Sport and Pain

To me, there's nothing quite like the thought of England rugby matches on a Saturday to spur you on through the dark winter working week.  The Six Nations is just about the best invention ever, plus of course we live in Edinburgh so we get to see the hoards of descending green/white/blue/red (delete as appropriate) shirts when they pop in to our town.

Autumn tests are harder, since the opposition are nearly always better, plus England aren't particularly good just now.  After two successive weeks of watching our boys play-reasonably-well-but-get-absolutely-hammered, Maria has informed me that she's not sure she can handle the stress of it all, and may not watch the All Blacks beat us this Saturday.

But I will, because I know that this is what sport is all about: how can you enjoy winning stuff unless you stick it out throughout the horrendous dark night that precedes the blinding dawn?  How you can have any affection for a sportsman unless you've seen them down-and-out, then pull themselves up off the canvas, vowing to return?  That is why when England play, it's 'we' who are playing, not 'they'.  It's us.  We're all in it together, horrible as the result may be.

Football and Bigotry and Gayness generally

Today my part-time band of all stars, the Broughton Cosmos, got whupped by a team called HotScots.  I didn't play well, but none of us did really, so no bother.  It's other stuff that I'm not happy about.

The thing is, HotScots are a gay team from a gay league, apparently, and the whole thrilling experience seemed to turn some of my team-mates into a raving bunch of homophobic schoolboys – it was as if they couldn't exist in the same world as gay people without making comments and jokes that were hurtful, lame and dumb.  I mean, for Heaven's sake, I'm a Christian and don't actually think that homosexuality (I prefer the word 'gayness', it's cuter) is God's preference for us, but nevertheless I've somehow managed to navigate my 27 years without being a hater.  Not so some of these guys.

Something I've been noticing: Christians are the ones who hate gay people, apparently – that's what we're told – but I've never actually met a Christian who does.  Maybe I've just been fortunate: some have this view and some have that view, but I've never seen what would properly be called bigotry.  That has been the exclusive domain of non-Christian friends.  Why is this?  Why is it so hard to stop someone else's 'preferences' being the lense through which we determine their value?  Surely it's not just theists who believe that all humans have inherent worth?

After the match, we had a wash.  Communal showers are one of the best bits about playing football (don't ask me to explain that statement; it's just true), but the thought of sharing one with some gay guys apparently petrified some of my team-mates to such an extent that they seemed to be actually, properly scared to go in.  Losers!  It was like not wanting to stand next to a girl in the line at primary school.

Fortunately, I'm not afraid of naked men.

Simon Barnes on Fabio Capello


Fabio Capello is untouchable, halfway between Sir Alf Ramsey and God.


We believe in Him.

The England team have abandoned their clown's jalopy with square wheels and explosions and bits falling off. Now they are cruising on in a six-wheeled pink Rolls-Royce bearing the numberplate FAB 10. There is no ducking the matter: England are go and Capello is the Lady Penelope of the new world.

It is almost impossible for an Italian to be monosyllabic, but Capello has come as near to mastering this as is linguistically possible. In his masterly near-silence, he gives an impression of mysterious and limitless strength, endless knowledge and total mastery, and right now, it seems as if these things have a basis in fact.

Capello is beyond criticism.

He is unimprovable.

There is no such thing as a so-so England manager. He is either a genius or a fool.

The fundamental art of management is to build a church of true believers.

Right now, Capello has believers and this is the most precious of gifts. How to find it? How to maintain it? First, you must be a man to whom self-doubt is a stranger. A belief in your own omnipotence is the first qualification for a successful manager.

There is no point in striving for a rational assessment of Capello, because the process he presides over is irrational.

He can do no wrong

Until April.


Less a drink, more a way of life

[examples being Tom Kirby & my Mum]

Grannys always ravin and rantin, and shes always puffin and pantin,
And shes always screamin and shoutin, and shes always brewing up tea.

Grandpappy's never late for his dinner, cos he loves his leg of beef.
And he washes it down with a brandy, and a fresh made cup of tea.

Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah Rosie Lee
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah Rosie Lee

If you feel a bit under the weather, if you feel a little bit peeved,
Take granny's stand-by potion, for any old cough or wheeze.
It's a cure for hepatitis its a cure for chronic insomnia,
It's a cure for tonsilitis and for water on the knee.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah Rosie Lee

Tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at supper time,
You get tea when it's raining, tea when it's snowing, tea when the weather's fine,
You get tea as a mid-day stimulant, you get tea with your afternoon tea,
For any old ailment or disease, for Christ's sake have a cuppa tea.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah Rosie Lee

Whatever the situation whatever the race or creed,
Tea knows no segregation, no class nor pedigree
It knows no motivations, no sect or organisation,
It knows no one religion, nor political belief.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah Rosie Lee


Can't embed it, but for full effect please watch:

redeem the situation

Hi.  After a lovely afternoon sitting snuggled up on a sofa with Someone Rather Special, watching England play the Pacific Islands at rugby, I walked home to find that my bike (chained up in our stairwell since we moved in) had been stolen.  Nuts.

So I rang up our landlord, just to let him know and maybe to see whether we should moan at the contractors who left our front door blocked open so that anyone could walk in off the street.  He commiserated with me, but didn't give me much hope, so I said goodbye, feeling pretty low.

And then he called me back to let me know that his family has a spare mountain bike, and that he could bring it by tomorrow if I'd be interested in having it.

Now that's a good guy (and I think it was his wife's idea so I'll give her credit too), but from the afterglow of this happy little ending I'm noticing that I wouldn't have had the chance to know what a good guy my landlord is if the bike hadn't been pinched in the first place.  Sometimes we need things to go wrong, so that they can be put right.  And somehow that makes it better than if it never went wrong in the first place.


Me vs the Machine

Something from our small group.  Quite a long quote, but I found it hard to edit down to something smaller:

Believe it or not, we are threatened by the concept of a free God because it takes away all of our ability to control or engineer the process.  It leaves us powerless, & changes the language of performance or achievement to that of surrender, trust, & vulnerability.  This is not our preferred language.  This is the so-called 'wildness' of God.
We cannot control God by any means whatsoever, not even by our own good behaviour, which tends to be our first and natural instinct.
As God said to Moses, "I will show compassion on whomsever I will, & show pity on whom I please."  That utter & absolute freedom of God is fortunately totally in our favour, even though we are still afraid of it.  It is called providence, forgiveness, free election, or mercy, but to us it feels like wildness, because we cannot control it, manipulate it, direct it, earn it, or even lose it.
Anyone attempting to control God by his or her own actions is bound to feel useless, impotent, and ineffective.

We humans have a sad and sorry track record of looking to things of our own making to save us.  We look to employment for provision, to investment for increase, to democracy for fair government, and to education for the betterment of society.  These things are good – some are even (in Churchill's words) the 'least bad' option – but they cannot save us; they do not have that ability.  I think that every time we put our trust in a man-made system we become kind of man-made - a little bit less human.

At the moment I'm reading article after article telling us that free market capitalism has failed us and that we need to look elsewhere (Keynesianism, Marxism, Socialism, Libertarianism) for the solution.  But that's just the same problem again – more systems – and they can never save us!

If we are really serious about being saved from the burdensome injustice of an unfair world, then we have to look at something bigger than ourselves, something pre-existent (and something, therefore, less predictable than we'd prefer).  The options (to me) appear to be the spiritual world and the natural world (either or both).  I'm not at all surprised that more and more young people desperate to learn how to grow their own food, because (in the words of Helen Mirren) 'nature doesn't let you down'.  God is much, much harder to trust, because He is a genuine leap into the unknown (even for those who know Him).  It's dangerous and rather stupid, but eternal.