TV Martyrs

Imagine my surprise!

Go on!

Well, have you imagined it?

What’s that?  You want a reason?  OK well imagine that yesterday morning it’s early.  Too early.  That’s not the reason – I wake up early every bloody morning including Sunday.  Nor was it the fact that OH made tea early: that was no surprise either.  This is my life – everything is early.  Nope, the surprise was that as he came in with the tray the news also entered the room that the Church of the Martyrs was on the radio.  Not local radio, national.  Radio 4.

Let’s backtrack a little.  Immigration is a big subject for debate at the moment.  The other week I had a disagreement with someone who thought there was a link between the churches and far-right groups.  No, I said.  Absolutely not.  Maybe in the US but not here; in the UK, churches of whatever persuasion would not touch far-right groups with a bargepole.  And I stand by that – but the programme (which was also on the TV) gave me pause for thought; because it appears that 66% of Anglicans want immigration to be reduced.  That’s 66% of churchgoing Anglicans, not people who just put ‘C of E’ on application forms without ever setting foot inside the porch.  The figure for non-churchgoing Anglicans is 88%, which is more understandable, but the figure of 66% is quite concerning because it means Anglicans are more hostile to immigration than other denominations.

First on the programme was Billy Graham’s son Franklin, who defended his attendance at Trump’s inauguration by saying, in effect, ‘no-one’s perfect’ and declaring that God intervened to appoint Trump as President.

it’s about 7 minutes in.

The recording of The Martyrs came as a breath of fresh air.  It was made during a recent ‘Tomatoes’ breakfast cafe about which I have blogged many times:

and talking about a Christian duty to welcome the stranger and the refugee.  It included an interview with Evernice, whom I know well, who is a refugee from East Africa and now a valued member of the church.  There was also an interview with vicar Richard who reiterated the point about the Christian duty to welcome the stranger.  It never ceases to amaze me how people can ignore key aspects of the gospel when it suits their particular prejudices.

Kirk out


I am Me and You are He and We are She and We are All Together…

The weirdest thing happens on the computer when Thing and I try to comment on other people’s blogs.  For some reason it’s always signed in to his account when I comment, and to my account when he comments.  This is even after I’ve gone to wordpress and signed in on my own account and then hunted up the blog on which I wish to comment.  It always does that highly irritating little jiggle which only wordpress things do.  Other accounts are content with a wiggly red line or an empty space or a little error message – but no! that’s not good enough for wordpress.  It has to do a little jiggle from side to side so that you can’t ignore it.  I’ve come to hate that little jiggle – and unless I’m on the tablet, I’ve given up commenting on other people’s blogs.  So, to my latest follower, sheislove11, I send this message:

I liked your post although when you said you made water in the coffee pot I thought for a moment you’d peed in it!

And here’s the post I commented on – or rather, failed to comment on thanks to wordpress being so BLOODY STUPID!!!

Deep calming breaths.  Deep calming breaths…

If you follow my blog I always take a look at yours and sometimes follow you as well.  My daughter has started her own blog lately, and it features a banner created by my son.  He has agreed to do one for me, although he seems to be a while getting around to it.  Here’s Holly’s blog anyway.  In this post she has put a very short story and asked for comments, so get over there and get commenting:

The REALLY annoying thing about commenting on blogs is that it tells me I’m commenting as Sarada Gray and when I post the comment it says I’m posting as zerothly.  Which I’m NOT!!!

Aaanyway, Holly, since I can’t post a comment there I’ll post it here.  I basically agree with the other comment, in that the third paragraph is the best.  In the first two you should show more and tell less and maybe connect the grease in the cafe with the grease in her hair.  I love the use of the word ‘shrapnel’ though – it suggests that her life is a battle.

Went to ‘You and Me’ friendship group at the Martyrs today and gave a talk on Quakerism.  It was very well-received and I enjoyed giving it.  I talked about my journey from a red-brick vicarage in Edmonton, round the terrible North Circular to Hounslow, about going to church three times a day on a Sunday, about to-ing and fro-ing when the church went all evangelical and finally finding my way into Quakerism.  Ruth from the Quaker meeting came along to support and add information and the audience seemed greatly interested.

Which was nice.

Happy Monday, like the woman says.

Kirk out



Photo Opportunities

The Church of the Martyrs dates back to 1890, which means this year they are celebrating their 125th anniversary.  We missed the centenary as we weren’t yet going there: in fact, this time in 1990 Mark and I had not known each other long and I had started teaching in Spain.  Makes you think…

The exhibition is gathered from photos people have sent in from their own collections.  They range from very recent to the 1920’s as far as I could see.  There were, naturally enough, lots of weddings.  Many people who still come to the Martyrs grew up in the area and had parents who married in the church: Gwyneth, possibly the longest-serving member, loaned a photo of her parents standing, as Chaucer had it, ‘at churche doore’ *.  There were a lot of corporate events, too, such as Guides, Brownies and Tomatoes – and as you go in you are assailed by Gail shrieking and covered in paint at Soul Survivor.  There were church holidays, picnics and days out – and also articles from the Mercury when the church had figured in the local news.

And it all made me think about what we take photos of.  Which events do we want to record?  There were weddings and baptisms, but no funerals.  It hadn’t occurred to me until now, that no-one takes a photo of a funeral.  But why not?

Well, obviously because it’s a sad occasion.  It’s not something you want to remember.  But perhaps there’s something more personal in the kind of remembering a funeral entails; with each person recalling how the deceased impacted on their own lives.  Plus, the funeral is in itself a remembering; a memorial.

Loads of people were there who I haven’t seen for ages, and still more on the Sunday, though I couldn’t make it then.  There was a video message from Rob Freeman, who was apparently on another planet (he’s a bishop now, though anyone less Bishop-y could hardly be imagined; he’s quite like Rev, in a way – small, weedy and unassuming.  Hard to picture him in the House of Lords…)  Also Brian Robertson was there – Brian went on to be vicar of St Peter’s in Oadby, where my parents went.  So it’s a shame I missed seeing him and Viv.

Such exhibitions are a heartwarming antidote to the modern trend of taking selfies.  I don’t like selfies: to me they smack of individualism and a lack of communal experience.  Why do people take so many selfies?  Is it the modern equivalent of writing ‘Liz woz ‘ere’ – like people used to do in my youth?

Maybe.  But I never did write ‘Liz woz ‘ere’ on a wall.  And I’ve never taken a selfie.

Anyway, it was an interesting exhibition and kudos to Tony for putting it together.

Kirk out

*not that I’m suggesting Gwyneth’s parents go back to the Middle Ages!

Where’s the Social Capital Again?

So I’ve been wondering lately whether it’s at all possible to add up how many people we know in Leicester.  Nearly everywhere we go we see an acquaintances or friends – and somehow Leicester is That Sort of Place.  We all say the same: that Leicester is the sort of town where everyone knows everyone; as opposed to London, where no-one knows anyone.  I hate London: I hate standing at a bus stop and not being able to pass the time of day because the other person will think you’re a loony; I hate going to the same places every day and never getting to know anyone; I hate travelling on the tube or walking down the street and not being able to make eye contact with anyone.  I grew up in London and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The complete opposite of London was Leigh, a small town in Lancashire where after a year I knew practically every person in the place.  Of course, there are disadvantages to knowing everyone, gossip being one of them; and sometimes it feels good to be anonymous.  But Leicester seems to combine the best of both those worlds: you can disappear if you really want to, but if you don’t, there will always be someone to talk to.  Take our immediate neighbourhood: besides the people who work in the shops we know people from church (about 150), people from the Mosque or Hindu temple, neighbours to nod to, folk from Yesim’s Turkish cafe, old yoga students and colleagues, fellow-students from Philosophy (I’m heading into town now) people from Drink and Think, political allies including CND members, Secularists and people from other churches we’ve attended; Quakers, Home Educators, parents and children from playgroups, and of course poets… and still I’ve not covered the half of it.  Sometimes it can feel like a burden knowing so many people but mostly I like it.  I have chosen it after all: I don’t have to talk to people wherever I go, but I do, because I’m interested in people.  I’m a social animal and as Mark frequently reminds me, we may not have much financial capital but we are staggeringly rich in social capital.

For example yesterday, as a result of going to the Crime Reading Group (of which more anon) I sold all the rest of my pamphlets and spread the word about my forthcoming ‘I Hate Poetry, a Poetry Workshop’ (Sept 28th 11 – 1 at Westcotes Library, FREE!).  Attending the Crime Reading Group is partly a social event, and it sharpens my ideas about writing as well as giving me insights into a group of ordinary readers.  AND, predictably, there are a couple of people I already know – one from church and one from Home Education.

So that was good – afterwards, it being Mark’s birthday, we went across to Yesim’s for a coffee.  He liked the Chris Conway CD I bought him very much, as well as the Cafe Direct coffee the children gave him: then in the evening we went – as I predicted – for a thali at Mirch Masala and then on to Pingkk Poetry where I did the Wm McGonagall parody, ‘Ode to the Upperton Rd Bridge’.

It was a packed and varied evening with a competition on the ‘Earthword-Blackbirk’ genre of metrosexual verse.  Hang on, that’s not it.  It’s ‘Earthwork Blackburn’ – no, it’s

bugger it, I can’t be bothered.  Here’s a link:

Nope.  The only links are to this blog.

Ah well.  I guess you’ll have to post your own…

Kirk out

You and Me and Him and Him: Are You a Gay Christian?

For several months a ‘friendship group’ called ‘You and Me’ has been running at the church, consisting of tea, biscuits, cakes, conversation and board games – and a number of people.  But this month Linda (for it was she) branched out a bit and made a conversation game.  This consisted of topics on cards which we took turns to pick out of an envelope and on which we would have to speak for two minutes before conversation became more general.  The first subject out of the envelope was ‘My Favourite Hymn’.  So far, so predictable – and I had no problem talking for two minutes on this subject, invoking memories of my childhood when the church organist had offered to play my favourite hymn and the only thing I’d been able to think of was ‘O Jesus I Have Promised’.

But we were rather startled to see this followed by the topic of ‘Same-Sex Marriage’.  This was a bold move; normally at the Martyrs we steer clear of – or skirt around – controversial subjects.  But it turned out well.  I opened by saying that I had no problem with same-sex marriage but that forcing churches to marry gay couples might prove a step too far for many people at the moment.

I was heartened to find out that most people agreed: not just with the second part of my proposal but with the first.  If I’d been asked for an estimate I might have said they would be dubious about gay marriage or possibly even homophobic – but others in the group showed themselves tolerant and compassionate.  There was a consensus that people can’t help being the way they are, and that it is wrong to condemn people for something they can’t help.

So that was good.  And the lesson I learned is that if you avoid controversial subjects you can end up having a false idea of other people’s opinions.  Yes, we’ve moved on a lot from this:

We’ve moved on a lot, in fact, from the days when divorce, sex outside marriage and homosexuality were no-go areas.

OH!  And watch this – Mark recorded it in our wet and windy tent last weekend:

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and big congrats to Laura Robson who won her third-round match yesterday.

Hand Me That Heart, Son

Two stories which I had sent out only a week before came back with the speed of a ricocheting bullet yesterday: I was slightly downcast by the sheer speed of the thing, though it’s fair to say the submission was highly speculative as I have not much idea of what Unthank Press will publish:

‘Study the magazine!’ they say – and, whilst that’s good advice, I don’t have the money to go buying copies of everything I submit to, nor the time to read and evaluate them when I have.  Unthology doesn’t even have snippets of free content available just to give you a taste, so I’m forced to send everything blind.  I have better hopes of a book review I’m finishing for Thresholds:

although I don’t think I’ll be paid even if they do publish it: I also have slightly higher hopes for a chapbook I sent off yesterday for Gertrude Press:

I had only the vaguest idea of what a chapbook is: still, I’ve sent them a mix of short stories and short-short fiction, so I hope they’ll like it.  But I can’t escape a continual sense of whistling in the dark here.  Or pissing in the wind, perhaps.

I’ve finished the Kathy Reichs novel I was reading (‘Death du Jour’) and I’ve started on The Hollow Crown:

This is not, apparently, connected to the recent TV Shakespeare (wish I’d seen that as I really like Jeremy Irons) but is a history of the Middle Ages from the 14th century onwards.  It’s really interesting so far and I’m struck by how many powerful and articulate women there were in those days: women had access to church courts, as well as owning land and running businesses.  I’m in a historical frame of mind lately: last night as I walked down Westcotes Drive I tried to imagine how it might have looked in 1890 when the Church of the Martyrs was built.  The street would probably have been cobbled; our house would have been there, and so would many of the other houses, though not all:,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45921128,d.d2k&biw=1600&bih=775&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&ei=xyKCUYqtIeKy0QXBr4Eg&sqi=2&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg

There would probably have been fields not too far away – and of course the sound of the Great Central Railway running beyond Narborough Rd:

I try to imagine, not only how it would look, but how it would feel – what would it feel like to walk down such a street, or be driven down it in a carriage?  What would I have been wearing in 1890?  Who would I have been with?  I know one thing for sure – church services would not have involved pizza or pineapples, and the sermon would not have been preached by Mr Scrappy.

So there you have it.  Today I shall be mostly… giving lunch to Mark’s mum and trying to decide what to send off next.

Kirk out

PS  And damn me if I didn’t go and leave out the whole point of the title, which was a graphic image Daniel did for a Friendship Group called You and Me.  His first try showed hands around a heart which, while good, might imply that the point of the group was romance.  So he had another go and replaced the heart with a sun:

You & Me logo (Sun)

So Farewell Then..

… Richard Griffiths, he who as a youth used to weep in butchers’ shops; he who as a grown-up was uncle to Harry Potter and father to Dudley Dursley; he whose anecdotes were wont to set the table at a roar – alas, poor Richard, I knew him not at all, but somehow I felt I knew him all the same: you can smell the actors’ yarns he would spin, late into the night over a bottle of claret, surrounded by friends and fellow-actors.  Sadness is instantiated in the breasts of Richard E Grant and Daniel Radcliffe, and other tributes will surely flood in as the days pass.

He was born at a very early age, to parents who were both deaf, and he learnt sign-language in order to communicate with them.  He left school at 15 and worked as a porter but later went back to drama school and joined the RSC: he became a celebrated stage actor and appeared in many plays including Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, but he will perhaps be remembered best for his role in Withnail and I where he played an outrageously camp Uncle Monty.

I also enjoyed his role in the entertaining but preposterous crime’n’cookery series, Pie in the Sky.

He was apparently considered for Dr Who at one point: his weight must have been a problem for him in some roles, but it clearly didn’t stop him being successful.

RIP Richard, we will miss you.

Bong!  In other news, I got up rather drastically early this morning and went to all-night prayer at the church: I was going to go last night but was too tired, so just made it down there for the last hour or so.  A much better way to start the day than tossing and turning in bed.  And then home to surprise Mark with a pot of coffee and to this dialogue:

Mark:  When is happy hour, usually?

Me:  Around five to six pm – when people don’t usually go to the pub.

Mark:  Oh, right.  Well, why don’t they have a sad hour to counterbalance it?

Me:  Mark, every other hour apart from happy hour, is ‘sad hour’.   If you drank alcohol you would be only too aware of that fact.

We then went on to discuss our pet peeves in modern language: nouns as verbs – eg ‘to process’ – and the reverse, verbs as nouns.  My worst one of these is ‘spend’.  So don’t ever let me catch you saying ‘the total spend is…’ or you will be deleted from my followers forthwith.

And speaking of followers, did you know?  If you sign up to follow this blog I will always take a look at your blog or website – and I may reblog it if it’s good.

So follow me!

follow me, the wise man said

but he walked behind.

Kirk out