Wednesday, December 24, 2008

JP's Christmas Message

If you were hoping for something profound, I'm afraid that you're going to be disappointed.  If thoughtful and profound is your thing, you're probably better off waiting for the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas message.  I say probably, though, because I've just seen the BBC Headline which tells me that his message is going to be about not waiting for heroes to solve the world's problems.  I always think that it puts a bit of a dampener on things when the media announce what people are going to say in a speech, but in this case I hope that it's just something of a cliff-hanger.  As a message in itself, it's a bit nice-but-pointless.

Personally, of course, I hope that he really encourages people to think about the Christian faith.  The message of the Christian faith, of course, has not changed since last year but don't let that put you off having another think about it.  Believe me it's worth it, and the birth of Jesus really is something to celebrate.

Meanwhile, I'm struggling with the whole wrapping presents thing.  I feel that I'm now at an age where I should be able to do it, and that I can no longer rely on the fact that bad wrapping is assurance that I've put the effort in myself.  It's not going well, though.  I've managed to get that 're-used wrapping paper' look and may as well have not bothered buying a new roll.  Still, maybe some people will dig me for the apparent green credentials it gives me.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

everybody dance now!

Normally, I'm not overly enamoured by people who interrupt my morning commute with their unnecessarily loud (but oh-so-cool) ringtones, or feel the need to share their music with their fellow passengers in glorious low-fidelity sound.

This morning, however, I did raise a smile when I heard one of JP's Top Anthems.  It was suitably random and a good way of breaking the monotony of a Monday morning train journey.

Incidentally, with reference to my last post, I didn't mean to come across as something as a Scrooge. I might object to the idea of making unnecessary political statements, but I have to admit that Alasdair was right.  Cards are a great way of keeping in touch, "Winter Greetings" or otherwise.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

lighting the seasonal blue touchpaper

I know that we had this debate last year, but I’ve once again found myself wondering what the point is of a card which says “Winter Season’s Greetings”. 


I’ve not (yet) received such a card myself so before you worry, I’m not being rude in an ungrateful sort of way.  Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop me having an opinion. 

Personally, I feel that such a card implies that the sender is a bit self-righteous.  The message conveyed is a bit “I’m not celebrating Christmas. Get me and my political correctness.” 

If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, then I’m not going to stop you.  But it’s a bit pointless to send a card if you’re not celebrating anything.  You wouldn’t expect to send a “Summer Season’s Greetings” card in August, would you?


Besides, what’s wrong with wishing those of us who will be celebrating it a “Happy Christmas”?  What’s wrong with enjoying the festivities of Christmas, even if you don’t believe?  You don’t have to pretend that it isn’t really Christmas.  This whole “I don’t want to offend anyone” nameless approach to the festival is hollow, narrow minded, and ultimately quite miserable. 

Talking of not wanting to offend anyone, I wonder what would happen if I decided that I actually took offence to these silly cards.  Would it be unreasonable, as a member of an apparent religious minority, to expect them to be banned in some circles?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

back with a rant opposed to 'back with a bang' or however the saying probably goes.  You wouldn't expect any less, really, would you?

Getting down to business, I've had a few experiences recently in which I've been very frustrated by the selfish and unhelpful attitudes of some people in what I would term 'customer facing' roles.  Some might say that this is nothing new, but it has annoyed me nonetheless.

For my first example, we'll head to Three Bridges station, because tradition dicates that I should talk about something train-related once in a while.  Last week, I was on the platform at said station and I saw the electronic sign which told me that the train I had hoped to catch was 'Delayed'.  

Maybe it was unreasonable of me to have wanted to find out some more details, but approaching the Southern employee outside the door marked 'Information' seemed like a logical step to take.  He couldn't tell me how long the delay was, but did go to great lengths to explain that this wasn't his fault.  Apparently the man in the information room on the other platform wasn't responding to his queries for information.  I think "pathetic" is a fitting term to use here.

Anyway, because my train was delayed (perhaps indefinitely - who knew at this point?) I had time on my hands and decided that I could spare a bit of it to head through the subway and speak to the man in the information room myself.  It was better than standing out in the cold, but turned out to be a complete waste of time.  Information Room Man stuck his head out of the door to read the sign I had already read, told me that he "had no more information" and then just ignored me.  How. Rude.

I don't know about you, but in a world where jobs are increasingly at a premium I'm amazed that Southern couldn't find someone who knows what Customer Service is to work at the Information Desk.

Moving on, I went to a wedding yesterday (which, incidentally, I very much enjoyed).  On the way there we encountered a road block, comprising a bit of tree across one carriageway, and a Fire Engine across the other one.  After watching the firemen sweep randomly around the branch for a while I got out of the car and walked to the front of the queue to ask how much longer they were going to be.

"We've just got to move this bit," came the response from one of the firemen as he pointed towards the offending bit of tree.  This wasn't an especially satisfactory response, given that all they'd ever had to do was "move that bit."  I can't say that I was too enamoured with his manner, either.

I then proceeded to ask why he couldn't move the Fire Engine and let the policemen who were present direct the traffic past.  Apparently it's because they're "not allowed to work when there are cars coming past".  For the second time, "pathetic" is the word.

What really gets to me though is the fact that the sense of helping other people seems to have been completely lost.  It's actually really quite selfish, and it's a real shame that beauracy and an unhelpful attitude has developed such a tendancy to get in the way.

In the case of the railways, I know that the flow of information is not always good.  In the case of clearing the road, I understand that some precautions have to be taken.  But what happened to common sense?  What happened to being friendly and apologising to the passengers stood out in the cold?  What happened to appearing to make an effort? Since when did people have all day to sit around in a queue of traffic whilst four blokes ponce around with a broom?  Why was taxpayers money used to buy fluorescent suits which could be seen from outer space when those who wear them aren't allowed to go near a moving car anyway?

I could go on, but rather than pose any more questions, I shall answer the one which is bound to be on everybody's mind.  I did make it to the church on time.  


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Remember, Remember...

Exactly one year ago today I sat on the train home from my first day in the office as a working man* and I blogged.


If I were in a negative frame of mind, I might be disappointed by the fact that I am not joining the rest of the nation and celebrating this momentous anniversary by letting off a few fireworks.   I might also be disappointed that at whatever time in the evening it now is I am in an office of sorts with no windows.  Especially when the rest of my colleagues here have gone out for dinner, and I need to be on shift because of the way the slot chart is.


But perhaps surprisingly I am not in a negative frame of mind at all.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  For one thing, I really enjoyed my dinner just now.  That too is perhaps surprising, given that I had to rely on the supermarket on the way to work, the microwave here and a fork which I'd managed to borrow.  Even given these low expectations however, I can safely say that my Tuscany Salad and Hollandse stamppot: Hutspot met hachee** was delicious***, and I feel suitably replete.


More importantly, I do really enjoy my job.  Of course, I have had plenty of dull days in the last year, and even the occasional stressful one.  But that's par for the course, and on the whole I have found that I really like what I do.


Finally, when I sat on the train a year ago and thought about where I would be now I think I presumed that I would once again have been travelling home on a train, in the dark.  Although I had hoped for a bit of travel, I didn't imagine that I would actually be spending some time in Amsterdam, enjoying the perks of business travel.  OK, so in an ideal world i wouldn't be sat here right now waiting for the computer systems to reload for the umpteenth time, but as Dido sang, "it's not so bad, it's not so bad at all".  This morning I feasted on a sumptious hotel breakfast before strolling in to the centre of the city and indulging myself in a bit of culture at the Rijksmuseum.  Sometimes you've got to take the rough with the smooth, and really I cannot complain at all.


Here's to the next year...



*or 'Young Professional' if you like.  "Good to see."
**this was evidently chunks of beef in gravy served with a carrot, onion and potato mash.  Mmm.
***Albert Heijn must be the equivalent of Waitrose or M&S.

Friday, October 24, 2008

JP's World at One - Taking the Michael

Today I'm going to break with my recently developed tradition of referring to articles from the BBC News Page.  I'm not even going to talk about trains.


I had to do a demonstration for a customer first thing this morning, which didn't start quite as well as one would have hoped for.  I felt that the only thing I was demonstrating successfully was Murphy's Law, when one of the Windows computers decided that it was a good time to lock up, and other various minor problems all occurred just as the customer arrived.  You might have said "it was one of Those Days".


Someone evidently has a sense of humour though.  Whilst I was getting the show back on the road I logged in to my email.  Those of you who use Gmail might know that sometimes a 'Quote of the Day' appears at the top of the inbox, and starting me in the face was "If at first you don't succeed then maybe failure is more your style - Quentin Crisp."  Talk about Taking The Michael.


Fortunately failure is not my style and if I were to log in to my email again now I feel that "All's well that ends well" would be an appropriate thing to see at the top of my message list.



Who is Quentin Crisp, anyway?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

JP's World At One - Speed Cameras In Swindon

It's lunchtime, and from my current base in Amsterdam I like to keep an eye on the world through the lens of the BBC News page.  It's gone one o'clock as I write this, and it's probably not one o'clock as you read this, but I hope you'll forgive me and allow for a bit of Artistic License with the title.


You would have thought that I had far more interesting things to talk about in Amsterdam than what's happening in Swindon, and - fortunately - you'd be right.  I do.  But I haven't yet had time to perfect my writings, so you'll have to wait for JP's take on the Dutch capital.  In the meantime, I can't resist passing comment on this BBC News Article.


Specifically, I want to draw your attention to the quote by Labour councillor Derique Montaut, who apparently opposed the decision.


"I think speed cameras locally, nationally and internationally, have shown that they're one measure - one of many measures - that can be used to regulate speed," he said.

"It hasn't always been popular, but it's proved, and shown, to have saved lives."


The rationale behind the decision is that the death toll is rising and that speed is not always a factor in road accidents.  To me, it would seem fair enough to put money in to other safety initiatives instead.  Besides, even if you are set on controlling speed what would be wrong with trialling one of the other "many measures that can be used to regulate speed?"


Finally what's the difference between proving something and showing something in this case?


That is all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

one word weather with JP Mandela







This is for Gareth's benefit.  I couldn't resist, but I really must get to work now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

just a stranger on the bus

I read this BBC News article with some interest.

Obviously I don't agree with what the advertisement says, but I think that anything which prompts people to consider God can only be a good thing. That said, I did smile at Steven Green's comment:

"Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large."

In this case I have to say that the advert makes some very misleading claims. To claim that 'God probably doesn't exist' implies that the possible existence of God can be quantified in some meaningful way. Let's face it, although the writer of the advert is entitled to claim that they don't think God exists they cannot prove anything.

Secondly, I would like to question the implication that not believing in God will stop you from worrying and ensure that you enjoy life. What rubbish.

It will be interesting to see if the usual 'don't preach at me brigade' object to these adverts in the same way as they object to Christian advertising, but I won't hold my breath

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Double Dutch

I have taken to using Google Chrome as my preferred web-browser, and I rather like it.  It's got a clean, clear interface and I find it quite intuitive.  Admittedly I felt a tinge of sadness when I decided to uninstall Firefox but I didn't have any use for three browsers.  I don't really like having more than one web browser, actually, but like it or lump it there are still one or two sites which are too archaic to support anything other than Internet Explorer.


Anyway, despite all the things I like about it, I have now inadvertently discovered something which annoys me.  Maybe I've missed something here, but the fact that I'm in Holland does not suddenly mean that ik spreek Nederlands and always wish to search


Hello from Amsterdam, by the way.

Friday, October 03, 2008

hoping for the final countdown

In recent weeks my Facebook Mini-Feed has been increasingly populated by countdowns for one thing or another.

Invariably when I log in I learn that someone is one day closer to their wedding than they were when I logged in yesterday, or that someone else is 9 hours closer to their loved one than they were when I checked on my way in to work, 9 hours earlier.

Maybe this sudden trend has been encouraged by the wet summer, or a new feeling of Autumn Blues, but nevertheless some people need to get out more.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

variations on a theme

If you've been keeping up with my new found blogging pace recently, you will have known that the last three posts on Tuesday centred around my experience with a jobsworth Revenue Inspector and the hour and a half I had in Swindon thanks to his mean mindedness and lack of any reasonable human judgement. Not that I'm bitter, or anything.

Anyway, whilst I was on the train home today my quiet reading* was rudely interrupted by a gaggle of yobs** who boarded the train. They were shouting at each other up and down the carriage, swearing, banging on the windows and generally acting as though it was some kind of mobile zoo.

Unsurprisingly, when the conductor made his way in to the carriage he discovered that most of them were travelling without a valid ticket. I watched in anticipation hoping that he would throw the book at them and was disappointed when the mild confrontation with the first group only led to them being thrown off the train at the next stop with no further punishment. I'm presuming that they got back on further up the train, or failing that wreaked havoc on the following service.

At the other end of the carriage, the second group refused to alight. As they fled in to the next carriage the conductor came back through, threatening to ring the police. He did just that but I then overheard him telling the man serving refreshments that they weren't going to do anything about it.

Brilliant. I get treated like a criminal for asking politely if I could remain on a fairly empty train whilst the apes I saw today enjoyed free travel. Paid for, presumably, by the Penalty Fares some of you have collected due to lack of provision for buying a ticket, or the obscene rise in prices which happens periodically.


*thelondonpaper. What else?

**One could presumably use the term 'hoodie' here but there were no actual hoods in sight.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why FGW could learn a lot from 'Spoons

Part Three of JP's Great Journey Home also comes to you from the comfort of the Wetherspoon's in Swindon, whilst I digest my rather good Gourmet Burger (with Side Salad) and generally Reflect on Things.

The food, it has to be said, was excellent. My expectations were admittedly quite low, but that just makes it even more impressive and I am certainly feeling suitably replete.

The background music is also helping with those Feel Good Vibes, and my frustration with the complete jester of a Revenue Inspector is slowly melting away.

What has really impressed me with this particular joint though is the attitude of the staff. Both the barmaid and the guy serving the food have been extremely friendly and extremely helpful. I get the impression that if they'd had to inconvenience my afternoon they'd have done so in the nicest possible way, with a sympathetic smile. They would probably even have apologised.

Take note, First Great Western.

Greetings from Swindon

If you've read my last post, and the title for this one you will hopefully have put two and two together and not made five. Jobsworth Revenue Inspector got his way, and the Train Manager was unable to allow me to stay on the train with my current ticket. I think I'm as annoyed by his unnecessarily aggressive manner as I am by his decision, and wonder how people like that sleep at night.

Anyway, it's not so bad. Swindon has a Wetherspoons and I'm sat with a beer whilst I wait for my Gourmet Burger. Bonus. One might say that I am using the time more productively than I would be if I was sat in the Sensory Garden in the rain. Unless of course you happen to possess binoculars and a Train Spotter's Notebook.

Despite my surprisingly bouyant mood* if you do know any First Great Western Revenue Inspectors and have an opportunity to ruin their day please seize it gladly with wide open arms. It will make the rest of my pint taste even sweeter.


*If you are thinking that the bouyancy might be beer related your two and two would make five here because I've barely had a sip of lager at this point in time.

When I'm annoyed, I blog

In case you were hoping that this post title referred to an exciting new single or album I might be planning to release I'm afraid that I'm going to have to disappoint you. The subject is nothing clever and there is no double meaning. Basically, I'm annoyed and I'm going to blog about it.

Cheer up, though, I've not had a good train related rant in a while.

Had you asked me an hour ago what I thought of First Great Western I could not have been more positive. I have travelled with them a reasonable amount recently and my experiences bear no resemblence to the poor reputation they seem to have gained. I have found the trains to be consistently clean and comfortable, and the staff to be consistently friendly and helpful. That's certainly more than could be said for a lot of train operators.

But it's so often true that one bad experience can destroy a whole raft of positive ones and that's how I'm feeling now.

The journey I booked online has two tickets - one valid on any train as far as Swindon, and one valid on a specific train from Swindon to London. My appointment finished much earlier than expected and I was able to board a much earlier through train (via Swindon) to London. Now, I know the rules regarding Advance Fares but I asked the conductor anyway whether or not he would permit me to remain on this train rather than alighting and waiting for my booked service. As the train is very lightly loaded, an
d there are unused through reservations on the seats around me I didn't think that this was an unreasonable request.

Unfortunately the conductor is not only a complete jobsworth but he is also a contender for the title of Rudest Man in the World. Insolence and an unwillingness to listen feature highly on his list of 'qualities'. It's now looking as though I've been condemned to a pointless wait of an hour and a half in Swindon, and to add insult to inury if I'd known that my appointment would finish early it would actually have been cheaper to book a through ticket on the train I am on.

I might try some further negotiation, but if not at least I can soothe my sorrows in the Sensory Garden at Swindon station. It'll probably be raining though.

Just talk to her, Dave!

Regular readers (if I still have any) might not be surprised to learn that I've come to the conclusion that it is probably impossible to pull on public transport just by smiling at someone.

I could, if I wanted tell plenty of non-stories at this point. Last Thursday, for example, I was on a train when I exchanged smiles with an attracive young lady. Then I alighted*. The End.

Yesterday, therefore, I seized an opportunity to take the plunge and ascend to the next level by attempting to initiate a conversation. I was waiting at a bus stop in West Wales when I was joined by an attractive blonde, who could possibly be described as sort of Joanna Page - esque.

"Morning," I said.

"Hello," she said in response.

So far, so good, you might think. But now we descend back down to the depths of the 'non-story' for the conversation didn't exactly flow beyond that. We both suddenly developed the need to send a text message or otherwise seek solace in a mobile telephone and aside from a riveting moment when I asked if she was waiting for the 412, she said yes and I said "oh, and here it comes" that, as some might say, was that.

Oh well. You've got to start somewhere...


*This sentence could have just as easily read "we got off" but that might conceivably have changed the whole tone of this post for some of you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

finding the answer to one of life's important questions

Quite some time back now, I wrote about the time I had my hair cut by someone who'd covered their own hair with a hat.

Fast forward to last Friday, and I found myself in another branch of the same establishment desiring to have my luscious but manly curls chopped off. Inadvertently, I was now in a position to answer a question which might have been bugging some of you for a while.

Is it better to have your hair cut by someone who has covered their own hair up, or by someone who has no hair at all?

I'll save you the suspense and tell you that on this occasion I'm quite happy. My hair is neat, well cut and not really wonky in any way. More importantly, I don't look like a thug, although that was down to my choice of style and not the competence of the person wielding the clippers and the scissors. I don't think I was particularly unhappy last time, but the fact that I've not been back to the establishment since might speak for itself.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

FIA Bias

After watching the nail-biting finsih to today's Belgian Grand Prix I was very disappointed to learn that Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his win after a Stewards Enquiry, especially in light of the fact that the Stewards decided against penalising Ferrari for the incident in the last race. This isn't the first time that the cynic in me has come to the conclusion that the FIA is biased in favour of Ferrari, and I'm inclined to agree with Jeremy Clarkson's comment in this month's issue of Top Gear when he noted [about the German Grand Prix] that as per usual the car prepared by the team with the most money won.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kake, and the existence of Flo

Given that many people still seem to come to this Korner of the Blogosphere in search of cake, I thought that it was about time that I had a cake themed-post.

In light of the ongoing debate about the existence of God (see the previous two posts), I want you to imagine that you've popped round to visit me for tea and that I've served a cake. Let us also suppose that I say that I have a friend called Flo, whom you've never met, and that she made said cake.

The cake happens to be very nice and you ask me for the recipe, which I don't have. As would be perfectly reasonable, you might start to speculate about the cake's ingredients or how it was made. It would be a little bizarre, however, if you suddenly questioned whether or not I really did have a friend called Flo based on the discovery that apricot jam had been used to stick the icing on. Even the existence of self-raising flour doesn't invalidate the possibility of the cake being made by a friend called Flo.

You might question it if I said that "Flo tells me that it was a quick and easy cake which could be made in the microwave in seven minutes" but it would be an illogical step to jump straight to the conclusion that I don't really have a friend called Flo after all.

Perhaps more importantly, if you asked me why I was serving such a nice cake, you probably wouldn't expect me to respond simply by giving you the recipe. If you asked "why did Flo make the cake for you?" it would be something of a non-sequiter if I said "she used self-raising flour".

Food for thought, if you'll excuse the terrible pun.

Monday, September 01, 2008

atheism is a matter of faith, not science: the debate continues

Following the letters page in last Wednesday's Metro and the follow-up comment on this post I’m pleased to see that the beginnings of a debate are brewing, and I intend to use this post to pick up the baton again.

Unsurprisingly, I’m going to start by responding to the aforementioned comment. I apologise if my tone was deemed to be a bit sharp, but I have no hesitation in defending the point I was trying to make.

According to, faith can be defined as “belief that is not based on proof.” As there is no proof that God does not exist, belief that God does not exist (i.e. atheism) must be faith.

Now, I take your point that “as human beings we are always revising and fine tuning what we hold to be true based on the evidence to hand, what we discover and our ability to determine what is probable or improbable.” To digress slightly, that is why switching on the Large Hadron Collider is going to be something of a milestone, as it could either serve to prove a theory or force a bit of a re-think.

However, the attitude of some atheists implies that as the human race has grappled with the existence (or not) of God in this way we’ve got to the stage where no-one with intelligence would ever question the “fact” that there is no God. This is what my letter to the Metro aimed to refute.

Glossing over the fact that to adopt this attitude is insulting and belittling to the many eminent and intelligent scientists who do believe in God, the bottom line is that it’s just not that clear-cut.

If it were, then surely one would expect the majority of the world’s population to adhere to the view that there is no God. Although we are a very advanced race, only a very small proportion of the population are confirmed atheists. The rest of us can’t all be that stupid, can we? At the very least I’d have expected those agnostics who sit on the fence to have no trouble nailing their colours to the mast and agreeing that there is no God.

There are no “different rules” here for belief in God; it’s just that the evidence against it is not as strong as some would claim.

Certainly if the evidence was that convincing I wouldn’t worry too much about the effect of parental or other conditioning, because as children are properly educated they will see the error of their ways. Forgive the slight sarcasm, but although I can see the point about belief in God being furthered in that manner I’ve been interested to note that it is often under regimes in which religious faith is actively stifled that believing communities grow the most.

Finally, I’d like to pick up on your comment that “proof that God existed would be self-evident”. To an extent I disagree, although as I can’t offer proof that God exists either it’s a fairly mundane point. I do however think that there is a lot which could (and I believe does) point to the existence of God. Furthermore, I’d advise caution when it comes to making such general comments about religious texts. The Bible is full of accounts of people who struggled with the existence of God, and the idea of putting their trust in Him. To pose just one example, I’m not sure that if “proof was always so abundant” the Israelites would have wasted their time worshipping home made ‘gods’ constructed from wood and metal.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Atheism is a question of faith, not science.

Or so said the sub-headline on the letters page in Wednesday's Metro


I couldn't have put it better myself...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another one of those failed railway romances

Those of you who've been here often, or who read my column in Impact* last summer are probably bored of my tale of failed romance when an attractive young lady smiled at me on the train, I smiled back, and...nothing else happened.


Yesterday I was given a second chance, when as my train pulled out of Swindon I looked up to find the attractive blonde across the aisle staring at me.  As is my custom I returned her smile, and sat back in my seat thinking how the moment of leaving Swindon had just become brighter still.  I settled down to watch 'Battle of the Bishops',** but my concentration was hampered by the fact that I continued to exchange the odd smile with the beau opposite.  I even like to think that she was staring at my reflection in the window, but my hunch would be that I am mistaken on that one***.  Anyway, she got off at Reading without so much as a backward glance, and that, as they say, was that.





*See what I did there?  Forgive me as I angle for a bit of an ego boost.


**In this context this sounds intriguing and perhaps a little risque (worryingly) but you can rest assured that I am referring to the documentary that was on the BBC recently at the time of the Lambeth Conference.  I'm still as behind with the times as ever.


***Still, it pads out the story a bit.  Besides, such thoughts are also good for my ego.

Hands up who voted for short, fat, hairy legs...

There was a humorous article in yesterday’s thelondonpaper which reported the discovery by a “top London scientist” that “men find women most attractive if they have big breasts and shapely legs”.


You don’t say. I agree, of course, though more so on the point about the legs than the breasts, if I am honest. Maybe the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” springs to mind, but I’m not overly fussed about massive huge breasts.


When it comes to what women find attractive about men though, I was surprised and perhaps slightly disappointed by the report.

Broad Shoulders – tick.

Long upper body – hmmm.

Short legs – Oh dear.


Whatever happened to tall, dark and handsome?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

if it's still broken this time tomorrow...

I've had the privilege recently of spending quite a bit of my day onboard an Airbus Flight Training Simulator. For the purposes of pilot training, the whole cockpit needs to visually resemble the real aeroplane, right down to the last detail. So, on the circuit breaker panel behind the seats you will also find various items you’d also expect to see at 30,000 feet in the real deal, such as a container labelled ‘Gloves’.

In some cases it’s possible to be a bit creative, perhaps with the aim of saving money. So the gloves in the box are obviously not vital for crew training because on the Simulator I discovered two hand shaped pieces of cardboard*. When it comes to the item labelled ‘Crash Axe’ on the other hand...


*Incidentally they’ve not been there since the beginning of the week, so whoever thought they’d avoid petty theft by not supplying real gloves was possibly mistaken.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I think I might have mentioned before that one of the things I like about the londonpaper is the londonlove section. In particular, I’m often amused by the texts sent in by people trying to take an exchange of smiles on the Tube to the Next Level.


Sometimes I think that people need to be a bit more original, because “I’m the brunette who smiled at you on the Jubilee Line” is not particularly eye-catching (even if smiling at someone on the Tube is noteworthy these days) and could illicit all sorts of dubious responses from people trying their luck. On other occasions I can understand why an exchange of numbers never happened in the first place; I can’t say that I’m especially well-versed in this sort of thing but I’m fairly certain that “I really did have some cold-sore cream in my bag” is not a follow-up to a great chat-up line. I also wonder why some people bother when they end their messages with such gems as “you drove off in a gold Nissan Micra”. Gold. Micra. Both wrong.


Anyway, I might mock, but after visiting a church recently I can see the merits of a similar system extending beyond the confines of the London public transport network. I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation of chatting to someone and then making the schoolboy error of leaving without any means of further contact.


This got me thinking then, about what would happen if The Church Times had a love page like the one in the londonpaper, and it opens up quite a few questions.


Obviously there’d have to be more to the original encounter than simply smiling across the aisle. Churches tend to be full of Christians, and a lot of us smile a lot anyway. Unless the church in question is one of those where people have a Deep Joy, smiling at someone isn’t as unusual as it is at 9am on the District Line.


In my experience, the texts in the londonpaper are rarely particularly risqué, but I would probably still advise caution when describing the person in question. On the positive side, to pay someone a compliment would fit in nicely with Paul’s teaching about “building one another up and encouraging one another”, but over-step the mark and you risk falling foul of the warning that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in their heart”. Have that hanging over your head and any further meeting is bound to start awkwardly.


Then you’d have to think carefully about what constitutes the Next Level. In the more conservative circles, I don’t think that ending a message with “Drink” is particularly appropriate, do you? You could, however, get around this problem by being more specific about the type of beverage. “Coffee?” is bound to be more universally acceptable, although in some cases you might want to make it clear that you weren’t simply concerned about their Doctrine.


Finally, whereas “the brunette on the Northern line” could be anyone*, Christian circles tend to be quite well connected. No matter how small and out of the way St Frideswide’s happens to be you can guarantee that someone somewhere will pick up the paper and know that it was you who went there last Sunday and took quite a shining to his brother's girlfriend.

JP sins cardinally

I’m not really sure what defines a Cardinal Sin, but I’m fairly certain that I committed one recently. A guy on the train was wearing the same tie as me.


I positioned my copy of the Metro to conceal this fact, and as I buried my nose in to the pages even closer than usual I shot a furtive glance across the aisle to make sure that he hadn’t noticed. I then glanced around at the rest of my fellow commuters to ensure they hadn’t noticed either. I’m not sure what this glance would have achieved, as anyone pointing out my offence would have risked committing a greater social faux pas, but I feel that on this occasion I got away with it.


I wonder if this is what women feel like when they turn up somewhere and someone else is wearing the same outfit?

a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break

In case you're wondering, I don't smoke. But I did think that it was ironic that to watch "Would I Lie To You?" on the BBC iPlayer I had to confirm that I was over 16 by simply ticking a box.

you knew that I'd be back

I have no reasonable excuse for my long silence, so I'm not going to bother wasting my time making one up for you.

I've been away for so long that I feel like I'm shouting in to an echo filled cave, and all I expect to hear back is the slow drip, drip of water in the distance.

I may as well say "hello" though.

Friday, July 11, 2008

women bishops

If you've been keeping up with the news recently, you won't have missed the fact that the Church of England's governing body (General Synod) had an emotionally charged vote on the issue of Women Bishops at the beginning of the week.


It's certainly an interesting and complicated issue.  Personally, I am saddened by the fact that the main picture painted of the church in recent weeks has been one of division and apparently irrelevant bickering, whilst the good news of the Christian message has been left unproclaimed.  I would. however, like to offer one or two thoughts on the matter.


Firstly, a comment was made in a news report I saw that "both sides were taking their arguments from the Bible".  There is a popular, if ignorant argument which claims that the Bible is full of contradictions (and therefore unreliable and irrelevant).  Unfortunately, I suspect that such comments have only served to reinforce such a notion, whilst my perception of the news report is that both sides have just been very selective in using the Bible to back up their own arguments.  The Bible is a big book (or, rather, collection of books) and if you start quoting passages in isolation you will - as with anything else - find apparent contradictions. 


In this case, the Anglican Church was not around in Biblical times, which makes finding anything in the Bible specifically relevant to the gender of its bishops somewhat tricky.  The so called 'traditionalists' who are against women bishops have been citing the passage from Matthew's Gospel, in which Jesus chooses his 12 disciples, and noting that they were all male.  The difficulty I have with this is that there is nothing in this particular episode which gives a reason for this; if my historical understanding is correct, it was a very male dominated society and so it could just as easily be a product of the culture of the day rather than a specific precedent set by God.  Now I do believe that God formed us as men and women with different roles to play (more on that in a minute), but I think that it's dangerous to look at this one passage in isolation.  For example, the sub-department I belong to at work is entirely male, but not many people would condone using this fact as a sole reason for not employing a woman in years to come.


I'm also less than enamoured with the 'Biblical argument' put across by those in favour of women bishops.  They were quoted as citing the passage from Paul's letter to the Galatians, in which he writes that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus".  At the time this was written, there were those who believed, for example, that the Jewish converts to the Christian faith were superior in some way.  Paul is challenging this view and saying that as far as God is concerned we are all equal.   But (and you knew this was coming) I think we need to be careful here.  We are not all clones, and we each have different gifts and different roles to play.  So, despite the assertion that "there is neither slave nor free" Paul also says in his writings that "slaves should be obedient to their masters".  Equally, when it comes to the relationship between men and women, Paul treats them differently; see Ephesians 5:22-30 for example.  This passage has caused controversy because of the concept of male 'headship'.  But you might want to pause and think what it means to be "as Christ is the head of the church".  Christ did not succumb to the devil's temptations to play a power game; rather he humbly submitted himself to a death on a cross for those whom he loves.


If you go right back to the creation in Genesis, the Bible is quite clear.  "Male and female he created them".  I don't for one moment believe that men are superior to women (or vice versa) but crucially, I don't think that God intended us to be the same.  I've just finished reading an excellent book by John Eldridge called 'Wild at Heart' which considers this issue, and I'd thoroughly recommend it.


Of course, the fact that men and women are not the same should not by default mean that women cannot be bishops.  But it is certainly a good reminder that God has called us to play different roles, and to prayerfully consider how that might work out in practice.  I was less than impressed by the person who praised the outcome of the debate by saying that "the church has now come in to line with society".  This is not automatically A Good Thing, and it wouldn't take much time leafing through Biblical history to realise that it was often when the people sided with society that they ignored God and went somewhat astray.


I'm going to duck out here, and say that I don't honestly know where I stand on the issue at the moment.  If I fall off the fence one way or the other, I'll let you know.  I do know, however, that I am concerned about some of the motives for the debate.  Anyone considering being a church leader would do well to read Paul's advice to Timothy, and I would not condone anyone becoming a leader on the grounds of personal ambition.  "It's not fair that he's a bishop and I'm not" doesn't strike me as a great example of humility.  I also think that the Anglican Church needs to review its entire leadership structure.  One of the good reasons for having women priests (and bishops) is that you can, in theory, meet with someone of the same sex for the spiritual support a church leader can provide.  Of course, this goes out of the window when you have one female vicar covering five village churches and no male clergy in the vicinity (or vice versa).  My experience is also that sometimes the church hierarchy can be too pedantic on what jobs must be done by someone who is ordained.  This often leaves perfectly talented laity unable to use their gifts to their full potential, whilst vicars are quite often left without enough hours in the day to do everything which is expected of them.  I was struck recently by the fact that the Anglican Church in Paphos, Cyprus apparently has several weddings a day during the summer season.  I don't know anything about the minister there, but can't help wondering if spending the whole time doing weddings is a good use of the theological training they will have received.  Furthermore, when are they going to have the time to really reach the community with the good news of the Christian faith?  Back in this country, what about those with responsibility for five village churches?  After all the running around from church to church and endless church council meetings, how are they going to be able to pastor the communities effectively? 


I'm in danger of getting on my high-horse, going off topic and ranting for a while, so I shall leave it there.  As ever, it is The Metro which has provided me with words of wisdom, and I end by quoting a letter published today:


"I'm appalled at the amount of attention paid to the issue of women bishops.  Surely the main concern for every priest, whether they be male or female, Church of England or Roman Catholic, should be his or her parish.  The quicker the church gets back to its basic duty of inviting people to have a relationship with God, the better."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Faster. Harder. JP!

This time I do have an excuse for my absence because I've been away.  I have now returned, with a tanned body to die for, and might even have a few things to say which don't involve trains.  Watch this space.


I don't think I've missed much in the meantime, aside from the fact that Gazza is to wed Shezza.  Or so the tabloid headline I glimpsed in Budgens just after I got home informed me.  It's all been happening here.  Who is Shezza, anyway?


That said, there are a couple of items on the BBC News Page this evening which made me smile.  Firstly, it looks as though it's going to become cheaper to pop and not stop thanks to some bizarre tax law.  Maybe we should find some way of running our cars on Pringles.  The article is also quite interesting because it outlines the new guidelines on what constitutes a proper tomato.  I don't know how I ever slept at night before.  Is it me though, or is the start of the list of characteristics a bit, shall we say, Durex?


Secondly, I know that inappropriate 999 calls aren't good, but this really is quite funny.  I'd recommend listening to it, because the guy is Welsh and for some reason that makes it even funnier.


Thank you very much for calling, bye for now.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick (but only just)

It's been a while since I've taken the time to complain about anything train-related, so I'm going to rectify that with a short moan.  Rejoice, or bear with me as appropriate.


My commute takes me about half-way to London, and at the end of last year I paid a four-figure sum for the privilege of holding a Season Ticket for this.  You'd have thought, therefore, that when I actually want to travel all the way in to London I'd enjoy some reasonable savings, given that I only have to buy a ticket for half the journey.  If like me, however, you did think that, you thought wrong.  Especially when it comes to Saver Returns, as I found out this weekend.  I paid £15.70.  If you want to pay for the whole 1 1/4 hour journey in full, you pay £15.10.  The saving didn't even cover my Krispy Kreme doughnut* on arrival, and given that my Season Ticket works out at substantially more than 60p for that part of the journey I feel a bit short-changed.


Rant over.  Rejoice, or bear with me until next time, as appropriate.



* Maple-Flavour glazed. Lush.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Turning 3...

I have just realised that it was three years ago yesterday that I first surfaced in the Blogosphere.  How exciting, and how fitting that I chose to write a post today about cake.  Obviously, it would be better on such on occasion to celebrate by actually eating cake, but such is the reality of the virtual world we inhabit.


It would probably be the Done Thing now to reminisce about my time in the Blogosphere and look back over the last three years, but I'm afraid that I don't have time now to reel off such a spiel.  It's all there in the archive though, so please do peruse to your heart's content.  You might find a few hidden gems - life in Oxford was generally more blogworthy than it is now.  Had I still been there this year I'd have celebrated my birthday with all the festivities of May Day and Ascension Day rolled in to one.  The excitement would almost have been too much!


Has anyone been journeying with me since the very beginning?

It's all about the Kake

I notice that I am still getting a steady flow of people landing in this corner of the Blogosphere in search of JP's Kake Korner.  If that's you, I'm sorry, but I do hope that you'll take the opportunity to break your journey and look around anyway before moving on.  I believe that the site you are after can be found here


The cakes (kakes?) look pretty good actually, and if I lived anywhere near Maryland I'd be sure to pop by.  If I lived in Laurel itself I'd probably be quite fat by now.  Many thanks to Della for taking the time to comment and help me understand what most of my visitors are actually looking for.


In case you didn't see it, here is what she said:


"JP's Kake Korner is an awesome little bakery in Laurel Maryland. I happen to be lucky enough to be employed there by the multi-talented Diane the Cake Lady. We make delicious custom cakes for all occasions. I would direct you to our website, but it's being updated and just doesn't do the business justice right now. I'm not sure who the original JP was, but the location has been a bakery for 30+ years and Diane took over just a couple years ago."


Does anyone know who the original JP was?

By way of an apology

The trouble with writing in this context is that sometimes things don't come across quite as they were meant.  Furthermore, even though I do have the option of checking what I write before I blurt something out in to the public domain I sometimes get caught up in the passion of my argument (as it were) and risk speaking my mind before engaging my brain.


Not for the first time, I think I've got it a bit wrong.  Obviously I have strong feelings about the recent ruling on IVF treatment - as I commented on the last post, I'm going to stick with the sentiment that I don't like the implication that a father figure is unimportant.  But equally, I know lots of people who, for one reason or another, have not been brought up by both parents and I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise if I came across as harsh or ignorant; I certainly didn't mean to offend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What happened to responsibility?

The last few days have seen some major ethical issues being debated in Parliament.  I am generally disappointed by the way in which the voting has gone, if I am honest; something which probably won't surprise you.

I'm worried about potentially dangerous precedents which have been set, and wonder where the line will eventually get drawn (particularly regarding such things as hybrid embryos).

I think that Kester makes a fair point here about the IVF issue, and the fact that the father is no longer seen as important.  Children aren't a commodity and should ideally be brought up by a parent of each gender.  We all need a good male influence and a good female influence.

I was also disappointed by the abortion ruling, and one MP really wound me up when she put forward the argument that she'd "had an abortion at 21 weeks and it was so important for her because she just wasn't in a position in life to bring up children".  I have no sympathy for her in that situation.  Contraception isn't 100% effective, and if you're not prepared to cope with kids you shouldn't be having sex.  Simple as.  I despair at the number of people these days who can't look beyond their own 'needs' and could probably do with a dictionary to define responsibility.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Talking of nobs...

Perhaps unsurprisingly I was not impressed by Labour's campaign for the by-election in Crewe, which seems to be trying to woo voters on the basis that the Conservative candidate is a 'person of wealth or social importance' (or nob). 


This BBC Video makes for interesting viewing, and highlights just how awful the Labour campaign is.  Harriet Harman pointedly judges the Conservative candidate on the basis that  she *thinks* he is a multi-millionaire.  There's some waffle about being 'excessively privileged' and when it's pointed out that Ms Harman would certainly fit any reasonable definition of that phrase she bats it away by claiming that she's "not making an issue of it" in her case.  That may be, but something in me thinks that Edward Timpson (the Conservative candidate) isn't making an issue of his background himself either.  It's only come about because of the blatant hypocrisy of Ms Harman and her ilk.


I should add that I don't buy in to this rubbish about the Labour candidate being better because "as a hard-working mum she's more in touch with the people".  I do wish that Labour would stop bleating about 'hard working people' as though having money and being 'hard working' must be mutually exclusive.  I could go further and be very derogatory, noting that a lot of their supporters are probably not 'hard working' at all.  In this case though, I have other gripes with the argument put forward.   Firstly, as a "hard working mother of five", is this woman actually going to have time to fulfil the commitment of representing the people of Crewe?  I'm sure that as people who work hard, the residents of the area would want someone who has the time to do the job of MP properly, and don't want their taxes spent on child-care while she does it.   Secondly, why do people go for this nonsense about having an MP who's "just like them"? You can't have someone who's like all of the thousands of people who live in the area, and at the end of the day what people need is someone to do  the job properly.  People come from all sorts of different backgrounds and have all sorts of different skills, and at the end of the day, all I personally would want an MP who has well thought through ideas and can get their views across in Parliament.  Whether or not he or she can mother five children is an irrelevant point.  Actually, the whole thing is irrelevant, because despite the campaign's aim of coming across as "the party for the common people", the aforementioned video also makes it clear that the late Mrs Dunwoody's house was also quite something and that she would also count as being "excessively privileged".


Thinking about the Labour party, I wonder if I should have used a 'k' in this post as well.  I do hope nonetheless that this campaign backfires and that Labour continue to get the thorough kicking they well and truly deserve.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Isn't it spelt with a k?

As I approach three years in the Blogosphere, I see that the cowardly art of the anonymous 'insult' is still alive and well...

Selling Out?

It's possibly been well documented in the past that I am not the world's biggest fan of Microsoft. I've not followed the extreme trends of some (I didn't write this webpage using vi, for example) but even so, I'm definitely more Firefox than Internet Explorer and more Gmail than Hotmail. I've always been pro Open Source and I do really like Linux. If there was a quick and painless way of running Linux on a Tablet PC I'd be tempted, but needs must and I'm happy with XP for now.

However, I've just discovered Microsoft's Windows Live Writer, and against my principles I'm giving it a go. You may have noticed that I've been quite quiet in recent months, and one (just one) reason for that is simply that I've become a bit disenfranchised with the Blogger user interface. For a start, I've found the site to be painfully slow recently, to the extent that writing new posts and adding comments to old ones has become quite a chore. Besides, if I'm using a computer without an Internet Connection, penning my thoughts for later is always a bit of a faff.

Last week I bought a computer magazine which talked about Live Writer, and I have succumbed to the temptation to try it. It promises a better user interface than the web-based Blogger one, and it promises to allow me to work offline. Of course, I did Google for alternatives before I went ahead and installed it, but to no avail. So, here I am using Live Writer. It's already got a big black mark for not allowing me to zoom in on the text as I write; for want of a better word, I do have a visual impairment and it's not comfortable for me to type with text this small. In this day and age the lack of zoom is pretty poor to say the least, especially given that Microsoft clearly know how to use the technology; if and when I use Word I can zoom to my heart's content.

So, maybe I've just proven to myself why I don't like Microsoft. But even so, I'm going to continue this experiment for a short while. If you can read this, it's been moderately successful, though I shall be on the hunt for alternatives until Microsoft get their A in to G and provide me with some zoom.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shaken but not stirred

I was relieved this week to get the news that my colleagues who are currently out Chengdu are OK following the recent earthquake. I was however amused by the way in which the email was worded.

"(they) are well (which is excellent news), although they are a little shaken".

You don't say...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Has someone beaten London with the ugly stick?

On my travels today I've been able to take in a braod spectrum of the nation's newspapers* and I'm wondering what all the fuss regarding the new Sex and The City movie is about. To be fair, I'm a man and I've never seen the TV series, but even so, I can't understand why it's such big news that some older bird has turned up in London in a green dress and a silly hat. Even taking her age in to account, she's not really that much of a looker.

Talking of 'not being much of a looker' I have to say that I was very disappointed by the lack of eye candy as I crossed town earlier on the Tube. I hope that this isn't a sign that Boris has banned more than just booze, but on the plus side it did mean that I didn't feel the urge to try and nonchalantly appear to be cool and sophisticated.


*I say broad spectrum, but it wasn't entirely unbiased; I decided against pulling the Guardian from the rack in the Waitrose cafe, because I had no desire to ruin an otherwise blissful lunchtime.

Sensory Delights

I'm at Swindon station, where I have just discovered the 'Sensory Garden'. Someone has fenced off a bit of the platform and thoughtfully placed some pot plants and some benches within the enclosure. I kid you not. Someone else has thoughtfully left a copy of The Times. Is there a better place in which to enjoy the glorious sunshine?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

JP reappears, waving the blue flag for London

It's been really very quiet in this Corner of the Blogosphere recently. I've not looked at the site statistics, but I suspect that I really am now only talking to one of you. And you've probably only found yourself amongst the tumbleweed by mistake.

Whilst you're here though, let me talk to you about tomorrow's election in London. I've never been one to shy away from dipping my toes in and having a political opinion, and it would be wrong of me to let tomorrow pass by without passing comment. As I've said before, I'm a Boris supporter, and if I had a vote, he'd certainly get it. Happily, the opinion polls seem to suggest that many people have also seen sense, but if you're unsure, or are dithering, allow me to explain my choice.

I know that some think that Boris is a bit of a buffoon, but I stand in the camp holding the view that underneath that image he's actually quite intelligent. I also take the view that it's good for the mayor of London to be a something of a character, and as far as I know he is liked by people in his current parliamentary constituency in Henley, and has served them well.

When it comes to his policies, I like his proposal to replace the unpopular bendy-buses. I like his stance on the Congestion Charge, which would appear allow it to be just that – a charge aimed at reducing congestion – and not cripple drivers of large family cars whilst simultaneously allowing anyone with a small and supposedly "green" car to congest the Capital for free. I like his views on cutting crime and rebuilding the moral fabric of society, and although the likes of Jacqui Smith have made some jibes about his policies, ultimately I like the fact that he will have a fresh approach. Let's face it; the current approach isn't exactly working.

Of course, no candidate is perfect, but it was interesting to note that the biggest complaint thelondonpaper seemed to have about Boris in their big article on Monday was that his estimated costs for replacing the bendy-buses with some new Routemasters were wrong. Maybe he should have done some more homework before bandying the suggested figures about, but it's not as though he's been billions of pounds out and then actually sanctioned it anyway, is it now, Ken?

As with any election, it's also important to consider the alternatives. I've made it clear before that I don't like Ken Livingstone, and think that he 's something of a weasel. But do bear with me, before you write that off as 'personal opinion', and let's look at some of the facts.

I've had a rant here before about the new proposals for the Congestion Charge, and I've alluded to some of the issues again above. Lots of manufacturers are making cars which squeeze under the emissions limits, and I don't think that the new charges will result in reduced emissions, let alone congestion. I'm quite tempted to jump on the bandwagon which sees this as a cynical attempt to win some voters, and have noted that it's well documented that Ken has had a series of mood swings and broken promise after promise on this issue alone.

Then there's the well documented 'cronyism'. There have been quite a few suspicious dealings, including the well documented case involving funding from City Hall where one of Ken's aides was arrested for money laundering and has since quit his job. I'm not alone in noting this sort of thing, either. Yesterday, I read that Brian Cooke, chairman of London TravelWatch has chosen to support Boris, saying in a statement that "there is strong evidence that [Ken] has played with both Tube and bus fares for his own political aims".

So, if you are able to vote, it's over to you. Use your vote wisely. After all, even if Boris does turn out to be a circus performer, you've got nothing to lose by giving him the chance to prove otherwise.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

entering the fray

Some of you have probably been paying attention to my recent post on "the purpose of religion". Chrisp was probably right when he said that no-one would have the strength to wade through 25 posts, and perhaps I should have stormed in with the pepper spray and called it quits.

However, I've not had time to respond for a while, but have some thoughts of my own. So to quote the wedding service I attended yesterday, "for richer for poorer, for better, for worse...", I shall now make an attempt to distill some of my thoughts.

I was hoping to tag a comment on the end but there seem to be some technical difficulties with that, so I'm taking the rather brave step of putting it all in a whole new post. On the plus side, some of you probably wouldn't have bothered scrolling down anyway, This would have been comment number 26 on this post, so I hope you'll forgive me if I don't respond to everything, if I've missed something important, or if I've grasped the wrong end of the stick. All sorts of issues have arisen, and I will try now to address one or two points.

Firstly, I'm not happy with the way that the debate degenerated and became unnecessarily personal. I like to keep an open mind, but I am nonetheless disappointed in this case. Scott, I think I've been critical of your posting before, and although I don't want to point the finger squarely at you, I'm not exactly impressed. I hate it when people uphold expectations of the way others should behave (as even Christians sometimes get it wrong, believe it or not), but at the same time, your behaviour hasn't exactly been a great Christian witness. For a start, I'd expect a bit more humility, and although the debate has been heated, may I remind you that you are afforded the luxury of thinking about what you write before you hit 'post'.

Anyway, moving on. The first issue which I'd like to think about is the idea that as a Christian I am "duty bound to explode the theories of others". I couldn't agree more that Christians should stand up for, and defend their faith. In fact, I would go one further and note that we are called to preach the Gospel and "make disciples of all nations". I'd also agree that it's often good to engage in debate, but "duty bound to explode the theories of others" sounds as though it's bordering dangerously on the blinkered, arrogant, and "Bible Bashing". For a start, if someone has a theory that there is no God, I cannot disprove them. If I could, I wouldn't have any 'faith' per se.

It's all part and parcel of the issue of accepting that other people have a different viewpoint. As a Christian, I believe that accepting Jesus is important for everyone, not just my fellow believers. Of course I find it sad when friends choose not to believe, and ultimately, if I believe that I am right, then yes, logically, I must believe that others are wrong. But no amount of bashing them over the head is going to change that. If it could, someone would have got there before me and we'd all be believers by now. Indeed, when Jesus sent people out, he didn't say "stay there and explode their theories until they've seen the light", he said "if they don't accept you, shake the dust off your feet and move on". Obviously, this doesn't mean that I should neglect my duty to stand up for my faith and preach the message, and neither am I about to abandon friendships with those who disagree with me; however, at the end of the day it's important to remember that as Christians we might claim to be "saved by God", but not "JP who repeated himself until it got through our thick skulls".

Another issue which has arisen from this debate seems to be that of setting Christians apart from other religious people. I disagree with whichever anonymous person said that to do this was questionable; is my judgment as questionable for not thinking that as an atheist you must have exactly the same views as Joseph Stalin? There are times when it is acceptable to view all "religious" people as a whole. There are, after all, some things which hold true across the board. But at other times, a distinction must be made. Buddhists don't believe in a God as such, and so the nature of my 'religion' is fundamentally different. Muslims believe that to get in to heaven you must live a good life such that the good outweighs the bad. As a Christian I believe that I can't get to heaven on my own merit, but that God will welcome me anyway if I repent and accept him. I could go on. Furthermore, when entering in to a debate like this, as a Christian, I am going to see it more from that viewpoint than any other. It's just the way these things go.

I don't deny that you don't have to be a Christian to live your life in a particular way. Neither do I deny the fact that Christianity hasn't been immune to corruption. As I said above, even Christians get it wrong, and the self-centredness I talked about in my original post creeps in at all sorts of levels. That classic "please sit somewhere else because this is my pew and I always sit here" is just one (perhaps trivial) example.

However, whoever made the point that fundamentalist Christians aren't known for blowing themselves and others up did actually make a fair point. Just because a religion has demonstrated extremes with such devastating consequences doesn't mean that all religions must form such extremes. Furthermore, although atrocities have been committed by religious people "in the name of God", talk of "Holy War" and "Jihad" is usually peppered with talk of "receiving glory for being a martyr" and on that basis my point stands that it's not belief in God which is the problem, but the self-centredness of humanity.

Finally, back to the issue of worshipping God. I can see that from an atheistic "god-less" point of view, the idea of putting a god first is difficult. But look at it from another point of view. I believe in a God who created the Universe and all that is in it. A God who created the people around me. A God who wants us to enjoy his world. A God who loves us and likes us to relate to Him. A God who answers prayer. A God who has given an assurance of life eternal. On that basis, to rank anything above God is foolish and illogical.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Socks and Helium Balloons

I think that perhaps Gareth was right, when he implied that this post is perhaps in danger of causing a riot. Underneath it all there is an interesting debate going on, and I shall wade in with my thoughts in due course, but there’s been another small drought in this Corner of the Blogosphere recently, and I feel that I should address that issue first.

If you were the one who received a random text last Wednesday reassuring you that I was wearing Wednesday’s socks I apologise for the inconvenience. It was an ‘in joke’ (he says, trying not to admit too obviously to the fact he has Days of the Week Socks, on the basis that it might not be A Good Thing). However, as per the second half of the message, if you did happen to have a cold, I do genuinely hope that it’s better.

Wednesday was a particular day of Faux Pas for me, but it was all quite amusing. Being Holy Week (the week preceding Easter), I took part in a church service that evening as part of a series looking reflecting on the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection*. The service was great, though that’s a slight digression from this particular anecdote. The fact is that I was in church. The other fact you need to know as I set the scene is that it was someone’s birthday and as a result, they were in possession of a couple of helium balloons as we mingled after the service.

One thing lead to another and one of the balloons ended up being released, coming to rest way up under the vaulted ceiling. For several reasons, this was not good. At the best of times, it isn’t especially desirable to adorn the ceiling of a church with a bright pink balloon, but it was particularly bad during Holy Week. It is, after all, meant to be a fairly sombre time of reflection. Furthermore, the following day was Maundy Thursday, when the church is symbolically stripped of all decoration during the evening service.

So, we had to get the balloon down. Cue an hilarious 20 minutes, as we endeavoured to achieve that aim. At this point, some of you are probably thinking that my faux pas was letting the balloon go in the first place, but you’d be wrong – it wasn’t anything to do with me. Instead, as we were experimenting with various different things, concern was raised that the Contraption wasn’t long enough. I couldn’t help opening my mouth and making the obvious comment. Evidently, such innuendo is not particularly appropriate in church, and despite a few stifled laughs it was as though the aforementioned balloon was made of lead. “I don’t think he should have said that” came the voice behind me…

Ah well. All’s well that ends well, and with the help of some masking tape, we extended the Contraption and provided a way of attaching it to the balloon. Cue some balancing in the pulpit followed by jubilation as the objective was achieved.

*digressing slightly, I think that such reflection is important. It's been said that you can't celebrate the joy of the resurrection without thinking first about the preceding events.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!

I expect that the Anglicans amongst you are thinking "He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!"

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the purpose of religion

One of the things which featured in the recent debate on this post is the idea that “religion should be about improving oneself”. This has got me thinking; ‘religion’ of course takes many forms, but in the vast majority of cases I disagree with this.

To paraphrase MarkC, religion is certainly something which as a by-product might help with “improving oneself”, but however you measure self-improvement it is not the sole point, certainly not in the Judeo-Christian case.

In fact, if your sole aim is to “improve yourself”, why waste your time playing around with the trappings of religion? Most religions are based around the idea of faith in God, and that, surely, is the point.

Considering Christianity specifically, Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” and so ‘religion’ should not be in danger of becoming all about worshipping God; rather, the worship of God has (in theory at least) been at the centre since the outset.

Of course, as has been said here before, faith has to be put on to action, and I believe that “loving God with all your heart, soul and mind” should have positive practical consequences in the way in which you live your life, especially if you then follow the second commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. Maybe some of you would place this under the category of “self-improvement”.

On this note, I’m intrigued by the anonymous comment that “[worship is used] in often destructive ways that can cause problems of intolerance, hatred and even division within a family.” Demonstrating hatred, for example, does not fit with loving God and your neighbour as yourself and should not, therefore, be a direct consequence of worship.

But then I wonder if this is where making religion about improving oneself is actually a cause of the problem. Religion is often said to be responsible for many a conflict, but I think that in the vast majority of cases it’s not the religion itself, but the way in which the practise of it has become self-centred. The moment that you start thinking about what you personally can gain from something, loving God and loving your neighbour begin to get left at the wayside, and often that is when problems arise.

I also think that it is the cause of problems in another more subtle way. If you believe that religion should be about improving oneself, does this mean that you place expectations on others? Do you, perhaps unfairly, expect those who are “religious”* to behave in a certain way, and adhere to certain standards? I wonder if this, as much as anything, is a cause of the aforementioned family divisions.

Incidentally, I've been thinking about this post for a few days, and I went to a conference on 'Worship'. That too has got me thinking, and if I can find time I shall distill some of my thoughts here. But for now, I shall leave it here.


*I don't like that word especially, as it has all sorts of misconceptions associated with it, but it will do here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Things are looking up...

Two things have happened in the few minutes since my last post, which have brightened my morning considerably. Firstly, the woman who was filing her nails with impressively annoying volume is no longer sat behind me (and consequently my teeth are no longer gritted and my blood pressure is no longer rising).

Secondly, I have procured a copy of the Metro. This is always a Good Thing, but I was particularly amused by today's front page. There's a sequence of photos showing some bloke trying to drive his car at apparently excessive speed across a flooded bit of road. He failed, and somehow, if that wasn't embarrassing enough someone's decided to tell the nation's commuters...

Defined by user

If I turned and stared, would you get the message?

It's amazing what irritating things one has to experience as a commuter. I only wrote here recently about the amorous Germans I encountered on my way home, for example.

Today the woman behind me is filing her nails. She's been doing so for some time and it's making one of those noises which makes me want to grit my teeth. In the scheme of things, I guess nail filing isn't abnormal but I'm wondering just how many fingers this lady has. Blood is starting t boil.

Incidentally, it's been great to watch the debate on my previous post. I've been very busy recently, but I'll wade in with my penny-worth before long. Watch this space.

Defined by user

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beginning the week with a quotation

Propagating the view that my blog is like buses - nothing for a while and then several posts at once - I'm going to pop my head up again, for one last time this evening.

Whilst reading the comments beneath the Times article I referenced in my previous post, I came across this:

"It never ceases to surprise me that apparently intelligent people, who ought to know enough history to understand the nature of socialism, nevertheless keep getting fooled."

I rather liked it.

Environmental Issues (again)

Not for the first time I'm worried about the fact that when it comes to the environment people don't always consider the big picture.

Today, for example, I read about Virgin Atlantic's headline grabbing First Commercial Biofuel Flight. Aside from the fact I don't see how a special plane running three of it's four engines on standard Jet fuel and carrying no passengers qualifies as "biofuel" or "commercial" I have big reservations about the whole thing. Last week I read in New Scientist that the draining of the Indonesian Peat Bogs for biofuel crops is one of the biggest causes of CO2 being released in to the atmosphere. It was noted that Indonesia isn't part of the Kyoto Agreement. Have I missed something or is it really as bad as it seems?

Then there are the new plans for the London Congestion Charge, supposedly with the environment in mind. If you were wondering why I'd never vote for Ken Livingstone here's one of many good reasons. This article in The Times says it all, really. It's annoyed me for sometime that Ken has changed his mind consistently about the whole issue, and with this latest daft proposal I can't see how it is good for congestion or good for the environment. There are an increasing number of adverts for cars which just squeeze under the magical 120g/km figure. I suspect that this figure is extracted under "ideal" conditions and that most of these cars would normally never achieve it in normal driving. Furthermore, your medium-sized diesel Fiat Bravo still chucks out various nasty gases and particles and still takes up space in London's streets. Will the new proposals reduce congestion? No. Will they help the environment? Probably not. Will they divert attention from the scandals Ken is involved in and win him a few cynical votes? Probably.

Meanwhile, my advice remains the same. Vote Boris.

Mmm, das sieht sehr sexy aus (Zwei)

After I wrote my last post, the couple opposite were mercifully interrupted by a child throwing a bottle of water everywhere. Normally that would have annoyed me as well, but on this occasion it was the lesser of two evils, as they say.

Anyway, this afforded me the opportunity to see if I was right, and before I got off the train I asked if they were from Austria (I had nothing to lose, after all). I was wrong, they were from Germany. Bavaria, to be precise, which does have it's own strong dialect, but even so. *JP hangs his head in shame at his inability to accurately detect Germanic accents*.

Friday, February 22, 2008

JP thinks a bit about American Politics

Like a lot of you, I'm sure, I've been enjoying keeping a beady eye on the build up to the American Presidential election. In some ways this is another good thing the Metro is good for, as it allows me to have my daily fix of such matters from the comfort of my train to work.

However - and perhaps you can blame the Metro for this - I'm fairly clueless about the policies upheld and promised by each of the various candidates, and therefore who I'd vote for if I could.

My thinking is that in an ideal world I'd probably be a McCain supporter given that the Republicans are the more conservative end of the spectrum. As far as I understand it, at least.

But then it seems to be generally accepted that the next president is likely to be a Democrat. I don't want to play the game of "voting for the party who's most likely to get power" but I probably should have an opinion about which of the Democrat candidates I prefer. Currently that's Mr Obama, without a doubt, though I have no positive reason for this at the moment.

Purely and simply, I don't like Hillary. She's up there with London's favourite sewer rat* on my list of people I would never vote for even if I could. Initially my reasons for this were no less superficial than "she's the type of loud American woman who really makes my skin crawl", though one or two things have recently given me a bit more substance. Firstly, it would seem that she's playing dirty politics more than most given that I read today her campaign has just taken a much more negative and vicious turn. If nothing else it all sounds a bit desperate to me.

Secondly, I read last week that she's been really critical about people who work in hedge funds with all sorts of unfounded "they do no work" claims. Now her own daughter, Chelsea, works in the field and a quick Google search reveals that this is not the first time she's been so negative about her daughter and her profession. If she can't display any loyalty to her family, why should I believe that she'll show loyalty to her party? Or her country?

Perhaps someone who's better informed than me would like to have their say using the comment option...


*That'll be Ken then.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mmm, das sieht sehr sexy aus.

Speaking from (on going) bitter experience I have learned that one of the less desirable things to do after work is sit opposite an Austrian* couple who are evidently "very much in love". As ever, I'm on a train and it's not as though I can avert my eyes for their canoodling is clearly reflected in the window.

I thought that Austrian people were stereotypically prude but I might be mistaken. Unhelpfully though, as I think of stereotypes the thought has just passed through my head that the girl repeatedly kissing the bloke opposite might have hairy armpits.

Sorry folks, I just had to share that.

*I think they're Austrian. In between the 'mmm' and the giggling I can definitely hear 'German with a heavy accent'.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shouldn't you be taking the plank out of your own eye, Mr Darling?

It's an all too regular feature of this blog that I rant about the government interfering with the running of the railways and then laying the blame for anything which isn't right squarely at the foot of the Train Operating Companies.

Fortunately, angry though I was with Mr Darling's "First Great Western should get a grip on the franchise or risk losing it" (..."because we want to run the trains ourselves"),
someone else has done the ranting for me on this occassion.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

humorously unhelpful?

I was reading a book at work today (about C++, he says, hoping not to sound like too much of a geek), and I came across this helpful little tip about ANSI:

" pronounced "antsy" with a silent 't'".

Friday, February 08, 2008

before we get to Sharia Law...

...I want to talk about this article in which a gay man has won a £47,000 payout after not being offered a job as a church youthworker. It might not surprise you to know that this has really annoyed me.

Quoting from the article,

"In his evidence to the original tribunal, Bishop Priddis said anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected."

As it says further down, this is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation. On this basis, the fuss made by Stonewall was misguided, and thanks to their campaigning (and doubtless the media portrayal) we have an incident which makes the church appear homophobic, when it wasn't.

Now, you might or might not agree with the idea that anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected. But it's part of the teaching of the church, and as I've said before, I feel that it's important that leaders do their best to be exemplary. No-one is perfect, but as people so often cry "Christians should practise what they preach".*

Again, you might or might not agree with that. But remember that other faiths - Judaism and Islam included - have similar, if not more stringent rules and ideals and you should be careful what you say before you single out Christians.

In this case I am also appalled by the large payout. Given that the issue never appeared to be sexual orientation in the first place, I think that to have sued a charitable organisation** for a large five figure sum was absolutely wicked. It certainly doesn't fit with the characteristics one would expect from a church youth-worker...


*No-one ever asks Christians to practise what they preach "but only when it suits me".

**It should be noted that in many cases, church youth-workers do far more than "church" work and often contribute greatly to the wider, secular, community.

starting the pre-empted debate

Those of you who read comments on this blog will note that Dave has made reference to the comments made by Rowan Williams about Sharia law. Unfortunately I've not yet had time to read up properly on it, and my beloved Metro wasn't up to the challenge of equipping me for educated debate. Blame the fact that I've been very busy in the last couple of days*.

I'm bound to wade in and have my say at some point but in the meantime I'd like to start with what Dave had to say.

"Interesting. If ever there was good evidence as to why any religiously biased character shouldn't be allowed anywhere near Parliament, this is it."

Like it or lump it, atheists are also "religiously biased". Food for thought...

*And the fact that Dave agreed with me for once on something; I've been in a state of shock.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

don't scare me with your driving, or I'll sue

I read in the paper yesterday that some of the passengers on the BA flight which crashed at Heathrow last month are to sue - "for developing a fear of flying, and possible hearing damage". Is there nothing which some people won't sink to in this increasingly greedy and unfortunately sue-happy society?

Following a discussion over lunch at work, I'm happy to concede that if injury - e.g. hearing damage - has incurred then it would be nice if some money was available to cover any necessary treatment costs. But doesn't travel insurance cover that? Or the NHS? Besides, I'm sceptical that anyone suffered hearing damage in a crash which didn't involve a sudden drop, and which many passengers just assumed to be a heavy landing.

As for "fear of flying", see the title of this post. If that's the trend you wish to embrace...

Personally I think that if you buy a ticket to transport you at 500 miles an hour at a height of 35,000 feet then you've got to accept the risk that goes with it. Flying might be the safest form of travel, but no-one can guarantee complete safety 100% of the time.

I think that if there had been deliberate negligence or malicious intent then it would be different, but it doesn't seem to be the case here. It amazes me that the full accident investigation has not yet been completed and people are still playing the 'blame game'. Some theories behind the accident include birds or dodgy fuel, and you can't exactly hold BA accountable for that. Besides, having spent an hour this afternoon practising my 777 landings in a full training simulator I have nothing but respect for the BA pilots who bought the plane down safely in the event of last minute failure.

Someone quipped at lunch today that "well, BA can afford it, they make millions".

Well, if you scare me I'll note that "you can afford it, your car is more expensive than mine".

Monday, February 04, 2008

Saturday, January 26, 2008

would you sell this woman a kebab?

As ever, I'm on a train, Metro in hand. Being a Saturday it's a day out of date, but nonetheless I've found something to pass comment on.

It would seem that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has been desparately trying to go back on what she said about Britain's Streets not being safe, and an aide made the point that she recently bought a late night kebab in Peckham without being afraid. But it transpires that she had a Police guard when she did so.

Stephen Crabb quite rightly asked "what's happening on Britain's streets when the Home Secretary needs an armed guard to buy a kebab?"

Furthermore, I'd like to ask why she was buying a kebab in Peckham anyway. I can't quite picture her being on a drunken night out, and the words "shameless publicity stunt" spring to mind.

Obviously with the media discovery of the police guard this back-fired a bit. I'd also like to ask therefore why in a country where we don't have enough police, and apparently don't pay them enough the government can justify splashing on a guard purely to salvage reputation?

Answers on a postcard...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Now that I've started using Blogger to upload images....

...I can post this. Surprisingly, for my mobile telephone, the quality isn't that bad. Any hope that I had of not having to explain what the image is of however still went out of the window because I didn't have a wide enough angle lens to get all the text in.

The trough has "Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough Association" engraved alongside it. I found it in Hyde Park, and was amused.

I wonder what sort of person has "member of Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough Association" on their CV? And does anyone know what the association actually does, beyond providing this key facility in the centre of London's biggest park?

For the benefit of both my readers

Good Times...