Friday, 26 October 2012


If it is all the same with Him I think I will just hang on a bit and wait for The Telegram. My faith does not allow me to believe in death and dying isn't a very productive way of passing the time. What I really worry about is waking up in heaven surrounded by angels maniacally strumming harps and banging cymbals and an angry Voice roaring “And now do you believe in Me?"
It’s not as easy as that.
The pre-Socratic Ionian philosopher Anaxagoras said that God was a circle the centre of which was everywhere but the circumference nowhere. I'll drink to that. He also introduced the concept of Nous, the universal mind, an idea that he shares, amongst others, with Marcus Aurelius, the Lord Buddha and Geronimo, the well-known Redskin.
It would be nice to be able to agree with the Norwich G.P. Sir Thomas Browne who galvanised the 17th century with his best-selling "Religion of a Doctor". Alas, he was very keen on a celestial ladder to heaven on which you were not allowed to move from the rung you are given. When, like me, you have been born in a terraced house in Manchester’s Moss Side with delusions of grandeur that's not on.
By the same token I am very fond of Sir Thomas. Mostly for "Pseudodoxia Epidemica", his dictionary of vulgar errors in which he describes the best way to catch an elephant. Those poor beasts were thought to be knee-free and therefore unable to bend their legs. In consequence they had to lean against a tree to sleep. Sir Thomas said early man was quite wrong in believing the best way to catch one was to creep up and saw down the tree.
That's the book I would take with me on a Desert Island, together with Burton's “Anatomy of Melancholy”, which, perversely, has more laughs per page than Ken Dodd's famous gag book. Browne and Burton were said to be the only ones to share Shakespeare's originality of mind.
Browne was certainly one of the few men to be knighted by accident. In 1671, Charles II visited Norwich. Always obliging, the Merry Monarch took out his sword and offered to knight the mayor. Unfortunately the mayor was a Puritan and declined the honour. The king stood there, sword in hand, looking a mite foolish. I expect Browne felt sorry for him and he said since the sword was out he wouldn't mind being dubbed himself.
"Kind of you," said the King. “Kneel down where I can reach you."
Arise Sir Thomas was the work of a moment.
He was something of a prophet too. Ironically, Browne wrote: “…to be gnawed out of our graves, to have our skulls made drinking bowls and our bones turned into pipes is a Tragical abomination.” Little did he know this would be his own fate. In 1840 Browne's coffin was accidentally opened and his skull removed. Later, in 1922, after a number of casts had been taken it was returned to his grave in St. Peter Mancroft.
Anyway, to get back to God.
I will have to point out that whilst I am His Numero Uno Fan, I am not all that keen on religion. Too much killing and bad will. I will have to tell Him I think You behaved very badly in the matter of Abraham.
And then there's Your Lad. As a philosopher, no quarrel. It’s the Messiah thing and all those conjuring tricks I can’t take.
Not very original as a Concept. I used to stand the markets selling a machine for darning socks. We were a motley crew. There was Big Tiny, a gypsy who sold a magic spectacles-cleaner which we all knew was merely shavings of carbolic soap neatly wrapped in toilet papers; there was the budgie that picked fortunes out of a tray, profitable enough to put his owner's son through Harrow; and a pot auctioneer who was the Joint Master of the Brodsworth Hunt. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, in Jesus's time there were Messiahs in every market place.
Then there is the Virgin Birth. Jefferson said the day would come when the mystical generation of Jesus, the Supreme Being, in the womb of a virgin would be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva being born in the brain of Zeus. I read somewhere that in that explosion of religions in the 5th century BC they all had a Messiah figure and they were all the product of exotic births. Even the Buddha was said to have been born painlessly from his mother's side. Similar births feature in Hinduism, Rosicrucianism - isms galore. The Chosen One is born from the thigh, the hand, the top of the head, the armpit...
And they all do conjuring tricks.
All so unnecessary.  All we need is a Teacher not a wand waver.
“Alas, Lord,” I will say, “I will have to go now. I do enjoy our chats but I have just read Your Club Rules and I don’t know anyone who would qualify. If I did come back I wouldn’t know anyone but You.”

A veteran councillor is being paid nearly £10,000 a year to chair a committee that hasn’t yet met. Jeff Tildesley, an Independent member of Bridgend council, says he is “extremely embarrassed” that the authority’s democratic services committee has not met since it was set up following last May’s local government elections. As a committee chairman he is paid a special responsibility allowance of £9,708 a year on top of the basic councillor’s allowance of £13,868.04, bringing his total pay to £23,576.04

I worked for the BBC on weekly contracts for thirty years. I was dropped for being English. Savile lasted a lifetime as one of Auntie’s stars despite abusing children on an almost daily basis. The BBC even gave him a caravan in which to work his evil ways and celebrated his career with two hours of tribute programmes. I used to avoid Savile at Christmas parties at the Sunday People for which we both worked, so odious was he and so evil was his reputation.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself when I read about Sergeant Steven Leslie, 30, of The Black Watch. He was on patrol in Afghanistan , in one of the most violent areas of Nad, when machine guns peppered the ground round him and six grenades exploded. Shrapnel sprayed the area as his soldiers pressed hard into the ground to seek what protection they could.
Braving hundreds of machine gun rounds, Sgt Leslie ran around the sprawled troops, leading them to safety through 50 metres of open ground in the enemy's killing area.
When the enemy again attacked, Sgt Leslie ran back over 150 metres of open ground as rounds kicked up the dust at his feet. In an incredible act of bravery he grabbed the remaining soldiers and led them out of danger whilst still under fire as they ran.
His citation states:
"Sergeant Leslie's exemplary gallantry and leadership throughout a complex and dangerous withdrawal kept his young soldiers alive but he thought little of his own life.
"Through his selfless bravery, and putting the safety of his men before his own, Sergeant Leslie is worthy of national recognition."
He was “Mentioned in Despatches” which is derisory. A pal of mine won the VC for blowing up a derelict warship. Mind you, if he had killed any of the enemy he would probably have been charged with murder. It is a funny sort of army where that could happen to you and the dangers of being in the firing line include redundancy or being killed by an ally. In passing, I have not seen reports of the rogue Afghans who murdered our servicemen AN