast, or even fish and chips, these are not know for their spiciness. Good solid meals, but admittedly a bit boring. What is great about British food is what could be called British Empire food.

Outside of large cities in the US, Indian food is virtually unknown. Here is everywhere. The main benefit of owning the recently relinquished Hong Kong? The proliferation of Chinese food. Where exactly did all the Turks come from? I don’t know, but they all own kebab shops here and I have elsewhere opined about my fondness for the doner kebab. To sample the real British cuisine you have to visit the restaurants and takeaways of a British town of any size.

Then there is the junk food. When it comes to chocolate, the US is not in the same league with the UK. There is so much more variety and it all tastes better. Then there’s biscuits. No not the kind you eat with gravy, butter, or jam. Over here, those are made a bit sweeter and called scones. “Oh, you mean cookies!” Well, American cookies are sold on the biscuit aisle of the supermarket. (That’s right, it takes a whole aisle of most supermarkets just for the biscuits.) But biscuits are different. And better. They have names like rich tea, hobnobs, digestives, Jammy Dodgers, fruit shorties, nice, and malted milk.

As a subset of junk food, are the beverages. Lemonade is a soft drink – or what are called “fizzy drinks” here. Then there’s Tango, in the traditional orange, as well as cherry, apples, and other flavours.

I’m out of time for today, so I’ll leave the last “S” for tomorrow. I’m sure that all these things seem rather superfluous, and you want to see something of substance. I'll be getting back to that idea of our citizenship in heaven.

Posted by david at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2003

For those who have been

For those who have been looking for something good to come out of this country...

Burglars are finally losing the right to sue the owners of houses they rob. Until now, home owners who haven't taken the needs of thieves into consideration and allowed them to be injured have been liable for compensation. For example, home owners have been sued when a burglar has been force to break glass to get into their home and then cuts himself. Apparently it is the fault of the householder for making access to difficult, giving the thief no other option.

A bill in now being drafted by the Home Office to change all this.

It is not clear, however, if home owners who are convicted of an offence in conjunction with the robbery will be convered by the legislation. In other words, I someone breaks into your house and you purposely injure them in the mistaken belief that you can use force to make them leave, they may still have the right to sue.

Posted by david at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2003

I will not have a

I will not have a chance to blog today, so I want to direct your attention to my new website for your viewing pleasure: Avoid the RedLion in Avebury.

Posted by david at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2003

Give Us This Day Our

Give Us This Day Our Local Bread

In a protectionist move against foreign products, the owner of a bakery in the Isle of Man is calling for a ban on the importation of sliced bread. He seem to have support of the Island’s Trade and Industry minister, “who denied that pressure was being brought to bear on the supermarkets but admitted that the government could make importation difficult by insisted that products carried a baking date,” according to the Manx Independent.

The end of the bakery could mean the closure of the government-owned flour mill. The domestic production of baked good has declined dramatically in the IOM. According to Ramsey Bakery owner Jimmy Duncan, in 1972 there were 35 bakeries employing nearly 500 people, or just under one percent of the Island population. It seems to me that 35 bakeries for 60,000 people (the 1972 population) may mean that the Manx were answering the question of who ate all the pies.

I think Mr Duncan is overstating the case when he suggests that “People expect to be able to get fresh bread at a corner store. It would not happen overnight but over the next five years the majority of the Island's 43 convenience stores would go under.” However he is convinced that he has “thrown down the gauntlet to the Manx government. If they want a bakery in the Island they have got to come up with the means of ensuring its survival.”

Have Church, Will Travel

Our local church community is currently without a permanent home. We are dependent on the kindness of strangers to provide us with place to celebrate the Liturgy and other services. I may have found a solution!

The first inflatable church has been developed. It resembles a bouncy castle and holds around 60 people – far more than enough room for us. It includes a blow-up altar, pulpit and pews. I wonder if for the Orthodox these can be inflated separately, as we have no need for pews and the sermons are delivered from the ambo. It would have to be fire resistant as well, what with all the candles around and lampadas around. And of course we need a way to hang all the icons.

Demanding Cultural Conformity

Since it came to power, the Government has been trying to divorce that mainstay of some Asian cultures, the forced marriage. The latest attempt has been to raise the age at which a spouse can be brought to Britain from 16 to 18.

This means that even though 16 is the legal marriage age, not all marriages are equal. According to The Times, studies have shown that as many as 70 percent of marriages in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are arranged, with the partners being based in the Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Home Office says this is because of mounting concern about the number of girls forced into marriage. This seems rather strange, since if anything, cultural ties are weakening with succeeding generations and if anything there would be fewer forced marriages than in the past.

Of course the new rules effect every marriage with a 16- or 17-year-old spouse because it doesn’t matter whether the marriage is forced, arranged, or true love. And it doesn’t matter what the country of origin of the spouse is. Of course it doesn’t affect marriages involving members of EU countries, since they are not subject to immigration restricts of any kind.

It also doesn’t make much sense, because the horror stories of forced marriage used as the examples by lobbyists are of British young women being tricked into leaving the UK and forced to stay in Asia. These new rules can do nothing to address the real problem.

But with the Government are you really surprised that show they are solving one problem they manufacture a different problem and address that?

Posted by david at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

More Local Government Bungling I

More Local Government Bungling

I don’t know how I missed this one, but thanks to Jon Ray over at PC Watch for blogging on this story out of the Daily Telegraph and bringing it to my attention:

In another example of local government gone bad, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council forced social workers Norah Ellis and Dawn Jackson out of their jobs because as Christians they are opposed to adoption by homosexual and lesbian couples. On top of that, it was done with a letter from the social services director that contained false information, which I can only reasonably construe was done to cover either his or the council’s collective posterior.

Adoption by homosexual couples was only legalized last November, but it didn’t take long for Sefton MBC to act. Before Christmas they both had letters claiming they had been formally interviewed and telling them they must reconsidered their opposition to gay adoption or face. If they didn’t, Charlie Barker told them, “…it is likely that I will have to terminate your employment.” This was because their attitude did not meet with the council’s objective of "promoting social inclusion, equality of access and opportunity". Unlike the letter claimed, however, neither had been interviewed, formally or otherwise.

You might think they can’t just do something like that. You’d be right. Mrs Ellis’ husband is a partner in a Manchester law firm. However, the acrimonious battle which forced the council to back down made it untenable for the two social workers to return to their positions. Tom Ellis said, "We were fortunate enough to have the resources to fight this but the end result is that everybody has lost: Norah and Dawn, the council and most importantly, the children of Sefton."

The Private Sector Isn’t Exempt

Here in the UK, the result of a student’s entire secondary education is based upon their Graduate Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in each subject. Most of the GCSE grade is based upon exams taken during the summer of their 11th school year. Not being able to take GCSE exams can prove fatal to any further education or career.

A student in North London has been expelled from his £6,000-a-year private school and banned from taking his GCSE exams because he failed to show up for a school photograph. There were no classes scheduled Wednesday, so he was at home studying for these all important exams when he received a telephone call demanding that he be at the school within an hour. If he was not on time, he would not be able to sit the exams.

When he arrived late, he was expelled. His father then contacted other schools to see if he could take the exams there, but it was too late. Solicitors for the school openly admit he was expelled because his parents had telephoned other schools and had threatened to make the case public.

Beware of the Badgers

A rogue badger went on a rampage in Evesham, Worcestershire. Five people were attacked. One was suffered such injuries that he had to have skin graft on his hands and legs.

The problem seems to be that this was a tame badger. Wild badgers avoid people. However, the Vale Wildlife Rescue was vandalised and Boris the badger was let loose. Boris did not have the usual instinct to avoid people. Unfortunately, being in unfamiliar surroundings, Boris went nuts.

Sadly, he had to be put down.

Posted by david at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2003

No blog today, as I

No blog today, as I have just published my latest Mental Meandering.

What are you waiting for? Click that link!

Posted by david at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2003

I'm been short of blogging

I'm been short of blogging time this evening, as I have been building my new website about Avebury and the Red Lion (see Thursday's blog).

In the meantime, I want to send you over to St Stephen's Musings for some really good stuff from Karl Thienes. He has been blogging about, inter alia, Reformed Theology, political correctness, and one of the best things I've have read lately on the ordination of women.

I got a mention recently from Huw Raphael in his Doxos blog.

There is a new Orthodox blogger on the block: Robert's Cogitations. Robert is another former Reformed Protestant.

Posted by david at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2003

Lousy Excuses In a move

Lousy Excuses

In a move only marginally less stupid than breaking into Tony Martin’s farmhouse, 28-year-old David Gardner crawled into the chimney of the Twin Farms pub in Newcastle. Armed with screwdrivers, pliers and a hammer, the 6ft Gardner got as far as a bend in the pipe and became stuck.

It took a specialist rescue vehicle and four fire engines to free him. He had to be pulled backwards for 12 feet through an aluminium pipe only 18 inches across. Not surprisingly, it took 40 minutes to get him out.

Gardner originally claimed that he has gotten stuck trying to rescue a cat. In court he admitted to burglary. In mitigation, his lawyer said, "This was an unsophisticated burglary which was bound to fail and he has to endure numerous jokes from numerous police officers when they see him."

So you think there can’t be a more unbelievable excuse than the “trying to rescue a cat” ploy? Wrong.

Lorna Stewart was having an affair with Rena Salmon’s husband. Even though Lorna was her best friend, Rena did not appreciate this. However, she didn’t fly into a fit of rage. It wasn’t a secret and she had known about it for ages, even talking to the neighbours about it.

So it wasn’t a crime of passion when she showed up to Stewart’s hair salon in west London with a double-barrel shotgun. Showing no emotion, Rena discharged both barrels into Lorna’s abdomen. Then she sat by the body sending text messages to her estranged husband and friends, telling them what she had done.

Yesterday at her trial on the charge of murder (seems pretty obvious), it was revealed that Rena told the police she didn’t mean to kill Lorna, but only hurt her. Somehow I don’t see the jury buying that.

Friday, May 9, 2003

Jailed in Britain for Believing American Legal Theory

Wednesday, I mentioned the refusal of the Parole Board to release farmer Tony Martin and that it intended to make the absurd argument that burglars need protection for householders who would dare to protect themselves or their property.

Not only did they argue it, the judge agreed. He said that it was possible he might be burgled again. “Unfortunately the possibility that Mr Martin might again be the victim of crime is not as remote as he (counsel for Martin) suggests.” Thus, because Martin could become a victim of crime, he must stay in jail until the standard early release date of July 28 – the completion of two-thirds of his sentence.

Now why Tony Martin is the threat between now and the end of July, but not after that time was not made clear. He could just as easily be burgled on July 29th as he could on May 10th. Is the purpose of his sentence to give thieves peace of mind for an extra ten weeks?

The Parole Board based its decision on a probation report that deemed him unacceptable because “He has very strong views that he was entirely justified in protecting himself and his property. He holds the view that an Englishman’s home is his castle and he is entitled to take any steps necessary to secure that.” That’s right. Tony Martin is being kept in prison because he holds unacceptable beliefs about the right to defend his life and property. He refuses to be reprogrammed. It would appear that Tony Martin thinks too much like an American to be allowed to live his own quiet life in his remote farmhouse.

Revisionist Cartography

Ordnance Survey, the Government’s official mapmaker, is removing hundreds of churches from its maps. Any church that is no longer used for worship, regardless of its historical or archaeological significance, will no longer have a symbol on OS maps.

Heritage groups, which were not consulted, are beside themselves. Richard Morris, a church historian and a commissioner for English Heritage, said: “Deleting them from the way we represent landscape is deleting one layer of our cultural habitat, for no good reason. It’s crazy. It’s crackers. Maps are not just about getting from A to B, they’re about understanding where we live.” Alex Hunt, conservation officer for the Council of British Archaeology, said: “There goes a millennium of history. Churches are part of the history of the landscape.”

Posted by david at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2003

Today, we took Aidie’s grandparents

Today, we took Aidie’s grandparents to Heathrow to catch a flight to Budapest. They’ll be back in a week. We took the scenic route home, using the opportunity to visit Avebury.

Avebury is a prehistoric World Heritage Site with lots of big rocks. These aren’t just ordinary big rocks. These are really big rocks placed in giant circles. It’s kind of like Stonehenge only on a much larger scale. I had been there 13 years ago as a member of the Four Young Americans, but Mrs Holford had never seen it. Neither had Aidan, of course.

On the way to Avebury, we stopped a mile south of the village at Silbury Hill. It is the largest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe. Since at least the 18th century archaeologists have been trying to figure out why it was built. There are still no answers. Aidie didn’t ask why it was built. I don’t think he even realise why we had stopped to car, other than to change a very smelly nappy.

When we got to Avebury village, it was 1:00, so before looking at the big rocks, we decided to have lunch in the only pub, the Red Lion. What a mistake. We should have gone hungry. Mrs Holford went in and looked at the menu. She said it was a little more expensive than we might expect from a pub, but not that much more. All I can say is that it was much, much more than it was worth. If you want to see the world famous Avebury go ahead, but eat somewhere else first.

If you eat at the Red Lion, this is what you can expect:

I ordered a steak and caramelised onion sandwich on a baguette. I didn’t think I would need to specify a level of doneness for a thin piece of steak for a sandwich (nor was I asked my preference). When I bit into it, I heard a faint mooing sound. I saw blood. The bread wasn’t fresh and it wasn’t a baguette.

Mrs Holford ordered sausage and mash, which promised Cumberland sausages with red wine gravy. More like Tesco value sausages on top of instant potato goo and the gravy was not made with wine, red or otherwise.

If you need want a napkin, they’ll be happy to provide you with toilet tissue. Not I am not kidding. Poo paper. When I asked for a napkin to wipe the blood and onion glop off my hands, the waitress didn't hesitate to tell me all they had was tissue.

There were flies everywhere, constantly landing on our food. They seemed to arrive simultaneously with our food, so I wonder if they followed it out of the kitchen.

As an accompanying beverage, I had lemonade with a bit of lime cordial, which is invariably my choice when I’m not in a position to have a pint of cider. The Red Lion in Avebury is the only pub I’ve ever patronised that charged extra for the shot of lime.

Now to be fair, Aidie’s meal was fine (except for having to constant shoo the flies, of course). He had sausage, alphabites (shaped mashed potato in batter), and peas. His only cost £2.25. He got the same type sausages as Kelly.

Before we left, Kel wrote them an explanation of all the problems on one of the pieces of toilet paper provided.

Again, to be fair, I want to mention that the Red Lion is not the only problem with Avebury. After we exited the pub, I needed to visit the public loo. I don’t think I’ve been in a fouler place. The entire floor was wet, but it wasn’t from pure water. Both commodes were unflushed. The urinal trough was littered with trash.

If you are going to visit Avebury, wee before you get there.

As we walked amongst the stones, we were careful not to disturb the couple worshipping at the foot of a rock. They prostrated themselves before the rock god, or whatever. I’m not sure if they were with the druidic bloke who came in the pub while we were there. At least we didn’t have to observe any fertility rites.

As for the stones themselves, Mrs Holford was moderately impressed. It is quite a feat of engineering for a people without machines to have moved these giant chunks of rock from the Marlborough Downs. Admittedly this isn’t as far as the Stonehenge builders seem to have gone to get their famous building material, but it is amazing nonetheless.

Aidan didn’t seem to notice them. He was more interested in picking flowers.

Posted by david at 10:06 PM | Comments (4)

May 07, 2003

Burglars Need Protection, Too After

Burglars Need Protection, Too

After farmer Tony Martin’s conviction for murder was downgraded to manslaughter, and his life sentence was reduced to five years, the Parole Board refused to grant him early release in January. The Board ignored psychological reports indicating that Martin was a model prisoner and should be released because he showed no contrition for shooting the burglar who had broken into his house.

I doubt that I have an American reader who is not shocked that the idea that Martin was convicted at all. Even the vast majority of Brits thought he should have not have been charged. Personally, I would have given him a medal for removing a menace to society and improving the overall gene pool. Rather than having arrested him, the Norfolk Constabulary should have given him an award for saving them the time and expense of investigating Fred Barras’ future felonies.

Martin’s legal team are challenging the Parole Board’s decision before the High Court. It has been reported in the broadsheet newspapers that Parole Board lawyers will be opposing the challenge with the argument that burglars are members of the public in need of protection from violent householders.

Egging Him On

Merseyside Police have released without charge a 41-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy who threw eggs at George Galloway. The always-dodgy Mr Galloway managed to avoid being hit.

The ovum-hurling pair was initially arrested for conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace. Perhaps the police realised that when apprised of Galloway’s conduct of late, it was an entirely reasonable and rational reaction.

Doing Violence to History

The home of Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, is to undergo a £2 million redevelopment to include a restaurant, shops, visitor centre, and car park. The problem is that Sudeley Castle is adjacent to the village of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. The new development is designed to bring in lots and lots of visitors. The street of Winchcombe are not. I’ve been to Winchcombe more than once and Mrs Holford and I have visited Sudeley Castle in its present state of development.

The surprising thing is that the redevelopment has been shelved. The owner of the castle, film producer Henry Dent-Brocklehurst spent three years getting planning permission for the venture. The council had received 800 letters of objection when the application was filed. Now that castle has the go-ahead, it seems the economic climate isn’t right at the moment.

I’m sure as soon as climate changes, everything will go ahead as planned.

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

May 06, 2003

It appears that listeners to

It appears that listeners to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 have more spiritual sense than I would have assumed if I had ever thought about it. A survey of listeners found that St George should be replaced by St Alban as the patron saint of England.

It’s not that I have anything against St George. I’m not one of the sceptics of doubting his existence. I just don’t think he has any particular connection to England. He wasn’t adopted at the patron saint until the 14th century. St George was martyred in the third century in Palestine. Worthy of veneration? Of course. English? No.

St Alban is often called the Proto-Martyr of Britain, as he is the first person recorded to have laid down his earthly life for the Faith on these shores. The first English Church historian, the Venerable Bede, tells us that he gave shelter to a Christian priest being pursued by the Roman authorities. The priest shared the Gospel with Alban and he was converted to Christ. He was subsequently martyred for refusing to say those simple words, “Caesar is Lord”. Instead he said, "I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things."

The holy martyr Alban was beheaded in the Roman town of Verulamium, which is now called St Albans. The cathedral of the eponymous diocese was built on the site of his execution.

St Alban won the vote by a large margin over St George. In third place was St Cuthbert. I’m a big fan of Cuthbert as well. He was the successor to the successor of St Aidan as bishop of Lindisfarne. I have often suggested to Mrs Holford that we name our next man-child Cuthbert, but she has so far vetoed this choice.

The BBC’s cluelessness about saints is clear. They said his “dramatic life and death caught the attention of many” noting that “he was reputed to have conversed with angels, demonstrated the power to heal, plus legend has it that when his body was dug up over a decade after burial, it hadn't composed”. This doesn’t seem particularly extraordinary for a saint. Not everyone talks with angels, but the gift of healing is, relatively speaking, fairly common and the bodies of lots of saints are found to be incorrupt much more than a decade after death.

I probably would have voted for St Aidan. After all, I think enough of him to have named my first-born for him.

Monday, May 5, 2003

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately, what with the folks visiting and all.

Today we took a day trip to Ross-on-Wye and nearby Goodrich Castle. In all their visits to Herefordshire, my parents had never been to Ross. We visited the Ross Heritage Centre and I was impressed to learn that St Thomas Cantilupe had twice hosted Henry III at the bishop’s palace that was built there. I suppose that whichever bishop built it decided that if he had to be as far away as 15 miles from his main palace next to the cathedral, he should have a spare palace handy. I also learned that this palace had a prison for “delinquent clergy”. I’m not sure what a clergyman had to do to become delinquent, but I’m sure he tried to avoid it, as when the prison was excavated, they found shackles for chaining the prisoners to the wall.

At the Heritage Centre, I was impressed with the audio-visual presentation about the history of the area. I wasn’t impressed with the quality or technology, but rather that they mentioned our family patron, St Dyfrig and the importance of his church at Hentland and his seminary at what is now Llanfrother Farm. (At some point I hope to develop a website about St Dyfrig, but I haven’t had the chance to pull it together.)

After a bit of shopping by Mrs Holford and her mother-in-law, we ate some lunch and then made our way Goodrich.

Goodrich Castle is the only ruin in Herefordshire that is substantially preserved enough for English Heritage to charge admission. Mrs Holford and I have been there before. We decided to take my parents there because Goodrich was hosting medieval entertainment for the bank holiday. The Harlech Medieval Society goes around to various castles in England and Wales putting on displays of 13th century weapons and combat. We have seen them at other venues.

It rained part of the time we were there, and we had to take shelter in the chapel. After the rain was over, we watched mock fights. We were the second show they had done for the day (and probably the fourth over a two-day period). The ground was slippery from the rain. All in all it could have been better. Mrs Holford’s in-laws didn’t seem to enjoy it that much.

Aidan was pretty much oblivious to the whole thing, other than all the kids running everywhere. We had to keep him either in his pram or on his leash to keep him from cuddling any available child.

Posted by david at 02:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 03, 2003

Tonight at bath time we

Tonight at bath time we learned about physics.

This was not our first lesson in the subject. We have previously learned that a fully soaked washrag will not travel very far outside the tub – not nearly as far as the plastic people with basic geometric-shaped bases that fit in the tugboat. We also previously learned that daddy doesn’t appreciate experiments in soaked washrag trajectory.

Tonight we built on a lesson we learned very early on. The impact of a hand against the surface of the water at speed creates a splash. Not as big a splash as daddy can make, but a splash nonetheless. Now back to the soaked washrag. A soaked washrag striking the surface of the water makes a bigger splash than daddy. The displaced water goes everywhere. Unfortunately it also goes into the eyes.

Quality decision time. Is it worth a splash in the eyes to spray water everywhere else? After ten minutes the verdict was unmistakable. You can get used to a little water in the eyes.

This week we have also made a very big life-changing step. Weaning. No more milk from mummy. This has gone so much easier that we would have ever imagined. This was our third night with warm milk in the sippy cup instead of the bedtime breast feed and it went without a hitch. This does not mean that Aidie goes to bed without a fuss. He just goes without fussing about the feeding. Aidie’s two most hated words: bedtime and naptime.

Posted by david at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2003

Today is the 1630th anniversary

Today is the 1630th anniversary of earthly repose of our Father among the Saints Athanasius the Great. St Athanasius was one of the first of the heroes of the Faith of whom I possessed an icon. Not being entirely convinced of the veneration of the holy icons at the time, and being a bit cheap when it came to such things, I bought the smallest icon possible. It also happened to be the one that was in stock at the Orthodox bookstore.

Even then, I knew that if there was a man in the history of the Church to admire and emulate, it was St Athanasius. He was a shining light for orthodoxy during a prolonged struggle within the Church that challenged the most important doctrines upon which she is founded. Barely out of his teens, he published one of the seminal works in the entire body of literature produced by the Fathers of the Church, On the Incarnation. Read it. (And be sure to read the introduction by C S Lewis – it is one of his best essays, and to saw that of Lewis is saying a lot.)

Even as a deacon, he saved the day in that spiritual battlefield that was the Council of Nicea. He argued the truth of the eternal existence of the Son of God, confounding those who would oppose the truth. Nicea was one of the defining events of the Church. It is Athanasius that put the Council in a position to draft the Creed that would forever draw the line between what is Christian belief at its very core and what is not.

But though the Arians might have gone down on the day, they did not go down without a fight. And when they could convince emperors and governors that there was a time when the Son of God was not, they were able by force to depose bishops.

Athanasius contra mundum. Athanasius against the world. The war wasn’t over at Nicea. During his 46 years as bishop of Alexandria, he was exiled five times when Arians got the upper hand. Yet he never stopped fighting the good fight. I’ve known a lot of good men get depressed and give up the ministry of the Gospel for a lot less.

To his final days, he continued to preach and write about doctrine of the Incarnation as he had written about as a youth, and as had been upheld at Nicea.

That we might contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, Holy Father Athanasius, pray to God for us!

Posted by david at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2003

NHS with a Delivery Charge

NHS with a Delivery Charge

Here in the land of free medical care, nearly 60% of general practitioners want to charge for making house calls. They don’t agree on how much should be charged. Some GPs in the Northwest would charge as little as £9, but London doctors want £78.

GPs also want to fine patients who miss appointments. That’s right – issue a fine.

Europe is Dying

Europe’s modern enlightened society will not last long. Since the end of the baby boom and the sexual liberation of the 1960s, the birth rate in Western Europe has dropped below the replacement rate. Between women choosing career over family and killing the babies that get in the way of lifestyle choices, there are not enough new little Europeans to replace the ones filling the graveyards and passing through the crematoriums. There are also not enough young workers to support the state pensions of the lop-sided elderly population that continues to live longer and longer.

Even though France has one of the highest birth rates in the EU, to try to get it at the level of replacement, the French government has announced a scheme to get more women to stay at home and care for children. The government pays €800 for the birth of the first child. It then gives the stay-at-home parent €339 a month for the first six months. This is paid for the second and third child as well.

The Accident of Marriage?

A report commissioned by the Anglican Bishop of Guildford and published yesterday criticised the Church for failing to give adequate support to adult relationships other than marriage. It said: “Whether by accident or design, churches support marriage on an exclusive basis.” It said that pastoral support should also be offered to those in “non-married adult relationships” including cohabiting heterosexuals, as well as lesbian and gay couples.

The bishop said: “Considering that Jesus was single and among his most intimate friends were people in all kinds of relationships, some quite dubious, it is clear we are failing to pattern our ministry on this.” I agree. We should follow his pattern of ministry as say, “Go and sin no more.”

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The King and Fred

Probably the highest profile company headquartered here in the Hereford is Bulmers, the cider producer. It has been sold in the last few days to Scottish & Newcastle, but was originally founded in 1887 by the son of a Hereford clergyman.

Soon after Percy Bulmer started the business using apples from the orchard next to the rectory, he convinced his brother to join him in the venture. His Cambridge-educated brother had been offered the post as tutor to the children of the King of Siam, but he turned it down. The job eventually went to a young woman named Anna Leonowens. The next time you watch the The King and I, think of how different the story would have been if Fred Bulmer hadn’t moved back to Hereford.

Yul Brenner could have probably still played the King, but the role of Fred would have been quite a stretch for Deborah Kerr.

Another Local Claim to Fame

The town of Ludlow, thirty miles north of here and just across the border in Shropshire, has become quite famous these days. It is not known for some of its obvious delights, such as Ludlow Castle, with its very storied past. It has become one of the gastronomic centres of Britain. With a population of less than 10,000, Ludlow has more restaurants in the exclusive Michelin guide than any locality in the UK outside of London.

Now according to a global survey of 300 leading chefs and restaurant critics, the Merchant House has won the Restaurant Magazine Outstanding Value award and was judged fourteenth best restaurant in the world. Not bad for a tiny establishment with seven tables and just one waiter in a sleepy little town in the South Shropshire hills.

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