Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Chained to the Machine

How is it that writing a service that lasts only an hour, also considering the music, takes so very long?

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Which is it: Bubble or Straight?

There was no Unitarian service this morning, so I went to the cut-down Anglican service (no choir, reduced turnout), and - as I think I'll settle - I sat at the gospel unlike others, the creed and the Eucharist (first part when people stand). This is because I won't now stand for a book, or the suggestion of a presence at the book, or say any creed, or stand at the Eucharist at which I also stay silent (again it's about presence). This still leaves me saying and singing quite a few dogmatic things, though I actually do not say "Thanks be to God" after a Bible reading and my contribution after the intercessory prayers is "Merciful Father, Accept these prayers... Amen." It seems the last part of the service I'll be able to say is, "And also with you," because I am always prepared to reciprocate any greeting, and that's an open reply.

The presentation of the service, as is readable from many a sermon, is that all this can be of a story; the Christmas Eve sermon pointed out the incompatibility of Luke and Matthew gospels on the birth narratives. It said, "the Christian faith claims" that it's not a case of God saying "I know how you feel" but that God was there, for example even in the mundane matter of Jesus learning to be a carpenter with all the splinters, boredom, thrown away mistakes and the rest, through the highs and lows of the building trade.

There is, then, always this sleight of hand. The sermon said, "Wherever you are along the story to history pole..." (if I remember quite correctly).

To me, it can indeed be a story. We don't even know Jesus's trade. The translation suggests he could have been a scholar, but he may have been a builder. The birth narratives are simply not historical, but then neither are the trial and resurrection narratives except the most likely bit that he was killed by the authorities. Nor do we know that much about the mission: it looks more like a year in length rather than three, snuffed out quickly by the authorities. All we have are transmitted sayings, and a supernatural culture and various expectations of a downtrodden people with scriptures of a mythical tribal past.

Yet a quip was made today about the new Unitarian hymn book I took along, that I'd mentioned before, Sing Your Faith, that 'it would be quick' - with apology - and yet it is a book I think is rather good.

The idea is put that the Christian faith is rich and dense and fruitful, whereas something like Sing Your Faith represents something thin and humanistic, slim and gone in a flash, rather like Hymns for Living has been seen.

But, in the end, something that is based on a story, or on texts, that represents a way of thinking we don't normally use in every day life, is nothing more than a postmodern bubble of premodern thought forms. The epitome of this is John Milbank telling us what the Church should be if it could be, on a conserving Anglo-Catholic model. The Church is right: everything else is wrong (even all that research!). The problem with bubbles is that they burst: there is nothing there or only scraps - bits of water and foam.

If I present myself to others with lots of Christian talk then I am serving a deception. I'm telling someone I believe and think in a way that actually I don't. This needs to be examined, so that this is not unfair. For example, I might absorb myself in layers and layers of the stuff, but it doesn't change the fact that the talk is a deception and isn't otherwise used for explanations. Of course I might be paid to do it and become even more surrounded by this day after day, but in the end I'd want to see that being the entirety of my reasoning method. The only people who achieve this are utter sectarians, whether conversionist or defensive, or hard-core traditionalists, and even they are suspect. Look at the creationists on Genesis-Revelation TV: the subtext is their own knowing that they are talking rubbish, the only response to be to dive in further into the nonsense. No wonder Ultra-Orthodox Jews try to recreate the Middle Ages around themselves, given to be a time when faith was fully supported. You can indeed do that: like that TV series of decades ago called Living in the Past when the post-university folk went into a recreated iron age village for a year and had a producer with heavy cameras come in regularly and wonder if anyone would get their remaining kit off in summer to sex up the programme and did communal living lead to any naughty bits. Even they didn't quite manage to live within the times, and indeed one couple left because their child was too poorly (by my memory).

I'd far rather sing from a hymn book that represents how I think on a normal basis, given a bit of elasticity regarding transcendence and some enchantment. After all, life is crap and we might hope for something better. Call it, then, straight talk: what I say is what I believe, mostly. If I tell a story, I'll say so. Your own theology and the liturgy used do not have to be the same - even Martineau had his liturgy trailing behind his theology - but they ought to be related strongly. What I believe of course changes, but it ought to be consistent with the grand narratives we understand today, and which are reliable and researched.


My sermon on beginnings has begun, and it recalls my first impressions of a Unitarian church, and a 'trial period' I gave it at the time. Anyway, a service needs to be written by January 3rd. Meanwhile, here is a picture after another beginning...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Seasonal Carol

I wrote this (and have revised it once), given the weather recently and what can happen at this time of year. The tune is the one sung to Good King Wenceslas looked out or, as I used to think, Good King Wenslas last looked out.

A man and woman once drove out,
When some snow had fallen.
With no gritters seen, the snow
Was deep and packed and even.
Vehicles slid around that night,
The surface was so cruel;
Then a shop came into sight,
Including forecourt fuel.

Driver said to passenger,
"Go and stand in queue, when
I've got petrol in the car,
I'll send you a call then."
Queues of cars to begin with
For supermarket petrol,
Queues of folk with mobile phones,
This could be like inside Hell.

Then they went inside the store
For wine, food and logs hither,
When at vegetarian aisle,
Bumped into his mother.

"Hello can you introduce,
Who you're with together?
I can't be so very rude:
Has your wife got be-etter?"

"She is Noelle, Christmas name!
And my wife is stronger;
Failed my heart, I do know how,
We could go no longer."
"She was such a lovely girl,
Thought you'd last forever,
You will get me in a rage
Trust you I could ne-ever."

"Well I did not marry you,
But Jen, with good intention;
Then she started an affair
With one I cannot mention."
"Mark my words, you stupid sod,
If you'd showed affection,
I heard about as much I could:
She had met some chu-urchman."

"Some friend he turned out to be!
Well it's all now over.
With Noelle it's wonderful:
She is now my lover."
"Well Noelle, I'll say hello,
Sorry I've said all this,
I hope you see my position,
Nice to meet you. Bye bye, miss."

So these happy lovers trod,
To complete their shopping.
She grabbed his arm and moved in close,
Mother - they kept passing.
What his mother did not know,
Loading up her car full,
Was the churchman heard about,
Was still married to Noelle.

In fact the churchman was the priest,
And Jenny sang each carol;
After mass came midnight feast
Together after chapel.
Noelle and love no longer went,
They were warm together!
Snuggled close and making love,
In contrast to the we-eather.

But in the end it all came out:
The vicar lost his job for
Jennifer returned back home
Thanks to the dear mother.
Still, Noelle was in the clear,
Living on her own, then
Visited most frequently,
By the husband back with Jen.

Any moral to this tale,
Of situation ethics?
Not really, far too complex,
Too much love and good sex.
Therefore, Christian folk, be sure,
Of lay or priestly blessing:
Ye who stray beyond the door,
Will only end up me-essing.

Two Tracks

Remember the two track idea that comes with the Anglican Covenant (or it may do)? Well we now have names for it.

Track 1 will be called the Anglican Union.
Track 2 will be called the Anglican Guild.

How do I predict this? A crystal ball?

No. Because, from a bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), praising the Covenant and especially part 4 (while his actual Church joins a Primate's Council to oversee international bishops oversight via GAFCON/ FCA)...

What section 4.2.8 recommends is already operational, in an analogous way, in some parts of our Communion. ...[In the Church of Nigeria] all women who are not willing to accept the discipline of this Church in holy matrimony cannot be members of the Mothers’ Union. To give them a sense of belonging, they are provided with an alternative: the Women’s Guild.

So track 1 Union, track 2 Guild.

So we see how Nigeria expects the Covenant to work. As they say: if you don't want it, don't sign up to it. Don't sign thinking it is something that it is not.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

All Aboard!

All aboard for the Daily Episcopalian, my train of thought, and a good view of the Anglican Covenant, found within the Episcopal Café company that reflects the concerns of The Episcopal Church. This particular service takes you to NO station, somewhere out west with connections to many an Anglican destination. Choo choo!

Episcopalian Frightens Unitarians (Not)

An Episcopalian convert by choice has attacked Unitarians for undermining Christmas and stealing Christian clothes. Garrison Keillor, once a Plymouth Brethren, but who then had a liberal conversion and became Episcopalian, decided to attack both Unitarians and Jews over rewriting Christmas carols and drawing on other festivities that belong to Christians.

Don't rewrite and pinch Christian carols, he says: Silent Night has been rewritten, he says, to say more about silence and less about God, and this happened in the location where Ralph Waldo Emerson (a Unitarian and ejected Unitarian too) preached (the First Church of Cambridge). He says:

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough.

Then he immediately bashes the Jews similarly, adding:

Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

He declares, for all our benefits:

Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.

Don't worry mate: I don't. But Jesus was a Jew, and he believed in one God. He did not turn himself into a salvation figure, like Paul did in a thoroughly ahistorical manner for an exporting Gentile Christianity, but pointed to an immediate future almost present and the action of a justice filled supernatural God. Dominic Lawson defends the Jewish bit, but Unitarians have long looked after themselves (and, come to think of it, so have Jews) and there is some solid agreement between historical, progressive Christian and Jewish scholarship and the Unitarians regarding Jesus. The difference is, Unitarians pinch things and get on other people's nerves. But I'd buzz off, regarding the celebration, personally, but - just to annoy, and for the aesthetics - will still turn up for the evening concert late on the 24th and into the 25th.

Catholic Church Loves Uganda

For Pope Benny, Uganda is a mighty fine place. The Pope thanked Uganda's Ambassador to the Holy See, Canon Francis Butagira for the "climate of freedom and respect in your nation towards the Catholic Church" and then there are fruits of this in "development, education and healthcare" (one wonders, when Catholics refer to healthcare) and that such should assist personal integrity, justice and fairness in local communities. The Pope also thought that agriculture could be more productive, that resources could be better used and that he hoped northern Uganda might become more peaceful. There would be continued support from the appreciative Vatican for Uganda.

No mention of the potential vicious legislation then, or its dangers at the very least for healthcare, only again putting the religious bureaucracy first, like Rowan Williams does for his Anglican Communion project. Rumours exist about the President of Uganda vetoing the bill should it be passed. He would do this because, despite the Catholic Church thinking Uganda is hunky dory, Western countries do not, and Uganda would like to keep its donors happy and keep the money coming in.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Can't Make My Mind Up

I'm puzzled about a service I am going to take, at the Hull Unitarian Church. I don't know what to do. It is for January 3rd. I want the topic to be new things, and although the new decade starts in a year's time the noughties are already replaced by the tens and teens.

So I have two ideas in my head. One is to do a theological service, bringing forward and projecting forward in a postmodern way the theology and practice of James Martineau. A new theology from old: naturalistic, liberal, with our sociology of knowledge, historically proper and forward projecting. I think I could make a good stab at that. But another idea that I could pursue is beginnings, as I am a long term diary keeper of detail (with some exceptions, open ended lined A4 books not space limiting diaries). I have had a look at the first proper Sunday Unitarian service I attended and read my first impressions. For example, I wrote of symbol at the front being 'a cross with the top lopped off and replaced by a flame' - well that was one way of seeing the flaming chalice.

My visit there was after the Baha'is used the hall for a meeting, to investigate the church itself by attending, and my account is in amongst a context of discovering the Baha'i cultic behaviour around a woman I was interested in - Baha'is have peculiar rules about relationships and they marry rapidly before any romantic contact; by now I'd been identified as too much an outsider when it came to thinking for myself regarding their religion, and finding some Covenant Breaker's material that put a different view from their self-presentation. Also there had been a visit for a number of days to a theological college in Birmingham when I was considering applying for Anglican ministry training, and I was pretty much appalled that I had something in common with the staff but very little with most students, who seemed to live in a different world from me. Things back in 1984 seem little different from now (and I was also writing about all the infighting in the Church of England!).

There are (so far skimmed at) three services in a row (there is a gap when out of town one Sunday) where there are quite some extensive same day notes written about what happened and who said what. I don't write as extensively these days on such matters (for one thing, I don't seem to remember sermons as well). But it could be interesting to show impressions when I was less well informed. This was November and December 1984. By 1989-90 I was at Unitarian College, and I managed to be a heretic there too - outside the British Unitarian mainstream. I still am, really, except I know that now and I'm not so innocent, though I see a number of other people have moved on since.

So I'll look at these entries more carefully and see if there is a sermon to be created, and indeed a liturgy on new things. I know that after so many I went back to the Church of England, and thoughts of its ministry, only for my beliefs to collapse and then to attend the Unitarians with greater intent, usually still interspersed with some Anglican services for some years. Just like I attend now.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful: 1, 2, 3

Diarmaid MacCulloch has three reasons to be thankful for Rowan Williams and the Church of England (though he does extend it a bit) in The Sunday Telegraph.

He wants to "give public thanks for the Church of England's bumbling liberalism" because "the church has become an icon of diversity and plurality for the nation" where people can express their doubts as well as their faith (I thought faith included doubt). He knows that "the English church is afflicted by humourless, tidy-minded souls who want everyone in it to think just like them" but draws on the model of Neil Kinnock who flushed out the entryists of Militant in the 1980s. Secondly the Anglican Church has gained "riches" since women were ordained from 1994 despite facing some "some extraordinarily childish behaviour" from party extremists but notes, regarding women clergy and their behaviour, that there is:

a general reluctance to join in the theological party strife so common among male clergy, who like nothing better than to line up as Anglo-Catholics or evangelicals, as if they were a set of football hooligans out on the streets after the match.

His third reason to be cheerful, Ian Dury style, is because of "the election of a bishop in a diocese of the American Episcopal Church in California who happens to be a lesbian". This is very mature, he thinks.

Oh dear. This Archbishop is definitely no Neil Kinnock in the face of Militant. Rowan Williams rolled over and asked for his tummy to be tickled by them. He even used their biblical fundamentalism for his own Catholic centralisation project. A Church recognises another Anglican Church as valid according to its biblical literalism (remember the Advent Letter of 2007). Then he was infamously unsure about women priests, that here was something under testing - and he had to back pedal in the face of the noise as if the Church of England under him might revisit the matter. The reason women priests are less party orientated, incidentally, might be because so many of them are trained on non-residential courses and many end up as volunteer Non Stipendary Ministers. They don't get the grounding in one residential party college or another. And as for the election of a lesbian, overseas, Rowan Williams was soon into the media against that one while remaining silent over Uganda and its intended persecution of people like Diarmaid MacCulloch.

No; I think the reasons to be cheerful, one two three, might make some cry.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Tribute to Mad Priest

Beaten to an image and issue on my last post, as was ever likely, I now bow down to Mad Priest and include my own manipulated image of Newman, not John Henry, but the younger brother, who was far more interesting: the liberal, and transitory Unitarian, Professor Francis William (27 June 1805 to 7 October 1897). So there.

Later Conceptions

Merry Christmas from St Auckland in the City, New Zealand...

It's meant to say something about the Virgin Birth. The suggestion here is he wasn't as good at it as was God on the first occasion. She might be wondering what she is going to tell Liz this time. I think he looks quite sad and she thinks he's not up to the job, but on the other hand he did father quite a few more with her so perhaps they were a bit happier than suggested here.

By the way, I've doubled the size of the original web image (it is a poster outside the church) and made it a bit more arty. So click on the picture for yet more fun.


Ah well. The latest is that continued attacks by knife-wielding Christians have forced the poster off the streets.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Authority to the Standing Committee!

So the relevant sections of the Anglican Communion Covenant are 4.2 (what happens) and 3.2 (about what).

4.2.3 says it is the duty of each covenanting Church to seek to live out the commitments of Section 3.2.

A huge amount of authoritative power is given to the Standing Committee.

After a controversial action happens that affects 'the meaning of the Covenant', the Standing Committee gets a matter referred to it by the acting Church, another Church, or Instrument. First the Standing Committee makes every effort to facilitate agreement, and may take advice anywhere, and can refer the question to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting for advice. As it does this the Standing Committee can ask a Church to defer a controversial action. If the Church declines, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences, e.g. specify a for now limitation of participation in, or suspension from, an Instrument until a process is completed. The Standing Committee makes recommendations as to relational consequences to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion; it addresses how much a covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and gives the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Then it is up to each Church or each Instrument to determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.

But it needs advice from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting for the Standing Committee to make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.

Participation in this process is by those who are representatives of those in or adopting the Covenant.

Withdrawal from the Covenant does not necessarily mean from the Instruments of Communion or a repudiation of its Anglicanism but may raise a question about the meaning of the Covenant, compatibility and trigger 4.2.

One would have thought 4.2 was triggered, unless a Church was going first!

The normal behaviour that prevents a referral to the Standing Committee is conformity.

Each Church consistent with its own laws undertakes to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant

Each Church should have regard for the common good of the Communion in the exercise of a Church's autonomy, to support the work of the Instruments of Communion, undertake reflection and endeavour to accommodate their recommendations.

Churches should seek a shared mind with other Churches consistent with the Scriptures, standards and canon laws, with wide consultation with the other Churches, Instruments and Commissions.

Because some at first controversial issues may mean instead a deeper understanding while others are distractions or even obstacles, these need shared discernment (first). Thus Churches should act with diligence, care and caution regarding anything provoking controversy that could threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission. They should uphold the highest degree of communion possible.

In the processes they use mediated conversations, which involve face to face meetings, agreed parameters and a willingness to see such processes through.

It represents centralisation and conformity and conservation with conservatism. Anything a Church does can be referred up by any other element of Anglicanism. A Church should already have consulted others widely (so a reference up may already be a black mark, or a disagreement). The Standing Committee itself doesn't take the final decision for 'relational consequences', but it does all the reasoning and so carries that form of authority.

Does the dispersed nature of Anglicanism and its autonomy, its cultural connections and sensitivity, really wish to take on something that would be impossible - wide and unending talk before anything was done in a geographical area? This process may be Rowan Williams looking down a deep well and seeing his own face, but it is not Anglicanism in its decentralised nature. It is an innovation, to produce a centralised Catholicised Rowan Williams Anglicanism long after he has gone.

Friday, 18 December 2009


The Covenant is available here, with the part 4 put back. I shall take some time to read it and comment. Back later tonight (in Britain). There is a video on You Tube too. I am listening to the Archbishop as I do this quickie. He moves quickly to part 4. It goes to member Churches he says, and he wants yesses, adopting by as many provinces as possible, people agreeing to these ways to resolve conflicts (but is not a penal code). It is open to other ecclesial bodies to join - presumably the Anglican Church of North America (and other continuing Churches?).


I took delivery of the 2009 Unitarian hymn book today, Sing Your Faith, and I think it is better than my first impressions that led me to order it for myself. Good value too, at £12.70 including postage and packing (at the moment).

The hymn book deliberately does not repeat hymns in existing British Unitarian hymn books. These are Hymns for Living (1985), Hymns of Faith and Freedom (1991) and Y Perlau Moliant Newydd (1997). Thus the previous books can be kept and used.

I could not disagree with this opinion more, from Wakefield:

In opening the meeting, President John Goodchild... referred to the new hymn book, Sing Your Faith: he found its words trite but felt that the congregation should explore it to discover its treasures, preferably singing no more than one new hymn in a service.

Here are two hymns from fairly random viewing I rather like, among the very large number I alread rather like, so I put these out as a couple of examples. The first concerns animals, the second a town you live within.

93 Let us sing of earth's progression HOLYWELL 87.87.D.

Let us sing of earth's progression
from the cruel, base and mean;
not all wrong and all transgression
has our story always been.
On good Francis birds alighted;
Kevin held his hand as nest;
human thought has wrought regression,
yet by humans, life is blest.

Such was Cuthbert's revelation;
he stood singing in the sea
as the seals in celebration
barked their Benedicite.
Though we take these tales as legend,
in them shines divinity
and we make our sung elation
for all insights gained of thee.

Not of force and domination
over land and air and sea,
but with love's co-operation
sing we this theology.
God of stars and God of spider,
God of fruitbat and of flower,
we are agents with creation
working with the Spirit's power.

Angus Martin Parker

The hymn refers to 3 Christian saints associated with animals
1. St. Francis of Assisi 1181-1226
2. St. Kevin (5th century) Irish saint with an affinity for blackbirds
3. St. Cuthbert (d. 687) who swam with the seals at Lindisfarne

Words copyright Angus Parker. Used by permission.

130 Ours is a town for everyone RODMELL C.M.

Ours is a town for everyone
who wants to play their part
in making it a better place
to practise living's art.

Ours is a town where every faith,
all creeds of hope and peace,
can worship freely, yet recall
we are one human race.

Ours is a town where we must care
for those whose lives are hard,
for whom bright mornings turn to tears
and all once fair seems marred.

Ours is a town where, side by side
in friendship and goodwill,
we'll build a place where all can be
respected and fulfilled.

So let us celebrate our town
and pledge ourselves to be
the ones who make it beautiful,
safe, prosperous and free.

Clifford Martin Reed b. 1947

Words © Clifford Martin Reed. Used by permission.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Thanks Again

For my labours regarding the Jesus and Philosophy (2009) book review and the previous In Depth presentation, Don sent me a back copy of Kingdom Come in Everyday Speech (2000), the last of three postmodern, still hopefully Christian, but 'ordinary people say it better' and realise the Kingdom. On the front is a butterfly and Don Cupitt I know has retained his long term interest in butterflies.

Now he has a more realist theology (!) or at least grand narratives of today, historical and limited, with straightforward talk, with less of a division between liberal and radical, and has accepted that his critics were right about his inability to reform Christianity. Frank Walker, also reviewing Jesus and Philosophy (2009), in Faith and Freedom, recalls (as I also remember) Don saying that if not in the Church of England he'd be Roman Catholic. Now he has gravitated towards the Quakers, no longer a communicant Anglican, and represents the move away from credal Christianity for both belief and ethical reasons after a long struggle.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Beliefs Ordered and Outlined

Yesterday I sent an order in for the new Unitarian Hymn Book, Sing Your Faith. Some Anglican joked that it "must be a slim volume then". When I looked at it I was quite impressed, and I was one of those impressed by Hymns for Living of 1985. I think many an Anglican might find both books preferable for having some sensible hymns in, the sort that make sense to the way we think now.

It is my one treat to myself at this time, assisted by necessary ruthless self money management over a long period. One said tonight at a very tasty Indian meal in Hessle that my face is not as fat, and I joked myself that I can't eat as much as I used to when once I could put on an eating display. Simply I could only make ends meet by buying less food, and I have skipped or shortened a few meals. Shoving less food into my face has been important too. The Indian food this evening led to immediate gassy problems!

The question is now I have moved again, so to speak, in terms of primary identification with the Unitarians, what sort of belief do I have.

The first thing to say is that I have the main outlooks we share in the West. This means the dominant physics and biology narratives, very big and very small. Physics has its own form of relativity; biology adapts in place and time locally. Nevertheless, small specific changes always have systemic inputs and outputs, so that the success of a mutation in a particular setting then has systematic impacts on other creatures - something like comparative advantage interplays. The systematic interaction of other creatures is an environmental check of its own: we used to think environments could produce self-same outcomes and so the eye, for example, had developed many times, but now the genetic record suggests that the eye evolved once and exists at several stages up the tree of life. I mentioned this evening the strangeness of science: a man has an atomic clock attached to him, and then is put into a fearful situation. He does not just perceive time slowing down, it actually does slow down. There is a kind of objectivity to relativity, and it suggests that the quantum world might have a particle or some such reality for even subjectivity.

This is a world of fascination. Now in terms of traditional categories, the sheer keenness of life to push through (like weeds through concrete) suggests a drive. Now it may be otherwise impossible in a universe that coheres and at least lasts a while, but there is intelligence that emerges. A news clip today showed an octopus that can collect coconut shells for housing and for fighting. It clearly indicates planning, tool-use and intelligence. Should a catastrophe kill off the human race, and much of life, there could still be replacement intelligent life. So I allow for the possibility of a drive to realising something, but we ought to be careful. Seeing a lay out of a pack of cards and thinking what are the chances of that happen should only bring the answer the same chance that produced them - we are where we are, and shouldn't see intention where there is perhaps a relatively benign outcome.

There clearly is space for reducing suffering and increasing pleasure, not pleasure that ends in paying for it later, but a cooler and sustainable pleasure. We are human and tribal, and we ought to take advantage of the collective side of our involvement in one another, with as little of boundary drawing as possible. We should realise that evolutionary success is the ability not just to adapt but adapting our adaptation. This includes an attitude of care for minorities, because you never know then that minority is the means for the collectivity to continue (sudden environmental shifts favouring a once maintained minority while the majority perish).

In the end religious figures in the past are ethical people and those who enhance relating to one another and to spiritual insight. Books are means to such ends, and that's all. There are no imposed boundaries. I am increasingly uninterested in doctrinal statements of any kind about known religious people. We can find out what they did, if we can, and if not can look at the stories and beliefs about them for tales of inspiration. We can find out what they suggest, and can suck it and see, like the Buddhists say. Doctrines suggest permanence, but nothing is permanent. A great deal is just sand, blowing in the wind.

As individuals we have to live with ourselves and with others. We can of course exploit, damage, harm and seek pleasure at others' expense. Society has a right to stop these people harming others. It should do such minimally: this is the best form of society. Stop them, offer a programme that changes such behaviour, and seek some form of reciprocal justice for the afflicted. But it is so much more harmonious, productive, better feeling, simply to attempt to relate to the other positively. Fun is important too. It's not to say you end up doing it, because life is complex and multi-demanding. Usually situations force upsetting people: go to work for a wage and follow routes of exploiting (because you are told to do so) and you annoy. But you can try to do the other thing, even without the reciprocal element: take a lead, and make things better.

All religion should do is provide texts and rituals than enhance such a positive outlook and give understanding why the best does not always come about. Some rituals, of passing tokens, of exchange and gift, do enhance solidarity in communities. Ethical messages must exist in the words. It may involve getting inside a story world, or sitting light.

I don't mind God-talk but I want my religious talk to reflect the world I live in. Too often it is lost in an olde-worlde of meanings and beliefs long since gone away for so many. I understand where religious traditions have come from, and sometimes they are good vehicles for ethical suggestion, but if we simply absorb into them and their alternative reality then we do our own world outlook a disservice. We have to equip this world. Thus I return to a place where that happens, whilst still singing olde-worlde tunes and words on an evening, a sort of transcendence-talk aspiration that means in detail next to nothing. There is also a place for quiet, repetitive words, and again don't get too close to any detail. But these can also be done in a more broad based ideas community and this is to where I have moved.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Merry Xmas and Sod Off

This is obviously doing the rounds as an example of a new agency with nothing better to do...

Click on it to read it's seasonal text.

That so many are posting this makes it a kind of perverse public relations success. Presumably they send this to the adults and children that the agency locks up.

Blue Velvet Church Hall Competitions

The story of Blue Velvet last time involved the bishop and the church service for which the church hall events below follow on. It all began back in September.

After the service, the connected Church Hall and back of the church became frantic with activity and people. Many had come into the church hall through the opened fire escape door at the back. People were pouring in from the outside, as well as from the service, so that some church people couldn't get in, and it was standing room only and some opting for standing outside, just leaving enough room for events at the very front near the door.
The priest-in-charge, Rev. Alan Peart, 51, now wearing a "Charles Gore" hat as a fashion statement with the fashion events to happen, asked people close by to make more room so that an introductory dance could take place. The Blue Velvet Dance Group were ready and made up to do a dance on the appropriate theme of Salome dancing before Herod, the dancer, Sarah Excel (41), one of the candidates in the Perfectly Fitting Bra contest, whose day job was a appropriately an accountant who was often cleavage revealing.

People outside were breathing on the windows from both sides of the church hall, those outside wanting to see inside, the top panels of the windows opened so that no one inside would suffocate and people outside could hear. The toilets were doubling up as changing rooms, with the dancers emerging first, and thus the dance began, though Stella Wedgwood (39) and Julia Peart (45) used the vestry as a dressing room, not just to disrobe but to change their outfits.
Bishop Neville Timothy Williams (51) found Alan Peart to say, "I want to go first, then I want to leave."
"Well the dancers are ready. You get your equipment, and they'll be done. I'll delay the song competition until after you."
"You should arrange these better. I had given notice for my assistants. Got the MP to help me, as well as this new minister woman," said the bishop.
"Sheila Stone MP? Yes I saw her on the front pew. Why didn't she join the procession?" asked the priest.
"She confessed to me that she is not a Christian. But I have invited her to use the vestry to change, with some others. She's taking part in my worthy tricks, and in the fashion parade."
"I hope she doesn't win: the fashion prize is a meal with me," said Alan Peart.
Sheila Stone (39) was thus in the vestry, changing from her jacket to try on a dress that many a fashion seeking woman might kill for. Indeed, as said, to join in fully, she had earlier volunteered to take part in a fashion display that would accompany the Perfectly Fitting Bra presentation, although the newspapers had just discovered that her new wardrobe had been put down as constituency expenses of appropriate clothing. The MP was a locally born and bred girl, a Tory but one known for laissez-faire attitudes towards just about everything. And thus when Stella Wedgwood asked, with an eye for the controversial, if she was taking part in the bishop's presentation, she decided she would, all for more newspaper publicity.
The dance completed, people clapped, and the hymn and Sheila rewriters were told to wait, as the bishop and some helpers arrived with equipment.

The Bishop had directed some people to his van, to bring this time a "bunsen burner looking thing" with a blow up life-size doll to couple with a clothes hanger on wheels already available. He also had got hold of the same teenager as before to do his opening trick. So the three legged, hollow round topped contraption with a wood effect floor platform on wheels came in through the doors, delayed by so many people in the way, to take its place, with Sheila Stone acting as its assistant, and then a clothes hanger on wheels, like in clothes stores, with costumes hangling along its length, including a special super large black cloak at one end, the thing wheeled in by Julia Peart at one end and Stella Wedgwood at the other, playing his assistants. From the entrance area people could see how the trick was being done, but those in the hall were given the attached microphone delivered narrative that this three legged, platformed and wheeled contraption was "like the inside of a tomb", said this Bishop N. T. Williams, "like the Trinity with its three legs," he added. The two assistants with the MP waving her arms about brought across the black cloak, sweeping the ground and brought it around the contraption, to which the bishop and MP attached the cloak around its top ring. "This could be a burial cloth, like the Turin Shroud," he said, and Stella brought him the blow-up doll, which he placed up above and down through the top ring. He then fastened the cloak with its three large buttons so it concealed the blow up body and the contraption all around, and then he rolled the contraption around on its wheels so that everyone could see all parts around it, and as he did it there was a large bang sound. "Ooh he said," still spinning it, we'd better look inside!" He then brought the buttons back to himself, opened them as Sheila Stone tackled the ring attachments around the buttons area, and there displayed with also her head emerging above the ring was the girl who'd performed in the service earlier. Then she ducked and came out through the enlarged gap of the cloak. Even those outside the hall, who'd seen the girl move from behind the costumes and the cloak and gone on to the platform inside the three legs could not see where the doll had gone. The remains had simply been put, with the pin, into a peel away flap that was part of the platform she was stood on.
The people who had seen nothing but a girl appear from nowhere in a tripod and platform on wheels above the ground clapped.
"Thus can Jesus become transformed and alive again," he claimed.
"Conjouring trick with a blow up doll," said Julia to Stella's ear in front. Like Sheila, Julia started to do some assistant's poses, for fun.
"Now," said the bishop, "Er... Do you normally dress like this," he asked Reverend Wedgwood, looking at her more closely. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is, er, Stella?" She nodded. "Wedgwood Benn who is..."
"Wedgwood," she said. "Only."
"Wedgwood without the Benn, who is going to be apparently a new Unitarian minister here. And I never knew there was such a place here. So I bet she really would like to lock me up, a Christian bishop who proclaims the gospel, and handcuff me many times. So, Stella, please put these on and check they lock on solidly." Given to Julia by a male assistant and handed on, Stella did as asked, one after the other. Sheila was still grinning with poses. "Satisfied?" asked Bishop Williams?
"Yes, but there isn't one for your mouth," she replied, causing Julia behind them to burst out laughing from her grinning while she also did some poses. Sheila didn't react.
"Ah but take me back into my contraption," he said, as he ducked and stepped on to the platform, to then bend over and show himself straining with his forearms. Sheila closed the buttons, and then within thirty seconds heard a "Let me out!" as she thus opened the buttons again and the bishop emerged with all the cuffs in a bundle held from his hands. All he had done was use one of the legs of the contraption to push a level concealed button in each set to open each of the cuffs at the back. Each having been pushed back together inside, he now took the key from Stella and started to open one to the applause. "You cannot imprison the Lord," said the bishop, adding yet another corny theological message.
And then his contraption was removed by those who had brought it in, and the bishop seemed to leave behind it, saying, "Thank you very much! Enjoy your Christian celebrations!" and indicated to Alan Peart to follow him.
So Julia came forward and said, "We have a short hymn and carol rewriting session. It can be humorous, but the winner can write a hymn for the choir to sing. Who have we got?"
"I'm Johnny Levrithe, the local milkman. And I rewrote 'It Came Upon A Midnight Clear'."
"I'm Dr Valdamar Pons, a History Lecturer, and I rewrote 'Away in a Manger'."
"Oh, two carols then. Anyone else? No? Well, yours first, Dr Pons. Do sing it."

"Away in Blue Velvet,
Some land with a shed;
Choices in our shops, a town centre it made;
And along came that Tesco,
To the shed, car park hosts,
So now shops close down
Makes the town one more ghost."

"That's happening our way too," said Juliet. "And your favourite milkman, man about town, has It came upon etcetera - well you sing it too."

"It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious time so bold,
When Janice joined me in my bed,
Just thi-irty one years old.
She taught me things I didn't know,
and grew my confidence;
So then we knew ju-ust what to do,
And invi-i-ited in Florence.

The three of us, we heated up,
Enjoyment a-and pleasure,
But there was now an imbalance
So-o Jim on board made four.
We moved so much, we had no space,
The whole thing lacked 'street cred',
To solve the prob' we-e all went out,
A-and bo-ought the largest bed.

And so we shared wi-ith little care,
Bouncing and stre-etching out,
With room for neighbours to join in,
An e-ever greater weight.
And one fine time, midnight again,
The bed fell through the floor,
All six dropped into-oo hospital,
The-e ro-omping was no more."

People cheered and clapped (including the raised arms of Janice herself). "Oh crumbs," said Julia. Is there anyone else at all? Oh, there is, the coalman for your town and mine too sometimes. Yes, like you. Jim Black - That Jim? - yes? Oh dear. How old are you Jim?"
"Sixty I am."
"Sing for us, Jim. Tune of, oh I can see, Once in Royal David's City. Go on."

"Once when feeling ve-e-ery dirty,
Stood under a show-ow-ower head,
When it came on, boi-oi-oiling water,
Made me jump, and bu-u-umped my head.
Mary came, with first aid kit,
Me curled up, wa-a-a-as that it?

She bent down, to try and ca-are for me,
Turned me round, and sa-aw an effect,
I'd become too o-over excited,
I was stiff, not de-ead but erect.
Mary yet, still gave her hand.
I stretched to life, like a ru-u-ubber band.

I was bruised, and he-ead was still painful,
Mary took me to-o-o her bed,
Rang my wife, and sa-aid what had happened,
After I'd filled up he-e-er coal shed,
Now my wife tells customers for cash
Check the heat, 'fore giving me a wash."

"Crumbs. Well, three carols rewritten there. Does that actually happen Jim when you deliver coal?"
"Yeah. Not every coal bunker. But thanks to Mary, like. She's here somewhere. Can't see her."
"You weren't the Jim of the bed; was that you?"
"But the big bed didn't fall through the floor."
"Oh. Oh. Well it is up to me to declare the winner, and it is the first one about our town centres," said Julia, to instant booing. "So Dr Pons can write a hymn."
"He's a Unitarian," said Stella from nearby. "Chapel trustee and all that."
"So?" said Julia. "We might all be able to sing it."
Then in came Alan Peart, saying to Julia directly, "Even now he's having a go. Wants to see me tomorrow no less." From the crowd emerged Sue Clark (40), after the Sheila event and realising the bishop had gone. She was Julia's actual partner in Norton Velvet. Even though he knew all about them as a couple, the bishop had instructed distance in public occasions. Of course they wished to ignore him, mainly, except when he was present. "How's Tina?" asked Alan of Sue.
"All right, with a babysitter," she replied.
Stella came forward, and Julia said, "Stella, this is Sue. Right, I'll begin with this one now as well. The models seem to be ready, including our MP? Oh, she's doing fashion only. What? Oh she's not! Can one of those lads get the chaise longue in front? Well, ladies and gentlemen, we come to our next event now, which is the Perfectly Fitting Bra display..."
"Hang on," said Alan, "I need to introduce you."
"I've been doing it," said Julia.
"I know, but there's a point. Right, everyone, here's my wife from the next parish, who's been with us already, and as you might know she used to be into underwear..." Some laughed. "And that's when she worked in clothes retailing. So what we are doing is having a little display about best underwear and Julia can introduce a representative who's kindly come here from Bravado. Julia. Again."
"Thanks to my husband," said Julia Peart. "Outside in the street I understand they're having - oh, they've had - a wet T-shirt contest, but here we are the Church of our town and far more responsible. So a representative here from Bravado, Carolyn, who will, she tells me, take your orders afterwards and they'll help church funds, will first judge some of our girls and women on the bras they are wearing, and then introduce some wearing a range she has brought along, and, right, then she'll take your orders as she moves through the crowd. Please Carolyn."
Thus a whole glamorous show took place, with volunteers coming on and bravely receiving commentary about what they wore, and surprise surprise the wearers of the brand received the best reports from Carolyn into the microphone. Faces were pressed against the window to see some familiar faces in such a show. Each contestant walked in, took centre stage so to speak, twirled, sat on the chaise longue, and then stood and walked off to the side. There were plenty of male, and not a few female, wolf-whistles throughout. The flashguns went crazy when the Member of Parliament so appeared and in the most expensive of the Bravado lines. And it was equally unsurprising that she was in the last six in line, with the others leaving to the toilets to change, the six standing in line each in their bras and matching briefs, but the MP also had shiny black and silver fashionable shoes that many of the locals suspected they could never afford. Four of the final six wore Bravado products. Once the display of showing the characteristics of properly fitting bras was over from two Bravado models was over, the winner would be announced. So it was up to the Vicar to choose a winner, and so Alan Peart said, into the sound system:
"Thank you Carolyn, and please now make your orders as she comes round. We get fifty per cent of the profits. I think we really appreciate this good advice at what makes a good fitting bra, and the answer is never too small and plenty of support. You cannot have inadequate support! And I think, really, our Member of Parliament does win the competition we had, because she has all round attractive and fully supportative underwear, and so Sheila Stone MP is our winner! She wins a one, two or three piece Bravado set of her choice and a modelling session for the Bravado range that will appear in the next catalogue."
There was mild applause. He grinned because he could hardly see her being a model, being an MP, and reasoned if she won this then she should not win the fashion competition. So then he approached Sheila Stone MP, grasping her bare arms either side, and gave her a kiss on each cheek, to a somewhat second reluctant round of applause.
"And now I think Sheila here and a number of our ladies are going to participate in a fashion competition, if I can hand back to Julia. If those who need to go and change."
"This one is different," Julia said, "because we'll go on a show of hands, so I will try to be fair in seeing how many hands are up to choosing the best dressed. The prize for the winner is once again this year a meal with my husband and your vicar Alan in the Italiano Restaurant, and thank you to Mr. Medici for donating a four course meal of their choice, should they want to eat that much, for the prize."
"Oh, a show of hands?" asked Alan Peart.
"Democratic for a change," she replied. "So it's not me or you deciding."
At this very point, there was a loud slapping sound and louder "Ow!" heard through the hall, and then coming through the crowd, pushing peopole out of the way, came Mrs Janice Capron, 31, the subject of that song, the recent keeper of the town's priest's chickens and one time warmer of his bed. She stomped out of the church hall, and her husband, the dentist, Eugene, 40, followed through the gaps, while Julia Peart shook her head in the direction of Alan Peart, in effect telling the Vicar and her recent lover to stay put and do nothing.
With a slight delay for all to be ready, the fashion show began, with more women (and again only women) taking part than in the underwear competition. Julia kept the microphone and simply gave the names and repeated the women's own self description of what they were wearing. There were again some, if not as many, wolf-whistles, but once again it was the Member of Parliament who set the flashguns going.
Julia commented, "Once again it is a welcome to Sheila Stone, our Member of Parliament, what? This is an Ellen Terry Fashion House shiny turquoise shoulder puffed one piece dress. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Ellen Terry brought up in my parish down the road? I'll have to visit her London shop."
Yet it was the appearance of Janice immediately after her that set the vicar in uncomfortable dilemma, as it was her very appearance some years back that had led to their on-off affair beginning. Her dress was, as already seen in her storming out of the church hall, and obviously to join the queue of competition entrants, ravishing and revealing, intended to win, and it started to look like Janice's means to reconnect with her recent lover.
Julia commented, "Well this is a light, low-cut and revealing, simple white dress that brings out the wearer to its best advantage and contrasts with your naturally curly hair, Janice Capron."
So it came to the contestants and the vote. Then Julia approached her nomimal husband. "Who do you think?"
"Please, not Janice," said Alan, "I don't want another unpleasant trip to the dentist's."
As the hands went up, it was clear that the Member of Parliament had a block vote in her favour, provided by members of the local Tory Party and Conservative Club. As everyone turned around, to check for themselves the voting, it looked obvious enough that the general public were voting for Janice, eagerly led by those who knew her more intimately.
Julia announced, asking hands to raise for Janice Capron and Sheila Stone several times, "Well I really think our Member of Parliament has won this one too. Sheila Stone MP, well done!"
There were some boos and very mild clapping. The flashguns went mad again.
With this, however, Janice Capron stared at Julia Peart with an intense gaze, and then walked out of the church hall to where her husband stood, and produced a second almighty swing of her arm and slap across his face, so that he went straight down on to the floor. She pushed her way out, to leave altogether, and her husband got up to follow. Alan Peart put his head into his hands.
"Oh dear," said Julia Peart, "the competition must have got to her. Well it's definitely our MP who won and she will be having a meal with your vicar of this parish. And don't stay out too late," she said across to her man of sorts, switching off and placing down the microphone. He then gave his house keys to Julia, but she gave them to Stella Wedgwood, as Julia and partner were going to their own home.
At which point music began to play and coloured lights flashed, and some started to dance, as the crowds began to disperse inside and outside.

The MP went to the vestry and emerged wearing yet another outfit, thus providing yet more interest for the photographers. Mr Medici had a car arrive to take the MP and the minister waiting outside, pictured together, to his restaurant, only a few streets away, but getting in it, being in it and getting out of it provided a backdrop for his own publicity photographer, and plenty of other photographers following on too. In the restaurant he first placed them at the window with his logo above, and only then offered them the opportunity to move and go upstairs to a small private room reserved for guests. Up there his photographer was the only one to capture the couple, with wine to begin.
"I go along with this," said Alan Peart. "It's good for the church, this publicity, popular stuff, but is all this the sort wanted by an MP like yourself?"
"I'm not standing at the next election," said Sheila Stone. "It's not worth it. The whips made it clear I'm going nowhere because I'm too independent, and a few secrets, so I want to get into some TV, lots of fashion, presenting, advice: no publicity is bad publicity is it? My dad made more of a career of being an MP. Everyone thought he was completely corrupt, and owned the seat, and he was and just about did. But I'm more like the town as it is, and more like my career as it was. Hey and what about that slap - that dentist and his wife?"
"The less said about that the better," Alan Peart said, as the pasta arrived for both and the photographer appeared and took another picture.
"Ah, she's the affair one then. The rumour about you," said the MP. "And the chickens. You know what they say about chickens walking?"
"Oh shit. No?"
"Poultry in motion. Was she poultry in motion? Better still, are you?"
Mr Medici arrived to ask if the food was good and to have him in yet another photograph.
"I don't eat grain," said the ordained minister.
"It's not a grain," Mr Medici said.
"No, she likened me to a chicken," the minister said.
"Oh, I leave you two alone," he responded. "Anyway, I have a musician playing for you in the background. Do enjoy a the music."
She said, "Funnily enough, I've met your bishops several times for events, but never actually spoken to you. The previous one, Bishop Shamton: I thought he was OK but this one is really shallow isn't he? Does he think he can do tricks to spread religion?"
"Conjouring tricks with blow-up dolls. Bishop Hugh was better than this one, yes. You wouldn't think he's 71, and just brought out a book called All About Doubt. So what was your career then before an MP?"
"So this new one burst that blow up doll, but then what?" asked Sheila Stone. "I was outside."
"Oh. I've seen it before. The girl goes in behind the clothes and that wraparound cloak. There's a peel back panel on the base she stands on. She bursts the doll and what's left goes inside. And those handcuffs that get locked up just spring open at the back. He started buying tricks before he was at theological college. He did some tricks there. He doesn't actually think any differently from me. The difference is, he puts on a show. It's all a display, conjouring tricks and after the one who said it was all more. Career?"
"I was an Events Organiser. I organised businesses getting together either with themselves or with others. So it was sort of doing the things that made businesses more social or around conferencing. I still speak at them, for a good fee."
"How does one get into that?" he asked. "After all, I have no job security and might be thinking of something else after he sees me, tomorrow," said Alan Peart, wondering if he was half-serious.
"I sort of arrived there by who I knew. Everything I've done has been by who I knew. My father said I had to earn my living, and he was always away. So I followed a couple of friends and became a model, at a local studio, and that's how I afforded university. I could have done it just for extra money, like a night out, but I did it properly and carried on afterwards. Thatcherite days for my dad meant nothing mattered, so long as it got paid, and also I was one of Blunkett's Babes, the first of the undegraduate sex workers to pay the introduced university fees. One of my regulars at the studio, who must have spent a few thousand taking the same pictures of me over and over again - I eventually did what you shouldn't and went out for a meal with him - got me into escorting, because he had plenty of money and needed a woman he pretended was his glamorous catch while he attended all these meetings. So I ended up travelling with him and being presented at all the events he went to, and accompanying him overnight. You know. So I got myself properly into an agency, and eventually dropped the modelling. Then there was another chap I accompanied, in a bigger business, who also hired me continuously, and he thought I could actually organise the events he was in, and that's what I did, and so that way he me into his exclusive escort client, which is what he wanted. I like my hair long and down, but he said cut it and put it up. It just wasn't me, in the end. But then my father said I should be an MP to keep it in the family and thus I replaced him at the last election, as he recommended me to the local party and they just did what he said. So that's why I was at such ease doing the stuff tonight, and what I can do. I'm not being an MP any more with the new expenses regime, and anyway there are too many letters and especially emails to answer, all the travelling for no pay, and the double speak. There is something good about a nice life and lots of money. You can have a nice life."
"I should have. Should have job security. You are on call all the time, like, but you can work from home, and some people call our work having a chat. But there is more and more admin and keeping the show on the road. Sabatticals are good. But I can get sacked any time. They won't give freehold like they used to do."
When the food was over, he asked the MP if she might join him at the vicarage.
"I will, to look, have final drink say, but not to stay," she said, thinking of the very recent conversation.
"I didn't mean that," he said, wondering what people did think of him.
When they went in, Stella Wedgwood was reading on the sofa.
"Oh hello," Stella said. "Enjoy the meal?"
"We did yes," said Alan Peart. "And just back here for a final drink. Our MP is resigning."
"Retiring," said Sheila. "Not standing next time. From this, going into the media I hope. Tonight will all be going in the tabloids, I hope."
"Sheila was an Events Organiser," said Alan, editing out the history. "And Stella - you've met already - is to be a new minister in town, non-conformist in every sense!"
And after the ubiquitous coffee, Sheila Stone left to walk and find her car in a nearby street and drive home. The ordained minister was left wondering whether, if Stella Wedgwood hadn't been present, whether the one time escort might have stayed, given that she knew very well that his own so-called wife was in her own real relationship in the next parish as part of the ongoing morality deception so essential for the Church.
"I have to meet the bishop tomorrow morning," said Alan to his staying guest, as it was clear bed time was approaching.
"That's fine," said Stella, "because you know I'd want you to come to the wood with me late tomorrow afternoon and I'll leave in the evening if that's all right. It's just I'd like you to accompany me."
"Fine. It's very pleasant there. Lots of paths, clearings, some ponds. Very attractive. Shall we call on Julia and Sue?"
"No no. But we'll meet some friends. Tell you more tomorrow."
"I'm intrigued. Nice to have a bit of excitement in your life. So much is so boring these days. Sounds interesting."