Total Recall

In many respects, I am a forgetful person. I am particularly bad when it comes to things-you’re-not-supposed-to-talk-about. In the presence of emotionally charged friends and family, I’ve found that taboo subjects rise to my lips like bubbles in a soda glass, and are often popped only just in time.

But I’m good with anniversaries. I mean really good. I plan for them weeks, sometimes months in advance. I can recall the specifics of the day we’re remembering and tailor the anniversary to suit. Emily and I went to the movies on the day we met and this was something we used to do every May bank holiday, although these days we’re more likely to rent a DVD. For a while, we would celebrate the day we met (5th May) and the day we became engaged (5th November, six months later) until she said this was overkill. Now we mark the day, but no longer send cards. An exception is made our wedding anniversary, which is still fussed over appropriately, regardless of how we actually celebrate it.

My sense of recall is very much long-sighted. I can’t remember dentist appointments or things I was supposed to do in town that afternoon. If Emily sends me to the supermarket I can use a list but can never remember if we usually buy salted or unsalted butter, or whether the soy sauce should be dark or light. If there is a day I need to book as annual leave, she has to remind me at least three times. The only way I can prep for the school run is from a printed list that I have to go over again and again, and when leaving the house I can never remember if I’ve locked the door, to the extent that I’ll frequently hang a U at the end of the road so that I can come back and check. I am hopeless. On the other hand I can remember exact conversations from over a decade ago, along with what song was playing and what the other person was wearing. Without having to look it up, I know that we saw Moonwalker in the summer of 1989 and not in 1988, as my mother insists. I can recollect chalet numbers from holidays we took before I hit puberty. Like Rob Fleming / Gordon in High Fidelity I have tinkered with ordering my album collection autobiographically, and I can recall where I was when we bought childhood toys and books I gave away long ago. My inner geek knows no bounds, and Emily has, over the years, come to accept that I’m better at this than she is.

My ability to remember on what day certain things happened – and how they happened – is a handy one, but sometimes even I make mistakes. It was last Friday evening, and although I can no longer remember why, everything was going wrong. We had reached the end of a long, hard week: tempers were frayed, children were tired, adults on the verge of tears. I can’t remember if it was just me who was upset, or whether Emily was mirroring my emotional state, but at a given point she disappeared from the house announcing “Going to the shops”.

I resumed washing up. Five minutes later she was back, standing at the kitchen door, carrying a large gift bag. I opened it: inside, a bottle of red wine and a large box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray. She was smiling.

“For our special day,” she said.

Emily tells me that my face at this point was a mixture of surprised pleasure and utter bewilderment: a rabbit trapped in headlights that don’t come from a car but from an enormous golf buggy driven by other rabbits. I looked from her to the bag and back again and tried to steal a glance at the wall calendar.

“23rd November?” I stammered, after a moment, frantically trying to recall what had obviously slipped my mind.

“Yes,” came the reply. “The day you will always remember as the day you nearly suffered a heart attack because you thought you’d forgotten an anniversary.”

Evil. Lovely gesture, but evil.

Waxing and waning (part 2)

“Hah,” says Gareth, in response to the melting-candle-caught-in-radiator photo I posted last week. “You’re rubbish at melting candles.  Simon did it much better when he was a student, by leaving candles on a windowsill during summer.  He still has them.”

I don’t think I could top that…

The little things you do together (ii)

Conversation over lunch. (Lunch!)
Emily [to Joshua, who is off school]:It’s a mystery, though. You only seem to be sick in the middle of the night.Me [singing to Alma Cogan]: He’s only sick in the middle of the night / He’s only sick in the middle of the night…

Joshua: I don’t know why.

Emily: Maybe your sick is nocturnal.

Joshua: What do you mean?Emily: It only comes out at night.

Me: Nice carrot soup, by the way.

Emily: At least it’s not diced carrot. Anyway, let’s stop all this talking about sick while we’re eating.

Me: You brought it up.

This is a normal day in our house.

Comedy vegetable (ii)

After my cynical remarks of a couple of days ago I think we all need a bit of light relief, so I went through the photos and posts I’ve got queued for this blog, in order to find the one that was the biggest departure from a tirade about the ordination of women bishops.

This – as found in our Abel and Cole box – was the outright winner.

I mean, I don’t even know where to start.

Starting again

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

(Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight)

I have a colleague who grew up not knowing her father. Some months ago he found her via Facebook, and got in touch, and they attempted to get to know each other again. There were visits, meetings, and lengthy phone calls. This lasted for some time before it fell apart.

“There were various reasons,” she told me. “But one of the contributing factors is that he’s such a narrow-minded bigot. I know he’s my father, but his views and attitudes are appalling, as is the language he uses. He’s not someone I really want my children to be spending time with.”
“You don’t think they might have the capacity to change that?”
“No. I don’t think so. I think he’s too far gone, his views are too entrenched. I’ve tried. Really I have.”

I viewed yesterday’s marginal defeat at the Anglican Synod with a mixture of disgust, disillusionment and resignation. The cynic in me knew this was coming; the optimist hoped that it could somehow be avoided. The views of the many are irrelevant here; it’s the ones in charge who hold all the clout. People are saying that liberals love democracy until it works against them, but from what I gather here this wasn’t about democracy at all. And I’m assuming that if you were to ask any of the ‘no’ voters why they refuse to sanction this change, they’ll throw the epistles at you.

But I no longer live my life according to Biblical doctrine, because to adhere strictly to the policies and codes therein “because they’re there”, as the fundamentalists do, is to ignore thousands of years of sociological context and history. To fail to view the Bible within its historical context is to view it superficially: it may (or may not) have been God-inspired, but it was written by men, and to take it literally (however much you claim to have read around the subject) is to deny this. To say “X says this, so it’s written in stone and it must never be changed” is to fail to follow Jesus’ example, for one thing. (There are those who suggest that Jesus didn’t change a single commandment, and there are Biblical quotes that back this up, but what he did was give a re-appraisal of the context and interpretation, which we must surely do with the words of Paul.)

The truth is that everyone puts their own spin on the Bible, even those who say they don’t. At least I admit it. When reading its commands and instructions I’ll ask myself “Within the context of our current society, is this morally sound behaviour? Is this something that I should or should not be doing?”. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my gut, because to rely exclusively on Biblical content for its own sake is to suppress your own conscience, and you do that at your peril. Deny your conscience, and what it is telling you in spite of what you’ve read, and you are incomplete.

I have yet to find anyone who can conjure up a suitable moral explanation for why there shouldn’t be women bishops; the only answer I ever get is “Paul said we shouldn’t”. Never mind the fact that I think we listen to Paul far too much; it doesn’t answer the question. And I’ve learned over the years that not answering the question is the one thing that Church leaders (much like the politicians they supposedly hold in contempt) actually do really well. And after yesterday, I’m starting to wonder whether trying to rebuild this argument again – which, I read this morning, will take another five years – is actually worth the effort.

Because here’s the bottom line: the women bishops thing was an attempt to drag the Church of England kicking and screaming into the 20th / 21st century, and I can’t help thinking that it’s too far gone, too archaic for that. The Church is rotten to the core: bloated, bureaucratic, and more about the survival of the institution than the gospel of Christ. It’s become more about how we do church than what we’re supposed to be teaching. Power corrupts, or at best encourages complacency and the desire to cling to that power at the cost of what is important.

There are a lot of armchair politicians and couch theologians online this morning, and I am one of them. But it strikes me that if this is truly as important to people as they say it is, they will eventually vote with their feet, and the Church will implode and collapse and we can start over. A friend of mine has suggested that the disaffected conservatives who oppose the ordination of women should go and form their own splinter group – much as Anglican clergy who opposed homosexuality were invited to become Catholic priests – but why should the same not apply to us? Any organised religion will, given the opportunity, survive long enough to see itself become the villain, and I think it’s beyond hope. So perhaps this isn’t about trying to prolong the life of a terminally sick institution. Perhaps this is about killing it, and starting over. It’s been said that a disagreement of this nature, if not resolved amicably, will fracture the Church. Maybe it’s time.

Look out! Muppets!

So apparently, Lord McAlpine has a plan to pursue legal action against 10,000 Twitter followers.
I don’t know why, but every time I read about this, I think about Dan Aykroyd, facing an angry mob of P.A.G.A.N.s, halfway through Dragnet, holding out his badge and boldly declaring “You are all under arrest…”

Waxing and waning

So it turns out that if you’re not careful when dusting the windowsill, this happens.

It’s so fluffy!

When we weren’t freezing our brass monkeys in the park, or getting wound up by the ineptitude of the AI River Song in The Eternity Clock, the boys spent part of the afternoon watching Despicable Me.

Which was great, of course. Joshua tells me they’re planning a sequel. If that’s going to be the case, I want it to look like this.

If you’re reading this abroad (or even if you aren’t) there is a good chance this is going to go over your head, but I thought it worth sharing.

Things to do on a Saturday evening

WARNING: I wouldn’t call them spoilers, but the screen grabs below have plot components and also details of returning characters, so if you want to go in totally cold, stay out of the way. And yes, I ‘m a vindictive pedant. But THIS STUFF MATTERS.

Gopher wooden

I wonder, did the BBC ever take ‘appropriate disciplinary action’ against Philip Schofield over this…?

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