Saturday, 16 October 2010

Food, glorious food.

I am eating so damn healthily.  Lots of fresh fruit, salads and roasted veggies. Next to no carbs.  Chicken and fish rather than red meat.  'Tis all very good.

And yet -  I had a deep appetite for lamb today.  So for dinner tonight I oven-roasted a  small shoulder lamb chop, together with zucchini, green pepper, parsnip and  carrot.

Will the healthiness of the roasted veggies out-way the fattiness of the chop?  

I need to know!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Prayers please

 From    Ron and Charlotte Thompson

Dear Friends:
Please pray for our brave daughter-in-law, Liz, who learned yesterday that she has an aggressive malignant tumor; and for her children, our grandchildren, Josh, age 4, Julia, age 7 and Hannah, age 10, who at the moment do not know how sick their mother is; and for our son Matt who is holding everything together...and then... add a small prayer for our whole family. Thank you


(Ron and Char are good friends of mine.  I got to know them when I moved to SRQ in 2006  jmp )

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Woman who made Iraq.

Following my pieces about Dorothy Parker, Ida Tarbell and Anne Hutchinson my good friend Charlotte recommended a biography of Gertrude Bell, (1868-1926) an extraordinary person who was an expert on the near/middle East.

Alongside Charlotte I  also recommend “Gertrude Bell:  Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations” by Georgia Howell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006).   

 It is a fascinating tale of a brilliant, brave, adventurous and wise woman who was the virtual shaper of British foreign policy in “Mesopotamia” following World War I after the Ottoman Empire collapsed.  Do buy the book or borrow it from your local library.

Wikipedia has the following on Bell

Do also read the Atlantic Magazine review of Howell’s biography at

You will note the misogynist views of her critics in passages such as this:

“As to the prejudices of Sir Mark Sykes, co-author of the secret deal with France and Russia, she had acquired an early warning. They had met in Haifa as early as 1905, where he had appalled her with his talk of Arabs as “animals” who were “cowardly,” “diseased,” and “idle.” She had also been several steps ahead of him on an expedition to the Druze fastnesses of Lebanon and Syria, and he always attributed her head start to foul play. As he complained fairly comprehensively in a letter to his wife: “Confound the silly chattering windbag of conceited, gushing, flat-chested, man-woman, globe-trotting, rump-wagging, blethering ass!”

Such misogyny, perpetuated by journalists, teachers, and historians alike, means that Gertrude Bell is much less known than Lawrence of Arabia.

Oddly enough she (like Ida Tarbell) was an anti-suffragist!

Bell was also an unabashed Imperialist. It is to her, for better or worse, that we owe the 20th Century creations of Iraq, Jordan,  and Saudi Arabia as nation states.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Years ago I spent a couple of days and nights at a camp site near Bristol, UK.  It is known as Goblin Combe.

I slept in a cabin on a bunk bed.  The cabin was windowless.  After dark there was not the slightest glimmer of light.  I hated it.  I was totally unnerved by the absence of light.

What's more, I was in a sleeping bag.  My feet were trapped at the lower end of the bag.  This was unbearable - I wanted my feet to be free.

Even now, whether at home, or in an hotel, or at the home of a friend, I need my feet to be free from sheets, blankets or quilts.   The first thing I do when staying overnight with friends, or sleeping in an hotel is to "un-tuck" the top sheet and blankets so that my feet will not be trapped.  Should I have to use a sleeping bag I unzip it and use it as a cover, knowing that I will be unable to sleep should my feet be constrained within the bag.

When I was a seminarian (1972-1976) I took a  field trip with my year group  down a coal mine in Derbyshire, U.K.  No one was more glad than I when we re-surfaced some three hours after our descent.

The whole thought of being trapped in total darkness and underground terrifies me. I could not bear it for more than a few hours.

So it is that I am in  awe of the miners who have been trapped in darkness,  more than a mile underground, and for 67 + days,  in Chile.  They have displayed a strength of purpose and character which amazes and astounds me.  I rejoice in their rescues.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Photo's from Ecuador

My photo's from Ecuador are at

They are in alphabetical order by title.  I did not have time to sort them into chronological order.

A week in Ecuador (5) (posted a day late)

The attempted coup d’├ętat in Ecuador and the subsequent imposition of Martial Law meant that I had but two days for “touristy” stuff.  I chose to take Gray Line tours on Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th October to see a bit of Quito and of Ecuadorian countryside.

My first tour was to the Centro Historical and then to the Equatorial line.

The Centro is a total gem.  It is a well preserved and maintained Spanish Colonial centre –  (it is in fact a UNESCO “World Heritage” site).  At its heart is the main square with the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and the City Hall. I longed to wander around the Centro but I had to keep pace with the Gray Line tour which simply took us to four Churches --  blah!

The Presidential Palace was still ringed with troops.  I noted that one of them was reading a newspaper, and two others were chatting on their mobile ‘phones!

That same tour took us (three tourists and a guide) up to the Equatorial line.  It’s a hokey site. But who could resist being there and having a photo’ op, with one foot in the northern hemisphere, and the other in the south.

The other two tourists were Eric a RISDA [Rhode Island School of Design and Art] graduate who now produces TV commercials in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Pascal – a Lebanese-Australian Radiologist from Sydney, NSW. We joined each other for lunch at the Equatorial site and had a lively and informative conversation. 

What else would you expect when an Anglo-American priest, an American video producer, and an Australian radiologist find themselves to be thrown together on a tour in Ecuador! 

On Tuesday 5th October the Gray Line tour took me some 90 km north of Quito passing through gorgeous and verdant mountain countryside.   Alongside tourists from Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Australia, I visited the lovely town of Otavalo. 

In Otavalo members of the local Quichua (indigenous) population sell some entirely gorgeous and handmade blankets, sweaters, hats, skirts etc.

I walked up the hill from the artisanal market to Otavalo’s simple but elegant main square.  There I witnessed a funeral procession out of the main Church.  An open-door hearse was followed first by a small but lively band, then by the coffin – held as it was on the shoulders of four burly young men -  and finally by a huge crowd of  mourners.

I liked what I saw.  This public display of grief seemed to me to be earthier, and more realistic than the antiseptic and sterile burial customs which have become the norm in the U.S.A. and in the U.K.

(N.B.   When I die, for God’s sake do not “celebrate my life” as has become the often deceitful norm.  Please instead mourn my death, and be honest about my sins - and about the grace of God in Jesus Christ).

Leaving Otavalo we were taken to a hamlet in which a Quichua musician makes musical pipes from an Ecuadorian form of bamboo.  This musician made a set of “pan pipes” before our very eyes.  

Then we enjoyed a mini-concert.  The father played guitar; one son a banjo; and another son playing a drum with one hand, and pipes with the other.  They riffed a couple of pieces for us, showing clear delight in each others’ musicianship.

What was advertised as an eight hour tour stretched into eleven hours.  We lost half an hour because one tourist was half an hour late getting back to the ‘bus after lunch.  Then the journey home was tediously slow because of a fierce thunderstorm which caused our driver to use great caution especially on the down slopes of a very mountainous highway. These delays got us back to Quito just in time for the evening “rush hour” during which the main streets of the city are chock-a-block with traffic.

I had a bit of supper and went to bed very early as I had to get a 4:00 a.m. hotel ‘bus to the airport next morning.  I arrived at the airport in good time.  There I was greeted by scenes of chaos because American Airlines had cancelled its 6:25 a.m. flight to Miami.  Thus I had another 24 hours in Quito and eventually flew home on Delta via Atlanta.

Quito, with its 2 ½ million residents, is situated in a long valley high up in the Andes.  The city is more than 25 miles long, north to south, and about 4 miles wide east to west.  It has a good public transportation system with a north to south trolley’ bus line which links to a host of ‘buses which travel east or west.  These ‘buses belch great clouds of noxious diesel exhaust, causing grim air pollution.  The city is also well served by a myriad of taxi-cabs which are very inexpensive (e.g. a five mile ride for $3). The official national currency is the U.S. dollar.

The city is teeming with young people – leading me to believe that there will be a population explosion ere long.

Mobile ‘phones are ubiquitous.

Quito has more Universities per capita than any other south-American city.  It is a lively, bustling and friendly city.  I am glad to have been there, most especially because I was able to be with the Morck family at this important time in their lives.



Sunday, 10 October 2010

A week in Ecuador (4)

Sunday Oct 3rd was the day on which the Revd. Chris Morck presided at the Eucharist for the first time.  He did so at the Episcopal Church “Christo Liberator” (Christ the Liberator) in the district called Comite del Pueblo in Quito.

“Comite del Pueblo” (Committee of the People) is an area where homeless people took over some land which had been owned by absentee landlords, and began to build homes.  After long, hard, and sometimes violent struggles this area was incorporated as a Civil Parish within the City of Quito.  It is a semi-ramshackle yet vibrant area, inhabited by many poor people.  And our wondrous Episcopal Church has a presence there in the Church of Christo Liberator. 

The Vicar is the Revd. Raul Guaillas.  He has supervised Chris on his journey to Priesthood.

It is a small, but vital and vibrant Church which sponsors a day care centre for very poor children, called Porto de Belen, and a breakfast program for the elderly poor (mostly widows).

At 7:00 a.m. on Oct 3rd 2010 Chris and I set out to walk the thirty minute journey from the Morck home to the Church.  I enjoyed this walk, mostly because I was traversing real neighbourhoods, in which lived real and poor people.

The Church building is a two storey house. The first storey has a neat worship area (it felt like a catacomb).  The second storey has a few classrooms, an office and an under-equipped kitchen.

The Eucharist (slated for 8:00 a.m.) began at about 8:20 a.m. (Mediterranean, Caribbean, African and Latin time is much more flexible than that of we anal northern Americans and Europeans!) 

Present were a splendid group of poor widows  (they had deserted the Roman Catholic Church many years ago when their R.C. Priest would not assent to their request to  create a support group for women); some lovely younger families and children; and not a few young men. 

We enjoyed some lively and energetic worship. Padre Raul Guaillas preached.  Chris presided at the Eucharist, and I assisted. 

The most vital part of this worship was when the widows came forth to the altar area and, one by one, blessed Chris by tracing the sign of the cross on and over him. This was the apostolic succession, more necessary and vital than that which had been bestowed by the Bishops the day before.

After this most joyful and authentic gathering of God’s beloved children at God’s Holy Table we had a lovely outdoors meal.  Then we wandered up to “Porto de Belen” for a tour of this child day care centre.

“Christo Liberator” had all the feel of a congregation which cares more for the people of God than it does for “Church rules”.  I basked in that. 

Now, by the instruction of Bishop Luis Fernando, Chris has left Christo Liberator to become Vicar at the Episcopal Cathedral of El Senor.  The Cathedral congregation is small and struggling.  I trust and believe that Chris and Trish and their daughters will be agents of reconciliation and growth at the Cathedral