Hust! Hust! O Hust!

Last night, along with a hundred or so others, I went to the local hustings at the Cathedral.  According to wikipedia the word originally meant ‘house thing’ and was a gathering of the whole household of an important figure.

I guess you can see the connection.

Last night there were half a dozen candidates on the platform, with Bishop Tim wearing Jonathan Dimbleby’s hat, and sometimes his voice.  The only MP there was Jon Ashworth, who also happens to be our member.  I know that he’s well thought-of locally, and I can see why: for a politician he came across as genuine and personable: however, he has a tendency to toe the party line even when he disagrees with it, so I won’t be voting for him.  The others were representing, in various capacities, the Greens, the Lib Dems, the Tories, TUSC and UKIP.  The discussion was perfectly civilised, but I found it somewhat weak and lack-lustre.  None of the candidates spoke with any real passion or conviction: the person who came closest was the Lib Dem guy (also the only Asian there) who did at least seem to believe in what he was saying.  However, they’ve made such a terrible fist of being in government that I wasn’t even slightly tempted to vote for him.  The Green party candidate was warm and fuzzy but frankly wet, and said hardly anything about the environment – in fact he said hardly anything about anything.  What the TUSC * guy said was good, but he said it without a spark of passion, and the Tory was frankly awful.  He didn’t seem to know what he thought about anything, had trouble defending government policy, and stumbled over more than one question.

But the worst thing about this debate was that, in a panel of six candidates, not one party managed to offer a woman speaker.  In fact, so male-dominated was the debate that I was the only woman to speak at all – and that was when I asked the question why, in 2015, when we have had a national TV debate split 50-50 gender-wise, this hustings couldn’t muster even one woman to speak.

I’ll still be voting Green in spite of the wet guy, because I like their policies and because there’s no Left Unity candidate locally.

And so we walked back under the stars to our house-thing.

Incidentally, have any of you Leicester people noticed that they’re changing the lamp-post bulbs?  They’ve replaced them with LED, which are brighter and presumably more energy-efficient.  They also light downwards, enabling us to see the stars more clearly.

Kirk out

PS  Oh!  And I heard today that Leicester Cathedral are getting more than 2000 visitors per day!  I shall probably see some of them as I hie me to Sound Cafe…

*Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

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My Last Post

My last post on Mslexia is up, so please do take a look and pass a comment.  My moderator said that my posts have got the most comments of any blogger she can remember!  So keep it up folks.  See you on the other side…

Kirk out

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Quaking in the Country

Wow!  What an utterly brilliant weekend that was.  It was totally worth the three trains plus one looooong taxi which it took (the ride was long, not the taxi: Quakers don’t go in for stretch limos) to get me to this 13th century manor house and Quaker conference centre slap-bang in the middle of absolutely nowhere at all.  The original building is awesome; much like our Guildhall in Leicester, and surrounded by beautiful gardens.  There’s also a village with a proper pub, of which more later.

I arrived in mighty, mighty Didcot (see previous post)

in time for tea on the lawn; then after dinner we had our first session of introduction plus meeting for worship.  Meetings are always silent unless someone speaks – I guess that could describe any meeting, ho ho, but silence is generally the rule rather than the exception.  You sit and discern whether or not to speak and unless something grabs you and you have to say it, you don’t.  Unfortunately I was so knackered during this bit that I kept dropping off, which caused my neighbour to be quite concerned about me.

The next day was just about perfect.  We had sessions on Quakerism during which many of my questions were answered; a walk round the gardens with discussion, a delicious lunch, after which I went for a walk along a bridlepath.  The village itself is very pretty, but the landscape around is mostly flat and arable, growing – so far as I could see – some sort of kale or broccoli.  I came back and went to sleep until dinner.  Then after dinner we had a bring and share talent show during which I did my now-famous poem, ‘Spike’.  This went down so well that practically everybody asked for a copy.  And then the pub!  The darkness was so thick that we needed torches, and the stars were as thick as the darkness.  The pub turned out to be a proper traditional English hostelry serving Brakspear’s and a small range of others – though sadly the advertised Bank’s mild wasn’t on.  The Brakspear’s bitter was excellent though.

I sat next to one of the course leaders.  He was from Holyhead though he now lived in London.

‘I grew up in a hotel,’ he said.  ‘My parents ran a place in Holyhead.’

‘I’m not going to say the words Fawlty Towers,’ I quipped.

‘I thought Fawlty Towers was a documentary,’ he said – and I laughed, but it turned out he was serious.  At eight years old, he actually did think FT was a documentary!

‘We even had a Major,’ he said.  ‘Except that he was a Colonel.’  And he told me how one day, he and his brother came home from school to find the Colonel upside-down and asleep on the stairs.  A family was due to arrive very soon, so they had to drag him downstairs and put him in a side-room out of the way so nobody saw him.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

On Sunday I considered more seriously whether I want to become a Quaker.  And I do.  And today I have written a letter to our meeting to apply for membership.  I feel a sense of rightness about it that I haven’t felt about anything else – not for a long time.

And I’m happy!

Kirk out


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King Richard, Prince Harry and Betelgeuse

So this morning Mark turns to me in bed and says, ‘Betelgeuse is due to go supernova someday.’  This is at a point where I am barely conscious and when any normal human being would be mumbling incoherently instead of bombarding their partner with astronomical facts.

What I thought he said was that Betelgeuse was due to go supernova on Monday.

‘What time on Monday?’ I asked, thinking it’d be like an eclipse and we could go out and view it.

‘Not Monday!  Someday!’ he corrected me.  ‘Of course,’ he continued, ‘it might already have happened.  It could have happened 600 years ago and we’d only be seeing it now.’

There was a pause while we digested that fact.  Or at least, he digested it.  I went back to sleep.  ‘Just think!’ he enthused, ‘it could have happened while Richard III was being killed on the battlefield!’

Now there’s a thought, and it sent me in two different directions.  First, about the speed of light, which totally does my head in when you think of how unbelievably fast light travels and then how long a light-year is and then put the two together and think of 600 Earth Years!!! in terms of light years – you just can’t comprehend it.  It’s like that awful sermon on hell in James Joyce’s ‘Portrait of the Artist’.  It gave me nightmares when I first read it:

‘– Last and crowning torture of all the tortures of that awful place is the eternity of hell. Eternity! O, dread and dire word. Eternity! What mind of man can understand it?… And remember, it is an eternity of pain. Even though the pains of hell were not so terrible as they are, yet they would become infinite, as they are destined to last for ever. But while they are everlasting they are at the same time, as you know, intolerably intense, unbearably extensive. To bear even the sting of an insect for all eternity would be a dreadful torment. What must it be, then, to bear the manifold tortures of hell for ever? For ever! For all eternity! Not for a year or for an age but for ever. Try to imagine the awful meaning of this. You have often seen the sand on the seashore…  Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high… and imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain?… Yet at the end of that immense stretch of time not even one instant of eternity could be said to have ended….

One of our own fathers I believe it was) was once vouchsafed a vision of hell. It seemed to him that he stood in the midst of a great hall, dark and silent save for the ticking of a great clock. The ticking went on unceasingly; and it seemed to this saint that the sound of the ticking was the ceaseless repetition of the words – ever, never; ever, never. Ever to be in hell, never to be in heaven; ever to be shut off from the presence of God… ever to suffer, never to enjoy; ever to be damned, never to be saved; ever, never; ever, never. O, what a dreadful punishment!’

There’s more of this stuff, about thirty pages more, and probably not too dissimilar from the kind of stuff they used to preach to children.  Imagine it!  You’d be locked up nowadays.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, on Betelgeuse.  And, Richard III being the last English King to die in battle, this set me thinking about how it would be a good thing if politicians could actually lead the armies they so glibly send off to fight for their country.  Perhaps they wouldn’t be so keen to go to war if they actually had to wage it themselves.  Instead of which we have Prince Harry going off to fight in Afghanistan – and of course he won’t be allowed to be in any actual danger so that will make a greater headache for those around him.

OK that’s it now.  I’m going back to sleep.

Kirk out

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Bleak Expectations and Misrepresentations

I have long been exercised by radio comedy; and specifically, by the state of the 6.30 slot on radio 4.  Now at this point I was all set to go into a rant, but I thought I’d better check my facts first.  And the fact is, it’s officially Not As Bad As I Thought.  So last week’s schedule was:

Monday – Just a Minute (always good)

Tuesday – the dreaded Pam Ayres (awful awful awful)

Wednesday – Somebody I’ve Never Heard of recreating an 18th-century bet (?? weird)

Thursday – Ed Reardon’s Week (not bad)

Friday – The News Quiz (much better than HIGNFY on TV)

So – erm – now the wind has been somewhat taken out of my sails and I’m left with a rant looking for a subject.

What I can say is that putting aside my views on the dreaded Ayres (on which I have blogged sufficiently of late) there is Far Too Much of This Sort of Thing – the most recent offering, The Case Book of Max and Ivan, which proved utterly lame.  I can’t understand it.  I was initially quite excited by this one as it featured June Whitfield as Dame Celia Deeply-Inappropriate.  Aha!  I thought.  June Whitfield! I thought.  A preposterous double-barrelled surname! I thought.  Perhaps this is in the same vein as the Dickens spoof, Bleak Expectations? I wondered.

It wasn’t.  Utter turgid tosh, in my opinion, June Whitfield notwithstanding.

How is it that woman keeps going?

But at last! there is hope on the horizon, for as I said the other day, Dead Ringers is back and yay! It is replacing the dreaded Ayres.

I wish I’d looked after me schedule…

Kirk out


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The Persistent Whine of a Reluctant Spouse

What’s that I hear?  It’s spring – and there’s a sound in the air.  What is it?  It’s the persistent whine of a reluctant husband.  The lawn having put on a growth spurt and the weather being unfeasibly clement, it was time to put lawnmower to grass and cut it.  Now I do not enjoy this job, partly because the lawn is a bit of a mess, and partly because the old mower has conked out and we now have an inferior version which is really hard work and whines a lot when it reaches a clump of grass.  Which it frequently does.  But this whine is nothing compared to the persistent whine of my spouse when asked to share in the mowing.  His bleating knows no bounds.  He doesn’t like having a lawn.  Lawns are a monoculture.  He doesn’t like having to cut the grass.  It should be a habitat.  There should be more biodiversity.  Basically, everything should be different; if everything was different from how it is, then he would mow the lawn, but since everything is the way it is then he won’t.

To be honest I’d rather mow a hundred lawns than listen to another second of that whining.  And so I got out the old mower and began to push the reluctant beast up and down the grass (the mower, that is, not the spouse).  Previous to that, spouse and I had been into town to visit the New Walk Museum where Richard III’s Book of Hours is on display.  This is a leather-bound volume in Latin in that old-fashioned script which I can never read even if it’s in English, and with some hand-written marginalia done by his clerk.  Then we went to see the exhibition of German Expressionism which has expanded a lot recently and includes some very interesting work: there was one called Messiah which is very striking and features on the museum posters.  For a Messiah he looks somewhat manic and a bit sneering.

Elsewhere there was an interesting video on chair-making and a small Arts and Crafts section.

Then we carried on to the Newarke Houses Museum to see the Open 26 exhibition where Steve has a painting, as does our friend Danielle Vaughan.  After that we walked back up New Walk and encountered a young woman with a sign saying ‘Je Suis Dina.  Want to chat?’  I tutted because at first I thought it said ‘Jesus – want to chat?’ but it turned out to be a student interviewing people about their reactions to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  We each wrote a sign with our name on and were photographed with the sign and our opinion underneath.  There will be an exhibition in town at some point.

And that was our Bank Holiday.

Kirk out

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Dead Stingers

I am typing this in an invisible box – by which I didn’t mean that I am sitting in some Tardis-like structure with an invisibility booster, but that the box in which the text is appearing is invisible to me.  I look forward to seeing some interesting typos and weird spell checker guesses. Anyway, the winemaking season is upon us. And I have been out and about gathering styles and stewing them with lemon juice and sugar. The nettles appear to be dead nettles rather than stingers, and I am wondering if that will make a difference to the recipe, however it doesn’t specifically say they have to be stinging nettles.  Stingers are useful though.  Did you know that they are beneficial for arthritis? You have to whip the affected joints.  Also, nettle tea is good for a diuretic if you have water-retention.

So much for that.  My favourite radio series – or one of them at least – is Dead Ringers.  It’s the radio equivalent of Spitting Image but without the puppets which would be kind of wasted on radio.  Perhaps this will enliven the 6.30 slot and hopefully replace the dreaded Pam Ayres.  Ugh!

I’m writing a poem about the dreaded Pam.  It begins:

I wish I’d looked after me verse

being comic’s a terrible curse

I haven’t got enough to even put one stanza together yet, but it’ll come.  And then I shall perform it in selected venues across the nation.

In other news, I am probably going to organise some poetry for Water Aid as part of Bede Island Festival, so look out for that.

The nettle wine is fermenting, albeit very slowly.  And I made some bread last night and forgot about it.  The oven switched itself off and so it just sat there for a couple of hours.  I finished baking it and it seems OK…

And that’s me.  Happy Easter.

Kirk out

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