Sunday, May 30, 2010

Getting to Know You

A couple of weeks ago, the latest Doctor Who series started to catch fire with a great episode about dreams. Then we have a two parter with monsters from forty years ago - Silurians, real Doctor Who monsters, creatures from way back.

And this has been excellent. Well-paced, creepy, menacing, and with genuinely unexpected twists. Sure, a little celebrity casting (both in Meera Syal and Stephen Moore as the ancient Silurian leader) goes a long way, but this was glorious. Great DW (as the new moniker wants us to call it - ugh).

Yep. Here's a give away. If you haven't seen it, look away now. Perhaps all will be well. Sometimes it is. But in an echo of Donna-esque proportions, the rather lovely relationship of Amy & Rory has been forgotten, thanks to the first meaningful incursion of the crack in space that first appeared at the start of the series and which seemed to have disappeared. Now we are getting it. Now it is starting to pay off.

And Matt Smith's Doctor is finding himself. Chirpy but with essential melancholia, in charge and deeply insecure, bright, optimistic and filled with questions - often about himself. Yes, I am liking this more & more. This was an excellent two-parter. Full marks.

Oops, I typed it again...

When choosing a web address, it's always good to double check what it looks like without spaces and punctuation. Today's Telegraph website carries some great examples of sites that might have been more careful:

Experts Exchange – a site where programmers can trade advice – is found at
La Drape – a British company selling high-end quilted bedspreads – is listed at
American Scrap Metal – a scrap metal recycling firm – has its website at
Speed of Art – a collective or art designers – are online at
Therapist Finder – a directory for therapy services – can be located at

I was so careful with the title of this site. Just one typo could have changed everything. And tempting as SalvationsSnogs was...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oops, I said it again...

It seems our new MP, Owen Smith, has wasted no time in truly becoming Kim Howells' successor and saying something he shouldn't have.

The BBC website carries the story here. In short, Owen apparently described the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats as "a Gretna-style tryst" which he said many of his Labour colleagues could not imagine lasting very long.

He added: "The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision. Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?"

It's that last phrase that has caused the fuss. The BBC report a mixture of women's groups, Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru members finding his comments objectionable.

OK. First - I disagree with Owen's politics. I rather hope the Coalition lasts and proves that politicians of different hues can be grown up.

But second - here in Pontypridd we like our MP to be be outspoken and literate. A metaphor is a metaphor. I am quite sure that Plaid Cymru members have been saying far more colourful things about the Coalition without half the wit. Or without being able to be fully quoted on the vicar's blog.

To suggest that Owen is belittling the question of domestic abuse with such words is self-serving and sanctimonious drivel of the first order. I'm not a fan of all of Owen's politics, but he is a good man who cares about people, especially those in trouble, and if we are never allowed the occasional colourful metaphor in this life we have allowed the self-appointed censors and secularist moral guardians of the age to take away more freedoms than anyone has a right to steal from us.

I wouldn't edit the piece, Owen. I'd apologise for offense given unintentionally, visit a centre that helps people with abuse to highlight their plight, and if you feel that your words were right in the first place - say them again. An MPs job is to point out when people are in danger of being hurt, not to cow-tow to the politically correct. If you believe it, say it. Say it louder. Find a new metaphor and do it again.

Though if it was just a cheap shot, well, we look forwards to your face on the news - but we need you there on the key days, please. With that great turn of phrase. And passion.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I rather like our new Olympic 2012 mascots. But they remind me of something else, don't they?

Sunday, May 16, 2010


O yes - here we are in the five hundreds now. That last piece was the four hundredth on this site. Goodness, I just don't know when to stop do I? So this is post number 401...

And to mark the occasion, let's be frivolous. TV review time.

I hope you all caught Doctor Who last night. Best episode of the new Doctor to date. I have felt throughout this series that we have been watching 55 minute episodes badly cut into 45 minute time slots. There have been clunks in plots, references to things we just haven't seen, and clearly bits missing. But last night we had a wonderful little fairy tale - the kind of sci-fi musing that only Doctor Who tells. Beautiful. Humorous, deep, touching. And only one moment that jarred (an alien, who was of course an old woman, called the Doctor "Doctor" though she had never met him, and no-one stopped to ask - "how did you know his name?") but we'll forgive it as the rest was so glorious.

Though Sam and the wonderfully pregnant Steph had their own take on the episode, and Sam had to be very careful as a result...

Incidentally, the other week apparently the BBC ran a trail over the end of an episode for the following programme. This garnered 5,000 complaints. Watch here for Graham Norton's rather excellent response & apology!

One other thing I saw this week which I'd like to share: I have a fondness for Strictly, and do enjoy its US counterpart, Dancing With The Stars. There was a foxtrot with Nicole Scherzinger (she's the celebrity - Pussycat Dolls) and Derek Hough (the best pro on the show, who turns in outstanding choreography season after season) which simply made me smile. Watch and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


On Sunday I asked if anyone was surprised how the election was playing out. Few were.

"Really?" I countered. "You all thought the Liberals would end up with fewer seats?" People laughed and accepted they didn't think that. "And that the Liberals and Tories would end up in a coalition?" Again laughter, and acknowledgement that this was indeed an unlikely outcome.

And, for now, again it seems an unlikely outcome.

The thing about political coalitions in our nation is that they just don't work terribly well. Everyone has to be committed to them - and the only way that works is if there really is some outside force making people work together. Like Hitler - that did the trick. But little else does. And a junior coalition partner has to enter into things wholeheartedly or look like an opportunist wrecker pretty darned fast, whilst also taking the risk of being merely the majority's whipping boys. It is hardly a win-win situation.

Saint Nick is beginning to lose a little of his lustre as he plays the Tories and the Labour party off each other (can you imagine the next Prime Ministerial debates - Cameron saying that whatever the result of the election, it will be the people who choose the prime minister, not Nick Clegg's demands that force his party to have a quick leadership election...) and meanwhile we have an economy clearly run by the City with very little reference to whoever is or isn't "in power".

I repeatedly say I don't have a political allegiance. But I do think we will see another General Election, and the way things are panning out, I think we'll see it sooner rather than later. And I wouldn't think it would make too much difference if the Coalition of the Defeated assume office, the Rainbow Alliance (every colour except Brown), or a Tory minority government now.

Those who behave best will be treated best. Those who behave badly will be treated badly. If there's any justice. Those who hunger and thirst for power - well, I'd stick Gordon Brown's Sky News mike on all of them. Never switch it off. And then see who was fit to lead...

Goodness. We might all be in for a surprise!


Surprise, surprise...
So a Con-Lib coalition after all. You know, I think this may well all end in tears, but I pray they are tears of joy - that people learn to work together for the common good, and in doing so realise that it is good to do so. I have my doubts - and seriously hope to be proved completely wrong. This is no time for cynicism, but for all of us to pray for blessing and guidance and for more surprises - in a world where economies can destroy people, we need to see that governments can also turn the world around and make life better. Whether or not the government we find we have is the one we would have chosen.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


What an election. With the exact nature of our new government not yet revealed to us, I still had the chance to congratulate Pontypridd's new MP this afternoon.

I said I had two friends standing at this election. Mike Powell, for the Liberal Democrats, achieved what must be a record high vote for his party in this constituency, and must be congratulated for it. He worked hard, and though he must feel diappointed, I am amazed that in an area with the political complexion of Pontypridd he did so well. It is a testimony to him.

Owen Smith won, and he and Liz dropped in today. I am delighted for them. They are wonderful, wonderful people, and in Owen we will have a super MP. I refuse to have any party allegiance, but I will ally myself with good people of any colour, and Owen is such a man.

One of the things about being in a community for any period of time, and it's drawing close to ten years I've been here, is that you see the best and the worst of people, and you get to give and to receive. Mike & Owen both have been people from whom I have received much friendship, and I hope have received something from me too.

Owen & Liz used to be my neighbours here. And in my early days at St Catherine's, when I was new and knew no-one, and the church was quite different and much of what we have and do now was simply an intention and a prayer, I'd roll up to Owen & Liz's late in the evening and drink a glass of red or cadge food off their kitchen table (always excellent) and their hospitality helped me through more than they know. And I learned then that Owen always wanted this job, serving our community as MP. Not many of us get our dream jobs. I suspect it's quite the responsibility when things work out and we find ourselves standing with reality and our dreams colliding. So I pray that Owen will always be able to be as good as his intentions and his word, and help many, many folk here through the good, the bad & the indifferent that life throws at them, all the things which an MP has a chance to speak to and to influence, and that after a strongly fought campaign his natural joy would remain and become a real energy for all the people of this place that is our home.

And we pray too for the national result: I am still amazed by snippy party political comments from clergy on facebook! We have a choice: call people names, or pray that good is done. Negative or positive. Death or life. You choose.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

how to vote

I am amazed by the stupidity and pastoral short-sightedness of some of my fellow clergy. Facebook is full of vicars telling people to Vote Labour, to remember how awful the Tories are, to realise that Clegg offers the only way forwards, to understand that Cameron has the only answers to Broken Britain.

Guys - if you want to be politicians, get a new job. If you want to have the right to tell everyone about Jesus, then don't alienate the majority of your flock with your party allegiance during an election.

Yes, it's amazing, but Jesus doesn't belong to one party. There is good across the board. Even in some of the extreme groups, I daresay, though I haven't looked long and hard. And when clergy get all hot and bothered and too closely alligned to one party (especially in the rather heated moments of the final stretch of an election) all it does is show everyone that they are about as much to be believed generally as the politicians they suddenly champion (and about as much to be trusted as the other politicians they are so roundly denouncing - after all, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a line that works well any time).

In congregations, people think differently to each other. The vicar telling them all to "vote Labour" (or any other way) is offensive. Anti-democratic. It is spiritual bullying, because it is a pretence of God telling them to do it - "I'm the spiritual authority here, and I say this!"

If I ever tell anyone how to vote it is like this:
1. Vote every time. People have died that we can do this - we should cherish the chance.
2. Vote after thinking about what matters to you, and how you think the candidates have addressed these issues.
3. Or do what I do - if at all possible, vote for a friend standing in your constituency...
4. Vote secretly. It's your vote. Let no-one pressure you into voting like they did.
(Secrecy is especially important when you have TWO friends standing at the same election, as I do this time!)

So - if you are one of my clergy friends and have transgressed, beg your congregation's forgiveness and don't do it again. You have just lost the right to tell many of them about Jesus. You have just lost the trust of many of them. But asking forgiveness is a start in gaining back what you ought to have.

Sure - we should be passionate about issues and justice and compassion and the needy: but people are never our enemy. People are people. God so loved the world he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life. Elections are no excuse to forget this and indulge in name calling and faction. Unless of course - it's not a case of forgetting, more a case of revealing what's going on the whole time.

Then that's a whole different thing that needs sorting...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

the joy of facebook

So I'm doing my nightly round up of the facebook homepage, and I find this evening to be a particularly great example of just how wonderful a world is revealed by this excellent internet tool. Here follows some of what's on my homepage (I have shortened or changed names in order to avoid libel suits):

David S likes Desmond Tutu and Physiotherapy.
Together? I didn't know the Archbishop offered this service.

James H on the other hand writes quite fully of his activities: Busy evening! Changed the toilet syphon, been to the gym, made some particle effects. How very productive...
You can never make enough particle effects, can you? But at least he'd changed the toilet syphon first.

The varied lives of clergy are put under the spotlight.
My: PRAISE GOD for Llandaff Diocese putting a jacuzzi in the vicarage. The very definition of good clean fun... Now: chicken tikka massala here I come!
sits right next to Mark T's:
Mark T is praying for the 21 engineer regiment and all their families
I guess he wins on holiness points.

Prizes for astute observations of the day are shared between Neil P and Martin T. Neil comments (and this is the only vaguely political one I'll let through - the rest of you, behave!)
If a new Tory government imposes its cap on immigrants, we'll struggle to field an England cricket team - which made me laugh. I'm not sure they include the Irish in the cap, so we might still get away with it...
And Martin's: Your hair has superhero powers over oil spills! Seriously! sounds amazing, really has me wondering, and I'm clicking onto Google right now in order to contact BP...

For sheer wonder at the mysteries of life, Aled is always good value:
Near Manchester airport watching lots of gadgets that fly - brilliant!
Those of you who know Aled can just hear his voice...
Though Ed W is obviously drinking the same water:
When did Oxo cubes become X-shaped? That's made my day
It's the little things, as St David would say.

Not that today was St David's Day, obviously. Oh no. The guardian of all things liturgical, Ricky C, kept us on track with this - and with his greeting I also finish and bid you adieu:
Ricky C would like to wish all his Facebook status readers a happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you...