Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Patriotism is not enough ( 2 )

Regular readers of this blog will have realised that I take a very dim view of tribalism and nationalism.

I mention both tribe and nation because those of us in the western, more or less Christian lands see our world and ourselves in terms of national identity.

We do not understand or appreciate other more eastern lands where loyalty to clan or tribe comes far ahead of loyalty to nation.

Westerners are in fact clannish and tribal
. We identify with our clan (nuclear family, extended family, circle of immediate friends etc); and with our tribe (people who share our religious, political or vocational lives), but these clans and tribes are fluid, and are mostly subverted to our national loyalties.

In other (say Muslim or Hindu) cultures, the loyalty to clan and tribe trumps all others.

A healthy sense of clannish, tribal or national identity is important insofar as it provides social glue by which we are moulded into peoples. A sense of shared history, traditions and values is vital if we are to live in free communities.

(Doubtless, one of the legitimate gripes of British folks regarding immigrants is that, by and large, they do not seem to have bought into a sense of “Britishness”.)

(But of course, at a time when all the old British institutions – Empire, Monarchy, Church, Government, Law enforcement, Class distinctions and the like are no longer trusted, even native born British people are losing their own sense of “Britishness”. The songs which I posted yesterday now ring hollow!)

So much for a healthy sense of clan, tribe or nation.

My “beef” is with that spirit which says “My clan/tribe/ nation – right or wrong”.

The global village is far too small for that spirit. We are one human race living on one small and stressed planet. We shall not survive without a commitment to international cooperation and understanding.

And the “My clan/tribe/ nation – right or wrong” spirit, leads clans, tribes and nations to develop a deep fear of “the other”, and a mistaken trust in “security”.

I do believe that the United States Governments since World War II have bowed down to this false God of national security, with dire results (Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq to name but a few cases in point). It also breaks my heart to see the British and Israeli governments take similar tacks.

This issue is as old as the bible. The Psalmist, referring to national security as the night watchmen writes the following.

11 Day and night the watchmen make their rounds
upon her walls, *
but trouble and misery are in the midst of her.

12 There is corruption at her heart; *
her streets are never free of oppression and deceit.

All of our vaunted “National Security” is not worth a bucket of spit so long as trouble. misery, corruption and deceit are at the hearts of our clans, tribes or nations.

J. Michael Povey

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Patriotism is not enough (Nurse Edith Cavell)

( see

re Edith Cavell)

As I walked this morning an old English patriotic song came into my mind. I learned to sing it at school.

It reads:

Here's a health unto her Majesty,
With a fal la la la la la la,
Confusion to her enemies,
With a fal lal la la la la la la.
And he that will not drink her health,
I wish him neither wit nor wealth,
Nor yet a rope to hang himself.
With a fal lal la la la la la la la la,
With a fal lal la la la la la.

It was probably written to celebrate the Coronation of Charles II as King of Scotland. He was crowned King of Scots at Scone on 1 January 1651.

Charles was also King of England, but these were the days before the Kingdoms of Scotland and England were joined to form what we now call the “United Kingdom”.

(Remember that Charles was a “Stuart”, those dismal Scottish Monarchs who inherited the English Throne upon the death of the last Tudor Monarch, Elizabeth I. [She was succeeded by James (Stuart) the first James of England, and also the sixth James of Scotland).

But can you imagine that we were singing this ditty three hundred years later.

We were singing them, alongside other British patriotic songs, (see below) when I was a schoolboy of about aged 10 – in 1954.

The British Empire was all but done. Our maps showed all the pink coloured Empire countries, but the deal was already done. India had obtained independence in 1948 (when I was four years old) – but we preferred to ignore that. There was still a “Colonial Office” in London.

The British Empire had ended. It’s fate had been sealed in 1919 when the British Treasury had been emptied by the expenses of the Great War.

But we still postured, and believed in Empire when I was a kid.

So, in school, we sang the old songs.

You can hear some of them at

The British Empire is long gone and forgotten. The American Empire is dying.

And we know that “patriotism” is a false G-d; that Nationalism is a deadly enemy; and that National Security is an illusion.

I am glad that I was born and raised in the United Kingdom.

I am proud of my American citizenship.

But I know that our day is done.


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

William Blake


Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.


When Britain first, at heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main,
Arose, arose, arose from out the a-azure main,
This was the charter, the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:

Rule Britania!
Britannia rule the waves.
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves.
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must in their turn, to tyrants fall,
Must in ,must in, must in their turn, to tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish, shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves.
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves.
Brittons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Wealthy and the Workers

My guest does not let the grass grow under his feet. He hustled himself to many restaurants, seeking a job. He found one at Cafe L’Europe on St. Armand’s’ Circle in SRQ, eight days after his arrival in the USA (He has a work permit and all that jazz).

St. Armand’s Circle is the upscale area of SRQ. Cafe L’Europe is one of the most upscale restaurants on the Circle.

He started work yesterday (Dec 28TH) at 10:00 a.m. It fell to my lot to meet him at the end of his shift. That was late at night.

I arrived at St. Armand’s Circle just before 10:00 p.m. The circle was filled with the wealthy. They shopped even at 10 o’clock at night.

And I was surprised, if not shocked because:

There were so many pre-teen and teens in their “packs”, swarming around and hanging out at the ice cream parlours, sans adults.

There were so many adults speaking languages other than English. It seems that SRQ is a favourite destination for wealthy Indians, Latin Americans, and Eastern Europeans.

And there were all too many young children, being dragged around by their parents at 10:00 p.m. I imagined that these little ones would be much happier were they tucked up in bed with Mommy and Daddy nearby.

But with weary eyes they hung on to their parents.

Such are the lives of the indolent rich.

Whether they know it or not, they are dependent on so many underpaid workers.

He finally emerged from Cafe L’Europe at 11:10 p.m. having worked for more than 12 hours at minimum wage.

And the Cafe has him there all day today (29th), tomorrow (30th), and on New Year’s Eve from 5:00 p.m. until God knows when.

O all ye Restaurant patrons. Spare a thought for those who serve you. Be slow to complain - they may be very tired.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Beaufort SC Christmas 2008

Salt marsh at sunset

The Pinkham's home

Barbara and Don Hauler

Chip and Charles Pinkham

Chris Pinkham looking cool in his new shades

His Dad trying to look cool

Donald R Hauler

Mark and Lindsay Hauler, Chris Pinkham

Marcia Hauler, Wendy Pinkham, Barbara and Don Hauler

Sweet potatoes with pecan "Christmas Tree"

The perfect turkey

Our quarters

Anchored yachts at Beaufort

St. Helena's Church, Beaufort

Antebellum Mansion, Beaufort

Lighthouse, Hunting Beach

Tidal Marsh near Pinkham home

The following are of various tidal marshes, and of Hunting Island Beach

Shrimp Boats

Tree skeleton

Where old trees go to die


The Thinker or the Stinker - it's your call

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

My Brasilian friend and I drove up to Beaufort, South Carolina on Christmas Eve.

It’s about 430 miles away, and it took 8 hours. We stopped every 100 miles to change drivers and stretch our legs.

We’d not breakfasted so we, with some foreboding on my part, went into a International House of Pancakes in the north central town of Starke, FL, for breakfast.

I was pleasantly pleased with the quality of my food – an omelette with fresh fruit as a “side dish”. Our waitress, Emily was an absolute sweetheart, so I tipped her well.

Starke is typical of many small towns in inland Florida. It is an hard scrabble town, with a great deal of poverty. We passed a supermarket – a branch of a chain which I thought had gone out of business years ago the “Piggly Wiggly”. These smaller supermarkets used to be the backbone of rural southern towns, with some also in the north. In many places they are being “done-in” by Wall-Mart.

Beaufort is a small, but quite grand town in the Low Country of South Carolina. It has a number of very fine antebellum mansions.

Our hosts, the Pinkhams live about 20 minutes drive from down-town, in a quite idyllic small “development”. There’s is one of (say) 80 homes on the edge of a tidal marsh. Each house is quite different in style, and there are no MacMansions.

Cdr. Wendy Pinkham USN is the daughter of my dear friends Don and Barbara Hauler. She is married to Charles, a wonderful stay at home father, and they have three of the nicest sons you could hope to meet – Charles Jr (Chip) (4), Chris (12) and Nicholas (10).

Wendy’s brother Mark was with us, together with his wife Marcia and their daughters Lindsay (18/19) and Lesley (16/17).

The senior Hauler’s other son, Gary, with his partner Ed were unable to be with us.

So we were the senior Haulers, the younger Haulers with their daughters, and the Pinkhams with their sons.

My guest and I shared a pop up camper which was surprisingly roomy, with two huge beds, which were very comfortable.

It was altogether a wonderful Christmas with super people. My guest enjoyed every moment - his first time with an American family for Christmas. And they all liked him!

I was too tired for “Midnight Mass”, so I went to St. Helena’s on Christmas Day. There were about 120 in attendance, and we were told that there had been a total of 1,500 people at the three Christmas Eve services.

The Church was “fair to middling” in terms of friendliness, and the singing was unenthusiastic. The Celebrant and Preacher was (retired) Bishop Alden Hathaway, of whom I have known for many years.

He is a hale and hearty kind of man. His 13 minute sermon used many 10 cent words, but said very little.

After Church as I offered tobacco incense in the parking lot, a parishioner approached me. She had seen that I was alone, and offered an invitation to Christmas dinner if I needed one. That was just so gracious and cool!

I had never before visited the Low Country. It is incredibly beautiful with its tidal creeks, rivers and marshes. I gloried in the beauty.

We spent some time in a nature reserve on Hunting Island, walking the beach in warm Christmas Day weather. It is a lovely spot.

I will add some photo’s tomorrow. They will include Low Country scenery, Beaufort and St. Helena’s, and members of the Hauler/Pinkham families.

It was a Merry Christmas!

On our journey home, my good pal Ben called to invite us for dinner. How very wonderful not to have to cook, after another eight hour ride. We chowed down on some pretty decent Chinese takeaway food.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

In earthly peace

I went to St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key for the Tuesday a.m. Eucharist today.

After the Eucharist I went out to the Myakka River State Park.

It is such a beautiful and peace filled place. I sat for more than half an hour in silence (so hard for me!), simply soaking up the quietness and beauty. It was a joy to listen to the sound which the breeze created as it whisked through the long grasses and the trees.

How blessed I am to live so near to such a gorgeous place. We heard human voices from Germany, Russia, Spain and France.

The speakers of these languages had travelled many, many miles to be at Myakka. It is a 25 minute drive for me!

On Christmas Eve I will drive for about 9 hours to be with my friends the Hauler Family, gathering this year in Beaufort, SC. I was with them last year in Pensacola FL.

I am happy that I will be with these friends whom I first met in 1976. The Haulers who met and loved my mother, (and other members of my family) , here in the USA and also in England.

I will drive back here on Boxing Day. So I’ll not be “blogging” until Saturday 27th December.I wish you well for Christmas, and leave you with one of my favourite Christmas poems:

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there'd have been no room for the child.

- Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, 22 December 2008

The economy and a human face.

The economy and a human face.

We are apt to talk about “The Economy” as if it were a living entity, operating beyond human control.

So I must remind us that our current plight has to do with people, not with "the economy"

We say things like “the economy is bad”, when we really mean that politicians, bankers, economists, manufacturers and the like have made bad decisions, and taken foolish risks.

We also forget that some members of this motley crew are crooks.

That crew has made such dreadful decisions since the days of Reagan (USA) and Thatcher (U.K.) that we now in a “not so pretty pickle”.

The Reagan/Thatcher choices for deregulation, the “free market” (whatever that is), and the like, were rooted in an untested ideology.

Now millions of people in many lands are paying the price. And it is a high price.

I have a friend. I’ll call him “Danny” to protect his anonymity. He is of my age.

Just a few years ago Danny was living in a lovely home on Siesta Key - one of the nicest areas of Sarasota. He was making a good living.

Then, partly due to his inattention, his partner cheated him out of mucho dollars, and Danny was forced to sell up, and lose a lot of money.

He moved to my neighbourhood and rented a home two doors away from me. I like him and enjoy his company.

But business went from bad to worse. He has earned next to nothing since March 2008.

I have supported him with money, food and friendship, but none of this has been sufficient for all his needs.

His landlord (understandably) asked him to leave for he has been unable to pay the rent.

Now he will move to another town and will live in one room, in exchange for helping the homeowner, a woman who is dying of cancer.

He has moved from being a homeowner to being a roomer in about three and a half years.

He knows that he will never be able to retire.

He is frequently “micawberish”.

Mostly he is sad.

And from time to time he is angry: lashing out at the people who care for him most.

He left today with his micawberish, sad, angry face, leaving me to think: “it is not the ‘economy’. It is PEOPLE such as my friend ‘Danny’”.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Winter solistice 2008

Today my Brasilian friend and I went down to Crescent Beach on Siesta Key, for the regular Sunday evening "drumming down of the Sun".

The celebration today had an added flavour for today is the winter solistice - the day on which (in the northern hemisphere)winter officially begins, but also (thank goodness), the day from which daytime increases, and night time decreases.

So we were there for the shortest day in the northern hemisphere.

Here are a few photo's which I took on Crescent Beach this evening

Saturday, 20 December 2008

The gregarious loner

Folk who meet me, encounter a man who is friendly, who smiles a lot, and who as the “Mystery Worshipper” at St. Hilary’s Church (earlier this year) said “is jovial”.

I come across as a very gregarious person.

At heart, I am a loner. More than anything, I like to be alone.

Give me a “stage” and I am that apparently gregarious person. All of life is acting - and I can play that role so well.

It’s fun while it lasts. But I’ve often said that my epitaph should be “He played to a thousand audiences, but never received the accolades he felt that he richly deserved”.

“Off stage” I retreat into that “loner”. (I am happiest alone, but I am NOT lonesome).

I putter around the house. The T.V. and radio are rarely on, for I love the silence.

My cat Ada is the dozer. She spends most each day eating or sleeping.

The other cat, Adelaide, is a prowler. She wanders around the house all day, looking for Lord knows what.

I am an “Adelaide”. I prowl around my home, always restless, and always quite contented.

I am content with my life as a loner, but with one caveat. I frequently remind myself that to be alone is good, but to isolate is dangerous.

So I get out and about, to Resurrection House, to Church and Church events, for meals with friends, and laughter with Ben.

I love to have people in my home, and I entertain quite often.

But oh the blessed joy when they go home, and once again I can be safely alone.

Friday, 19 December 2008

In 1971

Ben tells me that I “remember everything”. There’s more than enough truth in that. I have vivid memories which go back to my childhood. Of course I cannot trust then all, for memory is tricky.

As I walked today I remembered a trip I took in Wales and England many years ago. I had thought it to be from 1968, but a quick check of the facts revealed that it was from 1971 when I was 27 years old.

I would have been working as a Staff Tutor for the National Westminster Bank in that year.

I took off in my car to visit parts of north Wales and also Chester in England. I had never before seen this part of the U.K.

I saw Caernarfon Castle, Conwy Castle, Llandudno (a coastal town in north Wales), “Snowdon” the highest peak in Wales, and Chester. All on my lonesome!

When I reached Chester I was so tired that I decided to stay in the first hotel which I saw. It turned out to be the “Blossoms” Hotel (3 star), and naive as I was, I was in awe of staying in such a “grand place”.

I wondered if there was a standard of “hotel etiquette” of which I did not know.

(Working class boys from Bristol never expected to stay in such places!).

In Chester I enjoyed the old City Wall, the lovely River Dee, the great Cathedral, and “The Rows” (two story shops which date back to the Middle Ages).

I’d love to return to Chester one day. ‘Tis a lovely City.

As for the year? After dinner I saw the Movie “Play Misty for me”, with Clint Eastwood. It was released in 1971, so that pins my excursion to that year.

By 1972 I was on my way to Theological College.

Caernarfron Castle

Conwy Castle

Chester, Cathedral

Chester, River Dee

Chester, "The Rows"

Chester, City Wall

Chester, Blossoms Hotel

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Welcome to Mildred, plus "A long and full day"

What a long and full day.

My friend Betsy has been long awaiting the arrival of Mildred. (Betsy and I agreed on this name). Mildred arrived today. Her photo’ is above.

I awoke at 4:45 a.m. this morning at the “Day’s Inn”, near Miami International Airport.

After a quick shower I drove at high speed to the Airport itself, trusting my GPS/Sat Nav. to get me there – which it did.

10 minutes after my arrival my friend called my mobile ‘phone. He had arrived on time from Brasil, via Chile; breezed through immigration, baggage claim and customs, and ready for me about 35 minutes after his ‘plane had landed.

I “high-tailed” it through the airport, from one concourse to another. Five minutes after his call we met with hugs and great laughter.

Then came the hard part: - a four hour drive back to Sarasota. Luckily for he was so happy to do most of the driving.

Back at home, we chatted and “caught up”, then I persuaded him to rest. (He had been travelling for 24 hours).

We enjoyed a late lunch of ham and eggs. Then after some more rest we drove to Longboat Key.

There I rehearsed with the All Angels’ Church Choir for their Jan 6th concert, whilst my friend enjoyed a good walk on the beach.

On the way home we stopped off at Ben’s home for beverages and snacks.

I made a simple dinner of stir-fried vegetables (onions, red and green peppers, zucchini (courgettes in England), and red chard, together with some broiled fish – in this case it was “Grouper”.

(Stir fried veggies and broiled fish are so simple. One can prepare this nutritious and healthy meal in about 20 minutes).

Yes, it’s been a long and hard day. But it has also been so rich. I will soon rest - very tired but also very contented. I feel like a child - one who goes off to sleep without a worry in the world!