Saturday, 12 June 2010

Curmudgeon3: "You may have guessed that.....

.... I enjoy being a bit of a curmudgeon, even though others may think or speak of me as an old fart!

This becomes clear to me around the business of “names”.  I believe that each person has the right to determine his or her name.  I also believe that teasing a person because of her/his name is nasty.
You may have read how I became Michael, i.e. how I began to use my good middle name.  You’ll also know that many folks with the name “Michael” are addressed as “Mike”.
This is just fine for many “Michaels”, but it is not fine for me. I do not wish to be addressed as “Mike”.
‘Twas not always so.  In my first two congregations (Fitchburg and Chicopee) I was known as “Father Mike”.  When I moved to Pittsfield in 1984 I decided to drop the “Father” bit.  I did so for two reasons.  First: because there was no accepted equivalent for female Priests.  It seemed odd to me that I would be addressed as “Father” but my female colleagues were addressed by their given (first) names.  Second: because I began to understand that my relationship with parishioners was as brother rather than father.  I still dislike being called “Father”.
Having dropped the “Father” moniker, I began to dislike being called “Mike”.  I heard it as a harsher word than the more gentle-sounding “Michael”.
These days my curmudgeonly self “bristles” when I am addressed as “Mike”. This is especially at the times I am being addressed by some person who has never before met me.  I get “ancy” when I tell some person that my name is Michael, and she/he assumes that it is O.K. to call me Mike.
The curmudgeon in me leads me to respond with words such as these: “I am Michael, not Mike”.
As I said earlier:  “I believe that each person has the right to determine his or her name”.  In other words - “for Pete’s sake do not call me Mike”.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Curmudgeon # 2

I get those e-mails which bring some kind of schmaltzy, sentimental, semi-religious message. Often the sender of the e-mail will urge me to forward the message to 5, 7, or 10 (you name the number) other folks, with the promise that if I so do: “something good will happen to me”

Holy baloney!  I want to throw up when I get such e-mails.  They ignite my inner “old curmudgeon”.  I venture to guess that they also annoy younger curmudgeons.
This is why those messages get under my skin.
1.       They never specify details of the “good” which will come my way.  That supposed “good” could be anything from my dealing with an in-growing toenail, to my discovery of a cure for (let’s say) pancreatic cancer.

2.      Something good happens to me every day.  It happens even when I refuse to forward the “message”. Once in a while something bad happens to me, as is the experience of all people.

3.      I wonder how this system of “something good will happen” worked before e-mails and the internet!

4.      As a christian believer I am taught to be a faithful disciple of Jesus “come what may”.  Christians do not live on a basis of luck or good fortune.  Rather, we aspire and work to be those who, like Jesus, are people of compassion for the poor, and daily practitioners of the arts of forgiveness and reconciliation.

5.      “Good luck” dear folks.  That, and “bad luck”,  will come your way regardless of e-mail messages.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

I posted yesterday's blog this morning. Here is today's!

Many years ago I promised my colleagues that I would become an old curmudgeon.

(That’s not the same as an old coot. Old coots are the guys who wear dress shirts, below the knee shorts, above the calf socks, (thus exposing no more than 2 inches of aged leg) and black dress shoes. They can be seen on golf courses, or at MacDonalds where the “old coot clubs” meet to discuss the same dreary stuff every morning!)

No I am developing into a fully fledged curmudgeon (of the left of course).

I’ll share a few examples over the next days:


It’s happened before and it happened yet again this morning.

I received one of those “the sky is falling, then Republic is doomed” e-mails. This was the third or fourth time that I’ve received the same e-mail. It expresses "shock, horror, disbelief” that the phrase “In God We Trust” is not to be found on the “new” U.S. “Presidential series” $1 coins.

(These coins are not so new. They have been issued since 2007.)

It’s always the same story: “I was given this coin in my change at the Post Office …..blah, blah, blah …it omits in God we trust blah blah, blah..... and this signifies the end…. blah, blah, blah”.

And it ain’t true.  See

I wanted to say (to this normally intelligent woman) “ How can you be so na├»ve/foolish/dumb. Didn’t it occur to you that if the story were true it would be all over the newspapers, radio, television, internet, facebook, twitter etc etc etc”

The woman who e-mailed me the story this morning is someone I care for, so I resisted the strong temptation to blast her. Instead, I referred her to the website which deals with many  urban myths.

Groans from me. I wish folks would use even the tiniest part of their mind before they forward nonsense such as this.

How I became Michael ( yet still was John)

In 1965 I found employment at the lowest level of the U.K. Civil Service.  I became a “Clerical Assistant” at the Bristol branch office of the Inspectorate of Armaments, (I-ARM) and the Inspectorate of Fighting Vehicles and Mechanical Equipment, (IFVME) (both were part of the Ministry of Defence).

In essence I was a gopher for more senior Civil Servants who provided administrative services for engineers. They in turn made inspections at those local firms which had contracts to manufacture armaments, fighting vehicles, and mechanical equipment.

On my first day of work my new boss gave me a tour of the various offices in order to introduce me to the folks I would encounter day by day. 

My name is John Michael Povey.  Hitherto I had been known to all and sundry as “John”.  This new boss introduced me as “Michael”. 

I am a notorious “people-pleaser” so I did not correct his use of my middle name.

At the end of my first week this boss realized his mistake and told me so.  Since there was already a person named John in my section I told this boss not to “issue a correction” and I assured him that I would respond well as folks called me “Michael”.  (To be truthful, I was intrigued by this use of my middle name!)

A year later I returned to my initial career as a banker, at the Knowle (Bristol) branch of the Westminster Bank.  Since there were already two “John’s” in that office I decided to continue the use of my middle name.

Four years later I decided to become an Anglican. I joined the C of E at Christ Church, Clifton (Bristol), and without much thought I introduced myself as “Michael”.

Thus it is that my dear family members (and some pre-1965 friends) know me as “John”.  It’s a good name, and I like it.

Folks whom I have met since 1965:- at work, in seminary, and in parishes, know me as “Michael”.  It’s a good name and I like it.

I think that it is “cool” to be both “John” and “Michael”.

(My Dad and Mum were not so sure about this.  They expressed some discomfort as I began to use my middle name.  With “lofty arrogance” I reminded them that they had given me two forenames, but that they had never told me that I could not use my middle name.

I was fairly “snotty” with Mum and Dad that day.   Long after my Dad’s death (in 1974) I remembered that he too had used his middle name. Dad was “Henry John Povey”.  But he was forever known as “Jack”.)

I find it easy to be John with some, and Michael with others.

But, do not ever call me “Mike”.  This usage “calls out” some testiness in me.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


My good neighbour Ed G has gone north to Vermont and New Hampshire for the month of June. Just before he left town he gave me a ticket for tonight’s concert in the Sarasota Artist Series – a ticket which he could no longer use.

The concert featured the piano duo Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe.

As we waited for the concert to begin the two women seated on my left began to talk about “typos”. One mentioned a press release which encouraged people to “compeat”. The other woman talked about the many typos in the New York Times.

I was leafing through the programme for the evening’s concert, even as I listened in on their conversation.

Then my eyes spotted “it”, and I began to giggle. I could not resist pointing “it” out to the woman who was immediately on my left.

The scanned picture will show you what I mean by “it”. Giggle along with me!

(Hint - Read the Headline "Recital Series" and see two typos)