Saturday, 27 June 2015

Flags and Statues etc

In the centre of my native City of Bristol, U.K. stands a statue of  Edward Colston (2 November 1636 – 11 October 1721). 
He was a Bristol-born English merchant and Member of Parliament. Much of his wealth, although used often for philanthropic purposes, was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves.

Erected in 1895

The name Colston is commemorated in the name of the concert hall in Bristol  (The Colston Hall); in three schools, and in several streets.

From time to time there have been calls to have the statue removed on account of Colston's important role in the Slave Trade. 

Those who wish the statue to remain say that it honours his philanthropy.

Please note that the statue was erected in 1895  -  a time when British Imperialism was at its zenith, (that should tell you something).

Nonetheless, I am amongst those who believe that the statue should be left as it is: save for an additional inscription, viz  "He was a Slave Trader".

I am disturbed by cultural iconoclasm.

I fear historical amnesia.

Let the statue stay, but let the inscription tell the truth.


When I was young (1944-1964) the only time I saw the flag of St. George was when it was hoisted above (Church of England) Churches on April 23rd (St. George's Day).

Sometime later (maybe in the 1990's) the St. George's flag was co-opted by English Nationalist ( i.e. racist) groups. It was in danger of becoming a symbol of dirty racism.

In more recent years the St. George's flag has been flown as a symbol of  pride in our English heritage: with all of its glories,  and with all of its grimness.

I truly like the (English) flag of St. George.  But I am aware that it has "meanings"  which are both noble, and nefarious.


Lord knows how many years ago it was that I was with my German friend Pascal in an evening visit to Stuttgart, Germany.

We heard sounds of celebration.  Following our ears we came across a host of Scots who were in Stuttgart for a soccer game between the Glasgow Rangers (firmly Protestant)   and the local Stuttgart team.

(Glasgow Celtic is the Catholic team).

These young Scots were waving the Union Flag (far right)

An explanation of the flag, correct except that the flag on the right  is more correctly described as the Union Flag,

I asked one of the young Scots why he was waiving the Union Flag rather than the Scottish flag of St, Andrew.
He quickly dis-abused me by saying that he, as a Protestant,  believed that the  cross of St. Andrew was  no more nor less than a saltire on the U.K. flag,
This young Protestant Scot saw  the Union Flag as a blessing, and  the St. Andrew's flag as a curse.
Flags and Statues have deep meanings (and counter-meanings) in my native U.K.,  and in  my adopted U.S.A.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Such a long journey in such a short time

J.M.P.'s Dreamland.  Thursday/Friday 25/26 June 2015

I began my journey in Carey's Lane, an old street in the centre of Bristol, U.K.  (It was destroyed in a fit of "urban renewal").

In conversation with me were two United Church of Christ Ministers, the Revd. J. Mary Luti and the Revd. Richard Floyd.

They steered me up towards Old Market Street, but as we passed the "Tatler Theatre" I found myself to be surrounded by a group of woman and men in gorgeous medieval type costumes.

They, in turn, steered me into the Tatler.   There a gorgeous coach with horses awaited me.  I mounted the coach.  Trouble was, the two horses were facing towards, and not away from the coach.

On of  the horses took my left lower arm into his/her jaws.  I was not afraid, it seemed to be a friendly gesture.   We paraded in a circle and reached the entrance of a great banqueting hall where I was supposed to eat.  I saw my two older sisters.

But we never ate.  For my entire family was transported to Eastville Park (a very nice park near where I was raised).  We decided to walk the park's perimeter.

I said  "I am so happy that each of my brothers and sisters are here".  My oldest sister responded "Mum is also very pleased that your boy-friend is here.  She is especially glad that he is taller than you".

We didn't walk the perimeter.  For Mum steered us on to a moving walkway  (such as you will find in many an airport).  It was running in parallel with the overhead M32 motorway  (which truly exists), and moving us towards Eastville Junction (Fishponds Rd, Stapleton Rd, Robertson Road) at about 30 mph.

Mum said, "when we get there the boys  (my younger brothers) will be able to buy their Trojans".

I am not sure if they did, for I found myself walking the streets of a town in the Yemen. I was listening to BBC radio, with a story about an Anglican Priest who was running a free laundry in Yemen.  I turned a corner, and there she was  - a very fine looking 50 something woman, with salt and pepper hair.    She was in an open courtyard, with just one  (upscale)  "Maytag" washing machine.

I promised to get some more  to assist in her missions.

But I never did.  For I found myself in Beirut, Lebanon where I had been appointed to be the Priest in Charge of the Anglican Church there.  I was worrying about where I would live, and whether I would be able to learn the Arabic language.

My worries were un-warranted.    I woke up, safe in my bed in Sarasota.


The Tatler on Carey's Lane

Eastville Park

Eastville Junction. In the centre of this photo' is the Eastville Methodist Church; where my parents were married; and where my twin  and I were baptized in 1944

The M 32, an urban highway which ripped right through the blue collar/working class areas of east Bristol. When it was being built I believed that it represented "progress".  These days I think of it as a ghastly urban highway.

All Saints Anglican Church, Beirut,  Lebanon.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Ninety One plus Fifty equals One Hundred and Forty One.

Ninety One plus Fifty equals One Hundred and Forty One.

It was a lovely party last Monday (22nd June 2015), hosted by a generous and warm-hearted couple, Bill Byers and Pat Cosgrove.

We were there to celebrate the 91st birthday of the inimitable Ben Morse, and the 50th wedding anniversary of the ever-wonderful Ron and Charlotte Thompson.

Our nonagenarian WWII veteran (Marine Corps), Betty Mullen was there.  So were our local pals Bob Lewis, John Vogel, Gordon Cory, and Rick Farrell.

It was a joyous and enjoyable celebration.


The food was "pot-luck", and disgustingly unhealthy!

Hors d'oeuvres (shrimp wrapped in bacon) were provided by  another friend, Kay.

The main course included fried chicken (from the Publix supermarket)  - (too much batter and not enough chicken in my opinion);  red potatoes slathered in butter; and baked beans: Bush brand "Boston style" (high in molasses and sugar), and enhanced (by me) with bacon.

Dessert was a wonderfully moist and very sweet cake, lathered with desiccated coconut:  (home made by John V). 


I scoffed it all down.  Such a party as this was not the time to be a food purist.

Unhealthy as the food was, I'll be glad to scoff it again,  one hundred and forty one years from now.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Confederate Flag. Wisdom from Benjamin Watson, a former N.E. Patriots player.

From Benjamin Watson's Facebook page

It's hard to explain how I feel when I see the rebel flag. The emotional bucket overflows with anger, trepidation, sorrow, a perverted pride and apathy. As hard as I try not to make assumptions about whoever is flying the flag or driving around with it mounted on their truck, my mind can not hold back the painful images of the past generations.... and the current one. The nine racially motivated murders of last week, have written a new chapter in the annals of race violence in this country. And at the center of it all, proudly displayed in images of the killer, the rebel flag.

When I moved to South Carolina in 1996, albeit from the southern state of Virginia, I was somewhat taken aback by the frequency of which I saw the flag. It was on vehicles, displayed on homes, and worn on t-shirts. Like grits and sweet tea, the flag was just part of the culture, an enduring symbol of all things southern. This never changed how I felt about it, but it did teach me to give individuals a certain amount of grace and realize that not everyone who embraced the flag embraced prejudice and supremacy alike.
I can remember visiting a teammate's home for the first time my sophomore year. Frank, a white offensive guard on my high school football team, had quickly become my closest friend, welcoming me, the new guy, when others weren’t so quick to do so. As I walked into his room, I froze, staring uncomfortably at the large Rebel flag, hanging above his bed. I remember the lump in my throat as I briefly attempted to convey in the most non-condemning way, what the flag represented to me and many others like me. Because of the lingering heaviness of the moment, I can’t recall much after that but I do remember how valued I felt, when I returned to Frank’s home some time later and the flag was gone! He didn’t have to, but because he cared about our friendship, because he cared about me, he empathetically removed the offensive banner on my behalf and maybe for the first time heard how painful that symbol could be. That day was a turning point in our relationship and today; Frank continues to be one of my best friends.
It should not take the brutal, senseless killings of innocent black Americans in a church by a young white man, to ensure the removal of the confederate battle flag from the State House grounds where it has flown in proud defiance of the civil rights movement since the 1960’s.

If the flag wasn’t problematic before this heinous crime it should not be problematic now, and to hastily remove it in response to this slaughter, although a sympathetic (and economic) gesture, does not address the heart of the matter.

In my estimation it is indeed the HEART, that is the matter. Displaying the confederate flag is not inherently wrong. This is not NECESSARILY an issue on which we can take a moral stance. It is not a simple right or wrong dilemma.

 I understand that for some, the confederate battle flag does not evoke sentiments of racism or supremacy; it is simply a tribute to their heritage, ancestors, and homeland. For others, including the killer, it means much more and for others it is a hiding place for passive racism and group "identity."

 It is without a doubt, however, a litmus test, exposing our willingness to deny our liberty, our freedom, to fly the flag of our choice, for the sake of offending our countrymen whose SHARED HERITAGE is conversely stained with death, injustice, rape, terror and inferiority.
If we remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol for any reason other than a change in the hearts of South Carolinians, we may as well leave it be. This is not the time for political statements and worrying about national perception. But if we, like my friend Frank, finally listen to the cries and concerns of those we say we care about, soften our hearts, and choose to lay our liberties aside to assuage the pain of our brothers, the only suitable option would be a unanimous decision to remove the flag from the public grounds at the Palmetto State Capitol. The past and it's people, as acclaimed or afflicted as they may be, should always be remembered. But it is difficult to completely "move forward" if painful, divisive icons continue to stand unchallenged.
Sometimes, tragedies have a way of jolting us, laying the truth about us individually and collectively, stark naked for all to see. The outpouring for Charleston has been nothing short of extraordinary and inspiring. Sometimes it takes one person, one neighborhood, one city, and one state to show the unifying love of Christ to the world. As a canyon is carved by the flow of a river long dried up, may the passion of this week cut deep, leaving a permanent change in hearts and souls long after the emotion has gone.

Monday, 22 June 2015


When I visited my friends Hani and Rula Asfour in Lebanon some twelve years ago I had a most wonderful dinner at the home of Rula's parents.

Rula's  father was in the hospital in Beirut.  I visited him there.

Rula's mother created a great feast, including the best Tabbouleh I have ever eaten.  It must have been made from fresh and local ingredients.

I was thinking about this the other day, so I purchased some ready made tabbouleh at my local supermarket.  You know the stuff  I mean -  all prepared and served in a plastic tub.

It was dreadful.

So I took myself to a local Specialty Market and bought a box of the ready assembled ingredients, which needed no more than hot water and olive oil to be brought to life.

I knew that would not be enough, so I added some finely chopped tomatoes (skinned and de-seeded), and a ton of finely chopped fresh mint.

It was "not bad", though I would be ashamed to serve it to Rula's Mum!

I ate some for lunch today, together with some thinly sliced and good quality tomatoes (with basil), and a couple of slices of cold chicken breast "carved" from a store bought rotisserie chicken.

The chicken was adorned with a couple of teaspoons of  * Branston Pickle.

It was a feast fit not for a King,  (that's too lowly), nay,   it was a feast fit for a free citizen.

*   If you have not tasted Branston Pickle your life has not been fulfilled.


'Twas good, but Rula's mother's tabbouleh cannot be rivaled.



Cheese sandwich with Branston Pickle

Lebanese Tabbouleh (picture from the web)


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Joy all around in Bristol, U.K. (Chrisman/Andi Taylor/Povey)

Last Wednesday (June 17th 2015) my youngest brother Martyn met my Sarasota friends Jack and Donna Chrisman at London Gatwick Airport, and drove them to their hotel in Bristol.

(Martyn met Jack and Donna here in SRQ a few years ago when he was with me for a holiday.)

Jack and Donna were in the Bristol area for the wedding of their grand-daughter Rachel.

The Chrismans were so happy to see Martyn, and to meet his wife Wendy for the first time  (she does not fly).

They had a pub dinner, saw the sights of Bristol, ate fish and chips, and enjoyed each other. 

Wendy and Donna went shopping so that the latter could buy a lovely hat for her grand-daughter's wedding.

On Friday Martyn drove the Chrismans to Tortworth Court, Wotton-under -Edge, Gloucestershire, the venue for the wedding.


By cheerful serendipity Martyn's route home took him by Bristol Parkway railway station, where he was just in time to meet my SRQ friend and colleague, the Revd. Andi Taylor who is in England for the first part of her sabbatical leave.

(Yes indeed, Martyn and his son Sam had met Andi, her husband, and their sons here in SRQ).

Andi stayed for two nights.  She too was given the grand tour of Bristol, and (by another bit of serendipity) she was able to celebrate her birthday with my family members.

This morning Martyn drove Andi out to Tortworth Court, there to hook up with Jack and Donna.  For you see, with no advance planning, Jack and Donna, and Andi were each heading to Bath, U.K., the next stop on their journeys.

You cannot get from Wotton-under-Edge to Bath unless my brother Martyn offers to drive you!

And, oh what fun for Donna, Jack and Andi to hook up in Gloucestershire and Somerset, if only for the (45 minute?) drive from Tortworth Court to the City of Bath.

Even better, Andi and the Chrismans got to meet my dearly beloved sister in law Wendy. She is a fabulous woman. So much so that I want to call her my sister,  rather than my sister in law.

Wait, there is more.  On separate occasions the Chrismans and Andi got to meet my oldest and bestest sister Maureen and her husband Bern.  This is cool.

For Maureen and Bern (and also my sister Jean and her husband John) will be visiting me in SRQ next November.

That means that the Bristol/SRQ friendship circle will continue on this side of the Pond.

For goodness sake, these connections are so precious.

Love from John Michael Povey, the tour organiser,  and from Martyn Povey, the tour guide.