Saturday, 22 November 2014

Twenty events that changed a nation

I have tried, with some difficulty, to pick the key event of each of the last 20 centuries in the United Kingdom - these had to be events that happened on British soil and had an impact on the whole country.  Notice the key themes of conquest, division and unification.

1st – Roman invasion of Britain by Emperor Claudius (43)

2nd – Hadrian’s Wall is built, dividing north from south (122-)

3rdBritain divided into two provinces, Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior, with administrative centres at London and York (214)

4thSustained raids by Picts, Irish, and Saxons. Hadrian's Wall abandoned and military commander Fullofaudes captured or killed (367)

5th – Saxons begin conquest of Britain (409)

6th – Mission of Augustine to England (597) begins spread of Christianity

7thSynod of Hertford gives the Archbishop of Canterbury authority over the whole of the English Church (672)

8th – Viking invasions begin – raids on Lindisfarne (793)

9th – Alfred, King of Wessex, halts Danish advance south in England (871) and counters by expanding his control of Merica

10th – Unification of England (959) – Edgar becomes King of England, unifying the kingdoms of      Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. He was crowned in 973

11th – Norman conquest of England (1066) – William I crowned King of England

12th – Henry I dies, nominating Matilda his heir, but Stephen claims the throne and becomes King of England (1135) leading to civil war in later years

13th – King John, still struggling financially after Richard’s expenditure on the Crusades, makes concessions to the English barons by signing the Magna Carta (1215)

14th – Battle of Bannockburn: Scotland defeats England (1314)

15th – Battle of Bosworth (1485): Henry Tudor defeats Richard III, effectively ending the Wars of the Roses and reunifying the country, leading to greater stability, particularly financially

16th – Henry VIII breaks with Rome (1534) leading to the reformation

17th – English Civil War (1642-1649)

18th – Sir Robert Walpole becomes the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1721)

19th – Introduction of railways – First passenger line: Stockton to Darlington (1825)

20th – First general radio broadcasts (1920) - the age of communication begins

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

When kids are almost right

Children are very good at being wonderfully practical and often amusingly incorrect. For example:

"In Wales you can tell it's summer, because the rain gets warmer."

Q: Define the word 'Coincide'.
A: It is a direction, as in "Coincide, it's cold out here."

Parallel lines can't meet, unless you bend them.

Q: Why did the Israelites make a golden calf?
A: Because they didn't have enough for a cow.

Mushrooms look like umbrellas because they grow when it's raining.

Q: If you stand facing North, what do you have on your left hand?
A: Fingers

Sometimes they can be nearly right!

Henry VIII had the prayer book put into English to spite the Pope who wanted to marry Catherine of Aragon.

A refugee is someone who takes charge at football matches.

Manpower is the extra strength men have more than women.

Moths eat holes.

And once in a while they are absolutely spot on!

Genius is an infinite capacity for picking brains.

Q: Name five animals that live in the rainforest.
A: A sloth and four monkeys.

Ed Miliband has been in Labour ever since he entered politics.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Kids with cameras

I was recently privileged enough to accompany a school on a trip to Warwick Castle. This was actually a trip I had made when I was their age, but there was one obvious difference: camera phones. When I went for the first time camera phones had only just been released and if anyone actually had one they certainly wouldn't have been allowed to bring it. This time, everyone (literally) had one. Therefore they didn't so much as look around the castle as photograph it. Every feature of the castle walls, waxworks, swords and bushes had to be documented, from every angle. To be honest they should just have turned the video recorder on and sellotaped the phone to their forehead, although of course this would have ruled out the possibility of 'selfies'.
     Now I should hope that they will still have learnt a significant amount about castles and they will obviously be able to have another look by browsing their numerous snaps, but I imagine their memory of the day will be significantly diminished because they never actually experienced the castle itself. They were so busy photographing it, or photographing each other in front of it, that they never actually looked at the castle itself, or spent time imagining what it would be like to have lived there hundreds of years ago. Now a few photographs are alright to jog your memory, I took a few myself, but if all you do is take pictures you won't have a memory to jog!
     The most ridiculous moment, for me, came at lunch when we went to watch a falconer put on a fantastic display with two amazing birds of prey, including a majestic Bald Eagle.

The kids, of course, watched the whole thing through their phone screens, except when a peacock came wandering around behind them. As one the cameras swung round, like the paparazzi when a superstar appears, to this relatively boring event (the peacock didn't even have his tail feathers up). It wasn't really the fact that it was a peacock that made them turn round, merely that here was something new for them to photograph. I wonder what effect this will have, as we continue to engross ourselves in the digital world and lose sight of the real one right before our eyes.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Day to Remember

11th November 2012

10.41   I sit down on a bench. It’s hard and shapeless and hurts my back but I stay there.

10.43   A man sits down at the next bench. He has a small dog on a lead, but I can’t work out what breed it is. I think it's male.

10.44   The man gets out a sandwich and starts eating. He seems oblivious to everything else, including his dog who is running back and forth in front of him waiting for scraps.

10.45   The man finishes his sandwich and displays his empty hands to the dog. The dog looks crestfallen and turns away in search of other things on the ground.

10.46   The dog has wandered to the middle of the courtyard and is investigating the large, cross-shaped structure laid out for remembrance day. It is filled with earth and grass, in which people place small crosses. The dog sniffs hopefully at the grass but the man pulls him back.

10.48   I shift slightly to relieve the ache in my back and notice two foreign tourists taking photos of the church, themselves and everything in between.

10.49   The male tourist spots the dog and comes closer to give him a scratch. The tourist smiles at the man, points to his girlfriend with the camera, then at the dog, then at himself. The man understands, but seems bemused as to why two randomers want a picture of his dog.

                        ‘Sit,’ he commands, and the dog obliges.

               The tourist sits down too on my bench and leans closer to the dog, who turns to look at him. The girlfriend begins taking pictures and I lean back to get out of the shot.

10.51   The tourist points at the dog and says, ‘Boy?’

                        ‘Eh?’ Replies the man. ‘Oh, no. Girl.’ He smiles.

                        Well that just shows how much I know about dogs.

10.53   The tourist continues to sit on the bench while his partner wanders off to find something else to photograph.

10.54   The tourist seems to be staring at the man, who is a little disconcerted until the tourist points to his chest and says, ‘What, flower?’

                           The man glances down and replies in a relived kind of way, ‘Oh, erm, poppy. It’s a poppy.’ Then, when the tourist’s expression doesn’t change, adds, ‘Do you speak English?’

                        ‘Er, no, no English.’

                        ‘Oh,’ says the man. ‘Well, poppy,’ (he points to the flower) ‘for remembrance day; today. For the war. You know, World War One.’ He is including more and more hand gestures, which even I couldn’t interpret. He points at the cross structure. ‘We remember people who died.’

                        ‘Ah, yeah,’ replies the tourist at last.

                        ‘Do you know anyone involved in the war?’ asks the man without response. ‘Erm, where you from? Where you live?’

                        ‘Taiwan,’ says the tourist pleased to hear words he recognises.

                        ‘Ah,’ says the man. ‘Well, at eleven o’clock we remember the soldiers who died.’

                        He’s still flailing his arms about but the tourist from Taiwan finally seems to be catching on.

                        ‘Okay,’ he says. ‘You know people war?’

                        ‘Well, my Granddad fought in the war, but he survived. He was lucky. But we still remember everyone who did die. Everyone stands up at eleven. In fact it’s nearly eleven now, so do you want to stand?’

                        The man explains standing up by getting to his feet and the tourist follows.

                        I get to my feet too.

10.59   Many people have gathered in the courtyard; everyone stops. The man puts a finger on his lips and looks at the tourist, who nods his head.

11.00   The bell strikes, then silence.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Festival of Remembrance: a call for peace

Another moving and poignant Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall last night, as well as a vital call for peace. I hope the leaders of this country, who were present, will be stirred to ensure that peace is sought for in every situation, leading the way for the world in showing love for all people, and using the armed forces for acts of goodness.

I am still stirred by The Poppy Girls' rendition of The Call at last year's Festival, demonstrating the importance of the relationships between all people.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Bonfire Terrorist

The air has turned cold and the evening is dark
But a flame has been kindled, a fire has begun.
The wood becomes hot and soon turns to powder
But the ground, it is scorched; the fire leaves a mark.
And we know that it doesn't take much for a spark
To fashion a passion in the heart of a guy.
And we can remember a fellow named Fawkes
Who planned for his bite to be worse than his bark.
A disillusioned and desperate man, for a lark,
Turned terrorist and aimed for those in command.
But chaos cannot answer and Fawkes was found out,
So Remember Remember this night, this night.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The 3:16s

John chapter 3 verse 16 is well known. Many people could say it from memory.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)

But how about other Chapter 3 verse 16s? There are quite a few good ones!

"The Lord will roar from Zion
    and thunder from Jerusalem;
    the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
    a stronghold for the people of Israel."

1 Corinthians:
"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?"

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being."

1 Timothy
"Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory."

2 Timothy
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

1 John
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."