Saturday, February 10, 2007

Anglicans (apologies to Robbie Williams)

To get the most out of this post, please sing out loud. Don't pretend you don't know the tune. Or that you're too cool. You know you're not. You know you want to. Do it now, and give everyone a laugh. I promise you'll feel better for it.

I sit and wait
As the choir sings songs so out of date
And do we see
This is where we’ll all still be
When we’re grey and old?
‘cos I’ve been told
that salvation isn’t bought or sold
so when I’m sitting in my pew
thinking deep thoughts as I do
before taking wine and bread…
I’m loving Anglicans instead.

And through it all they offer me protection
A little love and affection
Whether I’m right or wrong
And down the sea of doubt
Wherever it may take me
I know this church won’t break me
When I come to call, they won’t forsake me…
(da da da da da…)
I’m loving Anglicans instead.

When I’m feeling weak
And my faith is on a losing streak
I look around
And see those whose doctrine’s not quite sound
But I know this is my place
For me the others are a waste
And when all is done or said…
I’m loving Anglicans instead.

Just let me say, I’m keen on orthodoxy
And I think the Pope looks quite foxy
Whether he’s right or wrong
But on the other hand, should I start feeling fundamentalist
I’d rather root canal with a dentist
It’s really not my plan. I’ll stick with the C of E…
I’m loving Anglicans instead.

And furthermore, I’ve tried dunking with the Baptists
Tree-hugging with the alt worshippists
It was too much like hard work
So here I’ll stand, creed and hassock notwithstanding
These Anglicans aren’t too demanding
I’m becoming quite a fan. Especially of Rowan….
I’m loving Anglicans instead.

They won’t forsake me…
I’m loving Anglicans instead.

There. Feeling better? I know I am. Actually this expresses the deep affection I really do have for Anglicanism. And I really have hugged a tree. There are photos. But ironically, of course.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

This way lies madness

I was delighted by a piece of news last night on't telly about a 'computerised flat' (I think that's what they called it) for 'older people, possibly with dementia, or struggling with forgetfulness and not really safe to live on their own'. The idea is a 'smart home' that senses what reminders it needs to give you so you can live life safely.

It goes like this. Elderly person wakes in the night and sits up in bed. Regardless of whether they're intending to get up - they might be reaching for a drink, stretching, or wanting to contemplate the futility of life in an upright position - the light over their head comes on, as does the bathroom light because the 'house' assumes they need the loo. It they dare to not lie down, or worse, to get up and not go to the toilet, a disembodied female version of Stephen Hawking tells them 'it is 3am. Time to be in bed'.

If they leave the cooker on the voice tells them 'the kitchen needs attention' (but is strangely vague on the type of attention required. They could presumably spend their last precious hour cleaning out the fridge while the house burns down).

All this HAL-like care seems guaranteed to send anyone teetering on the brink of reality into a downward trajectory. Although Richard and I were quite keen to consider the technology for ourselves. He frequently leaves the oven on. And I have been known to wander the house at all hours of the night in a surreal state whilst tanked up on high dose steroids. Could be just what we're looking for.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Hurrah! I'm back in the wonderful world of virtual friendships, after yet another protracted stay at the computer hospital for this rickety old collection of wires and microwhatsits. I'm also out the other side of Januaryitis, being instead afflicted by extreme busyness and behaving in a similar fashion to a hamster on his wheel (though without the tendency to stuff my breakfast cereal into my cheeks and save it till later). ANYWAY...

Like much of the country, including the Archbish and most of the population of Manchester itself, I was somewhat surprised to hear that Manchester had been successful in its bid to build the first Supercasino in the UK. Though in hindsight, it was never really going to be Blackpool. Poor old Blackpool just isn't shiny enough, happy enough, or convinced of its own grooviness enough to impress. Still, I'm finding this whole concept of a Supercasino in Britain difficult to envisage. The talk is of a 'Las Vegas' style affair...but really? We couldn't do it, we're too self-conscious as a race. Putting it in Blackpool would have softened the whole thing round the edges, would have made it UK-palatable; we like our leisure with a bit of cheesiness, a bit of knowing irony or failing that with a bit of adversity. Make it difficult to get to, to engage with, to endure. Make the environment uncomfortable, the food terrible, the staff rude, the queues unending, the clientele unbearable. That's why we love Disneyland Paris so much.

Someone on 'Mock the Week' quipped that as a nation we are addicted to eBay; so how will we cope when tempted by the large sums of money offered by a Supercasino? How can we control our gambling impulses in such a situation when we get excited at the prospect of bidding for a second-hand pair of pyjamas? Of course there are many for whom the gambling impulse will quickly spiral into an out-of-control habit, faced with such a candy-store. But surely most of us, in our typical British fashion, are more likely to be thrilled by those second-hand pyjamas? eBay offers us so much of what we as a nation crave: nostalgia (I was excited to an unseemly extent by the discovery that one of my favourite games of my 70s childhood, 'Haunted House', is freely available on eBay. I don't need to buy it; it's enough to know it's there); cheapness (there are things on eBay we never knew we wanted until we saw that only £1.99 is being asked. Plus £50 P&P); goofiness (a vintage tupperware cracker box? a taxidermied grey squirrel? Excellent!); and - there it is again - a certain amount of adversity. We like to catch that deadline, chase down that bargain, watch those bids however much it interrupts our lives. An eBay that fitted in entirely with our schedule just wouldn't be the same. And a Supercasino that just sits there, waiting for us to turn up and play at our convenience, all shiny and happy and groovy...well, it's not really very British, is it?

In his book 'Beyond Words' (another grumpy old man tirade), John Humphrys points out the absurdity of an advertisement for a 'National Lottery Subscription'. According to the leaflet, a subscription means 'You'll never have to worry about forgetting to buy a Lottery ticket!' From what I can see (never having bought a ticket myself) it's the 'worrying' that's the whole point. Whether it's holding up an entire checkout queue while you scratch your card, or going round the office collecting the weekly syndicate dosh, the worry seems to make the whole thing that little bit more onerous and hence that little bit more British. We embrace awkwardness, uncertainty and disappointment. It's bred into us as a natural consequence of living with the British weather. The most popular gamble for citizens of this country seems to be: shall I leave the house without an umbrella? Or, if I take a jumper...(whisper it now)...will I be too hot?