Saturday, 15 March 2008

Palm Sunday - a critique

Tomorrow (today by the time you read this) March 16th 2008 is, in the western Christian tradition known as “Palm Sunday: The Sunday of the Passion”.

For thirty years I thought that this was an important day in the life of the Church, and urged the parishioners in Fitchburg, Chicopee, Pittsfield and Cambridge (each in Massachusetts) to attend.

I planned exquisite and lovely liturgies, and even if they did not “come off” - well there was always next year.

Now, two years into retirement, I am not sure if I will attend the Palm/Passion Sunday liturgies.

If I do, it will be at St.X's Church where there will be many palms, but little passion.

St. X's is a great Church. The Clerics preach well, the music is superb, the ambiance is liberal, and the people are cool.

Liberal as it is (and I love that), it is a “top-down” parish with the Rector (a good and wise man) very much in control.

St. X's does everything right, but it lacks passion. I long for this Church to “let loose”.

I long for the day when one of the Clerics farts at the Altar, and the whole congregation breaks up into laughter.

Now get this straight. I truly respect St. X's, and its Clerics and Mission. It’s a parish on the side of the Angels.

I simply wish that this good Parish could be less self-conscious, and more relaxed.

But I am not even sure that I will attend Church on Palm Sunday. For “the Church” has domesticated an act of rebellion.

If the gospel is to be believed, “Palm Sunday” is the day when Jesus gave the finger to the ruling powers of Religion and State; the day on which he says “F.U.” to Caesar in Rome, and to the ruling religious powers in Jerusalem.

And for that he died.

We do not do that day justice with our pathetic processions as we uncomfortably sing “All glory, laud and honour”.

Christians should be marching around the State Dept; the Pentagon; and the Dept. of Homeland Security on Palm/Passion Sunday, with holy “F.U’s” to the powers that be.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Listen!

I strained a back muscle a couple of days ago. For now it’s hard to stand up from a chair, or to get out of bed. “Tis nothing serious, and ibuprofen brings temporary relief.

So I decided (or my back decided) not to bowl today. Nonetheless I, having enjoyed lunch with Ben and Mel, took myself to the bowling alley simply to be with friends.

Well, there’s nothing like a bad back to bring out the physician in every person. “Use heat”, said one. “Use an ice pack”, said another. Yet another offered to walk on my back.

As we left the alley I said to Ben “I came to bowling today looking for sympathy. All I got was advice!”

(“You’re lucky you got anything” was his tongue in cheek reply).

It reminded me of the time about ten years ago when “S” came to see me in my office in Pittsfield. She was rebuilding her life after a miserable break up of her marriage.

She began to talk. After three or four minutes I sprang into my usual problem solving mode, and have her the benefit of my wisdom.

She drew herself up and let me have it! “Michael”, she said, “I didn’t come here for advice. I am perfectly able to sort out my own decisions. I came here because I wanted someone to listen to me”.

“Someone to listen to me”. Isn’t that something for which we all long? and those, who like me are non-stop talkers, are really saying “please listen to me”.

I am reminded of an old bit of verse.

“Oh the comfort,
the inexpressible comfort
Of feeling safe with a person.

Having never to weigh thoughts
or measure words.

But pour them all out, just as they are
chaff and grain together.

Knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them

Keep what is worth keeping.

And then, with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

More memories

I would sometimes walk, or sometime ride my bike to do my morning paper route. My route would take me up over the railway bridge on Devon Road, passing Chelsea Gospel Hall ( my Plymouth Brethren Meeting Room), and down York Rd onto Bellevue Road. There I would pass the Tudor Road Methodist Church. My paper route would take me near St. Anne’s Church, Greenbank (where my mother and her second husband were married, and from where they were buried); Castle Green Congregational Church; St. Mark’s Baptist Church, and St. Mark’s Church (of England).

After delivering the papers I would stop by Nanny Povey’s home, and light her morning coal fire.

If on foot I would then take the #2 or 2A ‘bus from Stapleton Road in Eastville. Across the street from the ‘bus stop was the Eastville Methodist Church where my Mum and Dad had been wed; where I was baptised; and where later I preached.

Eastville was then a bustling working class shopping area with two Banks (Lloyds and Westminster), a Police Station, a new and used car dealer (Williams), a good greengrocer and other necessary shops. Our family Doctor’s “surgery” (as Doctors’ Offices were called in England) was within site. Eastville had two ‘pubs, The “White Swan” and the “Black Swan”. There was (in American terms) a Movie House, “The Hippodrome” where I saw the film of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Just behind that was the “stadium” of the Bristol Rovers Football Club. This stadium was primarily a Greyhound racing track, advertised in those days as “Greycing” - a word which always puzzled me.

Just up the road was the notorious “100 Fishponds Road” which had been a Victorian workhouse. In my youth it was a second rate and sub-standard “nursing” home, and old folks would dread that one day they would be taken to “100 Fishponds Road”.

Opposite was a ‘bus Depot, and a bit up Fishponds Road was St. Thomas’ Church, and the Eastville Park Methodist Church.

The 2/2A ‘bus route from Lockleaze to Knowle West was the only Bristol ‘bus route to use Leyland Deisel Engined buses.

All the other routes used Bristol made ‘buses with “Bristol” or “Gardner” Engines. Bristolians were/are immensely proud of their home made ‘buses (about which I will write “one day”!).

(see below for a shameful bit of Bristol history)


The ‘bus would take us via Stapleton Road and Warwick Street to Sussex Place, past St. Simon’s Church on the left. This had once been a very high Anglican Church.

Dad used to tell us that on one occasion his own father had been asked to do some plumbing work there. Grand-dad followed the be-cassocked Vicar up the aisle, and when the Vicar paused to genuflect my Methodist grandfather did not, and fell “ass over tip” upon the poor Vicar. I hope that story is true!


The ’bus would then take us past two enormous Methodist Churches, and up to Sussex Place from where my school-mates and I would trudge along said street with his once respectable houses - homes in a previous age for prosperous retailers and other small business owners.

Sussex Place led to Ashley Hill, a steep climb on ‘bike or by foot. On the right was “Ivy Church” (a Pentecostal Church); my paternal Great-Grandparents home; Witt’s Bakery, and a home for unmarried mothers.

Also to the right was Sevier Street where the two brothers “Steer” (good Plymouth Brethren) made paint, and where was “Brooks Laundry” where Mum had worked when she’d left school.

The climb up Ashley Hill would take me to Fairfield Grammar School, where I spent five miserable years (1955- 1960). More about this later.

“Urban Renewal” (especially the construction of the M32 Urban Motorway) and changing demographics have altered the landscape of my youth beyond all imagination.

Gone are 100 Fishponds Road, and the Soccer/Greycing stadium. Gone is the Hippodrome Cinema. Gone is the ’bus Depot.

Mostly gone are the Churches.

Chelsea Gospel Hall survives. Tudor Road Methodist Church and St. Thomas’s Church, and Eastville Park Methodist Church are now homes to West Indian denominations.

St. Anne’s Church and Castle Green Congregational Church struggle on.

Eastville Methodist Church was torn down and replaced by offices.

I believe that St. Mark’s Baptist Church is no more; and St. Mark’s C of E has been be transformed - the Church into flats and the Church Hall into a Mosque.

The two huge Methodist Churches on Warwick Road were demolished for urban renewal, and replaced by a more modern building which may or may not have a lively congregation.

Gone is a sense of “working class respectability” which enlivened the neighbourhoods and Churches. Gone is the deference to authority which formerly marked England’s working class.

The landscape of my youth is now “multi-cultural”. This is not widely valued, understood, or appreciated. But, short of F-scism and extreme nationalism it cannot be changed.

The “English” culture is being changed, and that leaves many of my compatriots to be confused, if not angry.

A shameful part of Bristol history.

www.bristolhistory.com

1963 Bristol Omnibus Company's colour bar against black bus crews


1963 was a quite a tumultuous year...it saw the first woman in space and a rash of political assassinations. MLK marched on Washington and George Wallace stood in that schoolhouse door. It was a year of hope & heartbreak, ripe with the promise of beginnings and scarred by tragic endings.

Alcatraz prison, off San Francisco CA, closes its doors - MI6 turncoat Kim Philby defects to USSR - Profumo sex scandal rocks Britain - Sir Winston Churchill proclaimed honorary U.S. citizen in White House ceremony - Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers assassinated in Mississippi

Meanwhile back in the UK .... There was unrest on Bristol Buses.

On the 30th of April 1963 local West Indian activists publicly exposed Bristol Omnibus Company's long standing colour bar against black bus crews. The bar was perfectly legal, for although an Immigration Act had been passed the year before, no law yet existed against racial segregation or discrimination.

The Bus Company initiated the ban after a union ballot of workers in 1955.

The Passenger Group of the TGW Union in Bristol reportedly passed a resolution in January of that year that coloured workers should not be employed, as bus crews.

Ron Nethercott, the TGWU’s regional secretary, adamantly denied any decision to ban West Indians had been made:

‘...there is no colour bar. We have a lot of coloured members in Bristol, most of them on the labouring side."

Strictly speaking, Nethercott was right. The TGWU as a whole did not operate a colour bar. Indeed, the Quaker owned Fry’s chocolate factory employed several hundred black workers who were bona fide members of Nethercott’s union. But what Nethercott ommited to explain was that the TGWU had not opposed their Passenger Division from passing a colour bar on the buses!

The bus company’s General Manager, Ian Patey was a bit more forthcoming. A few West Indians, he reportedly explained:

"were employed in the garage but this was labouring work in which capacity most employers were prepared to accept them."

Malcolm Smith’s article concluded that a formal colour bar probably did exist on the buses, despite the denials of both union and management.

Sometime in 1962, Ena Hackett, Roy Hackett’s wife, applied for a job as bus conductress and was turned down, despite the reported labour shortage on the buses:

"it always been in the newspaper, the Evening Post that, ‘we cannot run the buses because we haven’t got any staff ‘And at the time my wife had applied for a job on the buses. Unfortunately, it was always, ‘No, we can’t have you.’ Then there was no law against discrimination."



"People tend to forget there were no laws against racism"


‘Mr. Ian Patey of Bristol Omnibus Company. . . said today the company’s policy regarding coloured labour had been clear for years and the action by the West Indians would not make them reconsider their policy.

‘We don’t employ a mixed labour force as bus crews because we have found from observing other bus companies that the labour supply gets worse if the labour force is mixed.’

An Bristol Evening Post editorial pointed out that to justify a colour bar because of the prejudice coloured labour would arouse had ‘an unhappy ring of convenience.’ But the Post was quick to turn on the busmen's union and asked:

"What are trade union leaders doing to get the race virus out of the systems of their ranks and file... The union have had plenty to say about South Africa. They should take a look nearer home.’"

Transport and General Workers’ Union officials did not take kindly to being pilloried in public. They resented Stephenson’s approaching them after the Boycott was announced. They consequently closed ranks, and refused to meet a deputation from the West Indian Development Council.

White liberal opinion was also roused to action by the Press revelations of the colour bar. On the first of May, a hundred or so University students marched on both the bus station and the TGWU headquarters at Transport House.

Nethercott was reportedly ‘furious.’ He told the marchers:

"We don’t want discrimination and we don’t like it. There is no question of a colour bar as far as we are concerned. Without consulting the Regional Committee, I am prepared to say that if there are coloured workers on the buses, our people will accept them".

The union and city officials must have been particularly embarrassed to read that same evening the banner head line in The Bristol Evening Post:

‘BRISTOL BUS CREWS BACK THE BOSS’"

The next morning, the Western Daily Press headline quoted the busmen’s declaration:

‘WE WON’T WORK WITH WEST INDIANS’

Both The Post and the Western Daily Press and the two local television networks made much of rank and file opposition to Nethercott’s ‘no colour bar’ stand. According to one report:

"Bristol’s busmen made it clear yesterday that they do not want to work with West Indians. They heckled a procession of anti-colour bar marchers as it passed through the city centre. And bus driver Ted Neale told me last night: ‘The Transport and General Workers’ Union is wrong in thinking we will support the West Indians.’ ‘Mr. Ron Nethercott is barking up the wrong tree in thinking there is no opposition over employing coloured labour.’ ‘If it came to a paper vote I think the majority of the bus crew members would reject the move".

As Bristol bus crews apparently dug in their heels, the big guns of The Labour Party rolled in.

Tony Benn, then M.P. for Bristol South East, declared his support for the boycott of Bristol buses:

"I shall stay off the buses, even if I have to find a bike!"

Fenner Brockway, Labour M.P. for Eton and Slough, prepared to table a question about the colour bar to the Tory Transport Minister.


And most newsworthy of all, the leader of the Labour Opposition, had been rallied, by Benn, to the cause. On the 2nd of May, The Post headlines proclaimed:

"NOW WILSON JOINS THE COLOUR BAR FRAY"

Wilson, it seemed, had told an anti-apartheid rally in London that:

"The last example of the colour bar (in Britain) is now being operated by the Bristol Omnibus Company".

This admittedly over-optimistic assessment did not obscure the fact that Wilson lent his full support for the boycott.

The story had gone truly ‘national’:

‘I’m glad that so many Bristolians are supporting the campaign to get it abolished. We wish them every success.

Even with the City Council there was the odd left wing renegade ready to make trouble. On the 2nd of May, that redoubtable old lefty, the Alderman Henry Hennessey spoke out against the collusion he alleged existed between the company and the union over the colour bar.

Hennessey’s remarks must have been particularly mortifying as he was a member of the Joint Transport Committee. The very next day, this veteran socialist, who had served on the Council for over 40 years, faced expulsion from his own Labour Group within the Council."

The official reason was his outspoken remarks about housing policy. But the timing of this threat against him makes one suspect that his remarks on race must have also angered his increasingly right wing Labour colleagues.

The response of the Eastville bus crews to all this was to threaten a walk out if black labour was employed and to withhold their voluntary contribution to Labour Party Funds as a protest against yesterday’s intervention by Mr. Harold Wilson and Mr.A.W. Benn.

And what of the Press itself ? The Western Daily Press wanted it both ways. The colour bar might be ‘shocking, disgusting and degrading,’ according to an early editorial, but why not impose a bit of racial segregation to put things right ?

‘White men will never take kindly to working under coloured men.
This is wrong but it is inescapable. The solution obviously is to have sections in which coloured and white folk work apart so that the coloured man has a fair chance of promotion.’

Public sentiment had been further inflamed that Wednesday, the 3rd of May, when local television covered the story.’ Busmen and buswomen were interviewed and their views were, for the most part, unashamedly hostile to the introduction of black personnel. The blatantly racist sentiments that were broadcast must have shocked many viewers.


Ron Nethercott, by this time, felt himself to be a man under siege. As he saw it, the West Indians and the Media were pulling him one way, the busmen another.

Worst of all, his union colleagues seemed content to leave him to face the hostilities on his own.

"If felt very lonely. . . I had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go for advice. The only advice I was getting was from anonymous filthy abusive letters and from the Press."

Nethercott by now seemed to be responding to mounting pressure against the colour bar.

He told The New Statesman that:

"He had reached a stage in negotiations with the main West Indian Association in the city and with his own members on the buses when it would soon be possible to approach the company even though there were still white people looking for bus jobs"

He went on to add:

"And this is something I could never get the Press to understand, ... that it was not about a racial problem it was about bad conditions on the buses, it was about low pay.. . If we’d have had an influx of additional crew, albeit Irish, Canadian, French, German, English!, the resentment would still be there.
It wasn’t a matter of coloured people, it was a matter of taking away people’s ability to earn overtime to live! And this wretched thing! (The dispute). Nobody wanted to hear this point of view... Basically this was a problem of people’s conditions of work. Low paid bussmen . . . were very badly paid... and the two or three pounds extra they were getting in terms of overtime was the difference between living . . . and existing."

By this line of thinking, it becomes apparent that busmen and women at the Lawrence Hill and Eastville Depots in East Bristol would have felt particularly threatened by West Indian workers because, as most West Indians lived in the St. Paul’s and Easton areas, they would have been assigned to those depots. Between 1960 to 1963, the West Indian population in Bristol had doubled to around 7,000 people to form a very conspicuous pool of reserve labour.’

On the other hand, there was a severe labour shortage on the buses in 1963, due to an alarmingly high turnover rate:

"Now we had a branch of 2,000 strong, drivers and conductors. Our changeover of staff was working out on average at 600 per year, so you can appreciate that in three years we had a complete changeover of staff And that was going on for years even when I came out of the Army, colossal. Now it was (such) a state of affairs that buses were coming off the road."

And as Jim Cheek, who was a shop steward at the Brislington depot in 1963 points out:

"people were fearful of an influx of people from elsewhere, (on the grounds it) would be reducing their earnings potential... But it was unfounded of course, because we’ve always had a massive turnover of staff and even with the Labour market today, we’re still drivers short."

Mr. F. James wrote to the Bristol Evening Post during the colour bar dispute:

"In the late thirties, I happened to be one of a large number of Welshmen who through no fault of their own were forced reluctantly to leave their homes and find employment elsewhere. Most of us settled for Bristol for obvious geographical reasons. By and large we were received very unfavourably, partly because of our accent, but mainly because the Bristolian felt that he and he alone was entitled to work in Bristol.

Now comes the question of coloured people obtaining employment on buses. Personally I am convinced that colour has very little bearing on the case as far as the Bristolian is concerned. It is simply the fact that these coloured people are ‘outsiders.’ Where as in the thirties, the excuse was accent, today it is colour.

Ron Nethercott, fiercely loyal to his Bristol members, admits on questioning that there might have been more than economic worries behind the bus workers’ attitude to black labour, but he refuses to call it ‘prejudice’.

‘I’m not prepared to say they the busmen were prejudiced. I’m prepared to say people were probably fearful of something they didn’t understand in the sense it was a new dimension of their life.. . Basically it came down. . . to this great fear of their living standards being affected."

To cut a very long story short.. the union and the company negotiated, not an end to the colour bar, but the institution of a racial quota? Could this be why more than two years after the end of the dispute, there were only four drivers and 39 conductors from ethnic minorities, less than two 1/2% of Bristol’s total bus crew?...or was it due to the difficulty of finding suitable black candidates? If candidates were in such short supply, why did another employee of the Company assert that the quota was raised to 6% by the early 70s?.

Qualifications for conductors were:

A head for figures, a knowledge of the city and good references.
These would be required of coloured applicants the same as white.

The Bristol Bus Company later told reporters well before any Bristol applicants had been interviewed that a ‘large percentage of the latter (i.e. coloured applicants) . . . were often found unsuitable’. ??


Bristol’s first ‘coloured’ conductor - Raghbir Singh.

For a start, Singh was not West Indian and perhaps it was thought that hiring an Indian rather than a West Indian would cock a symbolic snook at the West Indian Development Council. Be that as it may, Singh certainly had a head for figures, having studied maths along with geography, English, art and history at college in the Punjab.

He had come to England in 1959 whilst in his 30s, largely to ensure his children secured ‘a good English education.’ He settled with a friend in Bristol, because it was a university town and used the capital he had from his shoe business in Amritsar to buy a part interest in a house in Clifton.

Then he brought over his wife and children, working first as a building labourer in Redcliffe, then as a machinist in Eastville and finally as a semi-skilled fitter in Stapleton. Singh decided to apply for the post of bus conductor even though it meant a substantial cut in wages:

"I wanted to see how true they are in this saying.., whether they give this job to the ethnic minorities.., let us see how they fulfill their promises. But they liked me and I liked them.’


Singh’s appointment, reported, in at least one newspaper in India was a landmark indeed. For, ironically, the Company appointed a man who wore a turban. The right of Sikh busmen to wear beards and turbans had resulted in a number of racially inspired disputes in the Midlands.

But here was Bristol inadvertently, one suspects, helping to blaze the trail for religious freedom:

‘Last night,’ a wide eyed Western Daily Press revealed "He (Singh) was wearing a blue turban. ‘It goes with my uniform. If I wear a brown suit I have on a brown turban"

A few days after Singh’s arrival, four more black conductors took their places on Bristol’s buses. Norman Samuels and Norris Edwards were Jamaicans; Mohammed Raschid and Abbas All were from Pakistan.

The white driver who took on Norris Edwards as his conductor, did so, his wife later explained, because no one else at the depot would work with him. The driver’s attitude was initially one of resignation rather than enthusiasm though he soon grew friendly with Norris:

"In any case, I thought, well it’s got to come, it might as well be me, got to live with it, can’t stop it."

There was, so far as one can gather from the evidence available, no outburst of organized open hostility on the part of the white bus crews towards the black ones. According to one conductress:

"We never worried if they were black, white, coloured or what, we never took any notice. . . I think they were more or less accepted after the first couple of weeks".

But as one Lawrence Hill busman remembers:

"There was that little resentment that was against the coloured people. Every job, any job there was that resentment; it was entirely foreign to our nature. You see, you now have grown up where coloured people are accepted. But we weren’t".

‘There was,’ this same busman says, ‘the odd incident between someone who was violently
anti-coloured,’ for example:

"They’d talk disparagingly about them didn’t (they). . . in the canteen.’ Or, ‘They might hear occasionally the word ‘nigger’ used but very rarely.., but invariably that was done amongst ourselves... They’d (other white crews) do it jokingly sometime."

One white conductress recalls:

"You went in for your meals but you never sat with them. Well, you just didn’t did you, just sat with the other women and had our tea and the (white) men sat with the (white) men.. . But you don’t know what to talk about with them, do you".

A woman who came on to the Eastville depot in 1964 confirmed that:

"There was a lot of conductresses wouldn’t work with them (‘coloureds’) at all. They used to change over with me. ‘Cause I never bothered, you know, if he was coloured, he was coloured".

And another conductress admitted:

"I know the first time l ever worked with a coloured fellow, I was a bit nervous, ‘cause it was a late turn. But he was very nice. West Indian, I think".

While some white drivers were friendly and polite, others reportedly sent their black conductors to Coventry. One Jamaican conductor of the time remembers his driver sitting in his cab during the stopovers reading his paper and never addressing a word to him. The sense of hurt and exclusion such incidents must have caused those who suffered them was simply not taken in by the white bus crews.

The general view among the white bus crew seemed to be that the ‘coloured crews’ (or ‘darkies’) settled without too much ‘fuss or bother.’

As time passed, black bus crews were increasingly accepted, and it was resented when black crews did not adapt more wholeheartedly to the subculture of the buses.

‘Tim Spring’, who organised social events at one depot, resented what he perceived to be the lack of participation by black crews in such events. He felt that.... if there was any bar at all put up, it was done by the black people, and not us.’

‘Mrs. Regent’, a conductress at the time had a more sympathetic interpretation:

"They didn’t mix as much with the whites?"

Mrs. Regent.: ‘No, I think they kept themselves apart a bit.

Course I suppose more or less that was a bit of being on the nervous side you know. Didn’t know perhaps how they would be accepted.’

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Willie the Barber and Tony Benn

Willie is a wonderful and eloquent young hairdresser who visits Resurrection House each Thursday morning to give free hair cuts. I admire him greatly.

The other week as we chatted, he asked me if I knew of Tony Benn. “Tony Benn”, I exclaimed, “he is one of my heroes, and at one time was a member of the British Parliament representing a Bristol (my home City) constituency”.

“How amazing” I thought, “that a young African-American barber should know about Tony Benn”.

We agreed that Mr. Benn is one of the last true Socialists.

I also admire (at a distance) Giles Fraser the Team Rector in Putney, London. I have a feeling that I’d like to attend his Church.

He recently hosted an Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogue at which Tony Benn was a speaker.

Here is something from Giles:


“I have a feeling the Pope pinched Jesus from me and moved him into the Vatican.” These words were spoken recently in my church — though not by me. They came from one of my political heroes, Tony Benn. His complaint about the Pope was that he uses Jesus for power; that he believes Jesus “gives him the right to tell me if I don’t obey him I’ll rot in hell”.

Right on Tony. And not just the Pope. The Fundamentalist/Evangelical Churches are also keeping Jesus hostage, and the Anglican Communion is moving in that direction in its response to Bishop to Bishop Gene Robinson.

Let Jesus Free!

http://www.allsaintsputney.co.uk/index.html


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Benn

Telling Secrets: The Radical Orthodox Rabbi

Telling Secrets: The Radical Orthodox Rabbi

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Sex and George Bush

The Press, T.V. Stations and Internet have been crowded this day with the dreadful story of New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s various trysts with high cost prostitutes. Some sources indicate that he may have spent $80,000 for such tawdry encounters.

I’ve felt a wee bit betrayed as Gov. Spitzer has been one of my minor heroes as a crusading Attorney General in New York, and as a reforming Governor in that Empire State.

I hope that he will resign. He has betrayed the trust of his family; of the residents of New York State, and of those of us who hope for a deep reformation of American politics.

( I was also one of the minority of Liberals who thought that Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky affair. My thoughts were rooted not in squeamishness about sex, but in my sense that Pres. Clinton had betrayed the American people by this abuse of power).

And the media are baying for Spitzer’s resignation. It may be forced upon him.

Sex is the sin that sells, and that is unforgivable in Puritan America.


But I also believe that Pres. Bush is guilty of far worse “sins”. He cares not one whit for our Constitution, and has undermined it at every turn. Congress, by inaction, laziness or cowardice has allowed him powers of virtual dictatorship: powers which will not easily be surrendered by McLain, Obama or Clinton.

Pres. Bush has led us into a war which we cannot afford; a war which is based on lies and governmental disinformation.

Quite apart from the economic cost (we are in deep doo-doo fellow Americans), there is a human cost.

4291 “coalition” deaths (including 175 British and 3893 U.S. soldiers, marines and airmen.

And, according to conservative estimates about 600.00 Iraqi deaths. (Not all as a result of direct “coalition” actions). But most of these are as a result of our destabilising of Iraq).


Who will call for the impeachment or resignation of Pres. Bush? Does he have to have a sex scandal in order to be removed from office?.

Monday, 10 March 2008

A "Paper Boy"

When I reached 13 years of age I was able to deliver newspapers. The law then made 13 the youngest age for this work.

In the United Kingdom at that time “paper girls and boys” did not work for the newspaper. Instead they worked for the local Newsagent.

I worked for Frank Moore on Bellevue Road, Easton, Bristol. His little shop sold cigarettes, sweets, chocolates, news papers and magazines. He was a cheapskate, and I earned a shilling or two less each week than my friends in other shops.

He had a saying which I vowed I would never repeat. But of course I do. He would says to me, or to a customer “thank you very much, and if I can ever do the same for you, don’t mention it”.

My morning route, using a bicycle, started on Greenbank Road, took him some side streets, and then down Robertson Road to Mivart Street and to St. Mark’s Road. It was maybe one and a half or two miles.

On St. Mark’s Road, I would deliver at “Ashman’s Builders’ Yard” which always scared me as the owners always left an unleashed German Shepherd dog to guard the premises overnight. He once got my coat in his jaws, but not my arm. To this day I am skittish around strange dogs.

I would arrive at Frank Moore’s shop at about 7:00 a.m. He would have “marked up” the papers. for you see, in the U.K. there were about eight national morning papers ( e.g. The “Manchester Guardian“, “The Times“, “The Telegraph“, “The Mail“ , “The Daily Express”, “Reynolds News” [for committed Socialists] ) and one local morning paper “The Western Daily Press”. Aided by the pencil I would have to remember which home received which paper/s.

Towards the weekend my task would be harder. For I also delivered weekly magazines: “Woman”, “Woman’s Own”, “The Radio Times”, “T.V. Times” etc. My paper bag would be so heavy!

Then on Saturday mornings I would re-work the route to collect what customers owed for their weekly papers and magazines. Sometimes I would be tipped.

A bit later on I also took on a evening route, delivering the Bristol Evening Post, or Bristol Evening World. I was an over-achiever even then.

I think that I had these morning and evening routes until I was 16.

Frank Moore liked me because I was reliable. But he never paid me what I was worth!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Are you Dunne?

John Donne (1572-1631) was an English Roman Catholic who became an Anglican, and later was an Anglican Priest, and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, U.K.

He is known in the Christian world today for his meditations, poems and sermons. Many know this:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

These words are part of a much longer Meditation which can be found below.


He wrote “A Hymn to God the Father” - it is one of my Lenten favourites. We sang it this morning at St. David’s, Englewood, FL

“Donne” is pronounced “Dunne”, and the hymn is a wonderful pun in his own name.




A HYMN TO GOD THE FATHER.
by John Donne

I.
WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

II.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

III.
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done ;
I fear no more.

For whom the bellt tolls (full meditation)

For whom the Bell Tolls
John Donne

From "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions" (1623), XVII: Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris - "Now, this bell tolling softly for another, says to me: Thou must die."


PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all.

When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member.

And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest.

If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.
Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours.

Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.

No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels.

Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.