Tuesday, 31 December 2013

As the year draws to a close

Today has a guest post by an occasional contributor, Adam Gardiner:

Reflecting on 2013 by Adam Gardiner

A rather surreal year in many respects.

The referendum that never was. A complete shambles. Three options, or rather a pick-n-mix of half-baked ideas; a badly worded questionnaire generating a mere 26% turnout and delivering a confused result. While option B was declared the winner it hardly came with a mandate supporting change. and thus the States went into hurried debate and rejected it. Where this leaves us is still unclear but just like Simon Abbott it would make a good film plot – and talking of….

The film that may or, may not be. A year in which it was revealed that Economic Development had effectively given away £200k of public money to a film company as 'encouragement' to film in Jersey. Canbedone Productions – certainly have proved that Jersey can be done! And the prospects of it going ahead? The Minister, his CEO and Treasury are convinced it will despite the film now being renamed, it's producer never having successfully produced anything in particular and a director and leading role actor/actress who have 'yet to be announced'. Also as yet no extras recruited, no advance parties scouting out potential locations – in fact nothing so far to suggest that it will happen – save the words of assurance given by Mr Carvelle that have been so eagerly lapped up by Mike King and  Alan Maclean. If the film does not roll, then heads must!

The new Coop HQ that was, then wasn't. So, pre-planning advice was sought and the scheme given a provisional thumbs up. However, the subsequent application was refused over concerns about it's size – 'a U-turn' say Coop CEO. Enter the 'heritage lobby' who produced their own plans and proposals in a bid to save 3 adjoining, but derelict, buildings thereby changing the issue from one of size to conservation. The Coop nonetheless revised their plans but the Minister referred them to PAP – and again it was refused. On a double-divi day too!

Yes we want to stem immigration, but then again, no we don't. The plan, a new Population Office whereby every resident is and will be eventually categorised - the triggers being change of job or address. In parallel the COM have budgeted upon an immigration growth rate of 350/year yet ignoring natural population growth – giving a figure more like 1,000 per year. Sadly another pick-n-mix of a policy. All in all the reality is that (a) its little more than revised version of housing control– but with knobs on – and (b) Jersey's population will continue to grow by around a 1,000 per year and (c) we will need an bigger civil service to administer it!

Suspension of the Dean. Where else but Jersey? Following allegations of mishandling a complaint from a vulnerable parishioner who claims to have been abused by a churchwarden, the Very Reverend Bob Keys was suspended from office. The island was embarked upon another muddled saga and produced a rather unholy mess! Ultimately it needed an apology, of sorts, from a Bishop to have the Dean reinstated. But it leaves behind a continuing sourness, allegations of cover-up, conspiracy and arguments that will run on for some time yet.

A nicely surreal moment comes from a JEP report:

"Deputy Rob Duhamel was guest speaker at the business group's (Chamber of Commerce) monthly lunch. But, instead of concentrating his 20 minute speech - in front of 250 business executives - on the economy and how the Planning department can help, he instead focused on the environment.

The minister talked of his admiration for Malmo in Sweden, which has championed concepts such as wind turbines, and residents designing their own neighbourhoods."

We already have 40+ wind turbines, thanks. You can see some of them most Tuesdays going through a door in the Royal Square. And as for residents designing their own neighbourhood……what? It takes 11 weeks and a fee of £600 just to get approval (or not as the case may be) for uPVC windows!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Non-Existent Car Boot Sales and Other Musings

"Saturday Morning. Car Boot Sale. 9am. Biarritz Hotel."
This was the only car boot sale on offer in the West of the Island last Saturday, so we duly went there to discover lots of builders sign boards, and hotel shut up for the winter. It is a small annoyance, perhaps, but it is a pity when the Jersey Evening Post does not have a proper system for checking whether events shown in its "Daily Diary" actually are taking place.
The Weather Forecast the other day was also subject to editorial blight. This is the same kind of creeping disease that plagues the JEP from time to time. There was the very brief summary report, and for the more detailed forecast, as well as tide times, you had to go to page xx. Obviously that number gets put in very late in the day, but on this day, Homer had nodded off, and left the place marker xx only in place. So to find the said whether forecast, I had to trawl through the whole JEP until I found it.
Perhaps that is something that Helier Clement could address and take up with the editor when Helier has finished his bottle of calvados in his shed. Rather like Doctor Who's Tardis, that bottle seems bigger on the inside than the outside, because it never seems to run out. The secret, perhaps, is that there is a still in the shed, secretly bubbling away, fermenting the drink. As they always say, it's the still ones you have to watch out for.
Christmas TV this year has been rather bereft of much to watch, especially if you don't particularly like reality TV, and I'm afraid I don't. I've recorded Midsomer Murders which did look good, and Death Comes to Pemberley, which has mixed reviews. I'll probably watch them when doing the ironing next Sunday. Murder and ironing always seems like a good combination, with something of the domesticity that Agatha Christie had in her small country village murders, and it was probably Miss Marple's maid who was ironing; in our household, it is me. As someone who spends a lot of time writing or on a keyboard, it is actually rather therapeutic.
There may have been mayhem and a murder in St Brelade's over the last year. I went for a walk in the country park opposite the Elephant Park, and in the car park was a van in good condition, but with two flat tyres, and an insurance disc dated September 2013. As regular viewers of the endless repeats of "The Professionals" and "The Sweeney" on ITV3 will be aware, vehicles do not usually have two flat tyres on one side only, at the same time - unless they have been deliberately shot out. The third shot was the hapless victim, who was taken away and the body smuggled away to one of the more obscure Geocaching sites, never to be seen again. The evidence of the disc points to their demise sometime before September 2013, and the heavy rainfall has obliterated all signs of blood.
Jersey over the last year seems to have had more unexploded bombs or shells from the Second World War discovered and exploded than in the five years before. Unexploded bombs also featured in "Call the Midwife", which captured the 1950s so well, and while there was a strong current of sentimentality, there was the bittersweet rip tide of a community effected by polio, which was all too real a danger back then. The mother of a school friend, Marion Miles, had a slight limp as a result of contracting polio as a child, and we forget, with the sugar lump vaccine (surely the best way to take a vaccine) quite what a scourge it was across Britain in those days.
I was reading an article today written in 2010, which dated St Brelade's Church as 1200 AD, and the Fisherman's Chapel as being built about 800 AD. In fact it should be the other way around. After all, there is a charter dated 1035 AD by Robert of Normandy which confirmed the patronage of the Church to the monastery of Montivilliers, hence showing it existed by that time. A case of time in a muddle.
Another case of time in a muddle was Doctor Who, which in contrast to the 50th Anniversary Special, was rather a rambling disaster, an incoherent muddle. I spoke to two people today who watched it, because it's the kind of show they have watched in the past, but despite that loyalty, they hadn't the slightest clue what was going on. It was partly a case of marking time to Matt Smith's regeneration, and partly an almost completely disconnected and embarrassing story about Clara's parents and their Christmas dinner. It required large continuity references to be understood, and had a town named Christmas on an alien planet. The computer called "handles" was a nice touch, but most of the rest of it did not draw on any real sympathy for any characters under threat, unlike the scenes of children in "Day of the Doctor". Viewing figures were good, but it would be a mistake to assume they paint the full picture.
Mark Gatiss' "An Adventure in Space and Time", by contrast, seems to have been very well received, and was accessible even by people who did not, as a rule, watch Doctor Who - my mother being a case in point. Gatiss other Christmas offering was also very welcome. A half hour adaptation of "The Tractate Middoth", a ghost story by M.R. James, which was very faithful to the short story, and had the same good period production values of the old adaptations by the BBC. This was followed by a fine documentary about MR James, also by Gatiss, in which his enthusiasm for the "master of the English Ghost Story" shone through.
Gatiss also mentioned MR James reply on Ghost Stories, which was wonderfully non-committal.
"Do I believe in ghosts? To which I answer that I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies me".

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Benefit of Clergy

One of the main causes of friction before the Reformation was the differences between Secular Courts and Church Courts. Clergy were tried according to the "Privilegium clericale", and were in essence, outside the law of the land. The priest is to be exempt from the laws that are binding on ordinary people.
The leaked letter from Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, to Robert Key, Dean of Jersey says:
"whatever the local law may seek to impose on you, you may not agree to follow it when my lawful requirements require you to do otherwise"
This is an extraordinary statement to make, and one which Bishop Tim Dakin will find it hard to live down. While it is clear from the letter that he is referring specifically to the Ecclesiastical Court in Jersey, it should be remembered that Canon Law in the Church of England in both Jersey and the UK is no longer a special province of the church, but enshrined as part of the general law of the land, passed by the Privy Council, and on the Statute books.
And yet, pleading what can only be described as "benefit of clergy", Tim Dakin says that "this is my court", and it therefore cannot be in opposition to him. This high handed and cavalier attitude may go some way to explaining why he employs Luther Pendragon to handle press communications, something that few other Bishops that I have come across have ever done - and I've had the odd friendly e-mail exchange with several -  Andrew Burnham, former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and Tom Wright former Bishop of Durham. There was no indication of vetting by any agency before they replied.
Another "benefit of clergy" has recently been highlighted on another blog, that the Freedom Church had at their open day, apparently a convicted paedophile, who the blog says was allegedly with others handing out lollipops to children in the nearby Millennium Park during their open day at the former Odeon Site, to encourage families to look around.
There is certainly a case for forgiveness in the Christian tradition, but this, if true, does seem an extraordinary thing to permit. Certainly there have to be avenues for people who have been convicted of such crimes to rehabilitate themselves, but not where there can be close proximity to children.
Suppose a cubs group wanted to use a volunteer to help them hand out leaflets publicising some event. Suppose they had someone doing this who had been charged and sentenced for two years in 2010 for 'sexualised' children as young as 12 when working in a position of trust as a care worker. Surely this would be regarded as dangerous. Even helpers at cubs group, even when parents themselves, still have to have a police check. If something was flagged up like this, they would not be allowed to work with the cubs group.
It is all very well to say someone like that will be "monitored" by an organisation, but gaining the trust of children when monitored begs the question of what may happen at other times when they are not with the organisation, and hence not monitored. A cubs group certainly would not adopt such a high risk policy. And if it did, the media would no doubt descend upon it.
I was discussing this with some friends, non of them church goers, nor particularly politically motivated, but all thought it showed an extraordinary lack of judgment by Freedom Church, and some of them work with young children, and know all about child protection checks. It's rather like giving a reformed alcoholic a job in a pub.
But different rules seem to apply to churches; it is our old friend "benefit of clergy" again.  And when it is brought to public attention, it becomes invisible. There is a photo in the JEP which gave the people at the open day, and listed them by name:
"Freedom Church open day. l to r Tim ---, Andrew ---, [name redacted], Jenn ---, John ---, Philippa---, Louise ---, front Micah ---  , Phoebe ---  , Phoebe ---  and Peter ---" - and some of those listed are children of 10 or under.
As I do not want to start a witch hunt, I have removed the name of the person convicted of sexual abuse of minors; and hidden the surnames of the others, it is for the church and the authorities to take steps to address the issue. Some of my fellow bloggers may disagree, but rather than name and shame, I think that highlighting the issue rather than the individual is what is paramount.
What is also worth noting, however, is that while it is not reporting on the issue, the Jersey Evening Post has pulled the picture with the caption from their online store of images. It was available, as Google Cache shows, but it is not there now.
The Evening Post is being more cautious than the bloggers, although this may be seen as a conspiracy theory by some. It apparently wants to avoid any potential embarrassment for the church at this stage, and any potential for defamation - there are, for instance, no photos of the alleged handing out of lollipops. My fellow bloggers will probably disagree with this assessment, but journalists do have to abide by a code of conduct.
Nevertheless, the matter should certainly not be swept under the carpet. There is no place for "benefit of clergy", any special pleading for Christian organisations that somehow sets them apart from the rules that govern child protection for any other organisation.
Orwell, writing about Dali, had this to say on "Benefit of Clergy":
"The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word 'Art', and everything is O.K..So long as you can paint well enough to pass the test, all shall be forgiven you."
In our day, it seems that an apt rephrasing could read:
"The religious organisation is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word 'religion', and everything is O.K..So long as you can pray well enough to pass the test, all shall be forgiven you."
Despite the vicissitudes of history, "Benefit of clergy" is still alive and well in Jersey today.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Falling Between the Cracks

Today's poem speaks for young people, who are sometimes very lost indeed and neglected in our society.

Falling Between the Cracks

Comes a darkness in the mind
And the world becomes so cold
Vision fades, becoming blind
And no more tales to be told

Seeking out the lonely place
Away from all, pain inside
Despair fracturing the face
And no where left to hide

No sanctuary, a darkened cave
Where cold the air, still the breath
The shadow falling of a grave
And siren call to time of death

Pray for all like one forgotten teen
Falling between the cracks unseen

Friday, 27 December 2013

Looking back on 2013: February blog postings

Alongside the refusal of Ms Leah Goodman to have a visa to come to Jersey, the JEP juxtaposed a story on illegal immigrants, which did rather labour the editorial stance of people coming to Jersey without proper permits. She eventually managed to get a visa after much lobbying by Jersey and UK politicians:
"Like Ms Goodman on Twitter, I too was rather taken aback at the JEP's decision to run a story on illegal immigrants alongside her own case, which she rather delightfully says is a "nice use of 'editorial adjacency'". Of course newspapers do run stories with a similar theme together; that can be seen from a perusal of any papers from the Mail to The Telegraph, so it is not uncommon practice, but it does rather stand out like a sore thumb in this instance"
As the forthcoming Referendum started to move into gear, and there was a lot of talk about politicians needing to address global issues, I wondered if there could not be a swing too far, and looked at politicians who had reached lofty heights and disdained local constituents:
"It is true that we do need politicians who can address Island concerns, and not merely Parish ones, but it is also important that they can address Parish ones. Time and time again, I have seen politicians aspire to be elevated to the ranks of the Senators above those of the Deputy or Constable, and once they are in, their attitudes can change remarkably. Their domain is now the Island, they are not to be concerned with pettifogging local matters, for those should in the first instance be addressed by the Parish Deputy and the Parish Constable. I have even personal experience of being told precisely this by a Senator who was had just been elected!"
A judgment regarding police officers and legal advice in the Curtis-Warren bugging case was leaked online, and I sounded a note of caution about taking Curtis Warren's side without looking at the evidence of what kind of person he was:
"Let us not forget that the evidence obtained was not ruled out on the appeal case brought by Curtis Warren, and for good reason. He would like to use any legal technicality that is available to him to evade his prison sentence, and this is not an innocent man trying to get out of jail. As the taped evidence, and other corroborating evidence showed, this man is a hardened criminal who thinks nothing of bringing in drugs of any kind to make money. He doesn't care about how many lives he ruins. He has shown in all this not one shred of contrition."
Deputy Duhamel had a bright idea of a new eco-friendly way of disposing of dead bodies - freeze dry then shake to pieces. It could have been a good investment for Charlie Hungerford, and a curious plot for Bergerac, but it was real:
"Unfortunately, no figures are available that I've been able to find on the costs of the proposed freeze dry alternative. How much electricity is used freezing yourself and the nitrogen? How much electricity is used when gently bombarding the corpse with sound waves? How does the carbon footprint compare with traditional methods? Their website states only that "Producing liquid nitrogen is still relatively costly. This, however, is offset by other factors when liquid nitrogen is used to replace environmentally hazardous alternatives, such as fossil fuels."  That doesn't really answer the questions."
I looked at how the Jimmy Saville case had raised into high profile how good "evidential tests" can be as they were questioned in the UK. Could there also be a case for re-assessing historical abuse cases?
"There is, of course, another factor which needs to be considered, and that is benefit of hindsight. The Jimmy Saville scandal in the UK has exposed cases where the CPS was over cautious in its application of the evidential test. In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service published a review of a decision in 2009 not to charge Jimmy Savile with sexual offences in relation to four complaints made to police in Surrey and Sussex. It said further action might have been possible had "police and prosecutors taken a different approach", and the current director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer apologised on behalf of the CPS saying that the report represented a "watershed moment"."
Stephen Lucas, local historian, former history teacher, and raconteur died:
"The Devenport Years" is a fine epitaph to his career as a history teacher. There had been an earlier book - Derek Cottrill's "Victoria College: 1852-1972", but it is a very dry book, whereas Stephen Lucas, while detailing the period 1967-1991, and the changes taking place, is also full of lively anecdotes which bring the history and the personalities to life. The other book is one to read and file away for reference, but Stephen Lucas is one to enjoy. And that I think is a fitting legacy to remember him by.
Potholes in the news again. But does TTS have exacting enough standards for utility company repairs? Better ones are "on the way" and "in the pipeline", we are told. And told. And told.
"Apparently, the roads are inspected by TTS, but given the bumpy nature of the repairs, and the patchwork quality, I wonder just what standards apply. If a trench has been dug up, and a patch is put back, it only takes some contraction and expansion before it is starting to have cracks where it meets the main road surface; patches are often uneven as well, you can easily feel them as you drive over them."
Does Jersey need a Party system? And what would be the unexpected and bad side effects which that could bring? The subject of my blog in February:
"In fact, Jersey, because of the small size of the States, no post-war Party system along the same lines as the UK has managed to be successful, but there have been successful independent members who have brought significant change to the Island. They are the kind of people whom a Party system would squeeze out, because that demands an ideological commitment rather than independent thinking. It is a delusion to think otherwise. As Belloc notes, "the price which has to be paid for admission is, of course, a complete surrender of independence, and absolute submission to the will of the body as a whole.""
Simon Crowcroft declares for Option A - and places a blog posting which is also a direct and invisible feed to the Parish website. Does this give Parish approval, or appear to do so?
"I wouldn't agree with Constable Dan Murphy who Tweeted "Surely in order to preserve his integrity Crowcroft must resign as a constable now". After all, Constable Len Norman is on record - a video still exists online - in 2012 of saying the Constables should not sit in the States. That's personal opinion. It's on a private blog. It is not part of an official Parish website of St Clement. But the St Helier site has a tab marked "Blog", that fits seamlessly into the website; it's part of the website, not a private and separate blog."

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Looking back on 2013: January blog postings

It's a whole year since my friend Alane Wallace died:
"I've just recently heard that my friend Alane Wallace has died. My sincere condolences to her family. Apparently it was very sudden indeed, and I've heard it was possibly a heart attack. I so enjoyed chatting to her, all the silly comments, the wisdom, and the enthusiasm we had in our conversations, all the comments on my postings and encouragement, and all the deep intense messages when we talked on Facebook privately. I shall miss her so much, even though we never met except for here, even though she had come to Jersey before we became friends, and loved the Island."
January also saw the death of former States member, Dick Shenton:
"As a politician who both effectively beat the populist drum, who captured the mood of the people so well, and yet who could lead as president of major committees, there is probably no equal. It is hard to say that any members of the present or previous."
"In 1990, long, long before Ministerial government, he said: "I am disturbed by the amount of wasted time that this House indulges in". That's something worth remembering by those who hark back to a "golden age". It's only golden because there is less of it recorded in the minutes!"
And other death was the well known film maker, food critic, and larger than life character, Michael Winner:
"British film maker Michael Winner has just died, aged 77. He himself said that "A little vulgarity is a thoroughly good thing.", and he was just that, a larger than life persona, vulgar, rich, pompous (but not really arrogant), and very much at home with the persona that he had created. He often seemed preposterous, a kind of living caricature, just like one of the larger than life characters we meet in Dicken's Pickwick Papers."
I wrote about my one of my political influences - George Orwell:
"What I like about Orwell is the way he captures the people so well, and also this is where he shines above the more doctrinaire politicians of the left. His interests are wide ranging, and you feel that an evening in his company would be enjoyable, not a monologue on a fixed idea. Politics is important to him, but it is not all consuming. And he'd also clashed with what might be called the "hard left", rigid, often humourless, people who he felt were out of touch with the common man."
The JEP reported on the Island in the grip of gambling, and I had some comments on the misleading way they presented their statistics:
"Another difference is the presence of capital cities - "capital cities have major economic functions which the vast majority of islands cannot aspire to (i.e. they are extremely unusual 'outliers' in any data set. The presence of large cities which serve as hubs for a working population makes the UK very different from Jersey. It is curious as to why the JEP looks to the UK for comparison, where Guernsey would seem a much more logical choice, but perhaps the statistics would not be quite as alarming and headline grabbing."
And on more general British stories, the horse meat scandal broke; I wrote on the strange way we have food taboos:

"There has in fact been a trend with globalisation for the taboos on food to effect other countries, as cultures become more aware of their own singularity. It is interesting, because you might expect a widening of cuisine to lessen the effect of the taboos on food, but instead, the opposite has taken place."
And I also looked at the decline of the Parish system in Guernsey, which happened for various reasons, as they took a different path historically:
"While elections of Constables in Jersey are uncommon, in Guernsey they are not only uncommon, they also attract paltry voter turnout. The notion that "There will be life in the Jersey Parishes if the Constables cease to sit in the States." which I read recently could only have been written by someone who has turned a blind eye to developments in Guernsey."
January was cold, and I was also critical of the way in which the penchant for listing buildings forgets the way they were developed in history, and seeks to preserve them in stasis, with no real consideration of the fact the real purpose of homes is people, and the hypocrisy over windows because that is seen while structural changes inside are not:
"Most houses have been changed over the centuries, added to, build upon, as a reading of Old Jersey Houses makes clear. When the earliest old Jersey farmhouses were being built, as with the Great Houses in England, there was no electricity, no hot and cold running water, no telephones etc. All of these were intrusions into the original fabric of the buildings, and sometimes difficult ones, but ones that were felt to be necessary."

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The wild and lively God

A Christmas piece from the 1996 Parish Notes in "The Pilot" today from Martin Inman. His "wild and lively and romping God" surely reminds of Aslan, the Lion, in the Narnia stories. "He's not a tame Lion". Yet so much religion is about taming God, whether it ritual or regulation, so that even the open feast of the Lord's Supper is restricted by each particular group to those acceptable to them; not in all churches, thankfully, as some heed the call for an invitation to be made to all, and no one to be excluded.

As Jurgen Moltmann put it:

"Where does Jesus' feast belong?  On the streets of the poor who follow Jesus, or in the church of the baptized, the confirmed and established? I decided for the feast that is open to all, and to which the weary and heavy-laden are invited...  That certainly contradicts the practice of our mainline churches, but it is in conformity with Jesus according to the Synoptic Gospels.  Jesus' Supper is not a church meal for people who belong to one's own denomination.  It is the feast of the crucified Christ, whose hands are stretched out to everyone. "

From Martin Inman, Hospital Chaplain
For the vast majority of us much of life, perhaps most of it, consists of routine. This, I suppose, is why we so look forward to the high spots of the year: holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries and, at this time of the year. Christmas. Such times as these lend an excitement and vividness to life which may not be there for the rest of the time. They provide a kind of liberation from the ordinary and the routine. We may well perceive them as being necessary to prevent us stagnating into boredom.
The poet W H Auden put the matter rather well when, in his "Christmas Oratorio," he wrote of the Yuletide Season, "Music and sudden light have interrupted our routine - and swept the filth of habit from our hearts."
The trouble is that if Christmas is viewed in a purely secular light "the filth of habit" does not stay swept from our hearts for very long -just a few clays at the very most. We are soon back to the old routine and the condition known by some of us as "Post-Christmas Blues" sets in.
How different it is, or should be, for those who perceive the real meaning of Christmas: God becoming one of us and so telling us that he is "Emmanuel," God with us, God marching with us along the road of life.
And what a God! As one of the teachers at my old college put it, he is "the wild and lively God, creator of a wild and lively universe, with you and me and all the others in it." This, in the words of the little-known modern poet Chad Walsh, is "the romping God who through impossibility has delivered us into the madness and gladness of sure knowledge and salvation."
But where to find him? Where to find this wild and lively romping God who wants to enrich the routine of our daily lives with his vivacity? Remember that the message of Christmas is that God has become one of us and that he is therefore intimately involved with our humanity, that he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. It follows that it is in the depths of our own souls that we are to look for and find the wild and lively romping God.
"Easier said than done!" I hear you say. There are many who see only darkness when they look inside themselves. One such was a certain Italian noblewoman in the sixteenth century. Despite her great wealth and position in society she was bored and dissatisfied with tier life. Her spiritual director, a poor monk, knew this and wrote these words to her on Christmas Eve 1513:
"The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see - and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look."
The joy, radiance and glory of the wild and lively romping God are accessible to us because he has become one of us. He can sweep the filth of habit from our hearts and make each day an adventure in his wild and lively world. To find him we must look for him with faith and prayer and keep on looking for him, for he is there to he found.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

An Empty Stocking

Wishing all my readers a very merry Christmas. And here is a Christmas Eve Sermon, from the wonderful film Bishop's Wife - Cary Grant as an Angel, David Niven as the Bishop, Loretta Young as the Bishop's wife. It should not work, but it does. It is a brilliant film, all about what guidance really is, and there are lots of lovely comic touches to it. A magic film for the season.
This sermon comes from the film, and is given on Christmas Eve. I think it has a message is one that everyone should hear and take to heart.
An Empty Stocking.
Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.
Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.
But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that.
Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Icons of Christ

A Christmas piece from the 1996 Parish Notes in "The Pilot" today. Some who go to church, yet don't really care about their fellow human beings are killing the real spirit of Christmas, just as much as the more secular folk. Or as Charles Dickens put it in "A Christmas Carol":

"There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit, 'who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name; who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."

From Paul Wilkin, Curate-in-Charge, St Aubin on the Hill, 1996

"It's about giving". "It's a children's time". "It's about an old man in it long coat". These are some of the comments I can recall hearing at this time of the year from various sources and of course they are all true, but perhaps not in the way that those who originally passed those comments meant them.

Christmas is, of course, about giving. It's about the greatest gift of all. The gift of life given to all humanity in a single life, the life of the Son of God. It has to be a gift. No one could possibly earn or buy what God gives so generously and freely. All we can do is accept the gift, and care for it and nurture it.

Christmas is a children's time, but not just a children's time. It is a time for all human beings, because our God became a human being. Of course children are special at this time of year, as they are at every time of year, because it was as a child that the Son of God entered humanity. But the human face that he wore was not just a child's face. Because of his coming among us every human face has become an icon of Christ.

And it's about an old man in a long coat. His name is not Father Christmas, but Herod. He stands for the forces which oppose the life that God gives. You'll see his image around a lot at this time of year. On the first Christmas Day he sought to kill the Christ-child. Don't let him kill what Christmas is all about in you.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Funeral at Christmas

A poem for Sunday for a change. I've known several funerals close to Christmas. The juxtaposition of grief death and celebration of birth, of sorrow and of joy, is something that always seems to have a quality of strangeness, and yet the colours of advent are those of mourning.

Funeral at Christmas
I remember that cold wet day
Sheltering under ancient birch
The sky clouded, dark and gray
At the entrance to the church.
The coffin carried, we followed
And sat within the darkened pew
Death touching all who sorrowed
Mourning today the one we knew
Rain falling outside, wind rising
A time of endings, silent night
Death came now, joy despising
An advent of the dying rite
Chimes ring out, because they must
Funeral at Christmas, dust to dust

Saturday, 21 December 2013


Something for the Winter Solstice, and wishing all my readers a very merry yuletide.


The turning world, a longest day
In the South: dry land of drought
And wild fires blazing to dismay
While typhoon rages all about

The turning world, a shortest day
In the North: rivers over flow
And cliffs falling, break away
While storms bring Winter snow

As Earth rotates, turn, turn, turn
We mark sacred space this night
And tell the old tale of Sun return
And the increase once again of light

Winter Solstice, and it is silent night
Merry meet, as the gods shine bright

Friday, 20 December 2013

Odds and Ends

Making a Splash on Facebook
One of the oddest stories I have read has to be the Taiwanese tourist who was busy checking her Facebook page as she walked along. She was walking along a pier in the Australian city of Melbourne, which was perhaps not the best place to check Facebook, and walked off St Kilda's pier into Port Phillip Bay late on Monday night this week. The rescuers reported this:
"She still had her mobile phone in her hand and initially she apologised... she said 'I was checking my Facebook page on the phone and I've fallen in'."
Dirty Money and Killer Banknotes
The BBC reports that:
"Plastic banknotes that can survive a spin in the washing machine are to be brought into circulation by the Bank of England in 2016. The Bank argues that the polymer notes stay cleaner and are more secure than cotton paper notes, which have been used for more than 100 years. The £5 note featuring Winston Churchill will be the first plastic banknote. About 20 countries around the world have adopted polymer banknotes, starting with Australia in 1988."
But the Independent reports that:
"A study of the survival rates of microbes such as E.coli and the MRSA superbug when placed on seven different currencies has found that they thrived best on money printed on the plastic polymer banknotes earmarked to be introduced in Britain in 2016 following a public consultation."
And when Doctor Who gets hold of the notes, of course, expect a return from the Nestenes, those evil colonising aliens who can animate plastic and turn it into lethal weapons.
Working Title: The Economy Strikes Back., or Cash Wars.
Doctor: Who was he?
Kate Lethbridge Steward: He was the former head of a failing bank, who walked off with a golden handshake. He seems to have been murdered by his own banknotes.
Doctor: He murdered the economy, and now the economy strikes bank. It's a rather sour note.
Too Let?
Just read this story:
"Hill walkers and mountaineers have disputed a claim that a double award-winning loo is the most remote public toilet on the UK mainland. Loo at the Light in Sutherland won two accolades at the 2013 Loo of the Year Awards. People who look after the facility at Stoer Head Lighthouse said it was a great achievement for mainland UK's "remotest public toilet". However, climbers say Corrour Bothy's toilet is more remote. The historic bothy is at the foot of Cairn Toul and the Devil's Point in the Lairig Ghru in the Cairngorms."
Fancy having an argument about the most remote loo! A right carry on at their convenience!
For those who are interested in the oddities of toilets. An outbuilding at "The Elms" in Jersey has a "double" toilet - two holes for two people to sit at once! And the Minquies rocks have the most southerly toilet in the British Isles.
The Spirit of Scrooge
The spirit of Scrooge is live and well in Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which has sent out Christmas cards with the seasonal greeting - "Don't overindulge this Christmas. Pay your rent!" - sent out to west London council tenants. The card shows a pound coin fizzing in a glass.
The BBC reported that:
"Hammersmith and Fulham Council said 46% of its tenants were in rent arrears and the cards were part of a "hard-hitting" campaign. However, tenants branded it as a "disgusting" move disguised as a festive message."
And as usual, they have been sent to everyone, including people who pay regularly on time, which is sloppy, lazy and shows a complete lack of thought. I wonder what bright spark thought of this idea. Someone from a PR firm, no doubt, after one two many Christmas cognacs.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

RIP Ronnie Biggs: A Train Robber Finally Derailed

Ronnie Biggs has recently died, by a bizarre coincidence, just as a new TV two-part show covers the story of the Great Train Robbery from the criminals and police sides.

The BBC reports that:

"British criminal Ronnie Biggs, who took part in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, has died aged 84, his spokeswoman has confirmed."

One thing that struck me as a little odd when reading that was that former Train Robbers now seem to have their own PR people to hand out news stories. You would have thought a doctor or medical examiner would have been the proper person to confirm it, but there is evidently no limit to the medical expertise of a good PR firm.

Danny Shaw, writing on his death, noted how ambiguous his life was:

"Loveable old rogue or violent criminal? Ronnie Biggs divided opinion like few other offenders.Some admired his audacity - the robbery, the prison escape and the 36 years on the run, cocking a snook at authority as he lived the high life in Brazil. Others detested his cavalier attitude to the rules by which most law-abiding people live their lives - and they remember that the robbery was not a "victimless" crime. Jack Mills, the train driver, beaten with an iron bar, never fully recovered and died of leukaemia seven years later. The case of Ronnie Biggs is a reminder of our sometimes conflicting attitude to crime and criminals."

But Anthony Delano, who wrote a book about Biggs, met the criminal a number of times, and his attitude was very different:

"He was a man with no moral compass whatever," he told BBC Radio 5 live, "He was a small-time crook who probably would have ended up in prison for a greater part of his life anyway."

I think his escape probably lent him a glamour that the other robbers didn't really have. "Buster" was portrayed by Phil Collins in the film of the same name, but I would be hard pressed to tell you his surname, or where he went on the run, or even what he really looked like. The names of the other robbers would be one of the more obscure questions for a Pub Quiz. But say "Ronnie Biggs", and everyone knew who you were talking about, and what he looked like.

The end of the tale very nearly copied fiction. In "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951), the crooked Henry Holland portrayed by Alec Guinness is tracked down to Rio de Janeiro, where he tells his tale, only revealing at the end that he is in handcuffs, and his listener is in fact the policeman who has arrested him. Although he had seemed to get away, movies of that period could not have criminals escaping scot free.

Almost like the Ealing comedy, DCS Jack Slipper travelled to Brazil, where he attempted to arrest Biggs in a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, with the words "Long time no see, Ronnie." But Biggs was to become the father of his pregnant Brazilian girlfriend's child, and the extradition failed, and the papers dubbed Slipper as "Slip-up of the Yard". It never ended like that in the movies, but the Ealing writers would have probably enjoyed the element of high farce.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Looking through the pages of the Pilot in 1987, I came across this very pertinent piece by Michael Stear, who was Minister at St Paul's Church in Jersey.

I would take issue with him slightly. He does not address the issue of sustainability with regard to population numbers, in terms of infrastructure, which is something the UK doesn't have as much of a problem with - it has larger reservoirs, and sources of water from rivers, to take one example. But back in 1987, the Island's population was then around 80,212, rather than the 97,857 of the last census in 2011, and the problem was not quite as acute.

But debates about immigration are often not about sustainability, they are about fear and hatred and dislike of the foreigner, the alien coming to stay in Jersey. We can see this in recent months with the furore about Romanians, who may come here and threaten our jobs, or so the rather xenophobic and racist narrative goes. Making a scapegoat of the immigrant to blame for societies ills is something that people buy into very easily, and it is well laid bare by Michael Steer in this article.

Indeed, if I had not given the date - 1987 - I suspect most readers would be hard pressed to tell when it was written. I can predict that the ugly side of the debate will rear its head next year, as it is an election year, just as it did back in 1987.

There is a lot of good sense in this article, and the problems described are just as present today, if not more acute. Slum landlords still rent sub-standard accommodation, and the crumbs still fall from the tables. And there is still a degree of blame for society's ills laid at the door of the immigrant.

Immigrant! by The Rev. Michael Stear. 

The Autumn will also see the Elections here in Jersey. No doubt immigration will figure prominently as an issue. Our politicians, or potential politicians, face a difficult task in balancing a variety of concerns and issues. We have a responsibility to pray for them.

This month is four years since I took up the invitation to move here. As a family we have been made very welcome and have received a lot of love from many people. But it took moving to Jersey for me to begin to understand what it is to be an `immigrant'. I well remember attending an open meeting at the Town Hall shortly after I arrived, where the Island Plan was displayed and being discussed.

Two things impressed me about the occasion - the poor attendance and the very powerful reaction to immigrants. As I listened to feelings being expressed, it hit me: "I'm one of those they are talking about in disparaging terms." I sank lower in the chair and felt that I almost needed to crawl out on all fours!

Over recent months there have been almost daily references to immigration. I would put in a plea to all our politicians to be cautious in their terminology and the attitude some of them convey. Certain attitudes expressed recently by public figures give me cause for concern.

Unqualified expressions such as `quality immigrants' on the one hand and `undesirables off the boats' on the other are highly subjective and loaded with pre-suppositions, often far from Christian. Equally disturbing has been the attitude openly expressed by some, that it is immigrants, people off the boats, who are responsible for increased crime. I am interested to know whether that is statistically proven. The attitude has come across from some, albeit a few, that Jersey's problems come from outside of the Island and seldom from within.

I was saddened and indignant as were other people. at comments I heard at the end of July with regard to the sub-standard accommodation faced by some Portuguese workers. On one hand some politicians were saying: "Tell us of specific situations and we will look into them." Now that is sincerely meant, concerning that I have no doubt, but it is a paternalistic attitude which falls far short of dealing with the problems.

Similar attitudes have surfaced over a range of social issues. When a person has no protected rights or security, to make a specific complaint against an employer could mean a one-way ticket to unemployment, homelessness and having to leave the Island. On the other hand there were comments made concerning the way in which some have abused their accommodation. The tenor of one or two comments sailed perilously close to racism.

The Bible has some strong things to say about such matters, and has a strong concern for justice, care for the `stranger in your midst', concern for the powerless in society, and fair pay for fair work.

The immigration problem is a difficult one for our politicians to sort out; I don't deny that for one moment. Restrictions and controls of some kind are no doubt necessary. But if Jersey pursues a very tight policy on housing and work permits, would they be prepared for the UK to impose similar stringent restrictions on Jersey people going there? After all unemployment and housing are far greater problems in the UK.

As the Elections approach, the question has to be asked what kind of society does Jersey want to be known as, and what kind of lifestyle is right? The impression given at times is that Jersey wants to be a society that has its cake and eats it.

The reality is, that even amongst Jersey people, there are those who have their cake and enjoy it, whilst others get the crumbs. It is not fair to say that those with crumbs have themselves to blame for not working hard enough. Whilst the majority of the population enjoy a very affluent standard of living, there is an enormous disparity between rich and poor living in very close proximity. A variety of visitors to the Island acquainted with deprivation and urban decay on the mainland have commented, off the record, that the material and social problems faced by some people in some parts of the Island are equal to those faced in the inner cities of the UK.

For a community whose Chancellor announced a handsome Island surplus last year, such a state of affairs should not exist. If the prophet Amos were alive today, I suspect he would be an uncomfortable person for us to live with. But all of us, and I include myself very much in this, need to take heed of what God said through Amos and through other prophets of the Old Testament. It is there we are challenged as to the nature of society God wants.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Growing up with the Doctor – Part 6

Growing up with the Doctor - Colin Baker (1984–1986)

Colin Baker's tenure with the Doctor began with the "Twin Dilemma", and set the tone for the years to come. Arguments, violence, and poor production values, along with a catastrophic choice of costume made this probably one of the worst in the programme's history. The programme, not unlike my relationship with my girlfriend Marilyn, was coming apart at the seams.

It was not Baker's fault. He had shown himself a good actor in other productions, and later in Doctor Who audio drama, he was an excellent Doctor Who – given the right script. But his opening script was the first in a long line of flawed writing, with little in the way of high concept ideas or social comment.

The often best cited of his tenure, "Vengeance on Varos", was full of casual violence, and for all its pretensions to be a satire on the sadistic elements in modern television, it was a profoundly ambiguous one.

But most of all, what really was eating away at the programme was an obsession with continuity and looking backwards to the past, albeit extremely badly. "Attack of the Cybermen" took the Doctor back to Telos and the Tombs, homage for fans, but they didn't look anything like the grand sets of the Patrick Troughton story. A gantry, and a few empty rooms with doors, was presumably all the budget could manage.

The mythical element was being lost. Even when Doctor Who tried to draw on its roots, as in "Timelash" by presenting us with the young H.G. Wells, it was done in a lazy fashion. The smallest research would have shown that H.G. Wells was a cockney, and here he is instead a somewhat effete posh speaking young man, wholly unlike the historical character. The story and acting in that tale were pretty abysmal as well. At least George Stevenson did have an accent, even if "Mark of the Rani" with its fake moving tree, also hit the odd low.

I watched Doctor Who, because I've always watched Doctor Who, but I hoped for some kind of improvements. The move to a 45 minutes story, dragged out over two episodes, seemed slow, and left a lot of room for endless Tardis scenes, and lots of shouting arguments between the Doctor and his companion Peri. This show lacked pace, lacked decent scripts, and lacked good production values.

And the level of violence had increased. Hands bleeding as the Cybermen crushed them, death by being knocked into a pool of acid by the Doctor, a stabbing in the neck by one character using a syringe in "Revelation of the Daleks", and a fatal stabbing in the chest in "The Two Doctors", as well as the Doctor himself despatching a villain by using a cyanide soaked cloth on their face. This was no longer a children's programme. It was becoming a nasty sadistic television show, and losing the potential that was there.

And then it was cancelled for 18 months in 1985 by Michael Grade. Grade never liked Doctor Who, and this current series certainly provide plenty of ammunition for him. But the same team remained in place, with Eric Saward in charge as script editor, the man who thought you needed to show violence to be realistic.

In my own life, I was looking at a historical figure whose life spoke of peace and non-violence, and yet was a charismatic figure, one that people would look at for centuries after his death. In a way, he embodied much that Doctor Who should be about, and the disparity between his story and the last series of Doctor Who only highlighted the divide, and showed how far the show had fallen from its moral roots. His name was Francis of Assisi.

I had been contacted by Rosemary Hampton, an old friend, and the wife of the Rector of Grouville, Terry Hampton. They wanted to do a celebration of the life of St Francis. There would be music, well known hymns stemming from the life of Francis, where the audience could sing with. But in between, she needed some short playlets which would tell episodes in the story of St Francis, and also in the middle, a short slide show with narrative to give more background, and paintings of Francis, and picture of Umbria. It worked very well, and I managed to rehearse and largely control my somewhat unruly friars!

Doctor Who meantime was due to return in "The Trial of a Timelord". The violence had been toned down, but what remained was muddled and largely unwatchable. I did watch it, but the narrative was broken up by endless trial scenes, in which the Valeyard would shout at the Doctor, and the Doctor shout back at the Valeyard.

Such gems of dialogue in the stories were:

"I intend to adumbrate two typical instances from separate epistopic interfaces of the spectrum."
"I would appreciate it if these violent and repetitious scenes could be kept to a minimum."
"Nobody likes brain alteration"
"There's nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality"
"A megabyte modem"
"How utterly evil!"

The courtroom scenes, far from enhancing the narrative, disrupted it because of the heavy handed way in which they were fed into the whole long story arc over 4 different stories. The "Key to Time" sequence, where references to the quest were at a minimum and stories could stand on their own two feet showed what could be achieved, but instead this was a disaster than went steadily downhill.

Probably the best story was the one with the Vervoids, a kind of Agatha Christie with added alien plant monsters, but even that was hardly gripping, and again suffered from discontinuity – the story jumps to the Doctor standing with an axe over a broken communication panel, with no real explanation of why it jumps except for another Courtroom scene. And what was an axe doing on a spaceship anyway?

But I soldiered on watching it, hoping against hope that it would get better. There were the occasional flashes of brilliance – the character of Glitz, a kind of interstellar spiv, and the different Mr Popplewicks. But there was no real pace, and no sense that the cliff-hanger should be something exciting, when the viewer wanted to tune in next week.

Back in the real world, the St Francis playlets being a success, Rosemary Hampton had a much more ambitious task ahead. She had shown me a church in England which had produced a kind of historical pageant, in which music from each period was interspersed by the same family coming in the costumes of that period. But it wasn't really dramatic, and she wanted something based on Grouville Church history -and there were certainly enough saintly and villainous characters there to fashion something from.

So my task was to write a slide sequence history for the middle section, as before, and a series of different acts, some of which would involve seeing the same family present at different periods, but which would be based on real historical incidents, from Norman times to Victorian times.

As the odd Rector had been taken away by officials, and imprisoned, or dealt corruptly with farmers, there was plenty of scope for drama. I saw that we could also fit in a miracle playlet and I wrote a pastiche about the woman caught in adultery. There was the pardoner, seeking coins from the family to let souls out of purgatory, a wonderfully over the top performance by Simon Hicks, with blacked up teeth to give a grotesque gap tooth appearance. And the drunken soldiers from the Militia, one of whom is now the present Constable of Grouville, John Le Maistre, who provided some much needed humour (and always got a laugh). And finally a Victorian piece, with the saintly Abraham Le Sueur and the very officious and villainous Peter Briard (a role I grabbed for myself!)

The narrators, in the meantime, would fill in the gaps and link the playlets together. As there was more information to put out, I decided on two narrators. And to make it more interesting, one would be mainly concerned with the church building, the fame of some Rectors, and a triumpalistic tone, while the other would be more prophetic, looking at the more spiritual side, and also the church's failings.

Narrator 1 By the fourteenth century, the Church was doing rather well. It had become prosperous and respectable. It is around this time that the list of Grouville Rectors was begun with the name of Pierre Faleyse, Dean of Jersey and Rector of Grouville. He was a staunch upholder of the rights of the Church! The Church had Its own Courts of Law, distinct from the Civil Courts. Pierre fearlessly defended these against the Civil Authorities - even against the Bailiff.

Narrator 2 Pierre upheld the rights of the Church. But what good are rights without justice?

Another example from the Victorian section:

Narrator 1: The Victorian age saw the Church in decay, badly in need of restoration. The floor was raised two feet above the damp that was seeping through

Narrator 2: Yes, the Church was in decay. Pews - with a good view of the pulpit - had been bought by the rich; the poor were shunted to the back of the Church. Was this God's house - a place where position could be paid for?

Narrator 1: But a general restoration was under way, brought about by Abraham Le Sueur, Rector of Grouville from 1851.

Narrator 2: He also cared for the poor and needy, encouraged education for all young children, and took an active interest in the Jersey Female Orphans Home.

The idea of two narrators, driving the narrative with a degree of conflict between the differing viewpoints, came of course indirectly from "The Trial of a Time Lord" and the Courtroom scenes. It couldn't be an exact fit, of course, because none of my narrators was actually on trial. But the idea of opposing viewpoints came from Doctor Who, even if the execution was different.

Sometimes the contrast between narrators was sharp, and at other times, more complementary; it had to be tailored to the drama unfolding. But there was often a sense that one narrator was very much putting the more materialist viewpoint of the other on trial. With one narrator male, and one female, it also gave contrasting voices to make the narrative links more interesting to listen to.

I am sure that Rosemary Hampton never knew the subtle influence from Doctor Who, nor did anyone else who took part. It was, after all, not a slavish copy, but simply a good narrative device, and unlike "Trial of a Timelord", it worked well.

Despite the Great Storm of 1987 disrupting the Friday night performance (postponed until Sunday night), the event went ahead and was a success. The drunken soldiers ad libbed about needing to cut down branches with bayonets on the way to the church. The historical hymns between each act captured each period well.

But another kind of storm was coming at the BBC. The script editor Eric Saward had left acrimoniously after an angry dispute with the producer John Nathan Turner. And the "Trial of a Timelord" had not been a success. Controller of BBC1, Michael Grade, decided one last try for the show was in order, but without Colin Baker. He was blown away by the fickle fate that had dealt him such a bad hand. Trees had fallen in the Great Storm, and the key actor and script editor had fallen from Doctor Who. Was there any hope left for one last blaze of glory, or had the programme had its day?

Cyber Bullying


Monday, 16 December 2013

Jersey and Winchester: The Debate in 1973

In the 1973 December edition of "The Pilot", followed by the January 1974 edition, there was a brief debate about whether Jersey and Guernsey should remain part of the Diocese of Winchester.

Our two protagonists in this debate were John Hitchcock, Churchwarden (of St Simon's Church) and the Dean, Tom Goss. Goss had been a chaplain in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and later was a Japanese Prisoner of war from 1942 to 1945.

Hitchcock cites the Isle of Man as an example and the way in which the Channel Islands are on the margins because of their geographical isolation, and hence often get left out of the Diocese's reckoning when decisions are being made.

Goss, on the other hand, counters with tradition, and suggests there would not be the anticipated savings if matters were costed; he may have been thinking of the larger funding from the quota paid to Winchester part of which goes towards clergy pensions. But he does think the Deans could be assistant bishops, not unlike Suffragan Bishops in England, who support the Diocesan Bishop.

Nothing came of this debate, perhaps because there was not the acrimonious conflict between Winchester and Jersey which now seems to prevail. There were no copies of the Diocese in Europe on the table in the Town Church. And the Bishop was John V Taylor, a liberal Evangelical in the Church of England, who was very popular, and whose theology was very inclusive; he was very supportive of Communicare and joint Anglican Methodist confirmations there.

But it is interesting to notice that, as Ecclesiastes puts it, "there is nothing new under the sun", and this matter has been raised 40 years ago!

Letter to the Pilot, December 1973
Dear Sir,

Are the Channel Islands part of the Diocese of Winchester? Most people will immediately say yes and dismiss the question as irrelevant. The lawyers and the historians can be relied upon to produce factual evidence to support the affirmative. The Bishop or his suffragans pay periodic visits for Confirmations, etc. Every parish pays its diocesan quotas, levied annually at the request of the Diocesan Finance Board. The local Synod spent quite a proportion of its time debating whether to send twelve people about four times a year to Winchester, eventually deciding to reduce the numbers in view of the enormous expenses involved. Enclosed in The Pilot is a copy of The Winchester Churchman which frequently refers to the Channel Islands.

In October the Bishop of Southampton drew attention in an article on Pastoral Reorganization to the fact that the Deaneries were examining this problem, by means of Working Parties. Further on one reads: "Hand in hand with this the Incumbents and Churchwardens have filled in an elaborate questionnaire". So it would seem that unquestionably we are part of the Diocesan Organization, and the purpose of this "elaborate questionnaire" was to assist the Bishop in preparing an overall plan for the needs of the diocese.

As I and my fellow Churchwarden had not heard of this important scrap of paper, inquiries were made as to what we .were alleged to have imparted. In reply we are informed "that the Pastoral Reorganization scheme in hand at the moment only concerns parishes on the mainland, and no questionnaire forms were sent to the Channel Islands". Why not? The total population is not far short of 150,000 souls served by40 churches, almost 15% of the diocesan resources.        How then can an overall plan becompiled without this information? These are questions to which every Anglican and especially Churchwardens (whose chief responsibility it is to raise money for their parochial needs as well as missions) require an answer.

I therefore propose, Mr Editor, that the problem of Pastoral Reorganization in the Channel Islands be conducted by the Decanal Synods of both Islands and that the time is long overdue for these Islands to become a separate diocese. This was aired long ago in Dean Falle's period of office, but was not deemed expedient. The Isle of Man is a case in point consisting of only 27 parishes with a population of 54,000. It would not be necessary to build a new cathedral, an existing church such as the beautifully spacious and noble edifice of St Simon's could well be adapted for this. Neither would it be necessary to import another person to be Bishop. Surely it is not beyond the resources of the present manpower situation for both Deans to be elevated to episcopal status; then the Chief Pastor would be seen and heard far more frequently and to greater effect in fulfilling the Mission of the Church in these Islands, which far too often receives very little attention within the confines of the Palace, the Close and Church House at Winchester, no doubt largely due to our geographic remoteness.

The financing of this proposal could easily be solved by the considerable amount sent to Winchester, annually, being retained within the Islands, and by this means our present ever-dwindling congregations would see for themselves where their money is going and to what purpose, and this would create a chain reaction inspiring people to do even more.

This is in tended to be a serious attempt to set about the gigantic task of Mission to the inhabitants of these Islands, to counteract the current endless talking about services, the emphasis on building luxurious
vicarages, and all the other totally irrelevant factors, none of which either individually or collectively does anything to bring people in touch with God. Is it too much to expect the next Decanal Synod to set up a Working Party to examine, at all possible angles and with speed, the pros and cons of such a proposition?

John S. Hitchcock

Where are the luxurious vicarages? - Editor.

Letter from the Dean (Tom Goss), January 1974
My dear Friends,

I was fascinated by Mr John Hitchcock's letter in last month's issue of The Pilot, in which he made a plea for the Channel Islands to become a separate diocese. I assume he means two separate dioceses, since if there were but one bishop for all the islands there would be endless arguments about where he should live and where his cathedral should be. (Perhaps Sark is most central and would cause least friction between
Jersey and Guernsey!)

On the whole I am against it. I am a died in the-wool traditionalist and value the ancient association with the diocese of Winchester which we have enjoyed for over 400 years. I believe we should be diminished without it and suffer a sense of isolation. I am also unconvinced that the proposal is economically advantageous. Mr Hitchcock speaks of the vast sums of money we send to the diocese as though we received nothing in return.

Independence would, I am convinced, cost us very much more and we should also be the losers in. what I might call "invisible imports".

On the other hand I do think there is something to be said for the deans of the islands being consecrated as assistant bishops within the diocese of Winchester, retaining of course the ancient title of dean. This would enable confirmations to be done by the deans and as well as saving money on travelling and other expenses would be a great saving of time and effort both for the extremely hard-pressed mainland bishops and ourselves. We would hope, indeed expect, our Diocesan Bishop to make regular visitations, but he need not necessarily spend so much of his time on what must be the very exhausting duty of nightly confirmation services. It has always worried me that we make such heavy demands upon our visiting bishops.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Through the Christmas Study Window

Today I've decided to post another extract from "The Pilot", and once again from Tony Keogh as in 1996, he delved into the historical background to the festival of Christmas. It was in fact written on 5 November, as Christmas editions of magazines (as I know well enough) have to be into the editor and off for printing early. Tony Keogh was, at the time, Rector of Trinity Parish Church, Jersey, and is also probably well known locally as one of the founding members of the Jersey Democratic Alliance.

Through the Study Window
by Tony Keogh

It is lunchtime of Bonfire Night and I am putting pen to paper a little earlier this month as I prepare to travel to the mainland for a couple of weeks. I shall be staying my old college, St Michael's Theological College, in Llandaff, Cardiff, for some respite and study leave. As I look out of the window, the sun is shining like a golden dollar and behind the glass, it is quite warm,  outside, the late autumn nip is very evident.
The thought of returning to the city of my birth has triggered other thoughts, thoughts of childhood. Among the writers who have left an indelible impression on that period of my life was Rudyard Kipling, with all his tales of derring-do in such exotic settings as India.
However, the one book which left the longest lasting impression was "Puck of Pook's Hill." This was a different book and Kipling's fantasy was potent magic. The theory goes that there were some places in England where, if you were a child (in this case, Dan and Una), people who had stood on that same spot centuries before, would suddenly and inexplicably materialise. With Puck's help, you could time-travel by standing still. On Pook's Hill, lucky Dan and Una were able to chat with Viking warriors, Roman centurions, Norman knights, and then go home for tea.
I have no hill but I do have the Parish Church and when I look at it, I sometimes wish that I had Puck's help. I would love to be able to go on an excursion back in time and to walk and talk with my predecessors. The urge is particularly strong as we prepare for Christmas, but it is an impossible dream. The next best thing is to read the historians' books about Christmas.
The first writers of Christmas were some of the Gospel writers. It is difficult for us to shed our cultural baggage but we need to if we are to capture the spirit of those simple and awesome events.
The baby Jesus and His mother Mary, the stable and the manger, the shepherds in the fields, the message of the angels, the Wise Men and the star of Bethlehem. It is hard to believe, even for us Christians, that the birth day of Christ was not separately commemorated by the church for several centuries after that first Christmas Day.
In the first centuries of the church, birthdays were frowned upon; in the third century, Origen condemned them as pagan and made the telling point that Pharaoh and Herod were the only Biblical personages who were recorded as keeping birthdays.
In fact, it was not until the 11th century that we begin to see the English Christmas take shape; gradually and fitfully, the northern pagan feast of "Yule" and "The Feast of the Nativity" were synthesized to form a new institution in which the Christian and pagan constituents were intermixed. By the Norman Conquest, the Christianisation of England was complete and the Twelve Days of Christmas were solidly established as the main annual holiday, the season of religion, rest from labour and a time of traditional merriment, which were to remain until the age of Puritanism.
It cannot have been long before the Conquest that the English language was enriched with a new word -"Christmas" - to describe this much-loved festival. It is of at least symbolic significance that in 1043, the scribes who were responsible for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles referred for the first time to 25th December as "Christmas" instead of, as hitherto, "Nativity", "Midwinter Mass" or just "Midwinter."
From a stable in Bethlehem to the present day, it is Christmas which we celebrate. As we prepare for this great festival, let us join all the ages into one; to travel back to Bethlehem, but also back down the ages of which our ancient churches are a reminder, and wonder what new traditions we will add for those who come after us, although I hope and pray that we shall not return to the excesses under the   17th century Puritans.
John Evelyn, a prominent diarist of the day, records that each year between 1652 and 1655 there was an absence of Christmas Day services in London, although in 1652, he found "an honest and brave divine who preached at Lewisham on Boxing Day." Can you imagine members of the honorary police bursting in at the Christmas Communion services and breaking them up? This was a common occurrence under the puritan rule. In one famous episode, the whole congregation of Exeter Chapel was arrested by Commonwealth soldiers in the midst of a Communion service on Christmas Day.
At least we can hope for a more peaceful Christmas.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Dark Time

This Saturday poem is of a somewhat gloomy nature. As we approach Christmas, it can be anything but a time of cheer for some, and we can overlook that in all the excitement and glitter and bright lights... Don't let's forget that or them.

The Dark Time

It was the worst of days, so very grim;
Cold rain falling upon the Royal square;
Grey clouds overhead, the light so dim,
And judgement coming so very near.

Oh, to turn the clock back to happy days:
The statue gleaming gold in summer sun;
How much the burden of history weighs,
And such fickle web the fates have spun.

Despair left Pandora's box one fateful day,
Like a darkling sprite casting an evil spell,
Ensnaring all who lost, and err and stray;
And church clock strikes its fateful knell.

The storms will come, and who will cope?
But remember Pandora's promised hope.

Friday, 13 December 2013

On Admitting Mistakes

"But what if I make a mistake?' Will asked.
"Gilan threw back his head and laughed. 'A mistake? One mistake? You should be so lucky. You'll make dozens! I made four or five on my first day alone! Of course you'll make mistakes. Just don't make any of them twice. If you do mess things up, don't try to hide it. Don't try to rationalize it. Recognize it and admit it and learn from it. We never stop learning, none of us."

― John Flanagan, Erak's Ransom
I went into the States building today to write something in the book of condolences set up for members of the public to write what they wanted to say about him.
I wrote that he was a great prophet of our times, not without flaws, but that honesty with which he admitted his flaws made him that much greater. He began the long walk to freedom, and it is now our turn to carry his torch on that walk.
As Mandela himself said
"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way."
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
President Obama put this well in his speech:
"Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men."
"But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. "I'm not a saint," he said, "unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."
"It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection, because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carrie, that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood -- a son and husband, a father and a friend."
How many leaders in today's world would make those kind of remarks in today's world? It is seen as a sign of weakness and not strength to admit to past failings and mistakes. Often when politicians apologise, they do so grudgingly, with ill grace, and try to squirm out of it as much as they possibly can. Or they pretend that they have nothing to apologise for anyway.
In a paper on the leadership qualities of Mahatma Gandhi, the authors note that on of the marks of a good leader is "vulnerability"
"Vulnerability is the capacity to be honest with feelings, doubts and fears, and the ability to admit mistakes openly (Sendjaya, 2005). Gandhi openly accepted his mistakes. Of this virtue Mallik (1948) writes:  There were many instances when Bapuji [Gandhi] openly regretted the mistakes and blunders that he made. There was no occasion when he claimed perfection for himself or an unerring comprehension of truth. (p. 3) Similarly, Nair (1994) admits that "Gandhi was not infallible, he committed mistakes but he was not afraid to acknowledge them" (p. 7).

One of my favourite stories about Ghandi is from when he was a young boy:
"One day Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stole a little money from his father's pocket. He trembled to pick his father's pocket. But he realized it was a great crime. This realization did not allow him to rest in peace. He became restless. His conscience pricked him. It was too much to bear. So, he decided that he should never steal anything from anybody under any circumstances. He did not stop at that. He wrote a letter of confession admitting his mistake and swore that he would never resort to stealing. But he was not bold enough to give the letter to his father. So, he put it in his pocket secretly. The father was so much moved by the confession that he instantly forgave self-correction, Gandhi became Mahatma Gandhi."

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Said and Unsaid

"'Well, I say things,' said Father Brown in a weak voice, which could alone convey the weakness of the words. 'I say things, but everybody seems to know they mean more than they say. Once I saw a broken mirror and said "Something has happened" and they all answered, "Yes, yes, as you truly say, two men wrestled and one ran into the garden," and so on. I don't understand it, "Something happened," and "Two men wrestled," don't seem to me at all the same; but I dare say I read old books of logic. (GK Chesterton)

One of the interesting things about modern historical research is seeing how historians look at narratives, and step back and see how past historians have been selective with evidence, and made assumptions which frame their narrative.

Filling in the gaps, and making assumptions on what was not said is also something which came up in the States recently.

1.4 Statement from the Right Reverend Bishop of Winchester

"The Deputy Bailiff: The next item of business under A is that I am asked by the Bailiff to draw formally to Members' attention the statement issued by the Right Reverend Bishop of Winchester on 22nd November that, based on Dame Heather Steel's findings to date, the Bishop will not be taking disciplinary action against the Dean or any other member of the clergy in Jersey.  The Dean is a Member of this Assembly and while, of course, there may be other issues to be canvassed in connection with the matter generally, I am sure that Members will want to join me in expressing the greatest pleasure that the Dean has been exonerated from criticism.  [Approbation]"

The Bishop's statement said:

"What I can state at this point, based on Dame Heather's findings to date, is that I will not be taking disciplinary action against any member of the clergy in relation to the handling of the safeguarding complaint in question or the subsequent review process."

But it also went on to state:

"I am all too conscious that questions remain about safeguarding best practice."

That is something that has rather been forgotten in the use of the term "exonerated from criticism", which is the narrative that the Deputy Bailiff is suggesting. But he is going beyond what has been stated, and there is no indication anywhere in the Bishop's statement that "not taking disciplinary action" equates with "exonerated". He is bringing into his narrative something that is not there. It was unsaid.

And moreover, the questions remaining about safeguarding are an indication that there still remains criticism, even if it is not deemed of such seriousness as to warrant disciplinary action. Now that ties more in with the real course of events.

If we look at an earlier statement by the Diocese, we can see that there was a failing of safeguarding, else why would the Dean have had to apologise? Is the Dean to retract the apology? And if he did, would he explain why he felt it necessary to make it? Whatever we present as historical narrative must include that apology.

As the statement said:

"The Very Reverend Robert Key, the Dean of Jersey, has, today, apologised for mistakes in the handling of a safeguarding complaint and added his own apology to that of the Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury to the vulnerable person at the heart of this matter."

"The Bishop acknowledges that, although mistakes were made, the Dean believed he was acting in good faith."

"The Dean said: 'I regret mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes and I understand that, upon reflection, it would have been more helpful if I had co-operated more fully with the Korris Review. I now add my own apology to that of the Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury to the vulnerable person at the heart of this matter.'"

To paraphrase Father Brown, I dare say I read old books of logic, but "exonerated from criticism" hardly seems to match up with the Dean's own confession of "mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes".

It is as if the Deputy Bailiff wants to draw a veil over the earlier apology. I'd sooner have history that is unvarnished, warts and all, than a version which has been tidied up, sanitised, and air-brushed for public consumption.

And how are improvements to be made to safeguarding? It is now forgotten, in an act of collective amnesia, the practices that were in place which almost certainly increased the risk of a failure to safeguard. Chaperoning an individual in a position of authority to keep an eye on him when he was in close proximity to women is not, as far as I am aware, a practice that would be tolerated in any other organisation (and I've taken soundings), and yet in Jersey, it was an acceptable informal policy at one church.

Putting it in perspective, there are no indications of this occurring in any other Anglican churches within the Island. It is also clear, on reading Korris, that some churches had much better awareness of safeguarding than the one at the centre of the complaint.

But it was the weakness in the system of general policy of safeguarding that meant this church did not have good safeguarding; moreover, the matter was known to the Dean. There were clearly deficiencies, and it has not yet been stated what action is being taken to ensure better safeguarding procedures for the future.

That is something which has also remained unsaid.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Growing up with the Doctor - Part 5

Growing up with the Doctor - Peter Davison (1981-1984)

"A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so." (The Five Doctors)

At the start of Peter Davison's tenure as the Doctor, I was back in Jersey, doing accountancy preparation, which then mostly involved analysis of cheque stubs, manual trial balances, and the use of a calculator on which you entered numbers, cranked a handle, and watched a paper roll emerge.

I was also involved in typing of minutes (when the regular typists were off ill), and setting up our magnificent computer, the DEC PDP 11/03 to deal with the Annual Company Returns. This was a machine the size of a filing cabinet, with two large circular disks about a foot in diameter, one with the program, one with the data. And they held a whopping 3 MB of data. It was the computer age!

But the hard science of Chris Bidmead's time as script editor was fading, one last gasp of glory in the first Davison story "Castrovalva", which explored recursion, M.C. Escher, and the idea of space folding in on itself. After that, the stories become more straightforward adventure narratives, with the exception of Kinda, a wonderful exploration of the unconscious dark side of human nature. Although the next season would have the excellent Snakedance, and Enlightenment, two stories which explored inner space as much as outer space.

Snakedance explores the lust for power, and how when we externalise evil, we forget it originates within our own psyche. Enlightenment has a space race with sailing ships, and a race to obtain "enlightenment" which it turns out is a choice, and not a thing. Alongside that sat Maudryn Undead, with split time zones, and the return of the Brigadier, an excellent story, with a short flashback sequence that was a wonderful surprise; alas, the production team did not realise the value in a glimpse of the past was successful because it was unexpected, and instead began to generate flashbacks and continuity references to the detriment of the stories.

Peter Davison was the youngest ever Doctor, almost my own age, and I was also re-inventing myself. I had a longish gold coloured coat, not unlike his, and for about a year I died my hair blonde like his. What those about me must have thought, goodness only knows! Fortunately, no men in white coats came to take me away to the home for mostly harmless Geeks. There's even a photo of me at my god-daughter's christening with blonde hair. Clean shaven, of course, like the Doctor. And fortunately, the only photo of me in my Geek phase.

The Tardis now had a computer screen whose pixels rather resembled something out of the BBC micro. There was a massive surge in home computers of all kinds, but those of the BBC Micro, Acorn and Clive Sinclair's ZX81 dominated the market. And then, in 1981, IMB launched its first personal computer, and things would never be the same again.

I remember going round to the States fledgling IT department, and hearing that the latest strategy was to put the DEC PC onto every civil servant's desk. They thought the DEC Rainbow would be around for ages, and could have done with a Tardis to avoid making what must have been an expensive mistake.

Around the end of Peter Davison's second season, I decided to place an advertisement in the personal column of the local newspaper. In pre-internet and mobile phone days, this was in fact one of the ways that people got to meet and date other people.

I seem to remember the advert was suitably quirky; I believe it had "Dislike of discos and Dalmatians" which I rather liked because not only was it alliterative, it also was a good conversational opening. I have around five replies, mostly from women who didn't like discos, and the opening question was usually to ask what I had against Dalmatians. I had nothing against Dalmatians; I just wanted to see if it would spark curiosity, and it did.

At least my girlfriend Marilyn, whom I met as a result of that advertisement, did not have to put up with blond hair. By this time it was long but brown, but I had taken up learning the recorder (a trait of the second doctor), so she had to suffer some of my playing.

For my part, I had to enjoy watching Boy George and Culture Club singing Karma Kamelion on Top of the Pops, while they glided down a river on a barge. It was I suppose marginally better than the robot Kamelion in the Doctor Who story "The King's Demons" which was a rather dire two part quasi-historical story. Having lost K9, John Nathan Turner was keen on the latest gimmick, a robot programmed to speak, but not, unfortunately, act.

Marilyn also had to endure "The Five Doctors", which was not bad as an anniversary story, but had some remarkably bad lines, delivered without the slightest attempt at mitigation. The Castellan shouting out "No, not the mind probe" sticks in the memory. On the other hand, when I went round to her parents' house, I had to watch Jim Bowen and lots of rather obese men throwing darts in the game show "Bull's-eye" and Ted Rogers and Dusty Bin in the game show "3-2-1". I've never liked games shows much, and those didn't cause me to change my mind.

Doctor Who itself under Eric Savard as script editor was something of a mixed bag. The final season had risible stories like "Warriors of the Deep" in which Ingrid Pitt gives a karate kick to a monster that looks to all the world like a Doctor Who monster version of a pantomime horse. Even the Dalek story was incoherent, and had a long very self-indulgent fan flashback sequence of all the companions. The continuity of the programme was beginning to overbalance it.

There were good stories lurking there - Christopher Bidmead's Frontios, and Peter Davison's swan song - the Caves of Androzani by Robert Holmes. But the series was becoming more of a cult status, more appealing to its fan base than trying to reach the general public.

The Caves of Androzani was partly about power politics, and the economics of greed. It was a very suitable mirror to the deregulated society of laissez faire capitalism of Ronald Reagan in America and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and the rise of the yuppie (young upwardly mobile person), and the emergence of the rich bankers and stock market managers with their bonus culture.

And so Peter Davison's era came to an end at a time when the miners were striking in the coal industry. The miners were no longer to be seen in Doctor Who, which had lost touch with stories with an edge, a moral comment on society. Instead, the strife in the Tardis was mostly from disputes amongst the crew and the Doctor, first with Tegan and then Peri. Long time script writer Terrance Dicks had revealed in a documentary that he often used short quarrel scenes when he had to fill a bit of extra time. Unfortunately, Eric Saward took this very much to heart, and instead of the odd argument, the Tardis would become the scene of endless bickering, which had about all the subtlety of painting a picture with a large broom.

Despite the glimpses of greatness, Doctor Who seemed to have withdrawn from real world issues, and become more self-indulgent, losing its way. It was, unfortunately, to lose its way even more with the next Doctor.