Monday, 25 July 2016

Maybe, maybe not

There has been some media interest in the fact that Theresa May is a vicar's daughter and, according to one source this "instilled in her the serious minded sense of duty she holds dear today." May herself has to some extent corroborated this, apparently saying that her father's work inspired her choice of a political career because, " you didn't think about yourself. The emphasis was on others."
It is an interesting idea, and there was a similar focus on Gordon Brown's history, to use the Scottish phrase, as a child of the manse  and Margaret Thatcher's upbringing as the daughter of a man who was a grocer but also a local preacher (albeit apparently with a dubious reputation.) In short, some people seem to suggest that the children of clergy tend to be more self-giving, disciplined, focused less on the material (although whether that describes politicians is debatable...), and that clergy children are primed to seek roles in later life that tend towards vocation or leadership.

There may be some truth in the idea, children after all often absorb and are influenced by the values of their parents and those around them; a friend of mine is a ballet teacher and her son is now a professional dancer, a friend is a consultant and his daughter is studying medicine. Overall though,  I am unconvinced by the argument that clergy children fall into some special category, after all we can find characters and lives as disparate of those of Jane Austen, Katy Perry and even Lucrezia Borgia among the daughters of the cloth, although it is only fair to point out that Lucrezia Borgia's father was a cardinal (later Pope Alexander VI) and that recent history regards her more a pawn than an agent in the political machinations that surrounded her.

It is also true that quite opposite stereotypes about vicars' children exist, namely the idea that those brought up with the constraints, expectations and public scrutiny that can accompany being a vicar's child often later rebel against this and go "off the rails." This phenomenon / stereotype (delete as applicable) is so entrenched that it has its own term- Preacher's kid syndrome. Again, I am not entirely convinced, other children rebel as well, maybe we just notice it more in certain cases, I think PK syndrome simply offers an alluring narrative, and who doesn't just love Dusty Springfield's Son of a preacher man in which a boy inherits his father's persuasive eloquence and puts it to use in very different ways.

As for Theresa May, the extent to which she will act in accordance with the Christian values of her upbringing remains to be seen. Her first Prime Ministerial speech dwelt on her desire to reach out and to serve, a few days later when asked if she would authorise a nuclear strike killing thousands of men, women and children, she did not hesitate to answer "yes". Well, politics is a tough and nasty business, Prime Ministers, perhaps female ones in particular, cannot afford to be weak or to be seen as weak; they rely on the reputation they create. And possibly that idea of reputation, that idea of brand image  lies as much as anything behind Theresa May (in common with Thatcher and Brown) pointing us to background as a reason for us to feel trust, respect or , almost bizarrely in this oh-so secular age, even reverence.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Feeling the heat

I've tried to get out in the garden today but at times the heat has driven me back in. I've had to put off quite a few jobs over the last few weeks, from weeding to washing just because it has been so wet and now it is too hot! I can't complain as I got out two lots of washing and also picked the first of the sweet peas, this year all the beaujolais seem to have flowered first. A few other colours are starting to bloom but only these were quite ready to pick and such a gorgeous colour that I didn't mind not having a mix. If you leave the sweet peas then the plant produces less blooms so I will try to keep picking them and  we should have plenty from now on.
I can't really say that the garden is flourishing that much though, I think the last few weeks of rain have left it feeling a bit dejected, the radishes have been distinctly puny although we have had a good crop of potatoes and the courgette plants have now started producing. Poor Mr M was at work today, however  he finished earlier than usual so that was a bonus. Son number one has been complaining of the heat and took himself off for a cold shower this afternoon. Son two in contrast went for a run at a local beauty spot, uphill all the way, and came back lathered in sweat. As for me, I skipped the gym this evening and am hoping tonight doesn't prove unbearably muggy. Still, let's make the most of it, there is always rain around the corner!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Britain, Brexit and a Bloody difficult woman

It is a little bit worrying when you discover that you actually feel relief at the thought of Theresa May as Prime Minister, yet relief I did feel in comparison to the others, although you have to consider just who the "others" are... Boris... Gove...Leadsom. 'Nuff said really. Yet I found myself thinking that it was a good speech from Theresa May, one which at times might almost have come from someone who wasn't a Conservative at all...she even said she was thinking of all those struggling to make ends meet. Nice that they are being thought about now I suppose after over six years of Tory power in some guise or other...better late than never as they say.
Despite my scepticism, it is clear that May is determined to at least attempt the well nigh impossible task of uniting the country, of reaching out to those who are disaffected and hostile, of offering some leadership and semblance of stability.  If she is a bloody difficult woman, that could be just as well as she is going to need cojones of steel for what lies ahead. When I begin to feel hope though, I wonder if it might just be a kind of political version of Stockholm syndrome, that place of despair where you begin to believe that those responsible for whatever horrific predicament you are in are all you have to cling to. And in truth, with the Labour party imploding before our eyes, there is no-one else around.
Just stop and digest that one for a moment; it is really bad news, good opposition is vital to democracy.
Of course, we don't know what tomorrow will bring, so at the moment it is a case of wait and see and hope against hope that words a politician speaks might bear some resemblance to the truth or to their real intentions, that the other side might get their act together, that there might be something, somehow, light at the end of the tunnel, a cunning plan...
Only time will tell and I am sure you will forgive me if I reserve judgement for now.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The first day of summer

College broke up to students over a week ago and then we had a fairly full on week of local schools taster days (yikes, thirteen year olds!)  and family fun days. We have now fully broken up at least a week earlier or so earlier than the schools, although it should be noted that we return much earlier too. Yesterday we began the holidays by driving to Shrewsbury to attend a friend's ordination to become a deacon in the Roman Catholic church.
I don't know about you but I am still reeling from the vote to leave, mainly because I think is likely to have very serious consequences for our country and its prospects and also because of what it tells me about the current state of people's lives and their attitudes. It has to be admitted that neither side has covered themselves with glory in the whole campaign and its aftermath and the recent row over Andrea Leadsom's ludicrous "motherhood" comments is truly depressing. Is this what political debate has descended to? Must we really resign ourselves to leaders who are either self serving, really stupid or frequently both?
This is why yesterday felt like a much needed balm to the soul. I could never be a Roman Catholic, on all sorts of levels it just does not appeal to me, however I have no doubts that the friend we saw ordained is one of those people who lives to serve others. The "only" reward that he gains from this service is the fulfillment that it brings and there is a joy and contentment in his life that just radiates from him. One of the things I am pretty sure about is that the recent events in Britain, the reasons why many people voted,and the reason why we have seen such a disastrous fall out,is because our actions are fuelled by fear or greed and not by trust, love or the desire to serve.
I found it heartening yesterday to remember that when life is hard, when our politicians let us down, our economy fails, our circumstances are difficult, and the human race fights and bickers,there are still those who look to see where need is and to serve. Where there is still the possibility of service to others and service to God then there is hope and purpose.

God our Father,
extend our horizons, widen our vision,
and remind us how inter-connected we all are.
Breathe your Spirit into us
that we may live more truly
as brothers and sisters of one another.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Brexit Britain

I really don't have time at the moment to do justice to my feelings of despair at the result of the referendum but this article from Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian reflects a lot of my concerns.

Monday, 20 June 2016


 Apparently religious traditionalists are outraged that Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem in tribute to the massacre in Orlando because it ends with the sentiment that "God is gay." Well, I am just outraged because it seems to me to be pretty shite poetry along the lines of ..." the poet is gay... everyone is gay, the cat, the dog, the goldfish and its bowl are gay"..etc.
Of course, I recognise that it is a reaction hitting back at those voices that have claimed the atrocity in Orlando was not motivated by homophobia, and a response to calls to refer to the victims as "human" rather than "gay", It's just that when I read this poem I get a sort of "that-will-do-won't it" tone and surely repeating the word gay ad infinitum is not that daring today? Maybe it is in parts of the US, I just dunno (scratches head.) Meanwhile, some Brits are cross that CAD, our Poet Laureate and all that, didn't deign to write a poem for the Queen's 90th birthday. It occurs to me that her majesty may have had a lucky escape, I mean imagine, "The Queen is old, really old, and Prince Phillip is old, and the Queen Mum was really old and  is dead, and we are all getting old, so old, and God is dead,- or maybe just old." ( Do you know , I think that may have a certain poetic merit...)
Anyhow, on this blog we let you make up your own mind, so you can read Duffy's contribution here at risk of offending your theological  and/or poetic sensibilities. Maybe you'll like it on either count, or both:queerer things have happened.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Goodbye May

I have managed not to post anything all during May, this is partly due to the fact that I've been busy, also that I have just rather let this blog slide of late. It might possibly be more accurate to say that I have let my online presence in general slip; I hardly ever comment or go on facebook, although I can't escape the dreaded email when at work. All in all, when I read estimates that we spend on average two to three hours online a day, I feel quite smug.
I haven't got high hopes for my blogging presence this June either as I am now embarking on exam marking (why, why?) so it may well be August, or I may possibly take a blog holiday for even longer. Meanwhile, any time I do have is likely to be spent a. in the garden b. reading c in the gym. You have to keep up your levels of fitness, I almost always have a book of some sort on the go, and it is that time of year when the garden starts to get interesting, not to  mention habitable (it rains most of the time where I live.) Currently, I am enjoying pottering and am cultivating potatoes, courgettes, radishes and salad veg, all incredibly easy to grow. I've bought most of my seeds this year from low end shops as I've found they seem to be just as good quality as anywhere else and  £1.99 in Tesco compared to 39 pence in the half price sale at Pound Stretcher for courgette seeds was a no brainer!
Potato plant (Charlotte) shop bought and planted late Feb.

Potato plant spotted as a "weed" from the compost and thriving now it has its own pot.
No idea which variety.

Lettuce growing fast in this weather

One courgette potted up outside, should soon take off and get big!