August 31, 2003

Many Years

Today is Aidan's name day. Unfortunately he had to spend most of it watching us paint. I had hoped we could have gone to church in Shrewsbury today, but we were running out of time to get the house painted before getting carpet down.

He got his presents first thing and then watched a Veggie Tales video while we got ready to go over to the new house.

I had wanted to get him a new Veggie Tales for his name day, as he is wearing out the ones he has. I didn't plan well enough ahead, so we'll have to get it some other time. It will have to be soon, as Mrs H is not sure how much more she can stand of the same songs over and over.

With all the new house prep, mummy didn't have the time or the memory to bake a cake for the day. Fortunately we had a sticky toffee pudding in the freezer which did nicely. Aidie deemed to enjoy it. So did daddy, though daddy had less of it on his face and fingers.

I pray Aidie has many, many more name days and that God will grant him many years.

Posted by david at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2003

Putting a Stop to the Movement of Arms

A seven-year-old boy playing with a plastic gun while travelling on a family holiday caused a highway to be shut down as police cars surrounded him and a helicopter swooped in. After they were forced off the road, little Connor Price's father and older brother were put on the ground and told they would be shot if they moved. Connor and another brother were put into a police car. His mother, granny, and another brother, who were travelling in another car could only watch helpless from behind all the police vehicles.

All the Lancashire police could say was, "We have to take any reports of firearms seriously."

Posted by david at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2003

Escaping Purgatory

As those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning may know, we have been living in limbo since our landlady of three years decided she no longer wanted our rent cheque and put us on the street. We were only supposed to be in our present accommodation for a few weeks. Five months later we are now moving.

Our new neighbourhood isn't far from this one geographically, but it is far removed sociologically. The police are not regular visitors. There don't appear to be an drug dealers. We haven't spent a night in the new place, but I doubt there will be shouting and screaming and fighting in the middle of the night. Best of all, this is a house and not a flat, so no more Stompy the upstairs neighbour moving furniture at 3:00 am.

The new house is unfurnished and I thought I knew what this term meant. I did not realise that in this country, a floor is considered a furnishing. I have never before rented a dwelling that did not have a floor. No carpet, no tile, no wood - nothing. Bare concrete foundation. Not even smooth concrete, as the foundation does not appear to have been laid with optimum care.

The carpet man is coming tomorrow to measure. We bought tiles for the kitchen and we are going to try to do that ourselves. After steaming away the previous occupants' fascination with paper borders, two shades of green are being turned into magnolia, albeit slowly as this is requiring several coats. The woodwork needs stripping from the multiple layers of chipped heavy gloss. The very modest back garden needs mowing and a general overhaul.

It's going to be a busy week, but our redemption draws nigh.

Posted by david at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

Facing Inevitability

If it often said that two things in life are inevitable, death and taxes. However, the difference between the two is that only Enoch and Elijah ever evaded death. And unlike the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles, there's no place on earth to be a "death exile".

I spend a lot of time thinking about death - mostly my own. Perhaps it is telling that my favourite Psalm is the one I am learning to refer to as 89, but as a Protestant always knew as 90, where Moses writes such things as:

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I despair, however, because I am ever numbering my days, but never gaining wisdom. I still fritter them away. Yet, I almost always moan to myself that I've lost yet another day and produced nothing of value for it. I think of all the time I've had off work and the substantive things I could have done with it. There is nothing to show.

I fear death. This is in part because of what is waiting on the other side. Knowing my life of complete unholiness, I dread the Judgment Seat. But I also dread missing anything going on here on this side of the veil. Even in a general since, I am sad to think that the world will go on without me. I don't want to miss anything. More specifically, I don't want to miss any part of Aidan's life. And especially if anything happened to both Mrs H and myself, he wouldn't be brought up in the Orthodox Church.

I lack faith that God will keep him and preserve him. Lord, help my unbelief. Let me stay around to raise him, but help my unbelief.

Posted by david at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2003

Smarter and Smarter

After a brief fascination with the whole idea back in my teen years, when bad eschatology had me convinced of the horrors of computers so big they could hold information on every person on the planet in one room (the sort of thing you could do today with a palm-top), I've not been overly concerned about the Government and high-tech information management. Because of this, I am surprised at the number of items in the news recently that are audacious enough to merit blogging. I am now mentioning this at a rate of every other day.

Well, they've done it yet again. The Government cannot even trial ID cards for the general population without parliamentary approval. The Government doesn't just want ID cards. They want "smart" cards, implanted with a chip carrying biometric data.

While the Home Office doesn't have the credit card-sized ID cards, they do have passports. They are going to be running a trial of creating "smart" passports. They will start with the residents of a small as-of-yet-unnamed market town, to see how they react to the use of fingerprinting and eye-scanning. If they go like sheep to the slaughter, without any of that silly bleating about civil liberties, then the scheme will be introduced across the entire population.

According to The Times today, The Home Office insisted that the scheme would be carried out on behalf of the UK Passport Service in preparation for the introduction of “smart” passports.

But a spokesman admitted that the information from the trial could be used if a national identity card system were introduced.

The UK Passport Service’s business plan for the next five years, published this year, showed that officials were hoping to begin to implement the “smart” passports by April 2005.

That's 20 months away. The ID cards will not be far behind.

Posted by david at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2003

Shrouded in Darkness

Today the planet Mars passes closer to the Earth that it has in a long, long time. Since astronomers calculate that this is the closest it has been in the last 60,000 years, for young earth creationists this means that it is the closest it has ever been.

As many of you will know I have long been a proponent of Martian exploration. Mrs H will tell you that I am always looking forward to buying Aidie his first telescope. But even if he was old enough to have one now, it would be a total waste tonight. The UK is inconveniently covered with clouds.

Since Mars will appear just about as bright for the next few weeks, I am hopeful that the clouds will break for at least one evening.

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

Promoting What?

Somehow I doubt that this piece I received from a friend by e-mail is apocryphal. It just sounds to good not to be true:

On TV the other day a reporter was interviewing the Alabama judge who
refused to take down the ten commandments from the courthouse grounds.

"You're promoting the Christian religion," she said. "Would you allow a
Torah to be on display here?"

Posted by david at 08:57 PM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2003

Chipping Away at Privacy

As I mentioned recently, the Government are planning to install tracking microchips in cars within four years. But it isn't just the Government that wants to know where you are. Businesses are interested as well.

Marks & Spencer are planning to insert tiny chips in each of its suits, beginning this autumn. These Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices will send out radio signals which can be tracked by scanners. Initially the signal will have to be read from no more than 5 metres distance. The chips are about the size of a grain of sand and available for just a few pence each, so the wearer will notice nothing either in the clothing or its cost. Tesco and Asda have similar plans for their products.

There is nothing to keep the Government from tuning into the same frequencies and tracking the wearer. Initially, this would not be difficult in cities, since an individual already isn't much farther than 5 metres from the Government's CCTV at any time. Just add a little scanner to the side of the camera and presto! Big Brother is watching you in two ways at the same time.

This is not just idle speculation. According to The Times, the Government has been sponsoring RFID trials. As soon as Gordon Brown decides its time to ditch the pound and join the Euro, as long as you have money in your wallet, you will be tracked everywhere. The European Central Bank plans to put the RFID granules in euro banknotes.

RFID is not something that is confined to Europe. In fact, it is much further along in the US. A pressure group, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (Caspian), has already forced Gillette, Benetton, and Wal-Mart to back down from RFID. Gillette has actually been setting up cameras to take mug shots of customers who picked up the Mach3 razor. They have been doing this in the UK as well, as reported in the Guardian last month:

The supermarket chain Tesco has admitted testing controversial technology that tracks customers buying certain products through its stores. Anyone picking up Gillette Mach3 razor blades at its Cambridge store will have his or her picture taken.

But back to the US, as reported in The Times today:

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Unilever are working with the Auto-ID Centre, part of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, to develop the common standard that would allow RFID tags to gain widespread adoption.

It would appear that Government and big business have a keen interest in knowing what we are buying, when we are buying it, where we are going with it, and what we are doing with it.

Posted by david at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

"The Stump is Black, the Foot is White...

...together they learn to walk upright, what a beautiful sight."

Okay, so that isn't actually one of the verses to the song by Three Dog Night, but it was originally the hope of the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust. As an amputee, this is a story for which I just couldn't pass up comment.

Apparently Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals builds prostheses like Henry Ford built Model T cars - available in any colour, as long as it is white. Ingrid Nicholls is about to have an operation which will involved removing her foot. She is a woman of mixed race whose natural skin colour is decidedly dark. However, she was told she would have to pay for an artificial limb if she wanted a black foot.

A spokeswoman for the Trust admitted to the BBC, "She was originally told she would have to pay more for any other colour, but that has now been resolved." Apparently, they were able to dig around in the tax-funded coffers and find some money to pony up for it.

Not being one to ever be accused of being politically correct, I'm usually not moved by people who feel "angry and hurt". But here is a woman who is about to lose a major body part and face a life of disability and disfigurement. Then she is told that she is only entitled to have a white skin as the cosmetic as well as functional replacement for her foot.

Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority said it was all a "misunderstanding". A misunderstanding. A misunderstanding? Your foot is a size 6 and we gave you a 7? That's a misunderstanding. You needed it this week instead of next week? That's a misunderstanding. Black patients have to pay for black prostheses while white people get white prostheses for free? That is not a misunderstanding. That is simply outrageous.

Posted by david at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2003

In the Footsteps of the Saints

While on holiday in the Vale of Glamorgan, we set aside a day for pilgrimaging. This area of South Wales was a hot spot for saints in the sixth century.

We first drove to St Athans, which is named for St Tathan, who founded the church in that place. This St Tathan was the nephew of St Illtyd, not to be confused with the other St Tathan from South Wales who was based around Caerwent. Unfortunately, the St Tathan's Church was locked up with no information as to the whereabouts of the key.

We went from there to the town of Llantwit Major, or as it is in Welsh Llanilltud Fawr, "the great church of Illtyd". It was one of the great monastic centres of Britain founded by one of the great saints of Britain. He was converted to Christ by St Cadoc and ordained by St Dyfrig and taught St Samson of Dol.

The Church at Llantwit Major is really two different foundations. The west church has a few remnants of the Norman period, but it is on the very site of St Illtyd's foundation. Immediately adjacent, and separated only by internal plexiglass doors, is the east church. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

As I stood in the west church and looked at the intricately carved stone crosses between five and six feet tall that have been recovered and are preserved in the back of the nave, I realised that I was standing in the very place where some of the greatest heroes of the faith in Britain stood and worshipped in the Liturgy and the prayer cycle of the Church. It was here that St David, the patron of Wales, learned to be a monk. It is likely that on that very spot our family patron, St Dyfrig entrusted the holy priesthood to St Samson. North Wales was also evangelised thanks to St Illtyd and Llantwit Major, as St Deniol of Bangor trained and was sent out from here.

On the way back to Barry from Llantwit Major, we travelled up country lanes to the village of Llancarfan. We found the church there locked as well, but there was a notice that the key could be obtained from either of two houses across the street.

It was here that St Illtyd placed himself under the authority of St Cadoc after having received the monastic tonsure from St Dyfrig. The spiritual foundation of Llantwit Major was laid in Llancarfan. It may have only had 1000 monks (whereas Llantwit Major had a population of 3000 monks in its heyday), but it was very important place.

Key in hand, we entered the church only to find no photocopied pamphlet on the history of the parish. There is nothing to let the casual visitor know the significance of that place. The church is currently without a vicar and as the lady who provided the explained, things are not as well organised as they could be.

As we returned from our day out, I reflected on how life has changed since the Age of Saints. In each community everyone was going about their business, oblivious to how it played an important role in the conversion of an Island and the salvation of countless souls.

Posted by david at 02:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2003

Big Brother, Where Art Thou?

In most things, the UK lags behind the rest of the EU, generally sceptical of ideas immanating from Brussels. This time the Government here is a step ahead. Brussels would like to be able to track the drug smugglers and terrorists across Europe using electronic vehicle identification. The UK Government wants to use it for so much more.

The Government here is hoping to microchip every vehicle. This will save the lots of money. Not only will is save money, it will make lots and lots of money. It will save the cost of traffic cops -- what few of them there are left. It will save the cost of speed cameras which have by and large replaced the cops. All a car has to do is travel from one roadside sensor to another. The speed is calculated by a computer, which can then print off the citation and address it to the registered owner of the car.

But it isn't just a explosion in speeding fines that will have the coffers overflowing. The chip will also notify the Government when the road tax disc, MOT, or insurance has expired. It will even know when the car is parked illegally or following too closely on the motorway. A feasibility study prepared by the Association of Chief Police Officers has listed 47 possible applications for the chip. Every possible minor offence will be charged and paid for and the computer won't have to listen to any excuses, whether good, bad, or indifferent.

The Government will also know everywhere every car travels. Can't remember which day you visited family in Wales or friends in the Midlands? The Government can. Can't remember with whom you associated at a political meeting? Well, you won't have the records, but the Government will be able to correlate all of the chips at a particular location at a particular time. I'm sure any of my intelligent readers can extrapolate the implications from there.

The Government wants to get every car tagged within the next four years. As for the network of roadside sensors, well, surprise! it's already in place.

Posted by david at 10:01 PM | Comments (3)

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

While we were in Barry, we wandered into a local bookshop twice. The first time, Mrs Holford was stocking up on her supply of fiction (she is a fan of the John Grisham sort of stuff) and I was looking at the local interest collection.

During the second visit, she found several books on teaching your children Welsh. Aidie is at that stage where he can absorb two languages at the same time and be functionally bilingual from the start. The only problem is that I speak no Welsh and Mrs H hasn't studied it since she was about 12 or 13. She's really good at road signs and place names (all the road signs in Wales are bilingual), and can remember basic phrases, but that's about it.

She is now seriously considering taking an adult education class in the language so she can pass it on to Aidie. Wanting to be as involved as possible I bought Welsh in Three Months. However, as my schedule is about to get very busy learning other things, I'm not sure how much time I will have for a new language.

If I'm lucky soon I will be able to have such important conversations as:

Sut dych chi'n hoffi eich te, yn gryf neu yn wan?
Fel mae'n dod, Mrs Jones.
Oes digon o laeth yn hwn?
Oes, diolch, eitha digon.
Gymerwch chi fisgien?
Diolch yn fawr. Oes te ar ol?
Oes, llond tebot.

This is translated as:

How do you like your tea, strong or weak?
As it comes, Mrs Jones.
Is there enough milk in it?
Yes thanks, quite enough.
Will you have a biscuit?
Thanks very much. Is there any tea left?
Yes, a potful.

Aidie, on the other hand, will be able to get a job with the government in Wales, where any position advertised that requires working with the public invariably states that Welsh speakers are preferred. This is because there is an outside chance that the post holder could be required to meet with one of the half-dozen Welsh monoglots left.

He could also appear in any one of several Welsh-language soap operas on the Welsh-language TV station. From what I can tell from the little bit that I have watched, acting ability isn't essential.

Posted by david at 03:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2003

We're Back!

We have been away since Monday. I wanted to let readers know we would be gone and that there would not be any new entries in these Diversions until today. However, on the subject of publicly announcing our absence from home, Mrs Holford's position on this was, "Why don't you just tell them our address as well?"

So instead of an announcement, we just slipped away in the dead of night. Well, actually we left mid-morning, but you know what I mean.

As we have not been in a position to afford a proper holiday this year, some friends offered us the use of their home in Barry while they were away in the Southwest. So from Monday until today, we had a brief respite from Purgatory in relative Paradise.

The only thing we didn't have was internet access, so I have quite a few things to blog about. For today's entries, they will run from earliest to latest. Ignore the time stamping.

Posted by david at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh Where?

On Tuesday, we went to the Bristol Zoo. It is a rather well-known attraction around these parts and we figured that Aidie was old enough to appreciate seeing in real life the animals he had seen on videos and in storybooks. When you go to the zoo, you expect to see typical zoo animals.

For £8.90 at the Bristol Zoo, you get to see lots of exhibits on conservation. You get to see displays of how much garbage there is the world. You even get to see the skins of dead animals that have been confiscated by Customs and Excise and they were being illegally imported. What you don't get to see are tigers, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos (except a couple of the pygmy variety), chimps, orangutans, leopards, jaguars, antelope, zebras, or bears (except for one small red panda the size of a small dog that hid in the brush).

The total big cat population is one lion and one lioness. They were so boring that when the lioness actually got up and walked across the enclosure briefly, a small crowd of visitors formed to see this amazing spectacle.

The feeding of the seals attracted the biggest crowd. This was not because the seals did anything particularly amazing. They pretty much just showed up when someone arrived with a bucket of fish. Now I say they didn't do anything amazing. This is really only a guess, as we were forced back away from the fence by a family apparently culturally unaccustomed to the idea that it is rude to push in front of people. Apparently in their culture, the men force and opening in the crowd and then call in the rest of the family to quickly fill it.

I'm not denying that there are interesting things to see at the Bristol Zoo. I particularly enjoyed the meerkats. They behaved just as I had seen on a wildlife programme on the telly. While most of them dig in the dirt for a supper of insects, one of them is posted as an outlook. She sits on the top of a pole, turning her head in excess of 180° while her body remains motionless.

I liked the capybaras. As a long-time aficionado of rodents, it is nice to see a variety the size of small cows. They were hanging out with the more beaver-sized and energetic agoutis, while the capybaras were content to remain rather motionless.

Mrs H wasn't particularly impressed with any of it.

Aidan seemed mildly interested in most of the creatures, but was mostly keen on getting the attention of all the other small children. He is quite a social animal himself. He like the exhibit about the endangered species, but that was because he could touch the large stuffed gorilla. I'm not talking about a gorilla that had been stuffed, but rather a giant stuffed animal in the shape of a gorilla produced by a toy company.

Maybe we will try the zoo again when he is a little bit older. And I think we will try a different zoo.

Posted by david at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

Feeding Time at the Zoo

Don't go hungry to the Bristol Zoo, or that's what you very well may do while you are there. We decided to stop at one of the eateries inside the premises for some "fast food." After all, it had all the hallmarks of a fast food establishment. There was a queue of people standing in front of a heavily acned adolescent. There were heat lamps atop sloping metal trays onto which cardboard boxes would occasionally appear and slide to the bottom. There was the sound of chipped potatoes frying the background.

I should have sensed trouble when I noticed lots of people standing around with rather gloomy looks on their faces. This didn't immediately register until after I had placed my order and moved away from the counter. Occasionally pimple boy would leave the till and go over to the stack of food behind him, call out an itemized order than failed to match the previously indicated desires of anyone in the room, shrug and go back to working the queue of victims.

At one point he called out the items I ordered and placed the requisite number of boxes on the counter. I lept forward and embraced them, then smuggled them past the glares of other would had been waiting much longer. When I got to the table Mrs H had been holding outside, we opened the cardboard boxes to discover nothing but chips inside. I returned through the huffing crowd and placed the boxes on counter declaring the contents were not what Spotty had called out. He said he knew this already. I was sorely tempted to query something like, "Why did you bloody well call out two chicken and chips and one child's sausage and chips???" Instead, I just involuntarily shook my head and rejoined the frowning crowd.

Finally the zitmeister had had enough of serving disgruntled customers, so he turned away everyone who had yet to place an order. Some had been waiting patiently for ten or fifteen minutes. He just declared that he would be taking no more orders for at least 30 minutes, so would everyone just please go away.

Sometime after this, Mrs H appeared in the doorway to inform me that our food had been delivered to our table by one of his able assistants. I'm not sure how this happened, but I didn't ask any questions. Each box contained an enormous amount of chips and sure enough, nestled in underneath them was a piece of chicken.

Posted by david at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2003

In Appreciation of All Your Hard Work

It's not just patients who are treated callously by the NHS here in Hooterville. They don't take care of their own very well, either. A staff nurse at the hospital recently retired after 27 years and received a retirement gift of £58 from Hereford Hospitals Trust. That's about £2 for each year of service.

You think that stingy? As usual, the story doesn't end there, and of course it gets worse.

Her gift was followed up by a letter from the trust claiming that she had been overpaid £154.75 and threatening legal action. This does not take into account the many hours of unpaid overtime she put in over more than a quarter century. The overpayment was not even due to any fault of her own. The department in which she worked didn't give enough notice to the finance department to stop her pay in time.

Posted by david at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

Captive Audience

I had the misfortune to use the public loo in the middle of Worcester yesterday. It wasn't the state of the facilities that I found particularly disgusting - though they weren't particularly clean. No, it was the state of the personals advertised in pen on the stall frame.

It is not uncommon to see, "For a good time, ring..." or "For [homosexual act of your choice] ring..." with a mobile phone number. Now the internet has made things easier and the graffitied area larger. The most recent ad writer in my stall included his email address and even a Yahoo group URL in case I was interested in pics, before deciding whether to engage in a vile act.

I'm sure this sort of advertising works, or it wouldn't be so pervasive. I just wish I didn't have to see it.

Posted by david at 01:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2003


Congratulations are in order for Orthoblogger Clifton D. Healy and his wife Anna, on the birth of their daughter Sofie Ruth two days ago.

His blogging of late understandably includes a lot of segments entitled "The Fatherhood Chronicles".

Many years!

Posted by david at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

When Health Care Becomes an Oxymoron

It may have taken a year for me to get a simple medical test procedure on the NHS, from the time I was rushed to hospital and almost prepped for surgery on a suspected rupture bowel. And it may have taken five hours for them to find me an available bed while they kept me doped up on morphine to keep me from complaining. At least I wasn't dripping with blood with my face ripped apart.

Last Saturday here in Hooterville, an eight-year-old boy had an accident on his bicycle and smashed his face into the pavement. As his mother recounted to a local newspaper, he was "covered in blood, his gums were ripped apart and his face was twice the size where it was already swelling up." She rushed him to the A&E (what we call the ER in this country). Without rendering any care or assistance to him, the boy was kept in the waiting room for four hours, wearing only his jeans and shoes. He wasn't even offered a blanket.

When he was finally seen by a doctor at around midnight, his mouth was ignored and a band-aid was stuck on his elbow. He was given no pain killers, no antibiotics to ward off infection, nothing. The doctor just told his mother to take him to the dentist the next morning.

When she was able to get him in to see a dentist the next day, he was finally prescribed medication and x-rays revealed that his jaw was broken. When she returned to the hospital, they weren't sympathetic, not to even mention apologetic. Instead, they said the x-rays were wrong, even though they stilll hadn't looked at his injuries.

Posted by david at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

Not to be Outdone

The British NHS may have compassions problems, but in that ever competitive cross-channel rivalry, the French are not to be outdone. If the British can be uncaring, the Frogs can be even more callous.

A British tourist in France was left to die alone in a coma, because neither the French hospital staff nor the French authorities could be arsed to inform his family. Maurice Lee was browsing in a gift shop when he suddenly collapsed from a stroke and was rished to hospital. It was after nine days, when he hadn't returned home, that his wife contacted the police.

Mrs Lee said, “It was an appalling bureaucratic nightmare and a very harrowing experience. If you’re going to have a stroke don’t do it in France. The French authorities didn’t take any steps to find out who he was. The hospital’s attitude was simply ‘We are here to care for sick people not find their families’.”

But the French don't want you to think that their hard hearts are limited to callous disregard. No, they want to take a more active role in promoting misery. After the family rushed to his bedside, during the four remaining days he had to live, they were only allow to spend one hour per day with him. So out of a total of his last thirteen days, they were allowed to be with him four hours.

Oh, but there's more... While Mr Lee lay dying in his coma, the hospital, which had somehow come into possession of his car, would not allow his wife of 28 years to have his car keys. They required Mr Lee's written consent. The written consent of a man in a coma.

Posted by david at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Honesty, Asceticism, and Logic

In all the bruhaha over the election of Gene Robinson and the election and withdrawal of Jeffrey John as bishops in the Anglican communion, some distinction was made between Canon Robinson, who is open active in his sexual relationship outside of marriage, and Canon John, who claims to not be.

At least Canon John has come clean about one thing. He is clear in his belief that gay clergy need not be celibate, even if he is. Since he is in a long-term committed relationship, I'm not sure why he is so emphatic about the lack of active sexual expression in it, if it doesn't matter anyway.

In a set of essays to be published next week, as reported in The Times, he says “A covenanted homosexual partnership involves no less demand for self-denial than a heterosexual marriage (arguably rather more in the face of social and ecclesiastical hostility), and is no less a school for sacrificial love.”

It seems to me that he would have to logically argue that not only is it not necessary to refrain from sexual relations, but if these relationships are the equivalent of marriage, then homosexual acts should not be avoided. Doesn't the imperative "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time" apply here?

Canon John is not big on the ascetical life generally, as he says, “There is nothing good about self-denial for its own sake (on the contrary, it generally has a warping effect), nor does God demand pointless and arbitrary sacrifices.” He was referring to this in the context of sex, in essence saying that to deny the craving of homosexual sex is warping and pointless.

In his views, Canon John has the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. We should not take the Canon's withdrawal under the Archbishop's pressure as indicative of the Archbishop's lack of support in principle. Rowan Williams simply sacrificed his principles in an attempt to salvage the impending Anglican schism. Williams' 1997 essay on the issue is being republished and he has specifically asked that nothing be changed from the original.

Again, as reported in The Times, the Archbishop sets out "a possible case for active same-sex relationships by arguing that revisionists who support 'sexual expression' for homosexuals may, like evangelicals, be trying to be faithful to the Bible." This is what happens when the Bible is separated from the Apostolic Tradition and is understood in terms of whoever makes the best case.

Posted by david at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2003

Explicable Silence

I've been getting e-mail from readers wondering why I haven't commented on the election of Gene Robinson as an Episcopal bishop.

There's not a lot to say that hasn't already been said. The subject has filled every other corner of the blogosphere.

I'll sum up my views:

The problem with the Episcopal Church is not that it has elected an bishop who is actively engaged in buggery. Any open, visible sexual relationship outside of marriage is wrong and should be a disqualification for any holy orders, because it should be a disqualification for any communicant relationship with any Christian organization claiming to be part of the Church. Gene Robinson shouldn't be coming near the Holy Table, not to mention purporting to celebrate at it. Again, not because he is gay - because he is in open, flagrant scandalous sin.

Since the Episcopal Church doesn't recognise sexual sin, this is all a moot point. If this organization doesn't believe that there is anything wrong with relationships outside of marriage amongst the laity, it would be hypocritical to suggest that there should be a different standard for the clergy. I think the Episcopal Church is just being honest with itself and with everyone else.

Posted by david at 11:00 PM | Comments (3)

August 13, 2003

The Weight of Bureaucracy

As you may remember reading, I have been trying for some time to get paperwork from the Government. I finally received it today.

My file consisted of a ream of paper (I'm not exaggerating), but they didn't send me the one piece of paper I wanted. The one that they could have just photocopied at the local office. The one that has a series of my signatures on it.

They spent £17.50 in postage, not to mention the photocopying costs, in toner, wear and tear, and employee time. All of this because I wanted to a copy of one piece of paper I still don't have.

Posted by david at 09:41 PM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2003

Return of the Creature from Space

Well, the Granada didn't work out. This is basically because the Granada didn't work. On Saturday we headed out toward Ross when it died. (What is it about trips to Ross-on-Wye? That's when the old crate died.) We didn't even get out of the housing estate. With six stop-and-starts we managed to get it back in front of our flat. It seems to be a bad fuel pump. Fords are notorious for that failure.

So it is back to the only other automatic, the Space Cruiser - hole in the dash and all.

Posted by david at 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2003

I've Been Blogging

While it appears that I haven't had much to say lately, I've actually been in a comments discussion on a piece back in the archives. This deals with the validity of making generalised comments (positive or negative) about ethnic groups.

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

August 10, 2003

Hot Hot Hot

For most of you in the States, this won't seem remarkable.

The high temperature record in Britain has been shattered today. It was so shattered that we recorded the very first 100°F day ever. The record was broken earlier in the day at Heathrow Airport, when it recorded 99.32°F, but the sun wasn't finished quite yet. Heathrow eventually topped out at 100.6°F. The new record, however, was set at Gravesend, Kent when it regstered 100.8°F.

The real losers were the bookies. William Hill alone will be paying out £250,000 on bets that the thermometer would reach 100°F. The odds were 25-1.

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

August 09, 2003

Consequences of a Growing Boy

I Meandered about it when I announced Aidie’s impending birth. I have blogged about it since. Shoes. Children’s shoes.

Aidie has three perfectly good pairs of shoes. Now they don’t fit. He hasn’t had them for very long at all. Even with his rough-and-tumble way, they have hardly a mark on them. But his time as a 4½ has come and gone forever. His 5½ feet just won’t squeeze into them anymore. I have no doubt that his new size 6s won’t last long at all.

And they normally aren’t cheap. Mrs Holford, being the bargain hunter and gatherer than she is, found Nike trainers for £12. We aren’t the kind of parents who want our child wearing name-brand accessories, but they were actually cheaper than more generic models available. (The ones from Clark’s are £25.) This isn’t the best she’s done. His last pair were Reeboks for £6. Her record was set in the States, when she picked up Winnie-the-Pooh trainers for $4.

Still, shelling out even these amounts over and over and over again, in intervals that can be measured in weeks, is significant. He’s only been walking since January and he’s had eight pairs of shoes. That averages one pair a month.

We got summer clothes for him in April as things began to warm up. (We had no idea then that it would get as warm as it has!) It’s now only August and he’s outgrown them all.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except that he is the first grandchild on either side of his family, so there aren’t any hand-me-downs. The only good thing is that as he’s grown out of them before wearing them out, they will be available for the next one. Unless we have a girl, of course.

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

August 08, 2003

Can't Get It Out of My Head

Cebu... (cebu...) Cebu... (cebu...)
achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo moo moo

Aidie is only just old enough to sit through significant portions of Veggie Tales videos and too young to learn the songs.

Mrs Holford and I, on the other hand, were singing the Song of the Cebu all day.

Posted by david at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

Trading Tanks

The Holfords have returned from our space cruise. I rang the rental company about the need to fix various defects on the Toyota and to renew for another week, since this was their only automatic. Providentially, they had an automatic come in as a part exchange for another car.

Now we have a car that locks. The fuel gauge even works, so we can see exactly how much petrol it is guzzling. Unlike the Space Cruiser, it even has a radio. It doesn't work, because there is a tape stuck in the cassette player, but at least there isn't a giant hole in the dashboard.

And just because it isn't seven-seater doesn't mean it isn't huge. We are now driving the just about the largest car in Britain - and H-reg Ford Granada with what is probably a 3-litre engine. We own the road.

Posted by david at 11:27 PM | Comments (1)

August 07, 2003

Miracles Do Happen... Well, Sorta

I know I have been gone from the States for a long time when I look at the Major League Baseball standings and the Royals are at the top of their division. Admittedly this is only the case because MLB has split the leagues into three divisions, as they only have the 5th best record in the American League.

I was a Royals fan back in the late 80s and early 90s, when they were really getting into their downward slide from the glory year of 1985.

Posted by david at 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003

The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the great feasts of the Orthodox Church. It has been celebrated since the 4th century in the East.

The Transfiguration didn’t make a lot of sense to before I was Orthodox. This may be why it wasn't really celebrated in the West until the ninth century by monastics and wasn't observed generally until 1456. Conversely, in the Armenian Church it is a three-day feast.

The importance of the the Transfiguration is at least three-fold.

First, it is a theophany. It reveals God to us and that Jesus is Himself God. The voice of the Father from heaven proclaims this. It confirms the Triune nature of God.

The Transfiguration is the demonstration in the Gospels of the Orthodox understanding of salvation. It is theosis observed. Jesus, fully human and unresurrected, allows the three Holy Apostles of the "inner circle" to see what the divine energies look like.

It also demonstrates to us the validity of saints appearing on the earth. Before I was Orthodox, I always though appearance of the Theotokos and various other saints was just a bit o' weirdness. But here we have two people who have been gone from the earth for a long time and they show up on the mountain. They are also immediately recognised by the disciples.

Happy Feast!

Posted by david at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2003

The Death of Europe

As euthanasia became legalised in the Netherlands and other countries liberalised their positions assisted suicide, it was portrayed as a means of merciful death for a few suffering people. A study of the deaths of those over 80 in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland has produced scary results.

At most, two-thirds of the deaths was of natural causes. As some of the deaths involved illegal procedures, some of the doctors surveyed may have been less than forthcoming. Some of the countries in the study are more dangerous than others for octogenarians.

If you are over 80, do not go to Switzerland. Stay away. At least 51 percent of the deaths were due to euthanasia. Over half.

Euthanasia or assisted suicide were a factor in 38 percent of octogenarian deaths in Belgium, 41 percent in Denmark, 44 percent in the Netherlands and 36 percent in Sweden. The safest place to be was Italy, where less than 1 in 4 were helped along to the other side.

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

Finishing the Race

Our bishop, His Eminence, Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bloom) of the Moscow Patriarchate Diocese of Sourozh this afternoon passed from this life to the next.

May his memory be eternal!

Posted by david at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2003

Big Witness

We haven’t been big Big Brother watchers. We watch a bit during the first series, because it was a novel concept. It has gotten more and more boring by the year. However, it is impossible not to know some of what is going on, when it fills the tabloids and even drifts over into the broadsheets.

This year it appears that the producers, Endemol, chose 12 people least likely to get on each other's nerves, in an attempt to actually get someone to have sex in the house. This seems a bit strange. First, the British contestants seem disinclined to do anything intimate in front of the camera. More importantly, Channel 4, which has no qualms about showing sex and the nudest of nudity otherwise, cuts away from the live Big Brother feed at the hint of anything remotely risqué about to happen.

Nonetheless, in this godless society, who would have thought that the winner would be a 32-year-old Christian virgin? Maybe it would have been more likely if he had acted in some sort of scandalous way or otherwise made Christianity look bad, even with careful editing by the producers. All they could show was him getting along very well with everyone. Even at times when after weeks locked in with the others he would get a little frustrated, he would express terrible regret if he even said an unkind word in the Diary Room.

Cameron probably doesn’t believe in patron saints, but if he did, his would be St Bartholomew, in words of Jesus, “ whom there is no deceit.” As I watched the "Big Brother: The Winner's Story" tonight, it was clear that what you see is what you get with Cameron. He didn't talk about Jesus, or church, or anything else -- or if he did, it wasn't included in the final cut -- he was just himself. That was witness enough.

I also watched the final programme of the contest, where the winner is announced. Being live, it is more difficult for anything to be cut out. When he was asked what he was going to do with the £70,000 prize money, he said the first thing was to buy a new piano for his church.

At first I had to wonder why a Christian would go on Big Brother, and expose themselves to such media scrutiny and ridicule. It shouldn't come as a surprise that even those who have never been in the tabloids are on Big Brother. The world is watching. Isn’t that what we are all called to do? We aren't even supposed to go looking for a place where the cameras can't reach. Even as fish trader Cameron Stout acquitted himself well, “Let your light so shine before men...”

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

More Euro-Rights

A beggar in Nottingham has been given £5000 of taxpayer money. It's not for food or shelter or clothing. In fact, she won't be getting the money at all. It will go directly to her lawyer. She's been given legal aid to sue Nottingham City Council.

Margaret Edlin is suing under the human rights act. The City Council has imposed an injunction on her in a crackdown on persistent and aggressive beggars. Begging is illegal in the UK. She has been convicted of begging 18 times in the last 18 months. She believes the human rights act gives her the right to beg anywhere she wants to.

It seems odd that she is suing the City of Nottingham for preventing her from breaking the law, at least within its precincts. After all, the City Council doesn't make the laws, nor does it enforce them.

You may think this is a bit far-fetched. After all, a greengrocer in South London tried to use a clause in the act granting the right to “impart information without interference by public authority”. He wanted to sell his produce in pounds and ounces that his customers understand rather than the grams imposed by Brussels. He was unsuccessful.

However, last year it was found that prisoners have the right to possess pornography. This seems to fall under the the right to receive information enshired in the act. Everyone has the right to the "information" provided by porn, but not the information provided by weighing scales.

So don't be surprised if Margaret Edlin wins the right to break the law wherever she pleases.

Posted by david at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2003

The Show Must Go On

Today the Holfords took the Space Cruiser to the Llanthony Show. Shows are a bit like country fairs, except that the latter usually last several days and have more booths. Shows focus on the local livestock and produce, combined with a bit of fun and games. Mrs Holford grew up going to the Llanthony Show and when we saw the sign advertising it a couple of days ago, I suggested that Aidie and I should share in its delights.

Llanthony is a wonderfully picturesque place to spend a day. As we sat on the side of a hill watching the various activities in the arena below, we also looked directly across to another green Welsh mountain, flanked on either side by the same. With the little Honddu brook running through, it is easy to see how St David thought this was the ideal place to get away from it all. So did William de Lacy 600 years later when he founded the monastery that gave the place its name. ("Llanthony" is a contraction of Llan Dewi Nant Honddu - the Church of St David on the Honddu.)

Today, Llanthony was also a very sunny place to spend a day. It wasn't unbearable hot and there were broken clouds, but sunscreen was definitely in order. Aidan was coated in SPF35 before leaving the big brown box on wheels. I wasn't.

It wasn't until about three hours later, during the three-legged race -- or was it the race for dogs under 15 inches -- that I noticed the pink shade on my arms getting brighter and brighter. I decided that expensive baby sunscreen or not, I was going to spread it liberally on my exposed parts. It was too little, too late. Or at least I'd hate to think what I'd look and feel like if I hadn't used it when I did.

By 4:00, I needed some rest and some shade. This is when I discovered that the locks on the Spacemobile had finally given up for good. I used the key in the manner prescribe (as outlined in yesterday's blog) and it turned the tumblers, but the lock did not release. So now picture in your mind this fat, crippled man crawling into the boot, over two sets of seats to reach an interior lock. Yep, that was me.

The culmination of the show, and Mrs Holford's favourite bit, is the Pony Rodeo, which as the name implies, is a bit of Wales meets the North American West. When these two cultures merge, a rodeo becomes a one-event half-hour competition. Wild mountain ponies are rounded up and brought down in a lorry. A sufficiently inebriated or otherwise reckless young man or woman (yes, there were at least three women) climbs onto the back of the pony and in typical rodeo fashion, the chute is opened. The rider (if you can even call them that) typically lasts about two seconds.

They only have about ten ponies, so after the first ten riders, they have to round up the ponies and herd them back into the truck. Watching the wild ponies in a pack and the men working them was like something out of The Man From Snowy River (the good original, with Kirk Douglas in two roles, not the sequel with Brian Dennehy). One of the poines was never ridden, because both times it reared up in the stall and wouldn't let a rider mount it. It looked like it was waving to the crowd.

A women actually had the longest ride (though admittedly the horse was disappointingly docile), but she hurt her back in her relatively easy dismount, so she couldn't ride in the final. Once they announced the winner, we headed home.

On the way, we picked up a man and little girl hitchhiking. They were from Germany and were camping in Llanfihangel Crucorney, the village where the Llanthony road meets the main Hereford to Abergavenny road. We had already passed his wife and son, but by the time we found a place to pull over, someone else had picked them up. They were hiking and camping along Offa's Dyke Path and heard about the Show. It was the first time I had picked up a hitchhiker since 1992 on the Isle of Skye. He was German, too.

I wish I had some great moral or spiritual twist to this incredibly long story. But sometimes it's just good to have a day out, even if you end up a bright shade of red.

Posted by david at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2003

Lost in Space

In our search for a new family car, we have had to hire a vehicle so we could go looking. Not wanting to spend our entire budget with a name-brand rental company, we went to an old client of mine.

Those on the other side of the Atlantic may not realise that cars with automatic transmissions are not particulary plentiful here. My old client, who rents most cars for £40 a week, as opposed to the going rate of nearly £40 a day, has one automatic.

Most car hire establishments rent new vehicles. If they aren't brand new, they are at least on the current year's registration plate. We hired a D-reg. That's a 1987, in American-speak.

We can't complain about the roominess. The only automatic in stock -- ever in stock -- is a Toyota Space Cruiser. It's a seven-seater. Yes, we rented a 16-year-old minivan. It is a site to behold.

I'm not sure when the Space Cruiser went out of production. Actually, I'm not sure why it even went into production. You can find just about any hideous thing on the internet. The Space Cruiser is so hideous that just about the only place you can find it is on The Ugliest Cars in Britain website. And even in this fuzzy photo, it is evident that it is they used an improvement on the 1987 model.

After 16 years, one of the problems that seems to develop with the Space Cruiser is the functionality of the locks. When my old client Phil tried to get into the vehicle, he couldn't get the key to work. He went back into his office to make sure there wasn't a different key for it. Eventually he found that the boot was open and he crawled over three sets of seats to get to the front and open the driver's door from the inside.

Eventually we got the key to work on the driver's side -- but only the driver's side -- with a move down and a wiggle to the left before turning. And since the boot doesn't have an interior latch, this means that the boot doesn't lock. In this neighbourhood, having a vehicle that doesn't lock is not an option. Unless, of course, it is a Toyota Space Cruiser.

Posted by david at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)