Pepper of the Earth

Well, apparently the Jesus People are not only alive and well, they are officially not Christ-napping (see comment on previous post).  Good to know…

You might say that people who help others out are the salt of the earth.  They are reliable, caring and ever-present in a crisis, and we need them because without salt there is no savour in life.

On the other hand (and this is not about the Jesus People, particularly) a little salt goes a long way.  And too much salt can give you high blood-pressure. * So my thought for the day is this: as well as the salt of the earth, we need people who are the pepper of the earth; people who pep you up, who give you energy and zing, and a zest for life.  These people are fun to know; they throw great parties and whisk you off to Nova Scotia at the drop of a titfer: they make you laugh; they are spontaneous and crazy.  They are the pepper of the earth.

Nowadays we have forgotten how to be spontaneous, as this poem shows:


A citizen’s reply to me

when I give this a mention:

will my insurance cover me?

and what about my pension?


That just about sums it up.

This morning Mark and I have decided to have breakfast together, which we never normally do.  We both woke up early, around 5.30, and he said ‘Wouldn’t it be brilliant to get up at this time every day?’

‘Not really,’ I said.  ‘I’d conk out by three.’

‘Yes, but you’d conk back in again,’ he quipped.

I laughed so much I couldn’t get back to sleep….

Pepper of the earth!

Kirk out

* this metaphor really works, because if you care too much for others you can end up over-stressing yourself.

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Filed under friends and family, God-bothering, philosophy, The madness of Mark

Happy With Your Survey? Take a Few Moments To Tell Us About It

I have become increasingly exasperated in recent weeks by a persistent automated phone survey that pops up every time I go to the bank.  I like to go into the local branch for various reasons: although I have internet banking you can’t do everything on-line, and besides, it’s good to have some face-to-face contact.  Having a local branch is good for the community and since Nat West is now the only bank in Clarendon Park, I want to support it.  Plus, it gets me out of the house and provides jobs for at least half a dozen people.  But lately every time I go in there I get a phone call later on, with an automated survey asking me how my visit was and requesting me to choose one of four options in response to a variety of questions.  I got so fed up with these that I went into the branch (thereby risking yet another phone call) and asked if there was some way to stop these persistent questionnaires.  The woman became very urgent and explained that these surveys were an integral part of their customer service.  ‘We want to know if you are happy with the service you’re receiving,’ she said.

‘I’m happy with everything except the surveys!’ I exclaimed.  She did smile at that.  I managed to extract the information that the phone call is triggered automatically by you putting your card in the card-reader, and that it is possible to do some transactions without putting the card in the machine.  In return, since she was so earnest about it, I said I might do the occasional one of these surveys.  But if the net effect is to put people off going into the branch, what’s the bleeding point?

Beats me.

Kirk out

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Filed under culcha, friends and family, money

Christ, Napping

I was wondering the other day about what happened to the Jesus Army.  Well, apparently nothing happened to them; they’re still around, at least according to their website, though they’re not so much in evidence on the streets.  I have seriously mixed feelings about the Jesus People: on the one hand, they do seem sincere and they do some good stuff; on the other hand they indulge in what is now called ‘Christ-napping’ – picking homeless people up off the streets and taking them to church, presumably with the sweetener of a meal or hot drink.

I really disapprove of these tactics: if you want to help homeless people then just help them.  Feed them, offer hot drinks, clothing, whatever – but don’t make going to church a condition of having this stuff.  Don’t make them tick a box (or a pew) before they can get the help; because that sucks.  Just offer the help; be the church – and then maybe they’ll want to join.  Maybe not, but at least you’ll have done something worthwhile.  Sound Cafe works on this principle, and so does Tomatoes.  It’s like St Francis said: ‘Talk about God all the time: use words if you must.’

So anyway – my thought for the day is this: that the sculpture of the homeless Jesus should be called ‘Christ, Napping’.

Not bad eh?

Kirk out

PS And here are the Jesus People, if you want to look them up:



Filed under God-bothering, politics

When All Else Fails, Read Instructions

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a real antipathy to reading instructions.  Perhaps it’s just an innate bolshiness; a dislike of being told what to do, but whatever the cause I just plunge straight in there with something new, not bothering to read the packet.  Hence the first time I used dishwasher tablets I tried to unwrap them.  Unfortunately they were cheap ones with a porous wrapping, so the contents spilled everywhere.  ‘Ah, so you don’t unwrap dishwasher tablets!’ I concluded; so that the next time we bought some I placed one in the slot unwrapped and then wondered why it hadn’t worked.  Eventually I found it stranded by the filter, its contents pristine and unused.  Then I read the instructions…

It was just the same when I was four and tried to walk to France.  If I’d read the instructions – ie discussed the idea with my parents – I’d have found out that you can’t walk to France.  Then again since the words ‘you can’t’ are like a red bull to me, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference.

Hang on, did I just say ‘like a red bull’?  An interesting conflation of ideas there…

I also fail to read ingredients on food packets, something which drives Mark mad.

Anyway, nowadays I have taught myself that when trying a new product or recipe it pays to read the instructions, so with gritted teeth I open the book (or packet) and force myself to do so.  But I really don’t like it!

I’m off now to Tomatoes, and then to a wedding!  I shall report back on both later.  Also, Holly is here for the weekend, so that’s good.


Kirk out

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Sound Cafe Poetry

I love this: it was written at Sound Cafe while a very talented harpist was playing her harp.

A little music to harp about

While she plays

While the string sings

And every voice quiet

While standing in everyday

Many a face can express

Taste many a cup of tea

And sound the string sings

A little music in a cloud

A little taste of sound

Cakes and crumbs found

On a journey homeward bound.

© Maxine Beesley

Comment please.

Kirk out


Filed under friends and family, God-bothering, music, poems

Mind Your P’s and A’s

Ouf!  I am horribly tired as I’ve only had four hours sleep.  I’ve never been one of these people who could get by on just a few hours: I need seven to function at all and eight to be fully human.  When I lived in Spain I loved the fact that it was normal to nap in the afternoons, though alas even then the siesta was on its way out, and now it has probably disappeared altogether.  Last night I woke at 2.30 and couldn’t get to sleep at all.  My son’s music was thumping through the wall, not terribly loud but loud enough to be irritating, and when I asked him to turn it down he refused.  He really is going through an impossible time at the moment.  So in the end I got up at 5.30 to find the heating on full-blast.  This was a bit of a mystery, but I have now solved it: apparently the boiler has got its am’s and pm’s mixed up and thought that 4.30 pm was in fact 4.30 am.  Problem solved, except that I have to find some powerful glasses to reset it as the writing on the display is minuscule.

At 5.30 I decided to meditate; then, as I was still awake, I made a cup of tea and watched the dawn.  This was awesome.  There’s a particular kind of quiet at dawn (and at dusk) which makes it a good time for meditation.  You can only truly appreciate the wonder of living on a revolving planet when you stay up to see the dawn.  After that it was time to wake up properly, and now here I am – so goodness knows how today will go.  I’m going to take it fairly easy…

OK it’s now nearly four o’clock and I’ve not done too badly: I’ve been into town and bought some stuff for the house (I got six wine-glasses free as it turned out because although the checkout woman helped me put them into a bag, she forgot to ring them up; I didn’t realise till I got home) and then it was straight into Dostoevsky for a few hours before I had a bath.  I fell asleep in the bath as I usually do: it’s amazing how you can be sound asleep and yet not drop your face below the water-line.  Some part of your brain must be awake, still – and that reminds me of another phenomenon which I swear happens every time I have a bad night.  You know that moment when you’re sinking from drowsiness into sleep?  Well, every time I hit that state, Mark chooses that exact moment to start fidgeting, and I wake up again.  It happens every time, and I can’t figure out why, but it’s driving me mad.

Time to head back to 19th-century Russia…

Do svidaniya!

Kirk out



Filed under Book reviews, friends and family

I’ve Got Good News and Bad News

It’s been a dismal sort of day here in blog-land; overcast and wet, and perhaps that accounts for me being drawn to the poetry of Philip Larkin and in particular his well-known ‘This Be The Verse.’  If the title doesn’t ring a bell, the first line surely will:

‘They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad’

Curiously, one of the people I met at Sound Cafe asked me whether I knew the poem and could perform it: I said yes to the first and a definite no to the second.  Four-letter words in St Martin’s House?  Whatever next?

Anyway, I’ve been inspired to write a response to Larkin’s work about raising a teenager: I’ve called it ‘Larkin’s Guide to Parenting’ and it begins:

‘You have to let your kids fuck up

you may not want to but they will…’

I may do it at the next Pinggk.

So the poem took up most of the morning and then after a quick lunch I whizzed into town to look at Steve’s pictures.  He has works in two exhibitions, one at Bishop St Methodist Church cafe and the other at Cank St Gallery:

and they are both well worth a look.  So after looking I chugged up the road to St Martin’s House for the third week of Sound Cafe.  It seems to be doing really well: they must have had about 30 punters today and many of them joined in the singing with gusto.  We practised doing ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers, to perform in a couple of weeks when Helen comes back; then there was a very talented harpist who did a few numbers before I went on to do ‘There’s a War on’.  After I’d read this poem about the Bedroom Tax I talked to one of the guys who had actually been made homeless by it.*  He’d had a terrible time; not only had he been on the streets but he’d had a zero hours contract in Melton and had sometimes travelled all the way there (at his own expense) only to be told there was no work for him.  Zero hours should be made illegal – or else MP’s should be made to work zero hours contracts.  They’d outlaw them double quick if that happened.

After tea and cake a couple of people performed poems, and then a Rumanian guy sang a couple of songs.  He had a terrific voice and could have passed for professional.  It made me wonder about his history.  The good thing about Sound Cafe is you never know who you’re going to meet.

So then home: and on the doormat were two envelopes, one containing good news and the other bad.  The bad news was a rejection – a story I’d completely forgotten about: I wasn’t too upset as I hadn’t had high hopes for that one.  But in the other envelope was a cheque for my ‘Everybody’s Reading’ work.  So that was very welcome.  And so to work: I find the afternoons quite hard at the moment: I have loads of motivation in the mornings and get to my desk by 9 or 9.30, but after lunch my mojo disappears and I find it hard to keep going.  As for the evenings, unless I’m going out I tend to collapse in front of the TV and stay there till bedtime.  But I managed to read Dostoevsky for an hour (as preparation for NaNoWriMo) and now I’m here writing my blog.

Which is where we came in…

Kirk out

* by the tax, not by my poem!

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Filed under friends and family, God-bothering, money, music, poems, politics