February 26, 2005

Left Hungry

At first it was just a local interest story. Now it has made the front pages of the national newpapers.

Until she went the US a couple of weeks ago, Tilly Merrell had never had a thing to eat. At 8 years old, her first meal was a burger with cheese, bacon, egg and ham, and some hash browns. And who does she have to thank for the years of hunger? The good ol' National Health Service.

When Tilly was a baby she had a viral infection. Some food got caught in her lungs, which led to several bouts of pneumonia. Needless to say, the infections cleared up, but doctors in here in England decided that she had bulbar palsy and if she ever ate the tiniest morsel of food, it would go into her lungs and she would die.

Tilly's mother found a clinic in the US that had previously treated bulbar palsy. With the aid of the local community, and an appeal on the regional TV news, her family raised the £10,000 required for treatment in the States.

The only thing the British doctors didn't do was research. When they got to California, the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her. They could see that Tilly showed none of the neurological symptoms usually associated with bulbar palsy. All she had was enlarged tonsils.

They unhooked the tube to her stomach and her feeding backpack that had to go with her everywhere. That's right - 7½ years of without a bite eat due to a very simple misdiagnosis that was never followed up.

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

Bugs, Bugs Everywhere

Abigail has had a rough winter. She is on her third cold. She had a chest infection at Christmas. Now she has a stomach ailment that has resulted in vomitting four times in four hours and and explosive episode out the other end.

After waiting two hours for an appointment to take her to the out-of-hours clinic this evening, it appears that she could be ill for 7-10 days. And of course it is a contagious viral condition.

She could use your prayers. If you do hear from me for a few days, it may be that can.

Posted by david at 06:07 PM | Comments (3)

February 24, 2005

Memory Eternal

My great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth McWhirter, born in the village of Arlington, in north Devon on the edge of Exmoor, died on this day 130 years ago in the town of Owensburg, Indiana.

Incidentally, Arlington is just off the A39. Also on the A39 just 43 miles away is the village of Holford.

Anyhow, having passed through the veil to the life where the passing of time has no meaning, may God establish the soul of my ancestress Elizabeth in a place of light, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all the righteous dwell.

Posted by david at 01:53 AM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2005

Britain Great for Life Expectancy - If You're a Cat

Spook, at 24 and living in Ontario, is currently recognised as the world's oldest cat. She may soon lose her status to a former stray in west Wales. Amber showed up at her owner's house in 1978. That would beat the record. By all accounts she was already fully grown, possibly even two or three-years-old when she appeared in Diane Sleeman's tree.

Amber doesn't have any teeth left, which a vet needs to accurately determine her age, but at nearly 30, her mousing days are probably behind her.

Posted by david at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

Make the Yuletide Gay

Red states from the Atlantic to almost the Pacific are busy re-affirming the view that marriage requires the parties to be a man and a woman. Here on these shores, those of the other persuasion are waiting patiently for the Civil Partnership Act to come into force. On December 5, the wait will be over.

That's when couples with matching sets of chromosomes and gonads will be able to file their intent with the local registrar to sign a further document in front of witnesses after a 15-day waiting period. I'm not sure what the purpose of the added waiting period is, but nonetheless the first official gay weddings will take place on December 20.

I have no doubt that December 20-23 will be booked up very quickly in Brighton and some other locations. In addition to the gay capital of Britain, register offices have already been contacted in Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and the London borough of Camden.

Posted by david at 09:54 PM | Comments (3)

Cost of Socialised Medicine

A 13-year-old boy from Scotland had been waiting since 2000 for important treatment to adjust his misaligned jaw. He was told that he would have to wait until 2006.

He has a condition in which his top jaw grows faster than his bottom jaw. He had been waiting since the age of 9. By the time he was 10 he could fit three fingers behind his upper teeth when he closed his mouth. He was expected to wait until he was 15.

His parents have been paying their taxes, including their National Insurance contribution, all along. That is, after all, the price of socialised medicine. Or at least for medical care in available specialities. Available on the NHS that is.

No longer willing to see their child suffer, they had to remortgage their home to cover the cost of the treatment. They had to pay £2,700 ($5,100) to be treated privately. The doctor who treated him may very well be the one who would have seen him for free in 2006. That is what often happens when people pay for private care in this country.

Posted by david at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

Armenian Blog

My post about the Turks and Kurds has prompted me to look again at a link I was sent a couple of weeks back.

If you have been visiting this blog or reading my Meanderings for very long, you will know that I have an interest in keeping the Armenian genocide from fading into the mists of history. RESEAUNATE: Reflections and Commentaries is a new blog with a focus on the plight of the Armenians.

Posted by david at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Hollywood and Heretics

Last night Mrs H and I watched the film King Arthur. We didn't get a chance to see it at the cinema - we don't get a chance to see much at the cinema - so we rented it. What a load of crap.

The acting was okay. The cinematography was good. The history was very suspect. The story was absolute rubbish.

I had heard that there was a little suggestion that Arthur was a Pelagian. The whole film is a glorification of Pelagianism. Pelagius is Arthur's substitute father. Arthur goes on and one and bloody on about the teachings of Pelagius and how they are superior to the prevaling theology (i.e., orthodoxy). Our father amongst the saint Germanus is portryed as underhanded, double-crossing, and pompous. Every orthodox Christian in the film is specifically cast as evil and despicable, enslaving the locals, while Pelagian Arthur comes to see them free, all the while going on and on and bloody on about his Pelagian views of free will.

The film is a series of heretical sermons interspersed with a few battle scenes to keep it interesting.

Merlin is depicted as some sort of Pictish king who woos Arthur over to the side of working for the blue-faced pagans rather than for the Christianised Romans. This Merlin proclaims Arthur king at his wedding to Guinevere, who has managed to wash the woad off her face, set in the middle of a mini-Stonehenge circle of standing stones.

I suppose I am more incensed than others because Merlin, the real Merlin, is the patron of my family. St Dyfrig, as the very orthodox bishop of Caerleon and the father of Welsh monasticism, crowned Arthur. Our father Dyfrig was surrounded by followers, but they were seminarians, not forest-dwelling pagan archers.

It was St Dyfrig who called the Synod of Llandewi Brefi to deal with the threat of Pelagianism and who resigned his archbishopric of what is now Wales in favour of my patronal namesake St David when the ground rose up under David's feet as he thundered against Pelagius.

So Merlin and Arthur and Pelgianism are all connected, but not at all in the way depicted by this film.

Posted by david at 11:51 AM | Comments (6)

February 18, 2005

Turks and Kurds

The Turks don't like the Kurds. Everyone knows that. They constantly persecute Kurds in Turkey. And thinking back of the Armenians, we know what the Turks do to folks they don't like.

But it one thing to persecute an ethnic group in your own country. This sort of thing happens every day, all over the world. The Turks have taken is one step further. They don't just hate Kurds in Turkey, they hate them in other countries as well. On an official level.

The Foreign Ministry in Ankara has been warning Iraqi Kurds from moving to Kirkuk. Now they are really upset because the Kurds did so well in the Iraqi elections. Well enough that combined with Kirkuk's oil income, there could eventually be a viable Kurdish state carved out of Iraq.

I have no doubt that if an independent Kurdistan were created, the Turks would invade it. They would do it to prevent the Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey from having further inspiration or a neighbouring ally.

The Turks never think that maybe if they just treated folks a little better, they wouldn't have these problems.

Posted by david at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

When the Orthodox Get it Wrong

The Greek Orthodox charity Solidarity joined the rest of the world in gathering aid for the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.

But while most organisations were sending food, shelter, and medical supplies, Solidarity sent fur coats, thong underwear, and carnival wigs. The items were sent with 600 tons aid to Sri Lanka on a cruise ship. They proved to be quite a shock to the members of the Doctors of the World mission staff as they opened the boxes.

Solidarity Director Dimitris Fourlemadis said there could have been some boxes containing suspect clothing, but he told Reuters, "It is a very small number and not worth mentioning." Elli Xenou, Doctors of the World director of foreign missions, saw it a bit differently, "There was a considerable amount of stuff that should definitely not have been there. Even if just one box could not be used it is unacceptable."

Posted by david at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

The Price of Victory

Well, it's official. Fox hunting is illegal in England and Wales. (It was already outlawed in Scotland.) Tony Blair, who is not opposed to hunting, sacrificed it on the altar of the war in Iraq. In order to get enough support on his backbenches, he sold out the countryside.

All of the Labour townies, who live the politics of envy in their hatred of toffs, have now gotten a chance to stick their knives in. Most of the same MPs support the right to rip unborn children limb from limb - but foxes are a whole other matter. Foxes are hunted by rich people (forget that this is more perception than reality) and rich people must be punished for being rich. Especially if they inherited their wealth, they represent all that is wrong with this country. How dare they pay 40% of the value of their property in tax with each passing generation and still have enough money for a horse and fancy red jacket!

Actually, I mischaracterise inheritance tax in this country. I should say 40% of the value of the estate, plus the value of all non-exempt gifts made within seven years of death. The only exemptions are gifts to a spouse totalling up to £55,000 over the seven years, or gifts to UK-based charities, museums, universities, the National Trust (which will be happy to have the deed to your family home), or political parties. So if you die during your working life, you will have paid 40% income tax during those seven years, plus any of your money you gave away to your children or anyone else will be taxed against the giver again at 40%, plus anything left over will be taxed at 40%. But I digress...

The ban on fox hunting will not stop the killing of foxes. Foxes may still be killed with guns. They are, after all, pests. Until the Labour parliamentary mob completely run all the farmers out of business (and they are working hard at it) foxes will still kill livestock. They just may not be killed by hounds. This will put thousands of hounds out of work.

What happens to thousands of hounds out of work? They will have to be put down. So all the foxes will still be killed and now so will the hounds. And what of the jobs that depend on foxhunting? Those people will be at the local Job Centre claiming the tax money paid by the toffs, rather than being paid wages from the toffs. And they will no longer be paying any taxes, since they no longer earn a living.

So everyone loses except the Labour backbenchers. They have shown that with enough Parliamentary time and effort, horse trading and backstabbing, and the possibly illegal use of the Parliament Act to bypass the vote of the other House, they can take away a country pursuit enjoyed, in part, by rich people. What a victory for the common man.

Posted by david at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2005

Night Out

We had dinner tonight with Abby's godfather and his family. It is not often that we get out to visit friends for dinner. Good food, good wine, good conversation. Aidan entertained by playing with the big boys.

As we left, I received a copy of Darren's latest book, Sometime Love Makes It Through. It's his sixth book of poetry. (You can order a copy from his website.) He writes gritty stuff. Not exactly Hallmark card material. He is also being published this year in a variety of Orthodox and non-Orthodox periodicals.

Posted by david at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

The Broad Path of Anglicanism

The big news from the meeting of the Church of England General Synod is the push to re-introduce heresy trials. Clifton has a good blog about this. The main news today has been about the change in they way clergy are paid and issues of employment rights.

What's not been as publicised is the Church's announcement that in compliance with the Civil Partnership Act, it will be granting partners of homosexual clergy the same pension rights as spouses.

As the Daily Telegraph noted:

The disclosure, made at the General Synod last night, could prove an embarrassment to the bishops because sexually active homosexuals are theoretically barred from the priesthood.

Only a few homosexual clergy have so far risked facing censure by publicly declaring that they are living in same-sex unions, but the prospect of gaining pension rights for their partners may prove an incentive for many more to "come out".

The C of E isn't quite as apostate as its American counterpart, where active, open homosexual partnerships are not even a bar to the episcopate. Jeffrey John couldn't get a purple shirt even though he professed celibacy in his long-term partnership.

The Synod also put off a decision on female bishops, another break from the Holy Tradition that the American were willing to take in 1989. There are now 11 bishopettes in the ECUSA (8 active and 3 retired).

Posted by david at 12:48 AM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2005

Drawing A Line Under It

I have been disturbed by a number of things associated with the whole matter of my blog about teaching Islam.

First of all, this is a blog about my personal life, working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. It is not a newspaper and I am not a journalist. I have had demands by email that I clarify this or that in no uncertain terms. I don't have to clarify anything. Because I am an American writing about life in Britain, most of my readers are American. However, if I refer to aspects of British life, such as the education system, and you don't understand what I am talking about, I am usually happy to clear that up. If I don't, then a) don't make assumptions, and b) look it up.

Second, other websites have taken it upon themselves to hijack parts of what I have said, add commentary as if it is also what I said, and pass it on as the truth. For example, I never suggested that all British students are required to do anything. I only ever said what I understood one of the exam boards to require to get full marks (an understanding which the exam board has clarified as wrong). (If you don't know what an exam board is, then follow the instructions in the paragraph above.)

Third, commentators on my blog and on other blogs have then taken what I have said to support their own hatred for Islam. I commented on a theological issue of blessing a leader of a non-Christian religion. I have no time for ad hominem attacks on either the person of Muhammad or anonymous Muslims. Some of the comments that I saw had no theological motivation whatsoever and the language used would never come from the keyboard of anyone who is seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ.

As an Orthodox Christian, I clearly do not believe that Islam teaches or represents the Truth. That does not mean that everything Islam teaches is bad. From the excerpts of my blog posted elsewhere, I have seen comments springing bashing Muslims for some of the very things the Bible and Holy Tradition teach us, for example, the modesty of women.

When historically Christian countries and cultures look at the Islamic world, they should feel one thing: shame. There are certainly a lot of nominal Muslims like there are nominal Christians, but throughout the Islamic world - and not just amongst Wahabis and those influenced by the Hanbali school - there are many more Muslims who pray at the prescribed hours. Most Christians today do not even know that they also have prescribed hours of prayer, even though Acts 3:1 is a big tip off.

Respect and responsibility for family is also not a uniquely Muslim concept. The examples of the Old Testament and the Pauline epistles of the New should make that clear. Why is it so much more lacking in the Christian and post-Christian west? (And while respecting families, how about respecting mine? To falsely attribute things to me and to associate it with reprehensible comments endangers my own family's livelihood.)

And before anyone talks about Muslim men being allowed up to four wives, is this not the same number as the Patriarch Jacob? (Yes, I know technically two were concubines.) And what of the Psalmist who wrote the hymnbook of the Church? Not to mention Solomon, because even though the ones who worshipped other gods led to his downfall, there is no hint of immorality attached to the actual polygamy. As Christians, we do not practice the polygamy allowed by the Law of Moses because Jesus tells us it was not the original intention.

Most of the comments I see are from people who have a shallow, virtually one-dimensional understanding of Islam. They operate on a stereotyping one-size-fits-all approach to other religions and cultures. With anthropological myopia they see their own culture and religion as complex and varied.

Let me make this clear. I am a Christian. I believe that there is one name by which men may be saved and it is the name of Jesus. I do not believe that other religions have truths that in any way add to that which was handed down by Holy Apostles by their their teachings and writings. I do not believe that all religions are paths to the same God.

That does not cause me to hate those who do not name the name of Christ. Quite the contrary. Otherwise, where is the love of Christ? I even like a lot of non-Christians, regardless of whether their version of non-Christianity is Islam or the unoffical religion of this country, secular humanism. I wish everyone to come to the knowledge of the Truth.

Just so you know, comments are closed on this particular post. Like Pontius Pilate, what I have written, I have written. Emails are welcome.

Posted by david at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2005

From the Horse's Mouth

After all the fuss over a conversation with a colleague while planning lessons, taken completely out of context and misunderstood by most of the people who commented on it, I have received the following from OCR:

"OCR will always put 'peace be upon him' after Muhammad in the form of an Arabic colophon as a mark of respect. However we do not expect candidates to do this.

A reference to this can be found on page 13 of the OCR GCSE Religious Studies Notes for Guidance."

I hope that whoever has picked up the other post, whether it was quoted in full or in part, will post this as well and tell people to stop emailing OCR.

As I said in comments to the original post, I never based my information on anything from OCR - I only said that was the exam board we used.

Posted by david at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005


I have at least temporarily removed my posting regarding teaching about Muhammad in Religious Education.

I have done this for two reasons. First, too many of the comments do not reflect my views. Second, because the underlying information was related to me by a work colleague as being how she was told to inform students in response to my query about this, I have not had an opportunity to check this further with my department or with OCR. As this is half-term, I may not be able to confirm this for a few days.

UPDATED: I have confirmed the situation with OCR as posted above.

Posted by david at 11:20 PM | Comments (7)

February 13, 2005

Laying Down the Law

From the Daily Mail yesterday:

If you wonder just what Labour has been doing since it came to power, the news this week that it has put 1,018 new crimes on the statute books might help answer the question. Among them are a heavy fine for assisting a woman in childbirth if you are not a qualified midwife, and six months in jail for holding a concert in a church hall without a license.

Posted by david at 05:13 PM | Comments (1)

Humorous Quote of the Day

"We need to maintain a moral high ground that we had before this administration took over." - Howard Dean, the new Democratic National Committee Chairman.

Is he talking about a President who earned the sobriquet "Slick Willie" in more ways than one?

No, he's taking the Democratic message to the red states. He's trying to prove to the Christians that elected Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress that Democratic positions on helping the poor and protecting children are consistent with their values.

The problem is that voters in the red states don't think helping the poor means stealing from everyone else. Theft is not charity. There may be a tradition of Christian socialism in Europe, but in red states this is an oxymoron.

And protecting children? I'm not sure what the Democratic policies on protecting post-natal children are and how they differ from Republican policies. Those aren't clearly enunciated.

We know what their policy is on protecting unborn children. But Dean wants to rephrase their policy to make it more palatable. He says no one is "pro-abortion." How disingenuous or naive. What? Have NOW and Planned Parenthood left the party? Instead, he says, "We are the party in favor of allowing women to make up their own minds about their health care." Does he think that somehow the voters in the red states will be fooled by this?

"We are the party that has always believed in equal rights under the law for all people," is the new way of supporting gay marriage. Does that mean they support the rights of brothers and sisters to marry each other? Contrary to the characterisation of some red states popular in the those small pockets of blue, this will not be a vote-getter. But you can't be consistent and support one without the other. And I think they would be hard pressed to show that the Democratic Party has always supported gay marriage. James Loewen's theories of President Buchanan's sexuality aside, can you imagine Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, or Harry Truman supporting gay marriage?

Howard Dean and the Democrats can try to redefine morality all they want. They don't want to appeal to voters by supporting what the voters support. They have no intention of actually changing any positions that the majority of Americans find repugnant. Despite their Newspeak PR campaign, the views of the Democratic Party remain plain and obvious.

Posted by david at 12:46 PM | Comments (2)

February 10, 2005

She's a Lady

Well, it's big, big news here in the Sceptred Isle. After years of adultery and fornication, HRH The Prince of Wales is going to marry Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles on April 8.

They've been sleeping together off and on for 34 years. However, in the tradition of British kings, this will not prevent him from becoming Defender of the Faith when HM the Queen goes to her eternal reward. Not that he wants to be Defender of the Faith anyway. As one of his cronies explained on the news special tonight, he wants to be the defender of faith, i.e., the defender all those for whom religious faith of any type is a priority in their lives. Generic faith is always very tolerant of the things brand name faith forbids.

Though no longer forbidden by the Church of England the couple have forgone a church wedding for a civil cermony, followed by a church blessing. I suppose that way the church isn't involved in marrying the couple as though it is condoning Mrs. Parker Bowles adultery (Charles' adultery is now a moot point, now that he is a widower) but once they are married, it can then bless them. HM the Queen has given her blessing, even though she has only met Camilla on a few occasions. Her official approval was also required, as no descendant of George III can marry without the monarch's consent.

Camilla will never be Queen of England. This was just unpalatable to too many both in and out of power, even though this has never happened before in all of English history. In April, she will become the Duchess of Cornwall, as the wife of the Duke of Cornwall, Charles' highest hereditary title. When he ascends the Throne, she will assume the title Princess Consort (as William's wife, should he have one, would become Duchess of Cornwall, even if she also becomes - and one assumes she would - Princess of Wales).

I'm glad they are getting married. It is at least a little better moral example than their current relationship.

Posted by david at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

February 08, 2005

Still Here

This continues to be a very busy term. I try to read most of the blogs on my roll every day or every other day, but I just haven't had any time to write. Marking, reports, lesson planning, piles of general admin... It just goes on forever.

It is only three days now until half-term, so hopefully I will be able to surface long enough to throw out a few pithy comments about the state of the world.

Posted by david at 11:59 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

Missing Out

I picked up a copy of the Times Education Supplement in the staff room today and discovered that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month had started without me.

As far as I can tell, it seems my school is missing out. As the Schools Minister (not to be confused with his boss the Education Minister) Stephen Twigg has long been a gay activist, it is not surprising that he said, “We will be encouraging schools to take part.” The Goverment has even contributed some of my money to fund the Schools Out website (link intentionally omitted) but you can Google it.

The purpose of Schools Out:

* To provide both a formal and informal support network for all lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transpersons in education.

* To research, debate and stimulate curriculum development on issues of sexuality.

* To campaign on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transperson issues as they affect education and those in education.

But Stephen Twigg isn't the only Government gun behind Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month. Jacqui Smith, the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women and Equality (now there's a job) said, “I believe the month will be important in helping to drive the culture change to create a more inclusive society.”

Does this Government have an agenda on perversion? Is it any surprise that their policies in other areas undermine the family? That it is more tax advantageous to be anything other than a married couple? (I'll be blogging on that in the future, as the Government are about to take away an additional £800 per month from our income.)

Posted by david at 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2005

Powerless Rights

The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued new guidelines about home defense against burglars. The guidelines make clear that is it lawful to even kill an intruder in some circumstances. He said people can use objects as weapons, such as a bat, knife or gun, and almost any level of violence against a burglar could be acceptable in the right situation.

But wait - the Government took away all the guns in 1997. So, you can kill the intruder where you “honestly and instinctively believe is necessary”, but whilst you won't be prosecuted for using the gun, you will be prosecuted for unlawful possession of the gun.

So if you are a farmer - which you just about have to be to get a shotgun license (the only firearms left) - and you don't lie in wait like Tony Martin did - and you just happen to have the shotgun to hand when you are startled awake by the burglar, then you can shoot him. Otherwise, these new guidelines mean nothing.

The Government can now crow about how it has listened to the people and have at the same time effectively avoided doing anything.

Posted by david at 01:28 AM | Comments (1)