Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

So, George Osborne, the minister with joint responsibility for robbing the poor and making the rich richer (a.k.a. the Chancellor of the Exchequer) believes it is not fair that somebody on welfare should earn more than somebody in full time employment. Well, I agree with him. Where we differ is that his cunning plan to deal with this injustice is to cut welfare (especially if you don't live in London like he does) whilst mine, if I was to be given the job, would be to drastically increase the minimum wage. The age old battle between good and evil continues and will do for as long as greedy fools keep voting evil at elections.

From Clee To Heaven The Beacon Burns

Yesterday, storm clouds gathered over Shropshire and the BBC weather app warned that thunderbolt and lightning would be very, very frightening in the immediate vicinity of the MadGang ere the day was out. So we decided to do our walking before lunch, which was, as it turned out, a very good decision as heavy rain mixed with the heat and humidity we are enduring at the moment to create monsoon conditions in the afternoon that it would not have been at all pleasant to be caught out in.

Not wanting to risk straying too far from the shelter of our car we decided to have a stroll around the top of Titterstone Clee Hill (titter ye not, that is its real name), the lower of the two main peaks of the Clee Hills (the higher being Brown Clee Hill to the north). It is just up the road from where we are camped and has loomed over us enticingly since we arrived.

Now, for me Titterstone Clee Hill is a near perfect hill insomuch that you can drive almost to the top of it.  As far as I am concerned, it could only be improved upon as a hilltop destination if someone built a funicular railway all the way up its one thousand, seven hundred and forty nine feet and opened a pub selling fine Shropshire real ale on its summit. However, Mrs MP is a bit of a purist about hills, having the foolish belief that you have not actually climbed a hill unless you have done so on foot, carrying a heavy haversack, all the way from sea level. She also likes her hills to be as unaltered by man as possible. So she was not at all impressed by the top of Titterstone Clee Hill which has been blasted and dug up by quarrymen over many years with the destructive enthusiasm you normally only find so thoroughly employed by Canadian mining companies in Mexico.

A "miserable, godforsaken place" she called it.

Me? I thought it was beautiful. It is a landscape straight out of a Doctor Who episode set on Skaro. The huge white spheres of the radar station that is perched on its summit just adds to the science fiction vibe. Best of all, the clash of the man made with the natural against the wide and brooding skies, made for some excellent shapes just crying out to be photographed, which I did.

Inside the radar station, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two point one seven seven five weeks a year, plus the occasional leap second, ever vigilant officers from the Royal Signal Corps scan the skies for incoming Welsh missiles. The Welsh WMD programme is a closely guarded secret but sometimes there are leeks.

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The MadGang Go To Attingham Park

Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, has to be the most dog friendly National Trust property we have ever been to. Not only are dogs allowed everywhere except in the house itself but there are even parts of the park where they are allowed to run free off their leads. Needless to say, Quiz and Delphi had a marvellous time especially as the temperature had dropped from its uncomfortable heights of recent days. I enjoyed myself because there is a very good secondhand bookshop in the stable block and the fidgety pasties, available from the tea room, were scrumptious to say the least.

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Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

The human race is investing a huge amount of time, money, creativity and imagination into its search for extra-terrestial life. If the fossil of a long extinct microbe was discovered in the dust of Mars it would be all over the media for weeks and there would be great and smug rejoicing among the world's scientists. Yet we share our planet, not only with very much alive microbes but also with life other than ourselves with real intelligence that would blow our minds if we encountered it on another planet but which we appear in our actions towards it to regard as commonplace and worthless. Tragically, it is the most intelligent of these non-alien lifeforms that we are in the most danger of wiping off the face of our planet. With such an abysmal record on our own patch we should have our spaceship licence taken off us as we are obviously a real danger to other universe users.

The MadGang Visit Croft Castle

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum,
and they charge the people a dollar and a half just to see them."
( Joni Mitchell )

I love trees. I love the infinite variety of their natural architectures. They are organic, living sculptures created by the master artist in his cosmic studio and they please my eye. The best place to tree watch in England is in the extensive parkland that surrounds our stately homes. Here, the trees have been allowed to grow old and venerable, protected from the axes and chainsaws of developers by the centuries of privilege enjoyed by their aristocratic owners.

Croft Castle in Herefordshire is now in the possession of The National Trust rather than a descendant of a genocidal, Norman knight, so anybody willing to pay the entrance fee can go and enjoy both the parkland and the buildings without fear of being shot at by a gamekeeper. On Wednesday, on the hottest July day in England since records began, we did just that. In the morning we went for a leisurely stroll around the fields and then, after lunch, we took it in turns to look around the castle and medieval church of St Michael and All Angels just outside its front door, whilst the other one of us looked after the dogs under the shading branches of a nearby ancient tree.

Then it was a quick procession with photographic opportunities around the walled garden before we headed back to the MadMobile to enjoy the air conditioning turned right up to eleven. Phew, what a scorcher!

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It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today I was ordained into the diaconate of the Church of England in Newcastle Cathedral. Back then I loved the Church, especially the spiky bits of it. But now I realise that this was because I only knew its surface. Very soon in my priestly career I was to discover the disappointing murkiness of its depths; the hypocrisy of the clergy, the lust for power of its company men (and now, tragically, women as well) and the deep rooted, unregulated and institutional prejudice and bigotry that far surpasses anything the secular world is routinely guilty of.

I have spent a quarter of my priesthood unemployed and in exile, shunned and avoided by almost all my colleagues from the moment I was diagnosed as clinically depressed and admitted into hospital. Told by my bishop that a person who has suffered from mental health problems should never be a parish priest I have spent most of my time online among the outcasts, doing my own thing, making my own mistakes and winning my own victories. My refusal to toe the party line concerning these people and my insistence on using their language to tell their stories has given the powers that be yet another excuse to ostracise me and to feel righteous while doing so.

But, I now have permission to officiate in my diocese and I have always had a (built on the) rock solid assurance of my God given vocation so I continue, foolish as it is to most people, to have the hope and desire to one day soon be serving in the parish ministry to which I was called.

On the whole I now despise the Church but I still love my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who walked among the lepers and was crucified for doing so.

Imitation Of A Gay Christ

imitation_gameI watched "The Imitation Game" this evening. A very good film even with the romanticising aimed at making Turing's story more like the movies rather than unpredictable and often mundane real life (ironically, the romantic parts of the film were actually quite close to the truth). I rated it 4 out of 5. You have to wonder what would have happened if an ungrateful nation hadn't hounded the mathematics genius, Alan Turing, to an early grave just because he paid another man to touch his penis. Britain probably missed out on becoming the world's number one technology nation with all the wealth and kudos that would have brought with it. Serves us right for being such arseholes.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest (On Vacation)

Gentlemen. It may be twenty eight degrees centigrade in the shade and we may be on a camping holiday. But we are also English which means we do not take our shirts off unless we are taking a bath. So please, unless you want to be confused with a Scottish person, do the civilised thing and cover up!

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

What is the point in giving us all an extra second in the middle of Tuesday night? I'm going to sleep right through it so it's a complete waste of time as far as I'm concerned. Surely it would be better to give us the extra second on Saturday evening so that the pubs are open longer, or on a Saturday afternoon to give Newcastle just a little bit more time to score the equaliser and get a point.

Holy Communion For The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

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At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. In this we are following the example of Jesus Christ who did not push anybody away.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

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