Curiouser and Curiouser

One of the features of our parish magazine, Newslink, has been the reproducing of some of the sillier or more noteworthy articles published in the national and local press. Not all of these have a religious content - but what they mostly have in common is the reporting of some of the excesses of our society in general, and, whenever possible,  the creed of excessive political correctness in particular. Yet others take a wry look at the world of computers: others the absurdities of the current Health and Safety culture, or the curse of the call centre - still others reflecting the changing attitudes to religion in our increasingly secular society.  Any not falling into any of these categories will reflect the website manager's odd sense of humour and taste.  Increasingly, many of the longer, or simply more dubious items are reproduced here direct, and not by way of the magazine, thereby making room for worthier material, and avoiding upsetting sensitive readers.

It goes without saying that these items do not necessarily represent the official views of the Church of England, or of St Faith's , but merely reflect my views and outlook, and those of the many readers who have provided many of them or expressed their approval of their inclusion.

This page has built into an archive of the absurd or otherwise noteworthy, outgrowing its original function as merely reproducing items from Newslink, and you are invited to enjoy it. The articles are where possible attributed to their papers and writers of origin. The website manager, who as magazine editor is responsible for (guilty of?) anthologising and commenting on much of what appears below, welcomes any contributions from connoisseurs of the curious who may visit these pages. Visitors to this page are welcome to make use of any material, with or even without appropriate acknowledgement. The welcome growth of internet circulation of such items as appear below has proved a further source of riches, and the editor is grateful for those who send him links to these. He once more apologises to anyone whose copyright he has infringed, in the hope that they will be happy to see their gems in a new setting.

A more serious archive of church-related writing may be found at 'What the Papers Say'

A compendium of jokes and cartoons with a religious flavour is to be found on the jokes page.


From a computer magazine, courtesy of Denis Griffiths, December 30th, 2018.
Comment is superfluous
- doubtless 2019 will yield yet more such absurdities.

More good news for the 'snowflake' generation?

CAPITALISED words should not be used when setting assignments because it can worry students, university lecturers have been told.

Academics at Leeds Trinity were advised to "write in a helpful, warm tone, avoiding officious language and negative instructions". According to a staff memo aimed at "enhancing student understanding, engagement and achievement", capitalising a word could emphasise a task's "difficulty or high-stakes nature".

The memo says: "Despite our best attempts to explain assessment tasks, any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all. Generally, avoid using capital letters for emphasis and the overuse of 'do', and, especially, 'don't'."

Prof Margaret House, Leeds Trinity's vice-chancellor, said that the university follows national best practice teaching guidelines.  "The memo is guidance from a course leader to academic staff, sharing best practice from research to inform their teaching," she said. "For every assignment, academic staff have an 'unpacking* session with students so they are clear on what is expected. The majority of universities do this. It is also about good communication and consistent style. For example, it is best practice not to write in all capital letters regardless of the sector."

The Leeds Trinity memo also says that staff must be "explicit about any inexplicitness" in assignment briefs. It explains that when students are unsure of an assessment, they often discuss it among themselves, which can lead to "misconceptions or misunderstandings" spreading throughout the class. This is "usually aided and abetted by Facebook", the memo adds. "This can lead to further confusion and students may even then decide that the assessment is too difficult and not attempt it," it says.

Earlier this year, one of the country's leading girls' schools banned teachers from writing negative comments on pupils' end-of-year exams.

Putney High School in south-west London had already stopped grading work for pupils aged 11 to 14 to stop girls getting overly "fixated" on marks. The £19,000-a-year school then took things further by ditching comments in favour of symbols, allowing girls to work out themselves where they have gone wrong. When marking the Year 9 girls' end-of-year exams, teachers were banned from making any comments "other than a brief line of genuine praise".

Camilla Turner Education Editor, The Daily Telegraph
November 21st, 2018

I'm more than usually pleased to have retired from the academic world before the onset of this sort of lunacy. This sort of thing is a  CAPITAL OFFENCE.

[Don't] Call me Madam

Emergency call handlers could be told to stop referring to people as sir iuid madam in a drive to be more inclu-4ive, it has emerged.

The London Ambulance Service is considering whether to introduce a new policy on the way callers are addressed, after transgender campaigners suggested the current system was outdated and could cause offence.

The issue was raised at a conference of ambulance services organised by LGBT campaigners.

Jules Lockett, the head of emergency operations centre training at London Ambulance Service, and joint head of its LGBT network, told the conference that call handling staff were being "steered away" from referring to people by Mr or Mrs. She said using words like sir or madam was "old-fashioned" and the service was now looking how to change that and "give some different words to use".

The Gender Identification Research & Education Society states that having a policy in place is particularly important for 999 call handlers, because they may have to deal with people reporting transphobic attacks. The advice goes on: "Inappropriate pronouns do cause stress, and may make an already difficult situation worse."

Martin Evans

You couldn't make it up. Notice that they don't actually provide any alternative words. Suggestions welcome!

Student boss vows to paint out war memorial of 'white men'

A Student Union president has caused outrage after she vowed to remove a mural commemorating students who died in the First World War because it contains only white men.

Emily Dawes, who leads the University of Southampton student union, was widely condemned after tweeting: "Mark my words ... we're taking down the mural of white men in the university Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself."

The mural in question was painted in 1916 by Sir William Rothenstein, former principal of the Royal College of Art, to honour uni= versity students who died during the Great War and were never able to collect their degrees. It was presented to the University in 1959, by the artist's son, Sir John Rothenstein.

It is unclear whether Ms Dawes was aware of the significance of the memorial, although she also tweeted: "One of the women just said 'it's nearly Armistice Day so are we covering up this tapestry??' And holy s...t, F...k,yes. [Girl power]."

Ms Dawes, a privately educated physics graduate, later said in a statement: "I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused. I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was."

The memorial depicts an unnamed student receiving a degree from the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Also shown attending the imagined ceremony are key academics from the era of the Great War, including vice-chancellors and chancellors, and a poet laureate, Robert Bridges.

Two further panels of the mural, housed at Taplow Court, feature undergraduates who laid down their lives in the war. Some are unknown figures, and may be fictitious, but others are real young men. These include Raymond Asquith, Julian Grenfell and Patrick Shaw Stewart. They were members of the Coterie, a group of aristocrats and intellectuals, many o| whom became war poets. The men pictured all have tales of bravery associated with their names, the most* famous of which is the story of Asquith. He was shot in the chest and seriously injured while leading a group of men during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, but famously lit a cigarette to hide the seriousness of his injuries so
that his men would continue the attack. He died of his wounds.

Royston Smith, Southampton Itchen MP, who served in vthe RAF for 10 years, told the Daily Mail: "With freedom comes responsibility, and considering the president of the SU holds a position of authority, she has clearly overstepped the mark. "I hope she will reflect on what she has said and realise it has been conducted in poor taste."

A spokesman for the University of Southampton said: "The comments made by the SU president regarding the Rothenstein Mural are not shared by the University of Southampton and do not represent the views of the university community."

Helena Horton, Daily Telegraph, October 26th, 2018

Poppycock at Kent

A student union is seeking to ban students from dressing up as Tories at fancy dress parties to avoid causing offence. Kent University's student union has drafted a set of guidelines which say that costumes should not be "offensive, discriminatory and prejudice (they mean prejudicial, but hey! they're students with better things to do than worrying about grammar. Ed) to an individual's race, gender, disability or sexual orientation or based on stereotypes". This is to ensure that the university is a "safe space" for undergraduates,where no one is embarrassed or upset by seeing a fellow student's costume.

Dressing up as "Tories" and "chavs" are given as examples of costumes to avoid, as these would breach the "class and political stereotypes" section of the guidance. Among the dozens of outfits it
deems "offensive" are cowboys, Native Americans, priests and nuns, and anyone who wears a Mexican sombrero.

Students have also been warned against anything that has a sensitive historical or religious connotations. It gives the Crusades, Isil bombers, Israeli soldiers and the Prophet Mohammed as examples of costumes to avoid.

Aaron Thompson, the Kent Union president, said: "We would ask students to be mindful of their choices and whether any offence could be caused."

Camilla Turner Education editor, The Daily Telegraph
October 15th, 2018

Poppycock at Cambridge

Cambridge University's Student Union (CUSU) has voted down a motion to promote Remembrance Sunday amid fears about the "glorification" of conflict.

The motion called on the university, its colleges and faculties to be "more proactive in promoting the cause of Remembrance". This could include asking for a minute's silence on Remembrance Sunday and sending email reminders to students about the availability of poppies, the motion said. It encouraged the commemoration of British veterans, adding that CUSU should "ensure that remembrance day becomes a well-established and'well-marked event across the university".

But the motion, which was put forward by two members of the university's Conservative Association (CUCA), was rejected by students during their first meeting of the new academic year.

The move came after an amendment was voted through, which noted the efforts of various organisations to "reshape remembrance away from glorification and valorisation of war" and to campaign "against militarism". The amendment, proposed by student activist Stella Swain, struck out references to "British war veterans", "Remembrance Day" and "poppies".

Instead, Ms Swain argued that "all lives lost and affected by war" should be commemorated and that students should be encouraged to engage in "productive criticism" of war. She said she wanted to "reflect the status of the university as an international institution" and argued that it was "vital that we recognise all different backgrounds and don't just focus on British war veterans".

James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said the motionbrings "great shame" to Cambridge and shows "disdain" for the Armed Forces. He told The Daily Telegraph: "It is something I find very difficult to comprehend - that [students] can't be grateful and respectful of previous generations and their sacrifices. It is easy to judge from a distance when you have the luxury of a safe and comfortable democracy. We have an enormous debt to [our] Armed Forces in this country."

Cambridge University's Conservative Association said it was "shocking" that the motion was not passed, as they accused students of seeking to "erase" the memory of veterans.

Timur Coskun, the association's chairman, said that while Remembrance Sunday events are held across the university "many students unfortunately do not wear poppies".

A CUSU spokesman said: "Discussions were not about erasing the past, but broadening the focus of remembrance to include those who suffered and died wherever they were in the world." He added that presidents of both the undergraduate and postgraduate student unions will lay wreaths at a Remembrance Sunday event.

Camilla Turner Education editor, The Daily Telegraph
October 12th, 2018

Unhappy Clappy

Clapping has been replaced with "jazz hands" at a student union amid fears that the noise of applause could trigger anxiety among some students.

Whooping is also discouraged at Manchester University student union events on the basis that the loud noise may be a problem for those with sensory issues.

The use of "jazz hands" - where students wave their hands in the air - is the British Sign Language expression for applause and is deemed a more inclusive gesture. At the union's first meeting of the year, Sara Khan, who is Manchester University's liberation and access officer, argued that traditional applause was not sufficiently "accessible". The union resolved to ban clapping in favour of "jazz hands", and urged "student groups and societies to do the same".

The students' union also plans to make "BSL clapping" part of inclusion training for new students. The union noted that "loud noises, including whooping and traditional applause, could pose an issue for students with disabilities, such as those with anxiety or sensory issues". Jazz hands should be favoured at debates, panels and talks as well as at meetings of the student senate, it said.

"Jazz hands" were adopted by the National Union of Students in 2015 because clapping "triggers anxiety". Delegates at last year's NUS conference said students who whoop, cheer and clap should face "consequences". Audience members were repeatedly warned that they must cease whooping tc express support for a speaker because it had a "serious impact" on the accessibility of the conference for disabled students.

Critics of the move say that such behaviour is typical of an over-sensitive "snowflake generation" of students who are quick to take offence. Last year it emerged that Oxford University's equality and diversity unit had issued guidance to students advising them that those who avoided making eye contact with their peers could be guilty of racism. The University of Glasgow started issuing "trigger warnings" for theology students studying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whereby students would be told in advance that they may see distressing images and would be given the opportunity to leave the room. Earlier this year, 'If', Rudyard Kipling's poem of paternal advice, was scrubbed off a Manchester University building by university students who claimed he was a racist on the basis that the poem was a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson, the British colonial statesman who led the Jameson Raid against the South African Republic in 1895-6. The poem, which had been painted on the wall of the students' union building by an artist, was removed by students in a bid to reclaim history on behalf of those who had been oppressed by "the likes of Kipling".

A union spokesman said the hand gesture referred to as "jazz hands" was "designed to support those with disabilities and/or sensory conditions to participate in events". They added: "Students' unions strive to make their events welcoming to all of their students by acknowledging their experiences and responding to their needs."

A University of Manchester union spokesman said: "We hope this decision goes some way towards promoting a better way of doing politics, so that more people from all walks of life find it easier to participate in decision-making that will affect the way their Students' Union is run."

Camilla Turner Education Editor, The Daily Telegraph, October 2018

The unreconstructed (including this writer, of course) will delight in - and even applaud - these examples of 'political correctness gone mad'.

Trains of Thought

The line to heaven by Christ was made

With heavenly truth the Rails are laid.

From Earth to Heaven the Line extends

To Life Eternal where it ends.

Repentance is the Station then

Where passengers are taken in

No Fee for them is there to pay

For Jesus is himself the way.

God’s Word is the first Engineer

It points the way to Heaven so clear

Through tunnels dark and dreary here

It does the way to Glory steer.

God’s Love the Fire, his Truth the Steam,

 Which drives the Engine and the Train.

All you who would to Glory ride

Must come to Christ, in him abide,

In  First, and Second, and Third Class

Repentance, Faith and Holiness,

You must the way to Glory gain

Or you with Christ will not remain.

Come then poor sinners, now’s the time

At any Station on the Line,

If you repent and turn from sin,

The train will stop and take you in.

Inscribed upon a memorial at Ely Cathedral

Calling the Disrepectful Midwife

Midwives should not say "good girl" to women in labour because it is disrespectful, according to new advice. Other words to avoid include describing a baby as big or referring to a woman in labour as "she" in the guide published in the BMJ.

In the advice, the authors admitted some might think such caution was “political correctness gone mad" but said changes were needed to "instil a culture of respect" for mothers-to-be. Instead of using the term "good girl," medics are asked to say, "you're doing really well" to encourage a women during labour. They are also asked to avoid the use of the phrase "big baby" in case it makes women anxious, and not to talk about "fetal distress". Instead larger infants should be described as "healthy", while fetal distress should be described as "changes in the baby's heart rate pattern," they state.

The advice says midwives and obstetricians should never address the pregnant woman as a "she" when they are discussing the situation at hand. Instead, they should always refer to her by her first name, the guide says.

Prof Andrew Weeks, from the International Maternal Health Care at the University of Liverpool; Natalie Mobbs, a medical student at Liverpool; and Catherine Williams, a committee member of National Maternity Voices, drew up the new tips.

Writing in the BMJ, they said: "Language matters as a way of respecting women's views and ensuring that they are empowered to make decisions. The use of insensitive language can be indicative of an underlying malaise, which reveals underlying attitudes and prejudices.

"It is essential that we achieve respectful practice, ensuring that women have complete understanding and control of their own care. Although eyes may roll at the thought of 'political correctness gone mad' the change is well founded," they said.

If a medical procedure doesn't work, midwives should describe the attempt as "unsuccessful", rather than "'failed". And it also says plain English should be used instead of medical jargon.

The guide also asks midwives to avoid discouraging or insensitive language, such as the phrase "terminate pregnancy". Instead, women should be told it is a "compassionate induction". "Rupture the membranes" should be replaced with "release the waters".

Laura Donnelly, Health Editor, The Daily Telegraph

Sexism-conscious school puts Merry Gentlemen to rest

Highgate School changed the lyrics of the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to "Gentlefolk" because the traditional words did not reflect "modern progress in gender equality".

The north London private school, which this year has been hit with controversy over proposals for gender-neutral uniforms and toilets, sang the alternative lyrics at its carol services, A song sheet seen by The Daily Telegraph, understood to have been given to the choir at the event, shows the end of the word "Gentlemen"crossed out and replaced with "folk".

Chris McGovern, chairman of the pressure group the Campaign for Real Education, said the change was "nonsense".

A spokesman for the school said: "The change was made to the words of this particular carol a few years ago. Its original lyrics long predate modern progress in gender equality, and it was felt right to update them for the 21st century, making the lyrics more inclusive and accessible to all."

Stop calling pupils girls - 'it reminds them of their gender'

Girls' schools should not refer to pupils as "girls or ladies" because it means they are "constantly reminded of their gender", the Government's former mental health tsar has said.

Natasha Devon told head teachers of the country's leading girls' schools that they should be using gender-neutral language when they address students - adding that the same applies for boys.

Speaking at the Girls' School Association's annual conference in Manchester, she said that she would "never walk into a room in an all-girls' school and say girls or ladies" because it was "patronising".

She said: "I don't think it is useful to be constantly reminded of your gender and all the stereotypes that go with it."

Ms Devon said that rather than addressing children as "boys" or "girls", teachers should use gender-neutral terms such as "pupils", "students" or "people". "I think actually in some ways boys are more constrained by the expectation of their gender," she said.

"And while that is being challenged and changed I don't think it's helpful to keep saying 'girls, girls, girls, boys, boys, boys', because there is so much implication that potentially goes with that."
Ms Devon said that using the term "girls" can evoke a sense that they have to do everything perfectly, which can "create a lot of anxiety".

Meanwhile, the term "boys" carries connotations of "being macho, not talking about your feelings, being told to man up".

She told head teachers: "If your narrative is saying girls don't get angry or boys don't cry, or girls aren't allowed to do this or boys aren't allowed to do this, then that is potentially going to have an impact on your well-being.

"So I hope that in taking away the negative stereotypes associated with gender we can ultimately improve their mental health." She said another reason not to use gendered terms was because there may be transgender people in the room.

Camilla Turner Education Editor, Daily Telegraph
November 25th, 2017

Oxford faces call to ban scholars' gowns

Oxford students have voted to ban gowns that mark out the cleverest among them from "commoners" at law debates because they create "unconscious bias" among examiners.

The student union voted to lobby the university to bar the highest-achieving law students from wearing "scholars' gowns" because they cause unfairness at moot debates, simulated court hearings at which students practise their legal arguments in front of judges.

The gowns, which are longer and have open sleeves, are reserved for scholarship students or those who have done particularly well in their exams. They are also worn for formal exams, but supporters of the change argued that this did not cause the same problem, as markers could not see what the student had been wearing when judging their work.

According to the student newspaper Cherwell, the motion proposed by Thomas Howard, a second-year law student at Magdalen College, said that "judges, sometimes from leading law firms and chambers, may have unconscious bias based on the gowns worn." Mr Howard told a students' union meeting that judges' preconceptions could be "damaging for those in a commoners' - and can be for the scholars too, since the judge may expect more of them".

Not all students supported the vote. One commented that it was "silly".

The Telegraph (who else?) again turns the spotlight on the absurd drive to eliminate what the egalitarians see as elitism. Your website manager modestly confesses that he wore the offending gown in his days at Oxford, rather than the commoner's version, which was known then as a 'bum freezer'. In those far-off days it was part of the cherished, if sometimes archaic, trappings of the university. With luck, the student (they mean 'undergraduate' by the was) who succinctly dismisses the move as 'silly' represents the silent and sensible majority who will, God willing, see off the insidious attacks on all that is worth preserving and honouring in our society. End of rant.

November 17th, 2017

Not in front of the children?

Cambridge University academics have hit out at "trigger warnings" after students were warned that Shakespeare's plays contain potentially distressing topics.

English literature undergraduates had been advised that a lecture which focuses on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and The Comedy of Errors would include "discussions of sexual violence" and "sexual assault".   The trigger warnings were published in the English Faculty's "Notes on Lectures" document, which is circulated to students.

Gill Evans, emeritus professor of medieval theology and intellectual history at Cambridge University, said that the move would leave academics "very annoyed". She said it was "likely to be motivated by a genuine wish not to risk upsetting students" but added that it is part of a trend to appease today's "hyper-sensitive" students.  "Obviously one would not want to be heartless. But you've got to learn to be a bit resilient," she said. "Trigger warnings" were printed alongside the description of at least one English literature lecture and one seminar due to take place this term.

One was a lecture on "Violence", focusing particularly on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors and Titus Andronicus and Sarah Kane's Blasted. Another seminar titled "Inhibiting the Body" carried a warning about discussions of "sexually explicit scenes" and "sexual assault" and was based on Euripides' Hippolytus and The Bacchae and Sarah Kane's Phaedra's Love.

Dr David Crilly, the artistic director at The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, said: "If a student of English Literature doesn't know that Titus Andronicus contains scenes of violence they shouldn't be on the course. This degree of sensitivity will inevitably curtail academic freedom."

Cambridge is the latest of universities to issue trigger warnings to students. The University of Glasgow alerted theology students that they may see distressing images of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and gave them the opportunity to leave the room.

By Camilla Turner, Daily Telegraph Education Editor, October 19th, 2017.

Your editor would despair were he less hardened to the follies of the age. In reluctant defence of the warnings, however, he concedes that parts of  Titus Andronicus are
somewhat near the mark. As a teacher, he found that schoolboys in those less sensitive times particularly relished the classic stage direction: 'Enter Lavinia, her hands cut off, her tongue cut out, and having been ravished.' Critics disagree as to how the last of these three unhappy conditions is best displayed on stage.

Crossing Out

Lidl has been accused of airbrushing out crosses from a historic church in Italy so as not to offend its non-Christian customers.

The case follows a similar controversy last month involving packaging for a range of Greek food in which the crosses on top of a blue-domed church on the Greek island of Santorini were removed by the German-owned chain.
The latest row involves the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate in the picturesque village of Dolceacqua in the north-western region of Liguria.

An image of the church, with the crosses removed from its fagade and its bell tower, was used for promotional purposes by a Lidl branch in the nearby town of Camporosso.  The crosses were apparently removed so as not to offend the sensibility of the town's Muslim immigrants.

Fulvio Gazzola, the mayor of Dolceacqua, has made a formal complaint against Lidl. "You need to show photos of Dolceacqua which correspond to reality," the mayor said. "Lidl said removing religious symbols is part of an Italian and European publicity strategy. They are free to do what they want, but they shouldn't ruin photos. This is harmful to the image of our village and to our Christian traditions."

In a statement, Lidl offered an apology "to our customers and to the inhabitants of Dolceacqua" It said the aim was "to maintain neutrality in all religions", but it added that the image would be removed "immediately".

Foul Play on the Chicken Run

It was meant to be a tour of local eateries, designed to introduce new students to the popular fried chicken shops of south London.  However, organisers of Goldsmiths, University of London's "Chicken Run" event, which was part of the freshers' week entertainment programme, have been accused of racism and mocking local working class culture.

One student, Che Scott-Heron Newton, the daughter of the late American jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron, led the criticism, calling the chicken shop tour a "gross exotification of local working-class culture.  My point is that I felt that a poorer area of London's culture was being mocked by this tour," she told The Daily Telegraph. She said that she had complained to university staff.

In a letter to her lecturer, she wrote: "Today I became aware that the student union is offering 'chicken shop tours' and I can honestly say that this is one of the most pretentious messes that I have ever seen in my entire life. "I am beyond disgusted and appalled that the student union would think [this is] appropriate."  Billie Paul, a third-year politics and sociology student at Goldsmiths, added: "I think it's patronising and voyeuristic to parade a mainly middle -class audience around, especially when our presence as a university already gentrifies the area as it is."

The event, which was organised by the university's student union, took place on Monday night. Around 50 students were taken on a tour around different chicken shops in New Cross, south-east London, with a stop for tasters at each one. The union's website had promised to take students to various eateries, including PFC [Perfect Fried Chicken], Morleys, Gateway and Chick Chicken.

Employees at chicken shops that were part of the student tour told The Telegraph that they were bemused by the students' outcry over racism.  Nadi Jafany, 34, who works at Gateway, said: "When [students] come here for food, they enjoy it. It is good for business." Asim Anwar, 32, an employee at Chick Chicken, was also confused about the furore, and added that the shop always welcomes students.  "They are our main customers," he said. "They are very good for us, we are [happy] to have more students. They come in, get the food and leave, they don't cause any trouble."

A spokesman for the Goldsmiths Students' Union said the event had been created in response to "gentrification in the local area and wider London". The event was aimed at "encouraging students to engage with and support the local community and local businesses".

Camilla Turner and Sarah Wilson, The Daily Telegraph, 28th September, 2017

Comment seems almost superfluous, apart from the first student's first name. A unisex revolutionary, presumably...

Going Through the Motions?

A University has told its students to stop defecating in the showers and dustbins, blaming the problem on its "multicultural population".

Students at the University of Strathclyde were warned about inappropriate lavatory habits, and told that although "different countries have different practices", they should be aware that "here in the UK the accepted practice is to use only the WC".

The email was sent by the operations management team at the university's Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC) after complaints from cleaners. The ticking off over disgusting lavatory habits went to about 400 students and 250 staff at the £89 million science hub which opened in 2015 in Glasgow.

"Given the incidence of people pooing in bins, showers and the like - can I please remind all TIC occupants that the toilets have been provided for that specific purpose," students were told.

The university later apologised for the email, saying that it "contained sentiments that are completely contrary to our institutional values". It said the email should never have been sent and vowed to ensure "all future communications are appropriate and are consistent with our ethos".

The official website for the state-of-the-art facility describes it as a home for "researchers, engineers and project managers from academia and industry, who will work side-by-side on projects spanning future cities, manufacturing, health and energy".

One insider reportedly told the Daily Record newspaper: "You wouldn't imagine problems like this at a place at the forefront of technology. This building houses some of the most intelligent brains in the world - yet they don't appear to know how to use the toilet."

A spokesman for the university said: "We have apologised for any offence caused to was recalled as soon as it came to our attention and we swiftly issued an apology. We are reviewing the circumstances relating to its circulation."

Camilla Turner, Education Officer, the Daily Telegraph
June 2017

Rewriting History

Cambridge University examiners are told to avoid using words like "flair", "brilliance" and "genius" when assessing students' work because they are associated with men, an academic revealed.

Lucy Delap, a lecturer in British history at the university, said history tutors were discouraged from using the terms because they "carry assumptions of gender inequality".

"Some of those words, in particular genius, have a very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male," she said. "Some women are fine with that, but others might find it hard to see themselves in those categories."
Ms Delap, who specialises in gender history, said one of the reasons men achieved more first-class degrees at Oxford and Cambridge than women was because female students struggled with the "male-dominated environment".

Examples included reading lists dominated by male academics and portraits hanging on college walls that were either of men or by men, she said.

Academics were told to stick closely to the mark scheme when marking history essays, which assesses the ability to answer the questions, analytic skills and breadth of knowledge.

"We want to use language that is transparent," she said. "We're rewriting our first two years of our history degree to create a wider set of paper choices, to make assessment criteria clearer, and to really try and root out the unhelpful and very vague talk of 'genius', of 'brilliance', of 'flair', which carries assumptions of gender inequality and also of class and ethnicity."

Camilla Turner
Education Editor, Daily Telgraph
June 17th, 2017


Cutting cr

Photographs of Ed Miliband helping a constituent cut her grass during the local election campaign were staged, an angry voter has claimed.

Images on Twitter and Facebook showed Mr Miliband pushing the lawnmower, but the woman he assisted claims she had to help him start the machine and that she had originally believed he was a Jehovah's Witness.

A snippet from the Daily Telegraph (who else?). To avoid accusations of political bias, the editor would welcome gaffes by politicians of every persuasion.


Students who whoop, cheer and clap should face "consequences" because they are excluding deaf people, the National Union of Students' annual conference heard.

Estelle Hart, an NUS elections committee member who chaired a session at the conference in Brighton yesterday, told students "No whooping - it does have a serious impact on some ^delegates' ability to access conference." Shelly Asquith, the NUS vice president for welfare, returned to the theme, telling delegates: "We've had a number of requests that people stop whooping".

Delegates were instead encouraged to use "jazz hands" - waving their hands in the air - as this is deemed a more inclusive form of expression.

A motion had been tabled at the conference by the Durham University students union to ban clapping and whooping at all future NUS events. It warned that the "access needs of disabled students are disregarded/ overlooked in terms of conference member behaviour and NUS structures" and called for "reduced cheering or unnecessary loud noises on conference floor, including whooping and clapping". It warned of "consequences for those who ignore this requirement". The conference ran out of time before the motion could be debated.

In the past, NUS events have banned clapping on the grounds that it might "trigger anxiety".

Critics say that such behaviour is typical of the "snowflake generation" of students, who are seen as over-sensitive and quick to take offence. Last week it emerged that Oxford University's Equality and Diversity Unit had issued guidance to students advising them that if they avoid making eye contact with their peers they could be guilty of racism.

And the University of Glasgow has started issuing "trigger warnings" for theology students attending lectures on the crucifixion, advising that they may see distressing images and giving them the opportunity to leave.

Camilla Turner, Education Editor, Daily Telegraph 
28th April, 2017

Another 'you-couldn't-make-it-up story from our fine young student body. But does it go far enough? It's all very well waving 'jazz hands' to accommodate the deaf, but surely this is unfair to the blind. At least they won't be distressed at crucifixion images...

Dear Ser....

For years, banks have offered customers a sometimes bewildering array of services, from savings schemes to mortgages to credit card deals.

But HSBC, one of Britain's biggest banks, went a step further yesterday by offering customers no fewer than 10 different "non-gender specific" titles to choose from.

No longer are clients stuck with the traditional "Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms" when choosing how they wish to be addressed. HSBC has come up with a wide range of titles for those unwilling to commit to one gender or another. These include MX, which is considered the most common gender neutral title, and Ind, which stands for individual. Others on the list are: Mre, which is short for "mystery" and Pr which means "person". Then there is: M and Misc (short for miscellaneous); Msr (a combination of Miss/Sir); Myr (for which HSBC offered no explanation); Sai (pronounced "sigh"); and finally Ser (pronounced "sair").

The new titles are available to people who do not identify as a particular gender, or who do not want to be identified by gender. The titles, which come into effect from today, will be applied across a customer's account, including bank cards and correspondence. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) charities welcomed the move and praised the banking sector in general for taking "huge strides" to making people with transgender issues feel valued.

A Stonewall spokesperson said: "It's great to see an increasing number of organisations prioritise issues affecting trans people. The banking sector has taken huge strides towards making lebian, gay, bi and trans employees an d ^
customers feel valued.     "This was demonstrated earlier this year by Lloyds Banking Group, who came number one in our top 100 LGBT inclusive employers in Britain".   

But the move was met with criticism from some Christian groups, which suggested the new titles were simply a PR stunt to make the bank appear socially progressive. Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Denial of Christian Concern, described HSBC's gender neutral titles as a "denial of reality". She said: "This plays into the hands J of a new political ideology. HSBC thinks this is progressive but it is actually regressive and absurd and will confuse people. I think it's sad if people want 'mystery' as a tide. It is a denial of reality.

"Major public institutions are beginning to pander to this latest fad of political orthodoxy for fear of being seen as illiberal."

Stuart Barette, trans lead for the HSBC UK Pride network, said: "We are a commercial enterprise and we want to appeal to all our customers. If we don't improve, then the transgender community won't bank with us, and we don't want that.
"Ultimately this isn't us trying to lay claim to the ground and do a PR stunt, this is a genuine effort."

Last year, Metro Bank became the first UK bank to welcome customers who do not identify as male or female,   The decision came after Scottish teenager Kaelin Farnish raised concerns about not being able to be recognised as "non-binary" when opening a bank account.

The report further explains that Misc is used by people who say they have aspects of various genders at various times. and Ind by people who feel that they are free of gender entirely.

Katie Morley
Consumer Affairs Editor, the Daily Telegraph
April 1st, 2017

In view of the date of publication,  careful checking of the authenticity of this fine piece of news undertaken. It is, be assured, a real story. Comment seems superfluous, apart from flagging up the splendid title of 'trans lead' in which Mr Barette rejoices.

Mum's the Word...?

The British Medical Association has said pregnant women should not be called "expectant mothers" as it could offend transgender people.  Instead, they should call them "pregnant people" so as not to upset intersex and transgender men, the union has said. The advice comes in an internal document to staff outlining potentially offensive common phrases.

The "elderly" should be referred to as "older people", "disabled lifts" called "accessible lifts" and someone who is "biologically male or female" should be called "assigned male or female".

The BMA said the document was purely guidance for its staff "aimed at promoting an inclusive workplace", not advice to its 156,000 doctor members on how to deal with patients.

On pregnancy and maternity, it says: "Gender inequality is reflected in traditional ideas about the roles of women and men. Though they have shifted over time, the assumptions and stereotypes that underpin those ideas are often deeply rooted."

It adds: "We can include intersex men and trans men who may get pregnant by saying 'pregnant people' instead of 'expectant mothers'."

The guide advises against using the terms "born man" or "born woman" in relation to trans people, as these phrases "are reductive".

Elsewhere, staff are told to substitute "surname" or "last name" for "family name". Words such as "mankind" and "manpower" should be avoided because it is "not good practice" to use a "masculine noun", instead swapped for "humanity" and "personnel".

Conservative MP Philip Davies told the Mail on Sunday that the guidance was "completely ridiculous", while the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Philip Egan, said it would cause "great confusion and harm".

However, Heather Ashton, of the transgender support group TG Pals, said it was a "massive step forward to prevent discrimination" against transgender people.

Laura Donnelly, Health Editor, The Daily Telegraph

Almost too good to be true. Apart from the hilarious thinking on display, this writer also resents the illiterate shorthand use of 'trans'. But then he is a pedant as well as a dinosaur, he imagines....

Students' union bans the words 'he' and 'she'

A University students' union has issued an order banning members from using the words "he" and "she" without permission, to avoid jumping to conclusions about whether people want to be seen as male or female.

Sussex Students' Union has issued the rules under a new "gender inclusive language policy". They extend to all the union's meetings, events, campaigns, newsletters, newspapers and media.

The policy says people's preferred terms should be established at the start of every meeting, and that, otherwise, neutral terms such as "they" and "them" should be used.

The policy states: "Gender-neutral language must be used where an individual's pronouns are not known. In situations where introductions are not appropriate or where an individual has not directly stated their pronouns, gender-neutral language should be used to refer to them, and no assumptions should be made based on presentation or appearance."

Last year, teachers at girls' schools were advised to consider addressing their charges simply as "pupils" or "students" rather than girts, to be more inclusive to trans-gender children.

Curtains for Aida as students raise fears it would be 'too white'

It is a story of war between two nations, the conflict of rivals in love and the looming fate of death.   But the antagonistic themes of Aida seem to have spilled into the wings after a student production of Verdi's opera was cancelled amid a row over suggestions of "cultural appropriation".

A theatre company at the University of Bristol said it had cancelled all showings after a revolt by students.  It is understood there were concerns in some quarters that white students would be cast as lead actors portraying Ethiopians, Egyptians and slaves.

The opera centres around an Ethiopian princess, Aida, who is held prisoner in Ancient Egypt, where she serves as a slave but falls in love with an Egyptian general. One student commented: "White-washing still exists, it's been done enough in Hollywood, look at Liz Taylor in Cleopatra!'

 However, critics said the decision by Music Theatre Bristol (MTB), was "laughable" and amounted to "outrageous" censorship. Rupert Christiansen, the Telegraph opera critic, said: "Where will the mealy-mouthed nonsense peddled by ideologues in Bristol stop? If something doesn't laugh it to extinction, Verdi's entire oeuvre could fall under the axe."

In its statement, the theatre said: "It is with great sadness that we are announcing the cancellation of Aida in this year's MTB show calendar.   "This show that was voted in by our members has since caused controversy in terms of racial diversity. It is a great shame that we have had to cancel this show as, of course, we would not want to cause offence in any way, and that was certainly never our intention. Our intention was to tell this story, one which surely is better heard than not performed at all."

Academics said they were "saddened" by the cancellation of the show. Daniel Snowman, author of a book on the social history of opera and a biography of Verdi, said "this kind of censorship is outrageous. Absolutely categorically Aida should not be banned.  An opera like that, like Othello, if you eliminate all the elements of ethnicity from it, then you are not doing justice to a historic work."  

Conrad -Young, a student at the  Bristol Against Censorship group, told The Tab student newspaper: "The effect that the fear of cultural appropriation has on modern campuses is a  sad affair and in this case has damaged the student experience of the people involved and the prospective student audiences." 

Sam Dean and Tom Morgan, Daily Telegraph

Ducking: the issue

litter wardens have been suspended after a woman was handed an £80 fine for feeding the ducks.

The unnamed offender was given the on-the-spot penalty after she was caught throwing breadcrumbs near the river Loose in Maidstone, Kent.  The warden insisted he "couldn't see any ducks" and promptly took action.  But after an appeal in front of Maidstone borough council, the fine was cancelled and the town's entire litter patrol taken off the streets for retraining.

The council has used a team of operatives from private firm Kingdom Security since 2011. In that time, they have issued more than 20,000 tickets. Since September 2015, litter wardens have handed out 2,116 penalties worth just under £170,000 - half of which goes to the council, the other half to Kingdom Security.

After the council suspended the 10-strong team to allow a review of the contract with the firm, an authority spokesman confirmed the move was "in part" due to the fine for feeding ducks.  Alison Broom, chief executive of the council, said: "It was decided that the litter enforcement service would be reassessed with the aim of ensuring that Kingdom Security is providing the best response to our priority of providing a clean and safe environment."

In July, two workers were threatened with fines for "dropping cigarette butts" in Maidstone as they put up a church fence.  The men protested that they had put the offending litter in their wheelbarrows and the warden decided against the fine. Later, footage of the incident was uploaded on to Facebook and viewed nearly 300,000 times.  The council says the wardens' jobs are on hold while the review takes place.

Local resident Richard Brand, 43, said: "They usually wander around Maidstone town centre and pounce on anyone. "I saw one of them speak to an old lady who accidentally dropped a receipt as she came out of a shop. "Three people went over to speak to the warden and he didn't issue the fine in the end. But they are like vultures most of the time."

November 1st, 2016

Lavatory Break

A prisoner who took legal action after he tripped over a slipper when his cell light went out because of an electrical failure was awarded £3,750 after a judge decided the prison authorities had failed to restore power in a reasonable time.

A High Court judge dismissed an appeal by the prison authorities against the award. He heard how the prisoner had had a hip replacement and had mobility problems. He had needed the lavatory during the power cut and tripped while feeling his way in the dark, the judge was told.

The 'F' Word

When the Spanish Inquisition, as imagined by Monty Python, wanted to torture their victims into confessing to heresy, there was only one thing for it: the comfy chair.

Now the use of comfortable seating has become a test of orthodoxy in real life after an ecclesiastical court banned the use of padded chairs in a church on the grounds that they were verging on the ungodly.

The Consistory Court of the Diocese of Coventry has ruled that the use of upholstered seats in a historic place of worship could be ‘overly casual’ and ‘incompatible with a house of God’.

Parishioners of a local church applied for a faculty (special permission: the ‘f’ word, as it is known at St Faith’s) to replace their woodworm-infested pews in order to open the church, which has no hall, for children’s and community groups. The Chancellor agreed that the pews were of ‘little merit’ but ordered that any replacement chairs must not be upholstered, after the Victorian Society and Historic England argued that the planned cushioned seating was ‘unworthy’ for the historic building.

‘It is to be remembered,’ said the Chancellor, that an overly casual appearance can be incompatible with a house of God and can be as unattractive to newcomers as an appearance of excessive rigour.’

A churchwarden said: ‘Many of the congregation are elderly and they are entitled to comfort now and again.’

Rumours that the Chancellor also suggested the introduction of hair shirts and spiked kneelers are entirely false. (I made that bit up. Ed!)

The Vicar's Knickers?

While the prospect of vicars in lacy underwear or bishops in mankinis might seem unlikely, it is an apparent peril which has so vexed Church of England officials that they are planning to amend canon law to prevent it - just in case. Under proposed legislative changes to be put to members of the Church's decision-making General Synod for approval this week is a new clause banning clergy from conducting services while wearing anything overly revealing or not "seemly".

The rule would also apply to items such as T-shirts bearing atheist slogans or which promote extreme political views.

The change is among dozens of amendments to existing or proposed ecclesiastical law to be put to the Synod, which will hold its main annual gathering in York next weekend. Other changes include a slight simplification to the process of selling off ancient glebe land - historic tracts of pasture traditionally used to support livings for the clergy - and rules on altering parish boundaries or names.

The ban on revealing priestly attire comes amid moves to relax the Church's long-standing rules on clerical vestments. Canon law requires priests to wear traditional clerical robes, which maintain a tradition dating back to late Roman times, when leading communion or one-off services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals.

However, the rules are often ignored, especially in congregations which use more informal styles of worship. Supporters of the changes say they will help make services more "relevant" to younger people and win new converts.

Under the proposals, clergy would be able to abandon traditional vesture if leading members of the congregation agreed it would "benefit the mission of the church in the parish".

The Rev Dr Giles Eraser, the vicar and broadcaster, who described himself as an "arch-traditionalist" on clerical robes, said: "The most unseemly thing I may have taken the eucharist in is a Chelsea top, but that was underneath my vestments so no one could see it. I think the whole point about having vestments is that it stops all this stuff being an issue." He added that the fact that canon law now had to stipulate that clerics should not-wear inappropriate clothing was a sign of how far standards had fallen.

Daily Telegraph, July 4th, 2016

Happy-clappy sermons kept locals awake

The head of a "happy clappy" church has been fined for regularly holding "unbearably" loud sermons with drumming until 4am.

Akinseye lyun, pastor of the evangelical Celestial Church of Christ in Grays, Essex, kept neighbours up into the early hours up to four times a week.

He was fined £230 with a £23 victim surcharge by Basildon magistrates and Thurrock council was awarded full costs of £988.50, totalling £1,241.50.

Not a problem likely to crop up at Anglican Churches, indeed including St Faith's. There would, of course, no longer be a problem of people nodding off during sermons...
Daily Telegraph, June 1st, 2016

School whistle banned as 'too aggressive'

A school has banned the blowing of a whistle to mark the end of playtime because it is "too aggressive" and could cause alarm to the children. Staff at the primary school must instead raise a hand in the air to mark the end of playground breaks and wait for the 120 pupils to notice the signal.

The ban at St Monica's Catholic Primary in Milton Keynes, Bucks, was revealed in a letter to Country Life magazine by teaching assistant Pamela Cunningham. Ms Cunningham, who has been at the school for 26 years, said staff feared that in an emergency children might not see their raised hands.

She said she keeps a back-up whistle in her pocket "just in case".

But the move was criticised by Emma Kenny, a leading child psychologist, who said she had yet to meet a child who was afraid of whistles. 

She added: "I think we are at a time where health and safety is eradicating childhood." The school did not respond to a request for comment.

The Telegraph again, needless to say. What a splendid story!
May 24th, 2016

'Political Correctness Gone Mad'

First there was the campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford, then a dispute over Jesus College's cockerel from Benin.

Now Cambridge students have cancelled an "Around the World in 80 Days" dance, fearing that it encourages "cultural appropriation".

It could be seen as racist if revellers dressed up as members of other ethnic groups, they decided. The decision was made by the Junior Parlour Committee at Pembroke College, the students' body within the college. In an email, the JPC said a lengthy debate preceded a decision to change the theme of the annual event for new students away from Jules Verne's story of Phileas Fogg "to avoid the potential for offence to be caused".

Speaking to The Tab, a student newspaper, Shani Wijetilaka, a student at the college, said: "Some members of the college met this decision with anger which erupted over Facebook on the Pembroke Exchange page. The decision was characterised as 'overly controlling and.a little insulting.'
One student wrote: "I'm mostly just upset that I can't use the man-sized hot air balloon costume I made." Another asked: "Can the JPC reimburse me for my geisha costume if they don't change the theme back?"

Lots of students defended the original theme as a way of appreciating cultural diversity. "Can't we take joy in spending an evening the national dress of another country?" asked one. "This decision just serves to perpetuate the downward spiral of extreme political correctness that I feel universities across the world seem to be succumbing to."

But others backed the decision. One wrote: "Many of the outfits are not 'national dress' as defined by their own culture, but are crude stereotypes and often rely on historic racial tropes."

The row comes amid a campaign at Jesus College to have the bronze "Cambridge cockerel", looted by British forces from the kingdom of Benin in the 19th century, returned to Nigeria. The Okukor, as it is known, has been taken down from its place in the dining room pending discussion.
In Oxford there are continuing protests over a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the Victorian imperialist, at Oriel, his old college. Campaigners maintain that its presence glorifies offensive views of! race and want it removed. But it is part of a Grade I listed building and the college is resisting their demands.

The editor has been looking for an excuse to use this headline, and thinks he has found it here, thanks, needless to say, to the Daily Torygraph (!)

Clergy Fail to Make the Cut on Truth

More people trust their hairdresser to tell the truth than their clergy, a poll has suggested. The figures bear out reports of a continued decline in public trust in the Church.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos MORI, found that 69 per cent of respondents trusted their hairdresser to be honest, but only 67 per cent believed the same thing of a cleric.

Public faith in the clergy has continued to fall since 1983, until when it was ranked as the most trusted profession. The latest figures suggest that there has been a two-per-cent drop in trust in the past 12 months.

This year, doctors remain at the top when it comes to winning public trust, as 89 per cent of the public in the survey trusting them. Teachers, judges, and the police are also highly trusted. At the bottom end ofthe scale, bankers were found to be less trusted to tell the truth than builders; and journalists and estate agents were trusted even less: by just 25 per cent of the public.

Politicians remain the least trusted of the professions: just 21 per cent of the people surveyed believed them.

The director of the Social Research Institute of Ipsos MORI, Bobby Duffy, said: "Public trust in politicians remains steadfastly low. ... It's good to remind ourselves that this is not a 'new crisis of trust'. Other professions, though, have seen a long-tenn decline in trust, most notably the clergy,.who were the most trusted profession when we started the series in 1983, and have fallen behind seven other groups."

Even passing strangers were reckoned to be more trustworthy than the clergy: 68 per cent of those surveyed said that they would expect people whom they encountered on the street to be honest. Trust in others did range significantly with age, however. Respondents belonging tot he younger generations were found to be much less trusting than those from older generations.

February 24th, 2016

No, not the Telegraph, but that other august (and entirely trustworthy) organ, The Church\Times

High Jinks Down Under

"The eucharist demands the utmost respect and reverence from all priests," a spokesman for he Diocese of San Pablo, Australia, told reporters in Manila, "and Father Falbert San Jose of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal has fallen short in his duty. The Eucharist is the church's highest form of worship, not a personal celebration. where one can capriciously introduce a novelty to get the attention of the people, So let us be clear. For a priest to ride a hoverboard around the nave during Eucharist while singing a Christmas song as a way of greeting his parishioners is not merely unusual, it is wrong." Action was taken against Father Falbert after a video of his Eucharist service (which featured him riding a hoverboard for the entire length of the church) was posted on Facebook by a worshipper at the service.

"Father Falbert has admitted to his conduct, and has been suspended until further notice. He will be out of the parish, and will spend some time reflecting on this past event. He acknowledges that what he did was wrong, and would like to apologise for what happened. He has promised us that there will be no repeats of his hoverboarding activities during church services. We- ask everyone to pray a rosary for this priest to attend a traditional Latin mass,"

(ABC [Australia], 30/12/15 )

The editor, finding this gem in Private Eye, was wary of its authenticity, but Google and Youtube confirm that it happened!

'Political Correctness Gone Mad' (!)

The recent furore over the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford, which some progressive individuals want to take down because of colonial connotations, has prompted that fine reactionary organ, The Daily Telegraph, to parade a splendid selection of politically correct moves by other student bodies.

Harvard University recently banned the title ‘House Master’ because students complained it has overtones of slavery. Staff voted unanimously to get rid of the term to reflect the needs of ‘21st century’ students.

The University of Ottawa banned a yoga class for disabled students because the practice was taken from a culture ‘that experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and Western supremacy.  Yoga comes from India, once a British colony.

University of East Anglia. Students given free sombrero hats by a local Tex-Mex restaurant were told not to wear them on campus because they go against strict cultural appropriation rules. The student union said: ‘Discriminatory or stereotypical language or imagery aimed towards any individual or group based on characteristics will not be permitted as part of our advertising.’

The University of York decided to ban an International Men’s Day event because of complaints from students and staff. Opponents argued that an event to mark the day would have an ‘adverse impact on equality for men’.

The Oxford University Union decided to ban a magazine that promotes free speech from the Freshers’ Fair because some would find it offensive. No Offence magazine has the aim of promoting free speech and inciting debate.

Protesters at Essex University prevented the Israeli deputy ambassador to the UK from addressing an audience because ‘we are not here to be brainwashed’.

Comment seems almost superfluous. This writer's alma mater, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, has, praise the Lord, yet to remove the pelican statue from the front quad on the grounds that it is an overtly Christian symbol

January 1st, 2016. Happy New Year to other dinosaurs and pedants.

Heavens above - why Downton doesn't do God

Producers were ordered to avoid religion for fear of upsetting viewers

They may live in a Britain that was far more Christian than it is today, but the Crawley family doesn't do God.

That is because, according to Downton Abbey's historical adviser, television chiefs ordered producers to "leave religion out of it", for fear of alienating viewers.   Alastair Bruce pointed out the Crawley family is never shown in the process of sitting down to dinner, with the action instead starting part-way through the meal. This, he said, was to avoid having to show the characters saying grace.

"In essence, you hardly ever see a table that isn't already sat at. We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said, and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace," said Mr Bruce.  "I think that the view was that we'd leave religion out of it, and it would've taken extra time, too. I suggested a Latin grace, but they decided that was too far, and no one would've known what was going on.|'

Mr Bruce said he was even banned from featuring napkins folded in the shape of a bishop's mitre, for fear of breaching the religious edict.  "Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on Ithe telly" he said. "I still wish we could've got some decent napkin folds."

The lack of religious reference is a topic of debate in America, where the series, broadcast on the PBS channel, is wildly popular.  The unease at featuring any religious reference even extended to the name of the show. Peter Fincham, ITV's head of television, revealed earlier this year that the channel had considered a different name for the series, because of the word "abbey" in it. He said: "I can remember discussions that
almost seem comical now... Would people think it would have nuns or monks in it and be a religious series? But we satisfied ourselves they wouldn't and we did a bit of marketing around it."

Patrick Foster, Media Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph, November 2015

Crematorium cross 'offends non-believers'

A parish is in uproar after a crematorium's cross was taken down and put in a cupboard to avoid offending non-religious visitors.

The 5ft cross, which had been a permanent fixture for nearly 60 years, was put in a cupboard because around 40 per cent of funeral services held at the crematorium are non-Christian.  It will only be put back up on the wall behind the altar for services at Accrington Crematorium in Burnley, Lanes, when requested.

The Rev John Holland, the area dean of Accrington, said: "It's political correctness gone mad. There should have been a public consultation and there wasn't, so people in the parish are quite upset about it."

Ken Moss, a councillor who oversees Hyndburn council's cemeteries, said: "General guidance for crematoria is the building should be non-denominational so that it has the flexibility to make all families welcome."

October 1st, 2015

I have a Mop and I'm not afraid to use it

A Christmas tree, a mop and an apple were classified as ‘violent weapons’ by Devon and Cornwall Police as they recorded 21,800 violent incidents in 2014-15, official data shows.

A gate was also used in two attacks and there were single incidents involving a back-scratcher, a camera, a roller-skate, secateurs, a spirit-level and a spoon – though it has not been revealed what injuries were caused.

A force spokesperson said: ‘These are weapons that have been used in assaulting a person, or could have been used by an abusive partner in a domestic incident.’

Daily Telegraph, July 2015

Religious Rights spare Seagulls

A crackdown on feeding seagulls was blocked yesterday - in case it offends people's religious rights.

The birds have been known to attack holidaymakers for their food in Llandudno, North Wales, and council chiefs wanted to introduce fixed penalty fines for people who feed the gulls. But they were warned that it could offend followers of religions including Judaism and Hinduism, whose believers are encouraged to take care of animals.    

Jim Jones, the head of tourism and leisure for Conwy council, said: "We looked at the issue of fines, but were told it's the right to feed birds within some religions."

Some residents were angered that the issue could not be tackled. Urban gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and culling can only be carried out in extreme circumstances.

Dai Evans, 57, said: "The seagulls are a total menace, I can't believe they're being protected by human rights. It seems like nothing can be done to get rid of these birds."

Daily Telegraph, July 22nd, 2015

Deacon tries to sue pastor wife in battle over flower-arranging class at church

A Church deacon tried to sue his wife, a pastor, after she banned him from giving flower-arranging classes following the breakdown of their marriage.

Allan Lavington, 62, took his wife, pastor Deborah Harrison, 58, to an employment tribunal, citing unfair dismissal from hosting the classes at the church she runs.   He claimed that his estranged wife had failed to pay him for the floristry and music classes, amounting to a total of £74,000, and said ach class had cost him £1,000 to run.

 Ms Harrison, who runs the Gospel Express Academy college centre, said that the former deacon had only ever been a volunteer at the Ecclesia Ministries Church in Birmingham and accused him of "trying to pull a fast one".

Tribunal Judge Leslie Ann's ruled in her favour.  Mr Lavington said he felt "robbed" by the decision.   "I'm not bitter," he added. "But if I saw her walking down the street, I'd blank her."

The couple separated after just four months of marriage in 2010, following a row over a cooking pot at their wedding reception, and remain estranged. Mr Lavington said he walked out of their wedding reception after a pot that had cost him thousands of pounds went missing.

"I had an idea where it had gone, but when we recovered it her sister, her niece and my wife all started screaming at me," he said.  "I never blamed anyone at the party, but they claimed I had."

The former deacon has insisted that he will continue legal proceedings against his wife, claiming he was doing "God's will". He said: "She is erratic and fiery tempered, all I want is to do things to please God and do God's will.

"She has no control over money, no idea about paying bills or anything, she knew I had run my own business and could look after those kind of things and that's the only reason she married me. "Those lessons I gave for her cost £1,000 each, how can she say that I would volunteer to do that and close my own business rather than take a cut? She has lied all through this, my solicitors will be following this up. I can just now be happy that I can go to God knowing I told the truth. How she has the cheek to get up on the altar now, knowing what she has done is beyond me.  "I trusted her as a pastor and I was sucked in by that, that is what I'm ashamed of."

 Ms Harrison, who founded the Pentacostal (sic) Church at Ladywood Methodist Church in Birmingham four years ago, says her husband is "manipulative and controlling". The cleric admitted that there was a row at the wedding over a missing pot but said it was four months before she packed her bags, unable to put up with his behaviour.

"I'm well out of it, his bombastic attitude vexed choir members," she added.  "In the end it got very bitter. He wanted £74,000 from me - that's £1,200 a month from 2010 to now. He needs to realise that 60 per cent of nothing is nothing."

Nicola Harley
Daily Telegraph, February 4th, 2015

Canon barred from his guns after row with vicar over church sink

A Cathedral canon has been denied access to his rifles and shotgun following a row with a vicar. Adrian Golland, 71, a lay canon at Manchester Cathedral, became embroiled in a dispute with the Rev Nick McKee after arranging for an electrical socket to be installed next to a church sink.

Mr Golland commissioned an electrician to install the socket at St Paul's Church, in Astley Bridge, Greater Manchester, where he sat on the church's building group. However, in March 2012, Mr McKee decided to shut the ‘sink facility’, deeming it unsafe. A court heard Mr Golland felt his reputation had been "trashed" by the intervention. As the row escalated, police visited Mr Golland and seized his firearms collection. Two officers also stood guard at the church's annual meeting in April.

Earlier this month Mr Golland asked a judge for his weapons collection to be returned. But after a two-day firearms licensing hearing at Bolton Crown Court  a judge refused, describing Mr Golland as "confrontational".

Judge Timothy Clayson said: "The picture emerges of Mr Golland as an intransigent and confrontational man.  "He was not going to accept anything apart from the most effusive apology. He considers he is always right, no matter how insignificant the nature of the dispute. The court notes the dispute with Reverend McKee arose from nothing more grave than whether a sink and some sockets were located too close together. His allegation that he had been defamed  was an unreasonable reaction to a trivial problem. He is guilty of making a false allegation against the reverend and accusing the police of being involved in a conspiracy, which is unjustifiable."

Mr Golland led the church's building group and served on the parochial council, but resigned both positions after the dispute. The judge, with two magistrates on the appeal panel, was told Mr Golland had meetings with senior Church of England clergy to air his grievances against Mr McKee. The court heard his behaviour was causing tensions within the congregation at St Paul's. Despite this, Mr Golland ignored a request by the archdeacon to stay away from St Paul's.  "I was not prepared to be excluded from a church I had attended some 15 years longer than Rev McKee," he said.

The court was told that police were called to Mr Golland's home in June 2013, by his wife Carol, who claimed he had assaulted her. Mr Golland insisted that his wife of 41 years had "exploded in a temper tantrum" after they returned home from the theatre and he brushed past her. The police took no further action.

The incidents concerned police, as they knew Mr Golland owned target-shooting rifles and a shotgun. In March, Mr Golland's licence was revoked.

Yesterday Mr Golland, who faces prosecution costs of £4,657.80, said he was disappointed by the decision, saying there were "factual inaccuracies" in Judge Clayson's summary.

Church's poster treated as hate crime by police

A church has agreed to take down a sign implying that non-Christians would ‘burn in Hell’ after it was treated as a hate incident by police.

Officers spoke to the pastor of Attleborough Baptist Church in Norfolk after they received a complaint about the message; ‘If you think there is no God, you’d better be right’ with flames underneath.

Robert Gladwin, 20, who lives near the church, claimed it was trying to ‘scare people into joining their mentality’.

A Norfolk Police spokesman said: ‘National guidance required us to investigate the circumstances and the matter has been recorded as a hate incident.’

Terry Sanders, of the National Secular Society, defended the church, saying the police response raised concerns about freedom of speech.

turns tables on ‘merciless’ traffic wardens

A vicar who claimed over-zealous traffic wardens were preying on her Sunday congregations has caught them parking on double yellow lines.

The Rev Bev Mason, the vicar at Bingley All Saints, Yorkshire, photographed the van as the ‘merciless; wardens patrolled on Sunday. She said: 'They were going round giving more of our churchgoers tickets at the time.  I called out to the two men: ‘Is this your van?’ and they were mortified.

The vicar, who has picked up four tickets herself, added that members of her congregation were ‘so kind and live holy lives yet they feel they are being penalised for it.’

Keystone cop needs lift from suspect's mother

A policeman who accidentally locked his car keys in the boot of his panda car had to ask a suspect's mother for a lift to the police station.

The officer for Nottinghamshire Police had been sent to the home of a "well-known crook", who lived with his mother, to arrest him for assault. After handcuffing the suspect and leading him out to his car, the officer locked his car keys in the boot.

He had to "sheepishly" knock on the door to ask the suspect's mother if she had a car and if she could give him and her son a lift to the police station. The mother agreed and ushered her son and the policeman - still handcuffed together- into the back of her two-door Vauxhall Corsa. She drove them three miles to the local police station.

The incident last month was described in the Police Federation magazine. The report stated: "The officer, having seized vital evidence from the suspect's bedroom, carefully placed it in the boot of the police car and then promptly locked the car keys inside."

 A police source said: "The officer was the laughing stock of the nick and he'll never live this one down."

Cock-a-doodle-ooh... a man who suffered for his art

A South African performance artist who tied a live rooster to his penis during an impromptu open-air show near the Eiffel Tower was found guilty yesterday of "sexual exhibitionism". However, the Paris court did not imppse a sentence.

Last September, Steven Cohen danced on the French capital's Trocadero Plaza dressed in a corset, high heels, long red gloves and an elaborate leathered headdress with a rooster attached to his penis by a ribbon.

Under the amused and perplexed gaze of tourists, including a group of nuns, the spectacle lasted only a few moments before police arrested Mr Cohen, dragging him across the plaza, rooster attached.

Mr Cohen said the authorities had "no understanding of what art is, what performance is".

All in that esteemed organ, the Daily Telegraph on the same day, May 6th, 2014

Funny but armless?

A stolen false arm has been discovered by police in a second-hand shop.

The prosthetic is used to train nurses how to take blood samples. It was found with an attached blood bag and a bottle of fake blood as officers in Bournemouth investigated a burglary. Inquiries have been made with hospitals in the area.

Christmas Elf ('n Safety!)

It may not have been normal attire in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but a children's nativity play has been told it cannot go ahead unless the girl playing Mary wears a crash helmet while riding a donkey. The performance will see 8-year-old Libby Doorman rise through Neath, South Wales, as part of the Bridge Church's open-air nativity play. But organisers have been told she will need to wear a riding hat on the day to comply with health and safety regulations in case she falls off.

She may also be told to wear protective riding boots for the performance.

December 9th, 2013


Stranger than fiction?

Reading newspaper obituaries could be described as a niche activity, but sometimes a chance scanning provides a real treasure. The following is slightly abbreviated from the original, but is otherwise entirely as printed. You couldn't make it up...

Olivia Robertson, who has died aged 96, was the co-founder, archpriestess and hierophant of the Fellowship of Isis, an order devoted to the worship of the "Divine Feminine", which she ran from her haunted ancestral pile, Huntington Castle  in Co Carlow, Ireland.  A member of an old Irish Ascendancy family, she had immersed herself in psychic and spiritualist studies from an early age, and had become convinced that God was a "She" after a series of visions. She continued to believe in a male God - until the Egyptian fertility goddess Isis paid her a visit. "She seemed to be made of crystallised white light," she recalled. "Her black hair was parted in the middle and she wore a violet and pale green dress, very modern, I thought. She seemed a cross between a queen, a ballet dancer and a gym mistress... We had a long conversation, but afterwards I couldn't remember any of it."

Later she was visited by an Irish goddess called Dana and felt an intense happiness: "Those visions made me realise that patriarchy had taken over religion, once the domain of matriarchs... and it had led to wars, greed and exploitation of the Earth." By coincidence, around the same time that Olivia had her realisation, her brother, Lawrence "Deny" Durdin-Robertson, "21st baron of Strathloch", an ordained clergyman in the Church of Ireland, had also become convinced that God was a woman. An honourable man, he at once proffered his resignation to his bishop, who assured him that "there was no need".

In 1976 Olivia, Lawrence and Lawrence's wife, Pamela, set up the Fellowship as a movement to worship "Isis of the 10,000 Names". "At the end of an Aeon and the beginning of the space age, the Goddess Isis is manifesting as the feminine expression of divinity," Olivia declared. Huntington Castle was the ideal headquarters. A rambling, castellated pile, complete with suits of armour and the heads of an array of wild beasts (including a crocodile shot by Olivia's mother), it soon attracted a following of what Olivia called "ordinary Irish psychics". Running out of room upstairs, she and Lawrence created an underground temple in the castle dungeons, with 12 shrines (one for each sign of the zodiac) and five chapels (each consecrated to a different goddess).

There, Olivia and her brother would perform elaborate rituals (with an extempore liturgy described by one witness as "the kind of thing you sit through at weddings when couples insist on writing their own vows"), he in blue robes, crook and tall blue hat, she in multicoloured gowns, her wild mane of dyed black hair topped with a brass coronet, brandishing a sacred "sistrum" — made of small cymbals set in a wooden frame.

 At first locals in the tiny village of Clonegal were horrified. "They thought we were all witches. It absolutely freaked them,"  The strange happenings at the castle began to attract curious tourists to the village, as well as bands of New Age spiritualists who, several times a year, converged on the castle to pray, meditate and perform in pagan dramas and tableaux. Visitors included Van Morrison, Hugh Grant and Mick Jagger, while Brigitte Bardot's sister made two stuffed canvas dragons for the temple.

The movement did not ask too much of its followers. "Some religions preach poverty, obedience and chastity," Olivia explained. "We believe in love and beauty and have no truck whatsoever with asceticism." By last year the group was said to have up to 30,000 members in 90 countries, including (surprisingly) 46 Muslim nations. "The point about the Fellowship of Isis is that we don't interfere with anybody's religion, they have all got something to offer," she explained. "The only thing we don't like is people being boiled alive or burned or having their heads chopped off, that type of thing."
Family ancestors were said to include Scota, legendary queen of the Scots, and Cesara (also known as "Mrs Benson"), a niece of Noah who, watching the Ark sail past from the top of Mount Leinster, called to Noah: "It's a soft day." Other notables to whom the Robertsons claimed to be related included  the 'Wicked Lord Rosse', founder of the infamous Hellfire Club outside Dublin, where he and his fellow club-persons were said to have roasted his butler.

Despite these connections, for the first eight years of her life Olivia Robertson led a somewhat humdrum existence in suburban Reigate. This all changed in 1925 when her paternal grandmother died and left Huntington Castle to her father. It was not long after the Civil War - a risky time for an Anglo-Irish family to return to Ireland. "The IRA had occupied the castle, and treated it very well," she recalled, "although they locked the cook in the dungeon, and court-martialled the butler."

As an Archpriestess of the Fellowship of Isis, Olivia Robertson travelled to distant temples around the world. In 1993, when the Parliament of World Religions met in Chicago, she was chosen as the representative of "neopagans" and walked in procession at the opening ceremony alongside Chicago's Roman Catholic Cardinal.

Olivia never married. Her brother Lawrence made his "transition to spirit" in 1994. Announcing her death, the Fellowship of Isis website enjoined the Goddess Isis of 10,000 Names to "bless and keep her as she makes her journey into the next Spiral of the Cosmic Web".

Sunday Telegraph obituaries, November 24th, 2013

Minister arrested over claims that he spanked worshippers

A Church Minister has been arrested over spanking claims.  The Rev Howard Curtis, 70, allegedly persuaded worshippers to undress for him to sp'ank them in the office of Coulsdon Christian Fellowship, in Croydon, south London.

The claims are believed to centre around a movement known as Christian Domestic Discipline, which involves men asserting authority over women through physical punishment, usually spanking.
Mr Curtis has been banned from unsupervised contact with children and forbidden from attending his own church alone while the Metropolitan Police investigates allegations about his conduct.

Three people have lodged assault allegations against Mr Curtis, who is believed lo have been involved with the church for at least two decades. The assaults are alleged to have happened between 2006 and 2009.   He was arrested in July and has been bailed until Oct 22 while police continue their investigation.

Mr Curtis denied the allegations, which he described as "malicious". Speaking outside his home in Croydon on Monday, lie said: "I have not done anything wrong, but it seems you are guilty as soon as you are accused. The police seem to think so, arresting me.   "I believe these allegations were maliciously made. 1 don't even know exactly what 1 have been accused of, I am having to wait while the police investigate."

Mr Curtis said he had "heard of Christian Domestic Discipline, but refused to be drawn on whether he practised it. Worshippers at Coulsdon Christian Fellowship, which describes itself as an "independent charismatic Baptist church", also declined to discuss the practice.  They said Mr Curtis was no longer involved with the church but would not comment further.

The Rev Dominic Warner, a minister at the church, did not respond to requests for a comment. Mr Curtis is also chairman of Coulsdon Chess Fellowship and is listed as a trustee of the 1st Coulsdon Scout Group, both of which meet at the church. Hiss wife Marilyn, 68, voiced support for her husband. "These are horrible allegations and I think it is entirely unfair," she said.

 Pope suspends 'Bishop of Bling' who spent £26m
By Tom Kington in Rome, October 24th, 2013

A German bishop nicknamed 'The Bishop of Bling' after he reportedly spent £12,000 on a bath has been banned from his diocese by the Pope.
The Vatican said yesterday that Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Bishop of Limburg, "could no longer exercise his episcopal ministry" after running up a €31million (£26.4 million) bill for a new diocese headquarters.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst's ideas of interior decoration have clashed with the Pope's calls for a "poor" church in which bishops would stop living like "princes". He reportedly spent £295,000 on built-in cupboards and carpentry, £665,000 on the'garden and £380,000 on artworks for the headquarters, which include private apartments. The project was originally budgeted at €5.5 million but the cost has risen to €31 million and could go higher.
The Vatican said Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, 53, would now spend "a period of time outside the diocese", while a German church panel of inquiry investigated. A newly appointed vicar general, Father Wolfgang Roesch, will step in to manage the diocese in the interim.
The bishop has defended his spending, saying that it covered 10 different construction projects and has claimed that he did not lead a "grandiose lifestyle". But his appeals appear to have fallen on deaf ears after he flew to Rome for a meeting with the Pope on Monday.

The scandal has caused uproar in Germany, where the Roman Catholic Church receives billions of euros a year from a church tax.


        The claims are believed to centre round a movement known as Christian Domestic Discipline, which involved men asserting authority over women through physical punishment, usually spanking. He has been banned from attending his own church alone  - which describes itself as an 'independet charismatic             Baptist church' while police investigate.

October 3rd, 2013

The poor? They're lying, drug-abusing bastards, complains Catholic priest

It is hardly the language normally expected of the clergy, but one Roman Catholic priest has felt moved to describe the poor as "messy, irritating bastards who take drugs and lie".  Destitutes sleep rough outside the church and beg for money during prayers, says Fr Ray Blake in a blog post titled "The Trouble With The Poor".  They even deter some of his congregation from attending Mass, he adds.

Yesterday the priest said that his point was that helping the needy was seldom a comfortable experience, but stressed that the Church had to respond to them. The priest, who has served in his parish for 13 years, wrote with unvarnished candour: "There is a secluded area between the church and our hall, a passage. Occasionally we find someone has got a few cardboard boxes together and has slept there and if it has been raining leaves a sodden blanket, [and] cardboard there to be cleaned up. "Often it also smells of urine and there is often excrement there and sometimes a used needle or two." He cites the example of a man who comes into the church, St Mary Magdalen's in Brighton, and during silent prayers will pray aloud, saying: "God, can you persuade the good people here to give to the poor; I am poor."

Fr Blake writes: "Unchecked he will take his cap off and have a collection. If they are not doing that they are ringing the door bell at every hour of the day and night, and they tell lies. "They tell you their gran is dying in Southampton and they need the train fare, you give it to them and if you don't find them drunk in the street they are back the next day and the other gran is dying in Hastings this time."

Fr Blake insisted that he was not attacking the poor but making a point about the better-off having a duty to care for them. Speaking after the blog came to light, he said: "The man who comes into my church and disturbs Mass is an irritating little bastard. You can tell yourself you love them, but they do sometimes create difficulties. "Either we can just simply wash our hands of them and say 'this is another species of human being or something that's not human', or we've got to get involved with them. "I'm a Catholic priest so I tend to have to get involved with them. The poor don't leave us to be comfortable."

His congregation fed the needy "365 days a year", he said, and most of the regular beggars at the church were "victims", having been in care for years. "If you're an atheist or an unbeliever you might find it annoying or irritating," he said. "I think everyone does. But the teaching of the gospel is we must respond to these people."

In a previous post, Fr Blake expressed sympathy for Jon Venables, who killed James Bulger, as well as for the toddler and his mother. He wrote in March 2010: "It must be horrendous for Venables to wake up every morning and see facing him in the mirror a hated child killer."

Rosa Silverman, Daily Telegraph
September 11th, 2013

I'm proud to be a 'Paki', how can that be racism?

A British-Asian comedian has been questioned by police over accusations that he was inciting racial hatred by using the word "Paki" in his act.

Jeff Mirza, who was born in Pakistan but brought up in Essex, was questioned over the use of the term in his act "Meet Abu Hamsta and Paki Bashir" at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The complaint came from another man of Pakistani background, who claimed he was upset by a poster for the show, which attempts to "reclaim" the use of  the racially offensive term.

Mr Mirza, 49, was dressed in character as a butcher, called Paki Bashir, when he was questioned at the police station on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. He was warned that he could be arrested and charged if he continued to use the poster, although he is continuing to do so.

Mr Mirza said: "How on earth can I be accused of racism against my own community?" His act centres on jokes about Pakistan and the wider Islamic world.  His main character,  Bashir,   tells  the   audience  he loves his family,  "otherwise known as his workforce" and says of Pakistan:  "We also have a thriving gay community also known as clerics."

Other characters include Hamsta, a Saudi said to be al Qaeda's ambassador of the arts in Luton. There is also Jameela, a woman in a burka, who tells how she was widowed when her first husband blew himself up as a suicide bomber at the third attempt.

Mr Mirza was questioned after a man took a leaflet which he was handing out on the High Street in Edinburgh and went to a police station. "I followed him into the station and  told him my daughter at the age of four had been racially abused and for many years after I had been angry when I heard that word. "But a few years ago I realised that I am a Paki and I should be proud of that. Pakistan means Land of the Pure and what's wrong with that? I have been called Paki so many times that the only thing for me was to turn it around and make people laugh with me. Black people use the ‘N’ word as a sort of reclaiming it in songs and  on TV and I have never seen any of them arrested."

A police spokesman said: "Police have a certain amount of room to give guidance and in this case it has been decided that there will be no further action."

Shekhar Bhatia, Daily Telegraph reporter
August 19th, 2013

Vicars and Tarts

The concept is nothing new, but this advert from local paper 'The Champion' takes it further. The references to 'Choir Practice', Communion wine' and 'Confession' are as tasteless as one might expect, and could be seen as offensive to the Christian community. The Church has had to get used to an increasing barrage of defamatory references - but one wonders what would have happened had this advert had made reference to whatever the Muslim equivalent of vicars ad tarts is.

To complain to the hitherto respectable hotel chain responsible for this sad effort would merely invite hoots of derision as to our over-sensitivity, so as ever, we turn the other cheek. And God is not mocked... 


August 8th, 2013

At breaking point

"One of the minor pleasures of this job is tracking the usage of the phrase "devout Christian". It usually means "total weirdo", and I don't think it will be easy to top a story I found in the Daily Mail about a primary-school headmaster who had a breakdown.

"The pupils of Horsmonden Primary School in Kent. . . watched open-mouthed as their headmaster 'snapped' when the electronic organ he was trying to play refused to work. Enraged, Malcolm Hayes smashed and punched the keyboard before wrenching it off its stand and telling his pupils to follow him as he stormed outside.

"Once in the car park the 49-year-old, a devout Christian [my italics], smashed the instrument again — before jumping in his car and repeatedly driving over it."

It turns out that Mr Hayes has previous form in the Mail, after he left his wife for a 16-year-old foster-daughter ten years ago. It appears that this second wife has now left him, which is why he took his frustrations out on the school's instrument, even if that's not the organ that had been giving him trouble."

Andrew Brown, Church Times, as quoted by Fr Dennis Smith
August 4th, 2013

No place for God in the Girl Guides

A sad but predictable sign of the times reported in recent editions of the Daily Telegraph. The initial report below was soon followed by the Scouts' announcement, and then a regular columnist provided this entertaining commentary

The Girl Guides are to drop references to ‘God’ and ‘country’ from their traditional pledge but are to retain an expression of allegiance to the Queen.

In one of the biggest changes in the organisation’s 103-year history, the promise to ‘love my God’ is to be replaced by a more individualistic pledge to ‘be true to myself’ and to ‘develop my beliefs’.

In a consultation which attracted almost 44,000 responses, Guides made it clear that they wanted to retain a public expression of allegiance to the Queen, who is also their patron.

The rethink followed the appointment of a new chief executive, Julie Bentley, former head of the Family Planning Association, who described the Guides as ‘the ultimate feminist organisation’.

Gill Slocombe, the Chief Guide, said the changes would make the promise ‘less confusing’ and easier for the 55,000 members to take with sincerity.

Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society, said the Guides had grasped the opportunity to become ‘truly inclusive’.

Andrea Williams of Christian Concern said the pledge sounded like jargon from a self-help manual and was at odds with the ethos of the organisation.

Scouts to Accept Atheist Members

The Scout Association is to follow the example of the Girl Guides and allow members to join without promising to do their duty to God. The movement has bowed to pressure from atheist and will offer an alternative pledge for those joining without a religious faith.

Currently, all Scouts are expected to ‘do my duty to God’ – with alternative wording for Muslims, Hindus and people of other faiths. Those who cannot do so as a matter of conscience are able to join only as associate members.

Following a consultation of 15,000 people, the movement plans to allow atheists to become full members, offering them a promise with a form of words that does not include a reference to God.

And Another Thing

I was disappointed to read last week that the Guides are ditching God and country from their oath. It's an unnecessary concession to political correctness that misses what Guiding and Scouting are all about. When I was a Scout, I don't recall worrying that I was being indoctrinated either into evangelical Christianity or UKIP . was too busy whittling sticks into spears and setting fire to things.

 In fact, I was obsessed with earning badges; I collected so many that there wasn't a patch of free space left on my Scout shirt. A lot of what I excelled in has subsequently proven useless: I have never once in my adult life had to use a reef knot or identify poisoned berries (how I wish the Scouts had handed out badges in avoiding income tax and curing hangovers). And some of the information learnt, such as first aid, has been lost in the mists of time. Today I wouldn't know the difference between CPR and a French kiss. That's reason number 542 why I'm single.

Aside from collecting accolades, what I really relished about Scouting was the chance to go native.
Scouting takes boys and girls who have grown up in an urbanised, over-sanitised  Britain and relocates  them out to some wild spot where they can regress to the savage. Every camping nip seemed like an adventure in the Amazonian rainforest, the conquest of a new frontier. In retrospect, it was a 10-minute drive to a campsite in Otford village, and although we believed we were pioneers into the unknown, we were actually heavily coddled. I can't imagine that Columbus set sail for the New World with sandwiches packed by his mother and 20p in case he needed to use a payphone to call home in an emergency.

Away from the telly, our lungs suddenly rushing with fresh air, it was at camp that we kids discovered the purest pleasures of simple things like roasting marshmallows. We were gifted a small piece of authority (as a "sixer", one of my duties was to make sure the weaker boys wore armbands in the swimming pool) and granted a rare slice of freedom. They could have asked us to swear an oath to Margaret Thatcher or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and it wouldn't have distracted us from the elemental joys of mud, blood and nettles. That's what Scouting is really about.

Looking back on it now as a nine-to-five office worker, I wonder with sadness where that wild Scout went. Alas, over time, exams and girls became more important than fun and adventure, and I had to develop the squeamishness, that terror of one's own shadow, that defines the "civilised" suburbanite. One morning at my last camp, I awoke to find a caterpillar crawling across my nose and ran screaming from the tent. This little boy had finally become a man.

Tim Stanley

June 2013

Further Assorted Absurdities

The second crop of strange stories - including a splendid and very local one - culled from recent newspaper reports

Song that gave the game away

The bride in a sham marriage was caught out after buying her dress on the day of the wedding and opting to walk up the aisle to the strains of ‘The First Time I ever Saw Your Face’.

Ghost Load from Lorry

Nine illegal immigrants who leapt out of a lorry on a  motorway were easily caught – because they were covered from head to toe in flour. A motorist told police they could not miss the nine because they all ‘looked like Casper the ghost’.

Catholic school sends for Stonewall after boy ‘calls classmate’s shoes gay’

A Roman Catholic school called in a gay rights group to give staff lessons in how to stop homophobic bullying following claims a five-year-old-boy called another pupil’s shoes ‘gay’.

The gibe was allegedly made in the infants’ playground of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Wimbledon. The training day went ahead with the consent of all but one of the governors and with the blessing of the Archdiocese of Southwark. The school is now the first and only Catholic primary school in the country to be listed as a Stonewall  ’Primary School Champion’ of gay equality.

A parent at the school said he was concerned that the teachers were being trained to undermine the idea of a family being based on a marriage between a man and a woman.

God really is above law, rules Supreme Court

A former Methodist minister cannot sue for unfair dismissal because, rather than being a church employee, she was viewed as a ‘steward in the household of God’, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Danger, this custard pie could hurt you

A custard pie fight to mark the end of a baking festival has been cancelled after insurers said it was ‘too dangerous’.

The mayor said: ‘I have rung round dozens of insurance companies, none of which will cover this event as it is classed as a sport. How can a paper plate and some custard foam be more dangerous than horse riding or rugby or even crossing the road? It’s a classic case of a world gone mad. These insurance companies are taking all the pleasure out of being alive. I’m surprised there isn’t rioting in the streets.’

Exploding Eccles cakes, firemen's nemesis

A fire service has been forced to issue a public safety warning concerning current-filled pastries, following a series of incidents. Although sold ready to eat, the cakes have been bursting into flames after consumers attempted to heat them at home in microwave ovens.

James Murphy, a manager at Crosby fire station in Merseyside, said 'The sugar in Eccles cakes can ignite if cooked for a little too long. We advise that cooking is never left unattended, even for a moment.'

Dafna Lev of Dafna's Cheesecake Factory in Wavertree said that, apart from safety concerns, supermarket-bought Eccles cakes were no match for the real thing.


Assorted Absurdities

After a long interval, the editor has been trawling again through the papers in search of assorted absurdities, and is happy to offer the first of two selections of recent stories to fuel  readers’ prejudices.

Is that the consul? A cockerel is waking me

Silencing a noisy cockerel and supplying Olympic tickets were among the unusual requests made to British consular staff abroad last year. In Rome, a man asked Foreign Office staff to translate a phrase for a tattoo he wanted. A woman requested that officials in Tel Aviv order her husband to be more healthy so that they could have children.

Ring Out Your Dead

It is becoming  increasingly hard to rest in peace as mobile phones are making their presence felt at nearly a fifth of funerals, according to research. Two in five mourners do not turn off their mobiles, while others refuse to lower the volume.

One in six in the survey said they had seen others frantically trying to turn off a ring tone. Examples included ‘If You’re Happy And You Know it Clap Your Hands’ blaring out as a mourner’s phone rang while a coffin was being lowered in South Wales, and even a vicar’s mobile sounding during a eulogy in North Wales.

Town won’t fly ‘offensive’ flag of St George

A town council decided against flying the St George’s Cross after concerns were raised that it would offend its 16 Muslim residents. Eleanor Jackson, a university lecturer, said the red and white symbol could cause upset as it was used during the Crusades 1,000 years ago.

Rizwan Ahmed, of the British Muslim Cultural Society, said: ‘It is political correctness going a bit far'.

Air India pilot gets locked out of his cockpit.

An Air India passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing when its pilot was locked out of the cockpit after visiting the lavatory. The sight of the pilot trying to get in through the cockpit door caused panic among passengers. His co-pilot diverted to land in Bhopal.

Telegraphs, May 2013

Jam and Jerusalem... a developing story

'Church bans Jams'

They have been a staple of church fetes for centuries and a vital source of parish funds, but jams and marmalades have now been deemed too dangerous for sale.

The Church of England has written to parishes warning that conserves should not be sold in jars that have been previously used because of food hygiene regulations,

"You can reuse jam jars at home and you can use them for private gifts to friends. What you are not allowed to do is to make jam, put it in reused jam jars, then either sell it or even give it away at a public event," warned the circular from the Churches' Legislation Advisory Service.

However, the claim was disputed by the Food Standards Agency which said it was a matter for local councils.

Canon Michael Tristram, of Portsmouth Cathedral, said: "On realising that this was not a belated April Fool's joke, I was very anxious, not only from the fund-raising point of view, but also because it goes . against the green agenda."

He added: "We jam makers sterilise our jars as a matter of course. Let's hope that common sense prevails."

Richard Eden, Sunday Telegraph, October 7th, 2012

'We're all boiling with rage'

That's it. Enough is enough. Of all the insults this country has had to put up with from Brussels, there has been nothing graver or more injurious than the ban on used jam jars. Yes, madam, you with that marmalade pan. Hands up in the air and back against the wall, NOW!

The Churches' Legislation Advisory Service and the Women's Institute have advised members that, due to EU directives, they are breaking the law if they sell jam, marmalade or chumey in pre-used jars. Or even give them away as prizes. The maximum penalty for being a peddler of apple and onion chutney is £5,000 and six months in prison.

What do you mean, that's more than most drug dealers get? This is very serious. We all know about the huge health risks attached to a jar of strawberry jam purchased | at a church fete, don't we? ; How many cases have we read i about where lethal infections, , contracted from a dollop of | jam on a scone, have swept ,' through a parish like bird flu?

Answer: None. Still, better safe than sorry, as this frightening caution explains: "Any food packaging used must be compliant with European regulations (1935/2004, article 3)... Though it can be assumed that originally the jars met these criteria, as they were fit to sell at the retail level, once sold and their constituent food has been consumed, the required chain of documentation which shows they are compliant is broken."

Got that? How long before we get the first Marmalade Martyr? Step forward, Audrey of Steeple Bumpstead and her illegal Seville Orange Fine Cut in sterilised but pre-used jars.

David Cameron gave the first hints this week of a referendum on EU membership. The ban on jam jars should seal it. Never mess with British women at boiling point.

The Daily Telegraph, October 12th, 2012

One Small Step for Health and Safety

It was a  piddling aluminium ladder - the smallest in the shop. One small step, and then the platform, less than 18 inches above ground zero. Just the job for changing light bulbs without balancing precariously on a chair. It would take a genius to tumble off, yet even so the young assistant asked if I had used a ladder before, adding anxiously, Take care with that, love.'

It was only when I got the thing home that 1 learned the full seriousness of the danger to which I'd exposed myself. Running down one leg of my dinky ladder was a stick-on label with no less than 18 pictograms warning of increasingly bizarre ways in which matchstick men could do themselves a mischief, or simply fail to get the ladder to stand firmly on its four feet (which were clad in sweet little non-slip rubber boots).

The diagrams advised me not to perform gymnastics on the ladder, not to stand it in a puddle of oil, and not to let it tilt sideways in the rain. A separate sticker, illuminated by two red lightning flashes, stated 'DANGER: ELECTROCUTION HAZARD: This ladder conducts electricity. Do not use where electrical hazard exists.' Like changing light bulbs, maybe?

What winds me up is the sheer wasted time, effort and money involved in producing such garbage. Some committee of ladder factory executives must have met and decided it was necessary to explain the bleeding obvious to fools like you and me. Copywriters and artists were commissioned.Printers were hired to produce the stickers. Staff stuck the damned things on.

This isn't a rant about 'elf and safety', but against the relentless dumbing down of just about everything. Get a grip, marketing men. Your customers aren't all idiots.

John Torode: The Oldie, September 2012 

More oddities....

A grandmother was given a £75 fine by a council official for dropping a strand of cotton from a glove. She failed to notice when the thread fell to the pavement of a street in South Wales.

She was surprised when the environment officer gave her the on-the-spot fine for dropping litter. She protested her innocence but the officer showed her the strand.

Council officials confirmed the fine but told the pensioner she wouldn’t have to pay it. She said: ‘I wouldn’t have paid it anyway.  It is ridiculous. I had caught my watch on my glove and a piece of  cotton had come off and fallen to the ground. I didn’t notice. If I had I would have picked it up. I told the man it was a complete accident but he said it was still litter and to take the matter up in court. I asked the man, who was burly and rude: “Are you really going to take £75 off an old age pensioner?”’

A vicar who caught a thief red-handed in his church ordered him to kneel down and wait for police.

Father Andrew Cain, vicar of St James, West Hampstead, confronted the burglar after hearing his assistant curate, Christine Cargill, let out a shriek. Fr Cain came face to face with the burglar, who was about to run off with £150in collection money and an iPhone.

Rather than allow the man to escape, Fr Cain stood firmly in his way and ordered him to kneel down on the floor. The man obliged and was caught and duly punished.

Hot drinks have been banned from a coffee morning by health and safety officials.

Volunteers at a Stratford on Avon Children’s Centre have been ordered to change the name of their sessions from Coffee and Play to Baby Play. Parents now catch up over a plastic cup of water or squash. Biscuits have also been replaced by healthy snacks such as fruit and bread-sticks.

The sessions have been running for five years and no child has been injured in that time. But last week the county council ruled that hot drinks were a hazard to the young children. A mother said: ‘The hot drinks were served in what I regard as a ‘no spill plastic safety cup’ with a lid. Everyone is very disappointed.’

March 11th, 2012

Bird poo, jam and kettle flex

A couple were prevented from adopting a child because the flex on their kettle was too long to co0nmly with health and safety rules, Michael Gove has revealed.

The Education Secretary told an audience of social workers about ‘the remarkable adopters of five disabled children who were turned away by nine local authorities because their assessments were out of date.

When they  persuaded  the tenth to give them a fast track reassessment they were told that a further adoption could not take place until they bought a new electric kettle with a shorter lead.

A copse where 1,000  starlings roosted was felled by a council because of  health and safety fears about their droppings.

The birds were a popular attraction and were filmed for TV swooping down at sunset. But officials had the trees cut down, saying that the birds’ excrement was potentially poisonous.

A local resident said that he couldn’t see how there could be danger ‘unless you’re rolling around and laying in it (he means lying – the starlings would do the laying. Ed)) – you’d have to be right under the tree. Plus, the starlings would have  migrated in March anyway, so it’s ludicrous to have chopped theese perfectly healthy trees down.’

A motorist who pulled over at a bus stop to help a pensioner who had fallen has been fined £70, which the local council is refusing to rescind.

He was driving along the local high street when he saw the old lady fall over. ‘I immediately pulled over to offer my assistance.’ He was told everything was in hand, so he drove away. When he complained to Bournemouth council about the fixed-penalty notice and explained just why he had stopped there, they rejected his appeal. ‘I cannot believe it,’ the motorist said. ‘I think the council has gone mad.’

A couple who make jam have been left in a sticky situation after falling foulof European Union regulations.

The splendidly-named Clippy McKenna and her partner were told by trading standards last year that their ‘Clippy’s British Bramley apple jam’ didn’t have enough sugar to be given the label.

They changed the label to ‘conserve’ but were told this was not an adequate description. It was suggested that they use the term ’fruit spread’ – but such products must contain 100% fruit.

Clippy, calling for EU regulations to be clarified, said ‘What on earth are we supposed to call our jams?'

Weekend Telegraph, February 26th, 2012

Here We Go Again ...

After a quiet few weeks, three examples of choice idiocy – one of them with tragic consequences  - appeared in the papers in the same day...

A council has ordered a health and safety test be carried out before a town puts up bunting for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Street party organisers in Wivenhoe, Essex, were planning to hang lightweight plastic Union flags around a playing field but were told that officials would need to carry out structural surveys before giving the go-ahead.

It was billed as a week of hell to raise money for the charity Sport Relief. But a feat of endurance from Paris to London has come up against a different kind of misery – French bureaucracy.

Liverpool comedian John Bishop’s Week of Hell, in which he rides, rows and runs the 290 miles between the two capitals has been scuppered because French officials have banned the channel crossing.

They are worried that rowing the 21 miles from Calais to Dover is ‘unorthodox’ and unsafe and fear it will cause disruption in shipping lanes.

Firemen and police who left a man floating face down in a 3ft-deep lake because they were not trained to enter the water might have saved him had they acted sooner, an inquest heard.

A witness begged the first fireman to arrive but he refused because the water was ‘above ankle deep’. A specialist water rescue team arrived half an hour later, but the man was declared dead in hospital. The witness said that one of the police went in to get him out but was told he was not allowed. I said ‘You’re having a laugh.’ He said, ‘No, that’s health and safety.’

The fire chief said, ‘The officers were trained to go into water ankle deep, which is level one, so we waited for level two officers, who can go into chest high.’

Daily Telegraph reports, February 22nd, 2012

A Day in Court
A true story, as reported in the Daily Mail

In Florida, an atheist went to court to argue it was discrimination  for Christians and Jews to observe Easter and Passove,r as atheists had no such recognised holidays.
Following the lawyers' arguments the judge banged his gavel and announced 'case dismissed'.
The lawyer immediately objected to the ruling: 'Your honour, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others.  The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and other atheists have no such holidays.'
The judge leaned forward in his chair.  'But you do,' he said.  'Your client is woefully ignorant.'
'Your honour,' said the lawyer, 'we are not aware of any special observance or holidays for atheists.'
The judge replied: 'The calendar says April 1 is April Fool's Day.  Psalm 14.1 states 'The fool says in his heart there is no God,' so it is  the opinion of this court , if your client says there is no God he's a fool and April 1 is his day.Case dismissed.

With thanks to Liz Mackert
February 18th, 2012

'Am I Alone in Thinking...?'

A recent competition in that estimable periodical The Oldie invited poetic entries beginning with this phrase, itself taken from an anthology of newspaper reader's letters published by the Telegraph.
The winning entry, which will strike a chord with all Grumpy Old Persons, follows...

Am I alone in thinking that the world has gone quite mad?
We never knew such decadence when Iwas just a lad.
We shook our fists at Hitler as the Nazi bombs rained down
And stood up for our sceptered isle, the Empire and the Crown.
In those days people knew their place, or else they'd rue the sequel.
No 'Jack's good as his master' then, no 'everybody's equal'.
But now the hope and glory have been banished from the land
And proper standards ground to dust, as though it had been planned.
On every corner hoodies wait to mug you as you pass
Through filthy city streets that run with blood and broken glass,
The teachers now can barely spell, the foreigners pour in
While millions follow FaceTube with a vacant, witless grin
And women's libbers run amok, and Elf  and Safety rules
To fill the lawyers' pockets and protect the lives of fools,
And policemen show you no respect, and even art repels,
And parking fees - words fail me. Yours, Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

Basil Ransome-Davies

February 10th, 2012

It Asda be true...

A shopper reportedly spent 75 minutes trapped in a supermarket lift with her granddaughter after health and safety rules stopped staff pushing a button to rescue them, it was claimed yesterday.

Janice Woodward, 55, panicked when the lift at the Asda store stalled with her and two-year-old Lily Mai inside.

She said that staff at the store in Weymouth, Dorset, could not push a control button to release the lift because they were not qualified. Thy had to wait for a technician to arrive who simply pressed the same button to free them - one hour and 15 minutes later.

Daily Telegraph, January 28th, 2010

I only asked...

"What  is the distance between the toilet seat and the nearest wall?"; "Can you send me a photo of the toaster?"; "Where can we keep our donkey at night?" and; "Can you rotate the house 180 degrees?" are just some of the requests made by holidaymakers, according to the holiday rentals website

 Other classic inquiries include: "Can you leave a machete or cutlass under the bed?" and "Can you guarantee it won't rain?"

 Yesterday, a spokesman for, which lists more than 250,000 holiday rentals worldwide, from £200 to in excess of £20,000 a week, said: "You often hear about bizarre things that have happened to holidaymakers, but this list shows they can have some pretty strange requests too. However, although this list features some of the weirder requests, most owners are only too happy to help meet all of their guests' needs."

The requests, which came from across the world, were registered in the past 12 months, with the majority coming from Britain.

 Other odd demands or requirements included:

 How far is our ski apartment from the beach?

 My partner and I cross-dress. Would you object if we wore different-sexed  clothes at different times?

 Can you guarantee the pool heat at a constant 88 degrees, and if not can we get a discount for every degree under?

 Is the villa overlooked, because we are naturists?

 Will the weather be better in the first or the second week of June next year?

Is it all right to jump naked into the pool?

Am I likely to get eaten by an alligator?

Are the gardens overlooked? We enjoy ‘outside love’.

 (and finally because this is a church website)

Can you stop the church bells ringing at 7am?

As reported in The Daily Telegraph
December 28th, 2011

Toddlers banned from making their own gestures as they sing Twinkle Twinkle 'in case it offends deaf people'
By Liz Hull

Generations of children have grown up singing along and performing actions to the nursery rhyme favourite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

But one toddler group has been told not to make the twinkling ‘star’ sign with their hands for fear it could offend the deaf. Parents were told that the sign – which resembles a diamond shape when made with forefingers and thumbs – is used in official sign language to represent female genitalia.
The decision was made after staff attended a sign language course and were made aware that the one they were using had potential to cause offence. However there are currently no deaf children or parents who attend the Sure Start toddler group, in Acomb, North Yorkshire.

Yesterday mothers criticised the ‘politically correct’ decision. One said: ‘These are  innocent little children just making a sign  to show a star. No one would give it a second thought.’ Another added: ‘It is good that kids are aware of other people’s methods of communication but has anyone actually asked a deaf person if they take offence to it?’

John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said the teachers needed to ‘grow up’. He added: ‘This is a ridiculous example of political correctness where adults are trying to put their views into the minds of children who would not have known there was anything wrong with what they are doing.’

Thanks to John Woodley and the Daily Mail, December 21st, 2011

These bishops move in mysterious ways

Britain's Christian leaders really are useless, aren't they? This week Archbishop Rowan Williams treated us to yet another Solemn Wringing of the Hands on behalf of the poor misunderstood rioters. Meanwhile, Archbishop Vincent Nichols delivered some narcotic platitudes about the need for Christians to be heard in the "public square". You have to wonder: do we have any bishops left who believe in their own authority and revel in the power of their office?

As it happens, we do. Let me introduce you to the loopy world of episcopi vagantes -"wandering bishops" - which is springing back to life now that the Anglican Communion is tearing itself into tiny pieces. "Independent bishops", as they prefer to be known these days, are men and women who have left the mainstream Churches and got themselves consecrated "bishop" by someone who claims to have authentic episcopal orders. Normally these orders will have been passed down from the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Churches via a breakaway group such as the Old Catholics of the Netherlands.

As a rule, the grandeur of a self-styled bishop's title, robes and ceremonies is in inverse proportion to the size of his Church. So the Metropolitan Archbishop of Great Britain and the Colonies, Supreme Patriarch of the Reformed Western Orthodox Church (Ethiopian Rite), will devote four hours to his Pontifical High Mass in his Cathedral, otherwise known as the sitting room of No 3, Gasworks Lane, Edgbaston. Also in the sanctuary: the Master of Ceremonies (the missus) and the deacon and sub-deacon (the kids). Congregation: Hilda from next door, who will stay on for Strictly Come Dancing once the ceremonies are over.

The classic book on this subculture is Bishops At Large by Peter Anson, published in 1963, by which time the phenomenon was already a century old. Anson lovingly details the theatrical schisms that led the bishops - electricity clerks during the week but dripping with lace and gold embroidery on Sundays - to excommunicate each other in "synods" held in railway hotels.

It looked as if the amateur bishops would die out. But the internet has revived this strange hobby. I'm looking right now at the website of a gloriously bedecked prelate who used to run a dry-cleaning business.

Some of these bishops are ultra-liberal. This week I received an email from a tiny denomination run by a very pompous woman bishop and lesbian rights campaigner furiously anathematising one of her rivals. But it's the high-camp Anglo-Catholics you need to watch. For years many have been behaving like prince-bishops in their parishes. But now the C of E wants to get rid of them, and they can't face the discipline of Rome. So I'm expecting a number of 'traddies' to flounce out of their vicarages to join (or set up) an outfit where they can receive the mitre that's always been denied them.

I can't wait. Witnessing a DIY bishop in full flow is easily as much fun as seeing some old trout dance the fandango on Strictly. A colleague once interviewed an "independent" prelate who turned up wearing a dog collar underneath a raincoat flecked with cigarette ash. "Good morning. Reverend," my friend said respectfully. The little chap drew himself up to his full height and replied: "Your Holiness, if you don't mind."

With grateful acknowledgements to Damian Thompson
Daily Telegraph, December 10th, 2011

Give witches pink hats to fight racism, says equality expert

From the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz to Meg, the good witch from the Meg and Mog children's books, witches have always dressed in black. But now equality experts claim that the traditional attire could send a negative message, to toddlers in nursery and lead to racism.

Teachers should replace the pointy black hat with a pink one, they say, and dress fairies, generally resplendent in pastels, in darker shades.

Another staple of the classroom - white paper - has also been questioned by Anne O'Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity. Children should be given paper other than white on which to draw, and paints and crayons should come in ‘the full range of flesh tones’, reflecting the diversity of the human race, says the former teacher.

Finally, staff should be ready to lie, if necessary, when asked by pupils what their favourite colour is and, in the interests of good race relations, answer ‘black’ or ‘brown’.

The measures, outlined in a series of guides in Nursery World magazine, are aimed at avoiding racial bias in children as young as two. ‘People who are feeling defensive can say “well there’s nothing wrong with white paper’, but there could be if you don’t see yourself reflected in the things around you. The minute you start thinking, “if I give everyone green paper, what happens?” you have a teaching potential.

‘People might criticise this as political correctness gone mad’, she admits.
Margaret Morrissey, a spokesman for the Parents Outloud campaigning group, disagrees. She said: ‘Not allowing toy witches to wear black seems to me nonsense and in the same vein as those people who have a problem with Baa Baa Black Sheep. Children just see a sheep in a field, whether it be black, grey, white or beige. I have worked with children for 41 years and I don't believe I have ever met a two-year-old who was in any way racist.’

Daily Telegraph

Gut Reaction...?

Musicians have warned that the works of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi and Bach may never again be heard as their composers intended -because of EU rules to stop people catching "mad cow disease" from their instruments.

Regulations on the use of certain types of animal tissue are unwittingly threatening the centuries-old technique of making instrument strings out of beef gut.   The craft is covered by the controls on raw materials from cows, even though campaigners say that to catch Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) - the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy - from violin or cello strings from an infected animal you would need to eat several metres.

The musicians warn the regulations could force gut string manufacturers to close, with disastrous consequences for the "period orchestra" movement, which aims to recreate music as it was first performed in me years 1650-1750.   Without gut strings, they argue, it would be impossible to play the music of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi and Each as the composers intended it,
Norfolk, the gut string maker, said: "It's a bit stupid. The gut is bleached and varnished in string-making so it poses no risk to humans. And why would anyone chew on a harp string?"

A Sweet Point of Law?

A court in Spain has ruled that it has no jurisdiction over a case brought against a man dressed as one of the three Wise Men for injuring a woman with a sweet, because he was a ‘foreign dignitary of unknown origin’.

On January 6th, Spanish children gather in the streets to watch parades where the Three Wise Men – Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar – are borne aloft on floats distributing sweets to the crowds. But when the court received a complaint that a woman had been injured in the eye by King Balthazar, the judge was forced to make an extraordinary decision.

He ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over this foreign dignitary, whose true nationality could not be established. He made it clear that he did not want to set a precedent which would make the fiesta difficult to stage. And he added that although those responsible for distributing the sweets were not in  fact the actual Three Kings, but people dressed as them, it was Balthazar who had still been named as the culprit – and so, quite properly, he threw out the case...

Daily Telegraph report, December 2nd, 2011

What... the Devil?

You call it yoga, I call it the work of the Devil, says Vatican exorcist

'For most people it is a way of staying in shape while soothing the stresses of everyday life, but the Catholic Church's best-known exorcist says yoga is evil.   Fr Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican's chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and "all Eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation".

Reading JK Rowling's Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is The Exorcist, the 1973 horror classic. The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, "seem innocuous" but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Fr Amorth said.

"Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil, just like reading Harry Potter,'" he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.   "In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,," said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.   "Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations."

Science was incapable of explaining evil, said Fr Amorth, who has written two books on his experiences as an exorcist. "It's not worth a jot. The scientist simply explores what God has already created."   His views reflect previous warnings by the Pope, when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy. In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, he issued a document that warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, transcendental meditation and other "Eastern" practices. They could "degenerate into a cult of the body" that debases Christian prayer, the document said. Yoga poses could create a feeling of wellbeing in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with "the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit", it said.

Italian yoga schools said Fr Amorth's latest criticism was absurd.  "It's an accusation that has nothing to do with reality," said Vanda Vanni, the founder of the Mediterranean Yoga Association. "Yoga is not a religion or a spiritual practice. It doesn't have even the slightest connection with Satanism or Satanic sects."
Giorgio Furlan, the founder of the Yoga Academy of Rome, said yoga had nothing to do with religion, "least of all Satanism". "Whoever says that shows that they know absolutely nothing about yoga," he said.

Fr Amorth has previously said that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron. He has also claimed that Catholic sex abuse scandals are proof that Satan is waging a war against the Holy See.'

By Nick Squires in Rome
The Daily Telegraph, Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Extra Eccentricities

You wait for an absurd story for weeks then five come along at once... all in today’s 'Daily Telegraph’

November 19th, 2011

Additional Absurdities

A recent weekend's editions of the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs carried a satisfying collection of entertaining absurdities reflecting the worlds of political correctness, the nanny state – and eccentric British Behaviour in general.

Stop Repairing Bus Shelters, Residents Told

Residents have been asked not to repair vandalised bus shelters because their DIY attempts are making the damage worse.

Harlech town council says attempts to fix shelters on a local estate had made them more dangerous. Councillors admitted that they also discouraged residents from mending shelters because if they were injured the authority might be liable to pay compensation.

Stone me!

Thieves who stole £12,000 worth of Yorkstone paving slabs from a driveway fled empty-handed after their van collapsed under the weight of the loot. As they drove down the M25 after ripping out 120 slabs from a property in Surrey a tyre blew out and the suspension collapsed. Police recovered the van and stones the same day but it took them a week to make the connection with the missing driveway...

Conkering Heroes?

A heritage centre has abandoned plans for a medieval conker contest after their insurance company said children would need to wear goggles and gloves.

The organisers said:  ‘The "where there’s blame there’s a claim" culture is sadly becoming more prevalent. We just thought the contest would be a bit of fun. I remember taking conkers to school and I can’t remember anyone getting killed...’

Blackberry picking banned ‘to protect the environment’

A council has provoked anger by banning blackberry picking.

A man who organises ‘foraging picnics’ to collect wild fruit and nuts said he was ordered to stop by officials because it was bad for the environment. As well as blackberries, he said he was told hazelnuts, apples and chestnuts were also out of bounds. When he questioned the ban he was told that the activity posed a risk to endangered great crested newts.

Woman, 76, in 10mph police chase

A woman driver of 76 who was chased by police at 10 mph for 17 miles stopped only when an officer tapped on her window while running alongside her car.

Three police cars followed her red Ford Fiesta but she ignored them for almost an hour, believing they were chasing other motorists. After her court hearing, the defiant woman said: ‘I was being very careful because it was getting dark. I was not driving fast because if you are driving too fast you cannot stop.’

October 10th, 2011

The Ig Nobel Awards

For some 21 years now, a body known as The Annals of  Improbable Research has met to award their coveted prizes to recipients in the world of science whose (genuine) researches and associated activities are, in the words of the originator and inventor of the scheme ‘wonderfully loopy’. To honour this noteworthy anniversary, we present a selection of past winners, culled from a splendid article in a recent Daily Telegraph. You are invited to read and wonder and surely to give thanks that there is still room in our gloomy and stressful world for such admirable eccentric dedication.

Marc Abrahams, the man who started it all, confesses that his favourites in the past have been British. ‘Very British, in fact. The study called ‘Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches towards Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain’ is one, and another is a medical report in The Lancet  called ‘A Man Who Pricked His Finger and Smelled Putrid for Five Years.’

And finally, because this is a church website, it is only right to report that in 2004 the Vatican was a winner ‘for outsourcing prayers to India’.

With thaks to Victoria Lambert, The Daily Telegraph, September 20th, 2011

Subject: Tech support

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend to Husband and noticed a distinct slowdown in overall system performance, particularly in the Flower and Jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend. In addition, Husband uninstalled many other valuable programmes, such as Romance and Personal Attention and then installed undesirable programs such as Rugby, Football, Sailing and Continuous TV. Conversation no longer runs, and Housecleaning simply crashes the system. I've tried running Nagging to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?



Dear Desperate,

First keep in mind, Boyfriend is an Entertainment  Package,  while Husband is an Operating System. Please enter the command:  'http: I Thought You Loved Me.html' and try to download TearsDon't forget to install the Guilt update. If that application works as designed, Husband should then automatically run the  applications Jewellery and Flowers, but remember: over-use of  the above application can cause Husband to default to Grumpy Silence, Garden Shed or Beer. Beer is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.

Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources). Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend  program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband.

In summary, Husband is a great system, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. It also tends to work better running one task at a time. You might consider  buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Food and Hot Lingerie.

Good luck,

Tech Support

Internet source: August 12th, 2011

In the Beginning

or... how the Internet Really Began

In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot.

And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?" And Abraham did look at her - as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load - but simply said, "How, dear?"

And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. The drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.

To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was called Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures: Hebrew To The People (HTTP).

But this success did arouse envy. A man named Maccabia did secrete himself inside Abraham's drum and began to siphon off some of Abraham's business. But he was soon discovered, arrested and prosecuted for insider trading.

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.

And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. And he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drum heads and drumsticks.

Lo, Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others!" And as Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or eBay as it came to be known, he said, "We need a name that reflects what we are."  And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators." “YAHOO!," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).

And that is how it all began. Honest to God!

Thanks to Liz Mackert
Internet source: August 10th, 2011

Finally Cursing the Computer

March 26th, 2011

Still Cursing the Computer

March 21st, 2011

No Songs of Praise for the Wee Frees

"A traditionalist church has become bitterly divided over the introduction of hymns for the first time in a century.

\worshippers at the Free Church of Scotland have begun a campaign to overturn the decision, arguing that it amounts to ‘new gimmicks to fill church pews’.

The staunchly Presbyterian Church, nicknamed the Wee Frees, had hitherto allowed only the singing of unaccompanied psalms and had banned compositions ‘of merely human origin'. The 100-year old policy was narrowly overturned last November to attract new worshippers.

Six of the Church’s former moderators have placed an advert in a newspaper covering its Highlands and Western Isles base attacking the ‘unbiblical, unconfessional and unconstitutional’ changes."

The Daily Telegraph, March 13th, 2011

The website manager has followed the fortunes of the dwindling band of extreme Protestants with interest over the years. It was one of their ministers who lay down on the slipway to protest against the docking of the first Sunday ferry to the Outer Hebrides. When one of their services was televised, I seem to remember it being boycotted when it was thoughtlessly aired on a Sunday. Many bed and breakfast establishments would not accept bookings for Sundays, and some still don’t. And we recall bus-loads of stern Wee Frees on a Stornoway Sunday morning, the men in severe suits and the womenfolk in incongruously gay hats, en route to their chapels, and hearing the eerie sound of their psalms issuing forth. On that same island, under the stern influence of the elders of that church, they even locked the public lavatories on the Lord’s Day. No relief for the wicked...

Cursing the Computer.4
... and yet another cartoon which will strike a chord with computer users

Cursing the Computer.3
... and now another cartoon which will strike a chord with computer users

Cursing the Computer.2
... another cartoon which will strike a chord with computer users

(February 25th, 2011)

Cursing the Computer.1
... a series of cartoons which will strike a chord with many computer users


(Internet circulation: February 2011)

Absurdities Old and New

... from the annual 2010 roundup printed in ‘The Week’ magazine

A Hertfordshire vicar ordered Anglicans to swear more, because it is how Jesus would have spoken. He said too many people put the Son of God ‘on a pedestal’, and failed to realise that  he was poor and relatively uneducated, and preferred not to meet with the elite of his day. ‘People today would be shocked at the language he used,’ he said.

A London school that won praise from Ofsted for its ‘wonderful’ displays of pupils’ art and craftwork was told to remove them because they presented a fire risk. A teacher said: ‘The art may be combustible but so are the children, desks and chairs. Shall we get rid of those too...’

A two-year-old boy from Lancashire was banned from eating cheese sandwiches at school because cheese was not on its list of ‘healthy eating’ lunch options. His parents were told that if they added lettuce or tomato to the sandwich, it could be eaten as a ‘non-lunch snack’. They chose to move him to another school instead.

Liverpool |City Council is formally considering banning the word ‘obese’ from its health campaigns for fear of offending the overweight. The change was suggested by the Liverpool Schools’ Parliament, who felt that ‘obesity’ had negative connotations.

London police officers were ordered to fill in a risk-assessment form listing 238 hazards in 13 separate categories before undertaking any kind of operational activity. Potential dangers to be weighed up included ‘nosie’, ‘spillages’, ‘sunburn’ and ‘uncomfortable seating’.

.. and to kick-start the New Year, one from today’s papers about the ‘P.C’ P.Cs

According to a serving police inspector in a county force in southern England, police in his force have been ordered, on ‘diversity’ grounds, not to use the phrase ‘sure as eggs is eggs’ in case it offends women with fertility problems.

(January 1st, 2011. We wish all browsers a politically incorrect New Year)

Christmas Comics

More absurdities from the press to gladden the heart at the festive season...

A lollipop man has been banned from wearing a Father Christmas hat – in case  it distracts motorists. Paul Clevett, who helps schoolchildren at Forest Row Primary School near East Grinstead, has been told to stop wearing festive hats because they are a risk to health and safety. East Sussex county council has sent officers along to make sure he is abiding by the law.

Mr Clevett, whose headgear also includes a turkey-shaped hat and a jingle bell jester hat, said he could not comment on the ban and would only say ‘Bah, humbug!’

Clergy officiating at Perth Crematorium have criticised a new system in which officials flash a red light to warn them that their eulogies are over-running.

Services are now limited to 20 minutes. Clergy who talk for too long are alerted by the flashing of a red ‘cue light’. If the service still shows no signs of wrapping up, officials are permitted to move on toe using ‘hand signals.’

A student was shocked when a shop refused to sell him a tin opener because he did not look 21.  Ben Franks was turned away from Poundland  in Winchester because he did not have proof of age. He said, ‘I got baked beans and a tin opener and I went to the till but I was told I couldn’t have it because I didn’t look 21., It’s like they thought I was going to go on some sort of rampage with it.’

A school crossing warden has resigned after being told to hold her lollipop upside down for health and safety reasons. Judy Gaisford was ordered to rotate the 6 ft pole when she was not using it so the circular sign did not distract passing drivers.  She refused, claiming it was too dangerous to ‘swing a 6 ft pole like a marionette’ when there were children nearby, then resigned when threatened with disciplinary action. A parent said: ‘When I heard that the council was saying that our lollipop lady was breaking their health and safety rules I laughed because I thought it was a joke. Once again, the health and safety brigade have had a rush of blood to the head and gone stark raving bonkers. It’s the council that’s the joke.’.


Christmas Crackers

From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 1 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Christmas Party

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 21, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi's Grill, with a free bar for the first hour.  We'll have a small band playing traditional carols... feel free to sing along.  And don't be surprised if the MD shows up dressed as Santa Claus!
From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 2 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Christmas Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees.  We recognise that Hanukkah is an important holiday, which can coincide with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year.  However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party”.
From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 3 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table ... you didn't sign your name. 
I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads "AA only" you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. 
How am I supposed to handle this?  Somebody?
From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 6 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Holiday Party

What a diverse company we are!
I had no idea that there was a belief system that forbids eating, drinking and sex during daylight hours during December. There goes the party!  Seriously, we can appreciate how a lunch at this time of year does not accommodate some of your beliefs.  Perhaps Luigi's can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party - the days are so short this time of year - or else package everything in tin foil to take away.  Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the toilets.  Did I miss anything?
From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 7 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Holiday Party

So 21 December marks the Winter Solstice...what do you expect me to do, a tap-dance on your heads?  Fire regulations at Luigi's prohibit the burning of sage by our "earth-based Goddess-worshipping" employees, but we'll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band's breaks.  Okay???
From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 8 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Holiday Party

People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our MD dress up like Santa Claus!  Even if the anagram of "Santa" does happen to be "Satan," there is no evil connotation to our MD in a red suit.  It's a tradition, folks, like pumpkins at Halloween, family feuds over the Easter break or broken hearts on Valentine's Day.
Could we lighten up?
From: Pam Lewis, Human Resources Manager
Sent: 9 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Holiday Party

Vegetarians!?!?!?  I've had it with you people!!!  We're going to keep this party at Luigi's Grill whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your freaking salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes.  But you know, they have feelings too.  Tomatoes scream when you slice them.  I've heard them scream.  I'm hearing them scream right now!
From: Terry Bishops, Acting HR Manager
Sent: 10 December 2010
To: Everyone
Subject: Re: Pam Lewis and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pam Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I'll continue to forward your cards to her at the clinic.

In the meantime, Management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 21st off with full pay.
We hope that this change does not offend anyone.

(Internet circulation: December 13th, 2010)

Please Sir!

‘A school is to ban its pupils from putting up their hands when they know an answer because it ‘alienates’ less intelligent c

Children at Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy in Stoke-on-Tr4nt are no longer allowed to put up their hand if they know an answer to a question. Instead, they must wait to be asked.,

The plan comes after teachers at the school worked alongside Prof Dylan Wiliam, the television education expert, who claims that asking pupils to put their hands up to answer questions alienates the majority of youngsters.

Teachers will instead pick pupils at random to answer questions – to stop brighter children from answering too many.

Lynn Jones, the assistant principal of the school, said: ‘It means there’s no hiding place for children in a lesson. There’s no opt-out.’

Teachers at the school will also stop grading pupils’ work as part of the new teaching methods.

Prof Wiliam, from London’s Institute of Education, has even advised teachers to write comments about pupils’ work on separate pieces of paper – and then make them guess which comment is meant for their work. Prof Wiliam says that if work is graded, pupils often don’t bother reading teachers’ comments.

Your editor may not bother reading the good professor’s comments in future.

Daily Telegraph, November 22nd, 2010

Hello, hello hello!

Phillip Hewitson, an elderly man, from Norwich, was going up to bed, when his wife told him that he'd left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. George opened the back door to go turn off the light, but saw that there were people in the shed stealing things.  He phoned the police, who asked "Is someone in your house?"

He said "No, but some people are breaking into my garden shed and stealing from me." 
The police dispatcher said "All OUR patrols are busy. You should lock your doors and an officer will be along when one is available."
George said, "O.K. "He hung up the phone and counted to 30, then he phoned the police again.

"Hello, I called you a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well you don't have to worry about them now because I just shot them." Then he hung up.

Within five minutes, six police cars, a SWAT Team, a helicopter, two fire engines, a paramedic and an ambulance showed up at the Hewitsons' residence, and caught the burglars red-handed.
One of the policemen said to Phillip, "I thought you said that you'd shot them!"
Phillip said, "I thought you said there was nobody available!"

(Internet circulation, but posted as a true story, November 20th, 2010)

Playing Safe...?

A consultant at Southampton General Hospital advised people taking part in the traditional Halloween game of apple-bobbing to use bottled water, because of the ‘waterborne organisms’ in tap water, and to wear protective goggles in case of a ‘high velocity impact’ with an apple. But for complete peace of mind, Parwez Hussain suggested players simply removed the fruit from the water by hand.

(The Week)

A ‘Nonfire Night’ party, in which laser fireworks were projected on to a screen, was praised last niught for being a safer alternative to traditional displays.

100 young people sat inside a community centre at Pulham St Mary, Norfolk, watching images on a screen. Organisers said the event was simpler than outdoor events, which have to meet stringent council safety regulations.

‘It is completely safe for people who don’t want to stand out in the cold’ said an organiser, and s spokesman for Play England declared: ‘This is a good way of teaching children the dangers of fire and how to treat it with respect.’

(Daily Telegraph, November 5th, 2010)

You Couldn't Make It Up...

Police officers
have been criticised for wearing inappropriate underwear, including thongs and garish boxer shorts. They have been ordered to wear garments of an ‘appropriate colour’ and to ensure they are ‘inconspicuous’ under their uniforms. One female constable, who, understandably, did not want to be named, said: I feel like I’m in a no-win situation. If I wear a pink thong I’ll be in  trouble for exposing myself, but if I wear a nice sensible pair of knickers I’m going to get hauled up for showing a VPL (visible panty line!).  I’d be better off going commando and not wearing any knickers at all.’

The guidance also suggest that officers should wear their helmets at all times in public – even when rushing out of a patrol car to chase down a suspect.

Their pronouncements on the acceptable curvature of cucumbers and bananas have already proved unpalatable. Now the infamous bureaucrats of Brussels have made another baffling food judgment, ruling that a swede can be called a turnip when it’s in a Cornish pasty.

They have decreed that only minced or diced beef, sliced potato, onion and swede can fill the pasties. However,  the Cornish are unique in referring to Swedes as turnips, despite the distinct differences. Because of this linguistic quirk, the regulations have been amended to allow either term to go on the label, even though only swede is allowed. It means that Cornish pasties can be advertised as containing turnip, but will break the rules if they actually contain it.

A motorist rang her council to ask if its car park was haunted, because her vehicle seemed to have moved to another space while she was away shopping. Other bizarre inquiries to town halls included a man who asked if he could roll up a zebra crossing, and another who wanted to know if he could register the death of someone who was still alive.

A grandfather who bought a birthday card for a two year-old was stunned to find the label: ‘not suitable for children under three years old.’

Various press reports, August 2010

Foreign Words that Leave you Speechless

Speakers of the world’s richest language are not used to being lost for words. But it seems there are some things that English speakers cannot describe — despite having more than 250,000 terms at their disposal.

A new book has listed foreign words for which there is no direct counterpart in English.

If asked to describe a woman who stands on her doorstep screaming obscenities at her children, an English speaker would struggle to find a precise phrase. Any Danish person would tell you that such a woman is called a “kaeffing”.

The experience of 
hesitating when you are introducing someone whose  name you can’t remember may be familiar — but you would be hard pressed to sum it up in a single word.  A Scot would tell you that to hesitate in such a way is simply to “tartle”.

Adam Jacot de Boinod culled words from 300 languages for his book I Never Knew There WasA Word For it which is released by Penguin Books.

He discovered that a man who hangs around cafés and eats leftovers is called a “bufetak” in the Czech Republic,while someone who is only attractive from a distance is “Layogenic” in Tagalog - the language of the Philippines.

A young man who tries to seduce his aunt is a “tantenverfuhrer” in German, while a person who is aroused by garlic is a “physiggoomai” in ancient Greek.

Mr De Boinod, 50, came up with the idea for the book while working as a researcher on the BBC quiz show QI.   It also includes a list of English words with very different meanings in other countries. “Honk” means eyebrow in Armenian, while a “snog” in Denmark is a grass snake.

The Daily Telegraph, August 2010

Outrage as Anglican vicar gives sacrament to pet dog.

An Anglican church in Canada has become the focus of controversy after a vicar gave Holy Communion to a pet dog. The priest gave Communion bread, considered by Anglicans to represent the body of Jesus Christ, to an Alsatian-cross called Trapper.

St Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto has been deluged with complaints by Christians throughout the country. Donald Keith, the dog’s owner, said he took his pet to the church because he had heard animals were welcome.

Because he was a newcomer, the vicar, the Rev Marguerite Rea, invited him in person to receive communion. “The minister said, ‘Come up and take communion’, and Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well,” said Mr Keith.

Mr Keith said he thought it was a “nice way to welcome me into the church. There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this. Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of the people in the church love Trapper and the kids play with him.”

He claimed that one member of the congregation was unhappy and complained to the archbishop. The dog has since been banned from receiving Holy Communion. Mrs Rea has since apologised to the area bishop, Patrick Yu, who was sent to investigate the complaint. He said the vicar was “quite embarrassed” by her gaffe.

The bishop said it was “not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals”. He added: “Unless there is any further evidence that she is giving communion to animals, the matter is closed. We are, after all, in the forgiveness and repair business.”

A marvellous story (July 27th, 2010) again taken from the ever-vigilant Daily Telegraph. As so often, we note the absurdities perpetrated by the reporter. To begin with, there is the suggestion that somehow Anglicans are uniquely strange in believing in the divine presence in the eucharist. Then there is the odd concept of having to ban the animal from future sacramental participation (no doubt someone will tell Trapper!). Finally, the bishop speaks of the church as being in the ‘forgiveness and repair’ business. He clearly thinks the vicar needs forgiving – but it is not exactly obvious who needs repairingPerhaps they do things differently in Canada, or are they all barking mad?


Tweetness and light

A Church minister is to conduct the first communion service on Twitter, the social networking site.

In a modern spin on Christianity’s most sacred rite, worshippers are invited to break bread and drink wine or juice in front of their computers as they follow the service online.

Churches usually require a priest to take the Eucharist, but the Rev Tim Ross, a Methodist minister, will send out a prayer in a series of tweets - messages of up to 140 characters — to users of the site. Those following the service will read out each tweet before typing Amen as a reply.

The move is likely to upset traditionalists but Mr Ross said it was an important step in uniting Christians around the world and reaching those who might not normally go to church. Hundreds of people have registered to follow the service and Mr Ross hopes that will grow to thousands by the lime he sends out the tweets next month.

“Twitter offers unique possibilities for the Church,” he said. “It’s a community that’s as real and tangible as any local neighbourhood and we should be looking to minister to it.”

Karen Burke, a media officer for the Methodist Church, said it supported “the exploration of spirituality on the internet”. She said: “While communion normally reflects the celebration of God’s love in a body of people gathered in one place, there is a strong tradition of celebrating that love in more transient and informal communities’

The Daily Telegraph, from which this report (and the headline above) are lifted, commented on the idea in an editorial. The development, it said 'suggests a whole host of holy new possibilities for Twitter. There seems no reason why other sacraments might not also be administered by tweet: "Do u @natalie take @harry..." for instance. Certain adjustments in the liturgy will be called for, of course: "Please turn to No 386 in your collection of ringtones..." But the 140-character limit should inspire a blessed brevity in sermons: "Dearly beloved, we are not gathered here today..."

Hello, hello, hello!

Three more entertaining clippings from the papers

Police officers have been handed an official leaflet showing them how to tuck their shirts in properly and tie their shoelaces.
Sussex Police introduced a new ‘practical, fit-for-purpose’ uniform in May, and issued 3,200 officers with advice on ‘how to wear’ it.
The guidance contrasts a ‘prim and proper’ policeman and a ‘shabby’ colleague, with his shirt hanging out and his shoelaces undone.

Two Middle Eastern-style ‘Nile pan’ lavatories, little more than holes in the ground, have been installed in a Rochdale shopping centre,
apparently in an attempt to accommodate shoppers from different cultural backgrounds.
M.P. Philip Davies said: ‘It’s absolutely ludicrous – Thomas Crapper would be turning in his grave.’

A new trawl through the birth records has revealed that 20 babies born since the Second World War have been named Adolf.
The research also revealed some unusual trends, with ten babies in Lancashire in the 19th century named Fish Fish, and one registered with the full name Fish Fish Fish.

The Oldie, July 2010

Would You Believe It?

Four oddities noted in recent weeks in the press

An Australian publishing company has pulped and reprinted 7,000 copies of a pasta cookbook that advised people to use ‘salt and freshly ground black people’ in a tagliatelle dish .

A dead man has been elected mayor of Tracy City, Tennessee. Carl Geary, 55, won three times as many votes as his rival, Barbara Brock, even though he had suffered a fatal heart attack at the start of the campaign. ‘I knew he was deceased but we wanted someone other than her,’ said one local. ‘If he were to run again next week, I’d vote for him again.’

Police have introduced the first speed trap on the Isles of Scilly… on an island with only six miles of road. Officers on St Mary’s, population 1,600, have taken delivery of a radar gun. The island has a 60 mph speed limit, but police admitted that its roads contain so many bens that t is virtually impossible to drive that fast. Since the radar gun has been introduced, the fastest vehicle recorded had been a moped travelling at 34 mph.

And finally, a letter in the ‘Daily Telegraph’:

The Church of Ireland’s 2004 Book of Common Prayer instructs those presenting themselves for confirmation not to covet their neighbours’ houses – and not to cover their neighbours’ wives.

 May 24th, 2010

Two stories from the same paper on the same day, reproduced without comment...

What... the Devil?

‘The devil is lurking in the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican’s chief exorcist claimed yesterday.’

Thus wrote the Daily Telegraph’s Nick Squires recently. The aforesaid exorcist, Father Gabrielle Amorth, claimed that the Christmas Eve assault on the Pope, together with the sex abuse scandals engulfing the Church worldwide,’ were proof that the Anti-Christ was waging a war against the holy See’.

The evil influence of Satan, he believes, was evident in the highest ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, with ‘cardinals who do not believe in Jesus and bishops who are linked to the demon,’ he said. Although some Catholics mistrust the concept of exorcism, the Pope apparently has no such doubts.

The 85-year-old Fr Amorth, who has been in post for 25 years, claims to have performed 70,000 exorcisms. Possessed people, he says, scream, utter blasphemies and spit out ‘pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals.’

Unholy Smoke

Incense is making us ill, say parishioners

The Daily Telegraph again, and in the same issue. A reporter reports that ‘claims that incense burned in church services is making members of the congregation ill are being investigated by environmental health officials.’

A 73-year-old man has said he was forced to stay away from the church he had attended for 19 years because of illness from inhaling the sweet-smelling smoke. Apparently several other parishioners at St Paul’s in Chichester had to leave the church feeling dizzy and unwell. As a result the local Council have inspected the church and are awaiting a Health and Safety Executive report.

The aggrieved gentleman holds forth: ‘I emailed the reverend (!) but was told the church council had taken advice and had been informed there was no health risk. They are ignoring the fact that there is a lot of evidence that these particles are so deadly and dangerous. The thought that people are breathing in particles which could make them ill makes me so mad.’

The Telegraph reporter tells us that ‘research scientists have found that the air in some churches where incense was burned was more toxic than the air along roads with high levels of traffic.’ As a result of the furore the incumbent will now inform parishioners when incense is due to be burned.

March 13th, 2010

Common Sense R.I.P.

An Obituary printed in the Times........
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who  has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was,   since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the  worm;lLife isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend  more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).  His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but  overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy  charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended  from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for  reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the  job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.  It declined even further when schools were required to get parental  consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could   not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an  abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses;  and criminals received better treatment than their victims.  Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a
burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in   her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.
 He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers: I Know My Rights; I Want It Now;  Someone Else Is To Blame and I'm A Victim
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

(February 13th, 2010)

Priest called in to banish pitch demons
Marine bad luck blamed on evil spirits

Food for thought in the banner headline on the front page of our local newspaper recently. Marine F.C., our local team, have been suffering a run of unnaturally bad luck recently, it transpires. They have lost their last five games, been knocked out of two competitions and had their only recent potential victory ‘scrubbed out due to a freak floodlight failure.’

‘Coupled with an horrific injury list that has seen THREE players sidelined with broken legs – one of whom faces the agony of his leg being re-broken by doctors,’ the club’s manager, the paper reports, ‘is convinced all is not right at the Arriva’ (stadium) And he has called in a Roman Catholic priest from down the road in Roby to ‘banish demons from the team’s stadium’ (and possibly to banish the Powers of Darkness and keep the lights working?)

The priest duly prayed over the pitch, before ‘sprinkling holy water in the goalmouths and across the playing surface.’

Only time will tell how effectively the prayed-for divine intervention will prove, and we of course wish Marine every blessing. The report lists the next home fixture as being against Kendal Town. This writer hopes that they will not have heard about this turn of events, for fear that they might bring along their bishop to pray for their success. Heaven alone knows what would happen….
Meanwhile, should Marine do really well, it might be worth asking the Vicar to sprinkle the church overdraft or pray over this writer's church lottery numbers.

(January 29th, 2010)

A Sting in the Tale

An elderly Polish beekeeper who passed out after being stung woke up inside a coffin. He had been pronounced dead from a heart attack, covered in a white sheet, collected by undertakers and taken to a funeral parlour.

It was then that he woke and shouted for help. ‘He was shouting and banging on the coffin – he made enough noise to raise the dead so we couldn’t miss him,’ said the undertaker. The man was taken to hospital and released after a few days. ‘The undertaker saved my life,’ he said. ‘The first thing I did when I came out of hospital was to take him a pot of honey.’

This column enjoys making excruciating headlines for its borrowings, but cannot hope to better the one provided by The Daily Telegraph, where this snippet occurred on January 26th.

Their headline:  ‘O sting, where is thy death?’

A Sting in the Tale?

Chris Price

Just when it seemed that ecumenical relations were thawing, an Anglican bishop has launched a vicious attack on the morals of Roman Catholic monks. Obviously, this statement needs qualifying…

According to a report in The Times, the Bishop of Aberdeen and the Orkneys in the Scottish Episcopal Church (that’s the Anglican church in the frozen north) has accused the Devon-based Roman Catholic monks of Buckfast Abbey of betraying Christian values.

They are the mass producers of Buckfast fortified wine, ‘regarded by some as the scourge of Scotland’, according to reporter Melanie Read. Bishop Gillies says: ‘What sort of moral double-take is there that these monks can be so closely associated with that product and knowingly aware of the social damage as well as the medical damage it is doing to the kids who take it in such vast volumes? The monks at Buckfast are in a Benedictine monastery founded upon the rule of St Benedict, who urged his monks to live a simple life… I would have thought he would have been very, very unhappy with what his monks are doing nowadays.’

The reason for this sense of outrage? The drink known colloquially as Buckie has featured in 5,000 crimes in the last three years reported by Stratchclyde Police, including 114 uses of the bottle as a weapon. Each bottle contains more than 11 units of alcohol, is 15% proof and contains more caffeine than eight cans of cola. The monks sell £37 million worth of the drink a year. Broken Buckfast bottles make up 54% of dangerous litter in Scottish housing estates. There are more than 200 Facebook groups dedicated to it. Tellingly, it is known colloquially as Wreck the Hoose Juice, Commotion  Lotion, Bottle of Fight the World, Bottle of Beat the Wife, Liquid Speed and Scranjuice.

Not surprisingly, the monks of Buckfast Abbey turned down a request by the BBC to discuss their Special Brew, while a spokesman for the company that distributes the drink absolves them of blame.  ‘Why should they accept moral responsibility? They’re not up there pouring their Buckfast down somebody’s throat. They produce a good product. I drink it. Now if I thought there was something wrong with it, would I drink it…?’ The company  have threatened to sue public figures who criticise the drink.

Here in the temperate south (!) Buckie has possibly yet to take hold, and moderate bishops of the good old CofE have yet to pronounce anathema over it. And one can only wonder, now that taking communion in both kinds has restored wine to the sanctuaries of the United Benefice, what might happen if the good monks of Buckfast brought out a really full-bodied altar wine to liven up our Sunday mornings. It might at least slow down the decline in communicants…his writer seems to recall the original invitation to partake of the communion cup was pleasingly phrased, ‘Drink Ye All Of This’….

January 19th, 2010


The Daily Telegraph has been livening up the dark days with readers' letters about mistranslations and associated comic usages. This selection featured on January 5th, 2010

SIR - I am particularly fond of the section The Train in my old English-German conversational dictionary, which contains the following exchanges: "You are aware that I have occupied this seat since..." "My luggage was on it." "Guard, inform this gentleman that he must relinquish my seat." "Let us cross legs so as to sit more at ease."

SIR - I have an English-Gaelic phrase book bought in Oban that contains, among other joys, ‘Fetch me half a munchkin’ and the rather sinister ‘Shall I beat him?'

SIR - When I was serving in the British Embassy at Tripoli in the Seventies, a colleague found a translation of "traditional Libyan sayings" in a local bookshop. Our favourite was: "He whose trousers are made of esparto grass should not stand too close to the fire."

SIR - The idiosyncrasies of translation into English are not confined to phrase books. Travel brochures contain some priceless examples, including one for a prestigious hotel in Lisbon: "As our guests descend the grand staircase they will be impressed by our collection of suggestive pictures."

SIR - A pamphlet given to me on entry to a French campsite contained the following: "Campers are requested to speak slowly after midnight so as not to disturb the dreamers’

SIR - The most ridiculous phrase I have heard in any language comes from the website Living in Indonesia: "Kuku-kuku kaki kakak kakek-ku kaku-kaku." It means "My grandfather's older brother's toenails are stiff", and should not be attempted while eating cake.

Look Back with Laughter
 A final selection of some of the entertaining reports in last year's papers

Three nuns were pulled over on a road near Turin after they were clocked travelling at more than 110mph in a Ford Fiesta. The driver, Sister Tavoletta, 56, explained that they were hurrying to see the Pope after hearing that he had fractured his wrist in a fall. ‘We were on our way to make sure he was OK,’ she said. ‘Hopefully Sister Tavoletta  will confess to her bad driving next time she goes to confession,’ said a police spokesman. ‘ But in the meantime she will have to pay the speeding fine.’

A confectionery firm came under fire for featuring fruity characters apparently engaging in sexual acts on its wrappers. Simon Simpkins of Pontefract said he was shocked by the ‘porno’ poses when he bought the sweets for his children. 'The lemon and lime are locked in what appears to be a carnal encounter,’ he told The Sun. ‘The lime, who I assume to be the gentleman in this couple, has a particularly lurid expression on his face.  I demanded to see the shop manager and, during a heated exchange, my wife became distressed and had to sit in the car park.’

Police hunting Ireland’s most dangerous driver finally uncovered his identity. Computer records showed that Prawo Jazdy had clocked up no fewer than 50 offences, but each time his licence was registered to a different address. Finally, an officer worked out that ‘Prawo Jazdy’ is Polish for ‘driving licence’. Officers had been writing it down as the driver’s name.

The Week: January 2nd, 2010

The Spirit of Britain  Part  Two

Bedford: Parents were banned from attending their children's sports day after organisers said it would make it impossible to guard against paedophiles. Pupils from four primary schools competed at the East Bedfordshire School Sports Day without spectators. "If we let parents in, they would have been free to roam the grounds," said a spokesman. "All unsupervised adults must be kept away from children."

London: Schools in Waltham Forest and Newham were told to close on three Muslim,  Hindu and Sikh holy days this autumn, regardless of the religious mix of their pupils. In Waltham Forest, Hindus form 2% of the population and Sikhs just 0.6%. There are more Jewish people than Sikhs in the borough yet schools were not told to close for any Jewish festivals.

London: Swimmers at an outdoor pool in East London were told they could not go for a dip if the weather was too wet. Customers at the London Fields Lido in Hackney (right) were made to wait outside when it rained, because staff said the shower could cloud the water, making it hard for lifeguards to see into the pool. Hackney council confirmed that this was part of its health-and-safety policy.

The Government spent £24,765 removing one noun from the name of a Whitehall department. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was rebranded as Communities and Local Government (CLG), requiring a new logo and headed paper. A minister told MPs that the rebranding was necessary to "emphasise the mission of the department".

Teachers were given a training manual on how to use a full stop. The manual, part of the National Literacy Strategy, contained advice such as: "Verbs are very important. They are the words that tell you what is happening in a sentence.’

A report that took two years to compile and cost taxpayers £500,000 concluded that rail passengers were liable to experience "negative” feelings if their train was late and no one told them why.

Farmers were advised to wear earmuffs when feeding pigs, to protect themselves from "dangerously" loud squeals. The Health and Safety Executive said the noise of hungry pigs could be as damaging to hearing as that of a chainsaw or power drill, and suggested using mechanical feeders to avoid exposure altogether.

With renewed acknowledgement to The Week: December 30th, 2009

The Spirit of Britain

Thanks to that excellent publication, ‘The Week’, we are happy to present the first instalment of their annual cull of absurd examples of political correctness, bureaucratic inanities and fatuous warnings emanating from official quarters during the year now ending.

Edinburgh: The Scottish parliament's website has been translated into Scots dialect, as part of an £800,000 overhaul to make the site available in 14 "languages". "Walcome tae the Scottish pairlament wabsite," reads the introduction. "The Scottish pairlament is here for tae represent aw Scotlan's folk." Scholars disagree on whether Scots dialect - as opposed to Gaelic - is a language at all, but the Scottish Executive says the translation is necessary to prevent discrimination.

Southport: When Rita Longbottom, a Southport pensioner with dementia, locked herself out of her care-home flat, a live-in manager refused to use a master key to let her in -because her shift had ended, and she did not wish to violate the new EU working-time directive, which calls for an 11-hour break between shifts. Instead, a neighbour had to alert a call centre in Bradford, which sent a locksmith from Bolton.

Derby: Fly-fishermen were banned from casting their flies at a Derbyshire reservoir, lest they injure passers-by. Every year, thousands of anglers fish at the Foremark Reservoir, which is run by the local water board. No one has been snared in its 40-year history.

Birmingham: Birmingham City Council announced that all apostrophes were to be banished from street signs. Councillor Martin Mullaney said it was important to have a consistent policy, and that there was no longer any need for a possessive apostrophe in most place names, "since the
monarchy no longer owns Kings Heath or Kings Norton.

Oxford: The ladders that for 400 years had allowed students to reach the top shelves at the Bodleian Library in Oxford (right) were removed because of safety fears. But the library said the books would have to remain in their "historic location", out of reach, leaving students to travel as far as the British Library in London to find other copies.

Preston: A GPs' surgery in Preston, Lancashire, was docked £375 because it hadn't received any complaints. Under the current NHS system, surgeries are rewarded for hitting targets, one of which is to show how they deal with complaints. Since the Preston surgery didn't get any, it lost out. A spokesman for the local NHS trust said it had to follow guidelines.

Sheffield: A new primary school in Sheffield decided to omit the word "school" from its title because it had "negative connotations". Watercliffe Meadow calls itself a "place for learning". Meanwhile, 13 secondary schools in Barnsley were also re-branded - as "advanced learning centres".

December 29th, 2009

Lost in Translation

A selection of guaranteed genuine notices from assorted world-wide establiushments.
In a Bangkok temple:
Cocktail lounge, Norway:
Doctor's office, Rome:
Dry cleaners, Bangkok:
In a Nairobi restaurant:
On the main road to Mombasa, leaving Nairobi:
On a poster at Kencom:
In a City restaurant:
In a cemetery:
Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations:
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:
In a Tokyo bar:
Hotel, Yugoslavia:
Hotel, Japan:
In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:
A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:
Hotel, Zurich:
Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:
A laundry in Rome:

Supplied by a retired clerical gentleman who would probably prefer to remain anonymous: December 20th, 2009

Do They Think We're That Stupid?

After the previous item, it's a relief to get back to some genuine examples of overkill on commerical products...

On the bottom of a Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert… ‘Do not turn upside down’
On Sainsbury’s peanuts… ‘Warning: contains nuts’
On Boot’s Children’s Cough Medicine… ‘Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication’
On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding… ‘Product will be hot after heating’
On a Sears hairdryer… ‘Do not use while sleeping’
On a bag of Fritos… ‘You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside’
On some Findus frozen dinners… ‘Serving suggestion: Defrost’
On packaging for a Rowenta iron… ‘Do not iron clothes on body’
On Nytol Sleep Aid… ‘Warning: may cause drowsiness’
On Christmas lights… ‘For indoor or outdoor use only’
On a child’s Superman costume… ‘Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly’

(With thanks to Susan Gothard, St Peter’s, Formby magazine)

Demistifying Data Protection

After so many ludicrous examples of the excesses of the 'nanny state', over-protective bureaucracy and the zealous enforcement of health and safety legislation, it is only right to reproduce an article from the Daily Telegraph of  November 27th, 2009, in which Christopher Hope, the paper's Whitehall Editor, puts a reassuring and sensible perspective on the issue. This is what he wrote:

Parents are not breaking data protection rules if they take photographs of children taking part in school nativity plays, the information watchdog has said. Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, also said he wanted to scotch other "myths" about the Data Protection Act.

The commissioner said the problem was that some organisations commonly used the 1998 Act like health and safety legislation, to stop people behaving normally. "Some people still don't seem to get it and a lot of people need help," he said. "Data protection is becoming a term of abuse like health and safety. It has been very difficult to dispel the myth - and we want to demystify data protection."

Typical examples included the repeated fiction, he said, that it broke data protection laws to take private photographs of children at school sport days or nativity plays. In fact, parents, friends and family members can take photos or video of their children and friends who are taking part in school activities. The legislation would apply for photos taken for official use by schools and colleges.

Data protection rules also should not stop clergymen from praying for sick parishioners by name in church, while it was wrong for organisations to use "data protection" as a reason not to disclose a customer's details to a third party, such as a friend or family member. Instead as long as the organisation was satisfied that the person asking for the information was authorised to access it, then the information could be handed over.

In another case it emerged this month that a postman had refused to deliver a parcel which had to be signed for, when it became apparent the recipient was a nine-day-old baby. An adult could have signed for the package, said Mr Graham. Unveiling a "myth-busting" guide to the legislation, he said: "Security breaches, inaccurate records and instances of data being held for too long are too common. This new guide will help organisations comply with the law and demystify data protection."

It'll be his Funeral...!

A Swedish family is demanding £27,000 compensation from a pastor who slurred his way through a funeral service while sipping from a glass of wine and making rude comments.

The clergyman is accused of being so wobbly at one point during the service for an 80-year-old woman that he almost fell to his knees.

He is alleged to have pulled himself back up "using the altar like it was a climbing frame for an ape".
When he regained his balance, he told the congregation: "Bit dodgy that - someone left a banana skin here." He is also accused of fondling a female mourner, kissing her hand and saying: "Do you fancy nipping back to the vestry for an aquavit?"

One angry relative told the Helsingsborg Handesblat newspaper: "He was so tanked up it was an embarrassment. It was an incoherent waffle for 30 minutes. He read out a poem to the old lady and nobody understood a word. “

At one point, the priest allegedly said: "The family wanted an open coffin but I'm worried about swine flu. If you sneeze on her you might have to wipe the smile off her face."

(Allan Hall, Daily Telegraph, October 5th, 2009)