Simple Things

In my present mode - thinking in the direction of possible futures Maria & I might inhabit - it's simplicity that's most attracting me.  But what is The Simple Life?  Today's thoughts include:

rubbing dogs' tummies, arts & crafts, singing, the Westcountry, mealtimes, home, hospitality, rural living, hard but worthy work, chopping wood, growing things, alpacas & hens, fun, real ale & red wine, church, generosity, freedom to avoid success/not be rich, no rushing, close-knit, cosy, dry stone walls, Thanksgiving, an Aga, pubs, rugby, PG Wodehouse, tea pots, trees, herbs, rabbits, flowers, honeybees, Kate Rusby, the Kinks, meat pies and apple crumbles, baths, Christmastime, family.

So, that's me trying to be selfish.  I wonder if the way to avoid actual selfishness is to consider all this stuff a gift (and therefore available to all-comers).  Or maybe there's a more intentional, outward-looking dimension that needs exploring.  But nevertheless, it appears that I may be turning into Tom Bombadil.

I've got things to do: my making and my singing, my talking and my walking, and my watching of the country.  Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting.

Red, Red Wine

On Saturday, whilst dressed (and thoroughly in character) as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - I won't explain why – I had red wine spilled on my nice white shirt.  Now, we ALL know that the thing to do with red wine is to put white white on it – we know because we have been told - but my feeling was that this 'knowing' was closer to theoretical knowledge than the tried-and-tested real thing.  I for one had never seen this marvellous work in action, and skepticism filled my heart/breast/bowels.

Nevertheless, I retired to the bathroom (in order to come out of character for a moment) with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and set to work on my poor stained shirt.  And when I got home I put it in to rinse for the night.

Yesterday morning, I took down my (now dried) chemise blanche and – much to my surprise – I could not work out where the stain had originally been.  So yes, I can confirm that white wine is the answer to your blood-red stainage: I have seen it with mine own eyes.

Fringe Review #3 – Tim Vine: Punslinger


I've got a friend who's just joined the gypsy wing of the Masons.  They meet in a travel lodge.
My friend's dog has got no dictionary.  I asked him, "How does it spell… 'terrible'?"
I rang up the AA to get an itemised bill.  They told me, "Sorry, we don't do breakdowns."
My pixie friend can't give blood – too much haemogoblin …
Earlier, I saw the chief executive of Tesco drowning, so I threw him a cork.  Every little helps.
I asked a careers advisor how best to be self-employed. "Mind your own business," he said.
I used to run a dating agency for chickens, but it was a real struggle to make hens meet.
By the way, if you've got an Islamic dog, muzzle 'im.
When I was a lumberjack, I'd put on new clothes after every tree.  Always chopping & changing.
This guy came up to me and said, "I've got bubonic plague!"  I said, "Don't give me that …"
He said, "Can you tell me what to call people who come from Corsica?"  I said, "Course I can."
My girlfriend took me round to her house and she had an 8ft lightswitch – what a huge turn off.

etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc. & more …


That's about 2 minutes worth of Tim Vine, and he keeps it up for an hour (pausing only for a quick song, prop-led gag, or game of 'sheepy-uppy').  When Maria and I went, we knew what we'd be getting – and were possibly a bit concerned as to whether or not we'd like it as much as his older stuff – but within the first minute it was clear just how powerful a tide of silliness Tim Vine can sweep you away with.  As long as you don't take your comedy too seriously (and if that's not a paradox I don't know what is), then it's impossible not to be dragged along by the sheer momentum of fun flying at you.

And the thing is, we all know that Tim Vine writes great one-liners (many of which are so bad that they're funny in a completely different way), but I'm pretty sure that he's better than he thinks he is.  One absolutely astounding moment in the show was when Tim introduced his new puppet – his lips defiantly moving as it spoke – and asked what it had been doing today.  "Ventriloquism," came the reply.  The puppet collected its puppet, which was also a ventriloquist (a bad one), as was the third, and the fourth.  The sight of Tim's lips moving in sync with all four puppets as the final one introduced its hobby would have knocked me off my seat, if I hadn't been clinging on for dear life.  I'd never seen anything like it, and I'm sure that Tim Vine has plenty more where that came from, if only he had the confidence to leave behind his staple pun food now and then.

But we LOVED it.  Great show.  We also loved the (very mixed age) crowd, including the sight of the guy in front of me turning to his wife after every single joke to see if she had got it 🙂

Intriguing thoughts from an Agnostic-Deist, an Agnostic-Theist, & an Agnostic-Agnostic

'My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.'
'The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.'
'It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years.'
'The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?'
'I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image. '

'My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.'
'God is subtle but he is not malicious.'
'The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.'
'I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.'
'The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.'
'The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.'
'Not everything that counts can be counted, & not everything that can be counted counts.'

'I was a young man with uninformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them.'
'To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selections, seems, I confess, absurd in the highest degree.'
'A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.'
'The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.'
'My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design.'
'It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.'

CONCLUSION: Einstein is the more concise, and probably the happiest too.

Never Cease Processing

Hi.  Been away for a few days – down to Southampton for the annual 24-7Prayer shabang.  Because it was the first time I'd been to one of these things since I stopped working with 24-7 as my job (that was in March 2006, when I left New Zealand), it was quite a funny experience.  On the one hand, you're constantly bumping into people and projects that you care (or used to care) pretty deeply about, and on the other hand, you're noticing that this used to be your normality, and now it isn't anymore, and it seems to be going on quite happily oblivious to your absence.

So I found it hard and weird and good.  It was definitely good to go.  I'd say that I've probably been carrying a fair bit of baggage around with me for the past two and a half years, and it was really nice to feel safe enough to talk about (and maybe deal with) some of it with Anita - one of my friends from Auckland, and someone who's kind of stepping into a similar position to that which I left.  She's great, as is Maree (the other Kiwi who came over), and it was so so nice to just mess about and be silly with them, rather than try to act all businesslike or anything.  And it reminded me that I left quite a few good 'legacy'-type things behind me when I moved on.

On the VERY good side, I'd just like to report that 24-7Prayer does genuinely seem to be alive and God-inspired, and the dreams and stories therein are getting bigger and more intriguing.  I loved seeing the Campus America video – promoing the aim of having a prayer room at every uni/college/seminary in 2010 – and then just sitting back and wondering what is actually going on in the world.

Some people pray for revival and imagine that 'signs and wonders' will declare that when it happens, but I was rolling around the thought that maybe we are part of a revival right now – right as we speak – and one that is all the better for not being particularly visible.  I mean, is 1100 indiviual prayer rooms in Brasil last year not a 'wonder'?  What about the dozens of new 'academies' being opened by Oasis Trust, Emmanuel Schools Foundation, the Anglican Church etc. etc.?  Or Orthodox, Catholics & Protestants all working together as part of Alpha – is that a 'sign'?  Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong, but I am not praying for a revival where people 'go all wobbly' in the streets (although I don't mind that either).  Something a bit more reformatory, creative and redemptive is where my heart is at.  And I think we are already beginning to see it.

Dangerous Lefties

One perk of my present job is sitting in on lessons in subjects I have never before had the chance to be interested in.  Today was Latin.  Here's what I learned:

                                              'left' = sinister
                                              'right' = dexter

It's fascinating how, until relatively recently, left-handed people have always been regarded as 'bad' or 'wrong' or 'just not right', hence the resulting use of these Latin roots to give English words like 'sinister' and 'dextrous'.  Similarly, in French, gauche transfers to English to mean 'inept, clumsy, maladroit; coarse, gross, uncouth', whilst droit gives us adroit, meaning 'skillful, clever; deft, apt, adept'.  Lefties are clumsy and dangerous, right-handers function deftly and with skill, especially in golf.

A step further: what do you call someone who can use both hands?  Ambidextrous – 'all right'.  Not all left.  "How are you doing?"  "I'm alright, thank you – I once was left but now I'm right."  "That's handy."  Indeed.

St Francis & the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
                                                                  though sometimes it is necessary
                                                                      to reteach a thing its loveliness,
                                                                               to put a hand on its brow
                                                                                                  of the flower
                                                                   and retell it in words and in touch
                                                                                                     it is lovely
                                               until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
                                                                   from the earthen snout all the way
                                 through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
                                             from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
                                                                 down through the great broken heart
                                      to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking & blowing beneath them:
                                                                    the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

                                                                                                                               Galway Kinnell