Thursday, 2 August 2018

Celebrating International I Love Broccoli Day - Better Late Than never!

Just my luck to get sick in the evening of International I Love Broccoli Day!

The  day was full of evil portents. 

For lunch that day I went to an Italian restaurant with my group at work. Although we had booked weeks in advance, we were shunted into a dark tiny corner in the basement of the spacious eatery, despite most tables outside and upstairs being empty.  Apparently they were all reserved, but none of the tables had 'Reserved' signs.  When we emerged from the basement two hours later, dissatisfied and blinking like owls, these tables were, in the main, still empty.

Their business model seems to be based on the idea that people who pre-book are a captive clientele and don't need to receive special treatment or nice tables - those are reserved for customers who just drop by on a whim and need to be enticed with nicely located tables outside and on the main floor, lest they take their custom elsewhere.

Sitting in my tiny dark corner amidst my colleagues, I was not amused, and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, no starter, no dessert, and only tab-water to drink.

Which was just as well, since the service was excruciatingly slow - a three course meal would have taken three hours, and we were on our lunch break.

Several of my colleagues, of a more long suffering and forgiving nature than me, had actually ordered more expensive dishes, and some of them were festooned with BROCCOLI!!!  It was under-cooked and must have been underwhelming, since one of my colleagues sent it back to the kitchen uneaten, despite my admonishments that this was well-nigh blasphemy, given what day it was.

Believe it or not, no one even knew that it was International I Love Broccoli Day!!!!

Later on the bus someone sat in my favourite seat, and on the way home the handle on my carrier bag broke, and I had to transport 1200 teabags home by cradling them in my arms (there will be a blog post some time soon why I need that many tea bags).

Despite all those set-backs, I ventured out of the house again no sooner than I had arrived, and went to the shops to buy whatever I could to produce some sort of International I Love Broccoli Day meal.

I produced meatballs in tomato sauce and four boiled vegetables - nothing special, but time was short.  For dessert I had Rote Gruetze - a sort of Summer Pudding made from various berries and thickened with gelatin.

That night I felt the first stirrings of a cold, and after struggling on through yesterday, today I succumbed.

So not much of an International I love Broccoli Day, but at least I tried!

Sunday, 29 July 2018


I have been reading up on narcissists recently.  Why?  Well, I have also been reading up on prostituted women, autogynephilia, and pornography.

I have always been interested in the weirdness that is the human species ....

Anyway, narcissists.

There is a chap out there who is a particularly ripe example, and who is moreover aware of what he is doing. Most narcissists are not, and therefore have no idea of the damage they are causing.  This particularly narcissist, who goes by the nom de plume of HG Tudor, was pressured by his friends & relations to undergo therapy, and his therapists suggested that he write a blog.

Whether this is the true reason why he writes I don't know, but he writes well and clearly knows what he is talking about, judging by the many readers' comments that endorse his work and my own experience.

Basically, a narcissist is someone who, often as a result of a loveless childhood, lacks self confidence, and is filled with a deep sense of self loathing.  In the place of the loving, supporting inner voice that sustains other people in times of difficulties, narcissists have an aggressively destructive demon that tells them how worthless and horrible they are.

Narcissists try to shut up their inner demon by manipulating others into making them appear superior, by one of two ways:  (a) getting others to admire them, which makes them feel superior; and (b) making other people look small, so that the narcissist looks big in comparison.

Unfortunately, admiring the narcissists only works for them short term, because of the narcissists' deep rooted inferiority complex, which tells them that the admiration of someone who is dumb enough to admire them is worthless.

That is why they tend to rely on pulling down and devaluing other people, especially people who they secretly admire and want to be like.  Narcissists' main victims in this regard are their spouses, who usually end up with their lives in ruins, depressed and a shadow of their former selves.  Parents often do the same thing to their children, which creates the narcissist personality in the first place.

Most narcissists seem to follow similar principles and techniques to devalue their victims and destroy their self confidence, and HG Tudor describes and outlines these beautifully.  The many comments on his YouTube videos and blog written by many (ex-)victims of narcissists attest to this.

I link to several of his videos, and also to his blog below - some of them are truly chilling.

Narcissists like to victimise empaths, who are particularly susceptible to emotional manipulations, and they can really damage such emotionally sensitive individuals.  There seem to be more male than female narcissists, probably because our society's male role models encourage this.

HG Tudor Provocation   Why/how the narcissist insist on provoking his victim, and cannot be reasoned with

HG Tudor Crazed   While it is the narcissist who is mind-sick, he often projects his illness on to his victim, and makes out that she is the one who is crazy by lying, gas-lighting,etc.

HG Tudor Superempath Supernova  When an empath fights back

HG Tudor Narcs are everywhere!  It's not just intimate partners who hurt you with their narcissism

and finally a link to the blog of HG Tudor:

Miscellaneous Musings on Shakespeare and Bishops

July continues apace.

Shakespeare in the Quad

After apparently endless weeks of  sweltering heat, the weather finally changed yesterday, and Oxford is once more cold, wet, and overcast - just as I like it!

Actually, yesterday morning was beautiful - a glorious morning after a night of rain, it was cool, crisp, and bathed in benign sunshine.  As I walked to my new favourite breakfast spot I felt positively la Bourboulian!

The week past started with a highlight - Sunday evening I went to 'Shakespeare in the Quad', where the Royal Shakespeare Company perform plays in the central quad of the Bodleyan.

A friend who works in the Bodleyan and knows about things had invited me, and I hoped I could finally make some headway with my Shakespeare scarf theatre challenge, which I had started in 2014 - see link and photo below.

But I was not to be so lucky - the play we saw - 12th Night - is not featured on the scarf.

The setting was absolutely stunning, and one had the feeling that this was exactly the sort of setting the Shakespeare himself would have utilised.

The performance of the play was, frankly, weird - I felt confused the whole time.  It was not possible to prepare oneself, as the choice of play had been left to the audience, who was invited to shout out at the mention of their preferred play.  This took about ten minutes.  The final choice remained a mystery to me until about half way through the play - the acoustic of actors standing on the side furthest away from me was not good, and the actor who announced the title of the chosen play was standing in an auditory blindspot (so to speak).

As a result I continued to analyse the play in three tracks - was it 12th Night, The Merchant of Venice, or the Taming of the Shrew?  Each theory had something to support it, especially since I had only a vague notion of the contents of each play.

My confusion was not helped by the choice of actors and actresses.  Men played women, young people played old people, black people played white people, and ugly people played beautiful people.

I am not sure to what extent all this was planned by Shakespeare, and I am not wasting my time finding out!

The most exciting part happened half way through the play, when a woman fainted and the play had to be stopped to give her medical attention.  Having opined to my neighbour that I didn't think the play was bad enough to warrant a physical breakdown of this nature, I used the opportunity to go to the loo - first in the queue! - and to quiz other viewers on what the heck we were watching.

Despite my non-enjoyment of the play, I am happy to report that other people seemed quite happy with, including the reviewer sent by the Oxford Times, whose review I link below, so you can gain a more balanced view of the play.  S/he went on Tuesday, not Sunday, but the content and performance of the play was probably the same, minus the fainting incident.


Oxford Times review-twelfth-night-shakespeares-globe-on-tour-at-the-bodleian-library-oxford-impressive-celebration-of-sexual-and-other-confusions/

Bishops in the Church of England - Peter Ball

So what else happened?  I have been following with great interest the news reporting about Peter Ball, the disgraced Church of England Bishop, now doing time for having sexually abused young men and boys.

Now, people in authority who abuse the trust people put in them by sexually assaulting them seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but this case interests me particularly because I actually met this man in the early 1990s.

The chaplain of my college was a lovely man, and humble to a fault.  He considered himself to be too poor a speaker to give the Sunday Evensong address, and always invited other people to do so in his stead.  After Evensong there was dinner in Hall, and then we met up in the Old Library for coffee and a discussion of the talk given by the guest speaker.

I always enjoyed these occasions, because it provided the opportunity to ask all the questions I had to suppress during the sermon - one isn't allowed to ask questions in chapel, you see.

I must have attended almost a hundred of such events, because I continued to go even after I had completed my studies.  But Peter Ball stuck in my mind, because this was an instant where I immediately and instinctively took against someone who I was supposed to like and admire.  Mind you, I was in good company - the only other person who disliked this man was the wife of the chaplain, who also attended the event.

Peter Ball was already a bishop when I met him.  He came across as aggressively humble and sanctimonious, the sort of person who makes a big deal out of being no one special.  My thoughts ran along the lines of, If you really are so insignificant, how did you manage to become a bishop?  Why play this dumb game with us, can't you just own what you are?

I ask a few questions about his sermon, which was about us having to be humble and forgiving and get along with others - wasn't that an open invitation for others to run rough-shot over us?  His response was more sanctimonious drivel, which was backed up by one of his new acolytes, who quoted something from the Bible where lions would stop eating lambs and eat grass instead.  My point that this would kill the lion because he didn't have the stomach needed to digest grass was dismissed as in the wrong spirit, and I slunk back to my skeptic corner in deep disgrace.

But now the chaplain's wife took up the cudgel, and I realised how intelligent and combative this lady, who usually stayed in her husband's shadow, really was.  She assailed Peter Ball with numerous passages from the Bible, and even had the audacity to voice my unspoken thought that one didn't get to become a bishop by being humble and turning the other cheek.

It was quite a meeting, which is probably why I remembered the name of this bishop, despite my notoriously bad memory for names.  The experience continued to niggle at me, and when the name of Peter Ball started to crop up in the news in connection with sexual abuse I was both deeply shocked - because I did not expect that sort of moral bankruptcy! - and vindicated - so my instinct was right after all.

Frankly, I find it incredulous that Peter Ball's colleagues in the church, not to mention Prince Charles and other members of the establishment, were so completely taken in by this man.  They knew him for many years, I only met him once - yet I immediately sensed that he was fake, yet they believed his sanctimonious drivel?  Granted, it was not obvious to me that he was a sexual predator, but he certainly came across as untrustworthy, and definitely not as bishop material!

Bishops in the Church of England - Richard Hare

Lest you think I have an issue with bishops, I also met a most remarkable and admirable man during these college religious events, and that was Richard Hare, then Bishop of Pontefract.  I immediately trusted him, despite being an atheist at the time, and after we had a little chat after everyone had gone he asked whether he might give me his blessing, and I gratefully received it - my one and only blessing.

If you are interested, I post his obituary in the Church Times below:

The Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan writes:

THE Rt Revd Richard Hare, who died on 18 July, aged 87, was one of the most colourful and unforgettable bishops of the 20th-century Church of England.
Born in 1922, he was of age to do war service in the RAF, although he finished his training as a pilot just as the war finished; afterwards, he took an Oxford degree in philosophy, politics, and economics, before he joined Hugh Montefiore and Robert Runcie in both studying at Westcott House, and being ordained to a curacy in Newcastle diocese.
After serving as chaplain to Bishop Greer in Manchester, he served as a young canon residentiary in Carlisle, and then, in 1965, as a young arch­deacon in the same diocese. As far as I gathered from him, he remained a cool, respectable, mainstream West­cott high churchman.
It was that man, still under 50, whom the Bishop of Wakefield, Eric Treacy, summoned in 1971 to be Suffragan Bishop of Pontefract. For reasons set out below, there he was to remain for 21 years. He would later report how Bishop Treacy had been 20 years older than he; Treacy’s suc­cessor, Colin James, had been his contemporary; and James’s suc­ces-sor, David Hope, had been 20 years his junior — but he had loved and served them equally. And, however controversial he may have become to others, his diocesans could not but love and respect him deeply, too.
In the early 1970s, Richard gained an astonishing public front. This arose from a life-changing experi­ence early in his time in Wakefield diocese.
As he described it, it was some­thing like this: “I found that, along­side the public worship of the church, there were Charismatic prayer groups meeting in various places. I found my way into them. They looked some­what astonished and sceptical that
a bishop should appear amongst them. They asked me why I had wanted to come. I told them that God had two main ingredients of revival — one being the wind of God, the other being the dry bones; and I had come to contribute the dry bones. And I received the wind of God.”
He emerged as extrovert and hallelujah-singing, unembarrassed by any kind of God-talk, and with an opportunist eye and bouncing energy. He hardly accorded with average ex­pectations of a bishop; but he had many years still in front of him — and, the Church of England being what it was, he was going to remain in the see of Pontefract until he retired. He had ceased to be “safe”. Although some traditionalist Anglo-Catholics in Wakefield parishes now found him uncomfortable, other doors of ministry opened to him all over the country.
He had become an unashamed, ebullient Charismatic. Each day, he revelled in the joy of the Lord, and ensured that all around him got the message; and this uncalculating step­ping on the spiritual accelerator encouraged thousands — for, if a bishop need not be trammelled in his love of the Lord, why need any­one? So, through him, the C of E began to offer hope even to the most restive of the renewed.
He became an unofficial epis­copal patron to the Fountain Trust in the mid-1970s, and took up a similar role for St John’s College, Notting­ham, where I was on the staff. He confirmed Tom Smail (a former Church of Scotland minister who be­came director of the Fountain Trust), and later preached at his ordination in the chapel at St John’s. “See”, he said, “what a ripe plum has fallen into the lap of the Church of Eng­land” — but he had helped to pluck it.
Nevertheless, the colourful public figure whom many saw was far from all there was to the man. Richard spent many of his Wakefield years as Diocesan Director of Ordinands (in that capacity he was frequently on our college premises), and his pas­toral care and sustaining of contact with his ordinands was outstanding.
He was in the first batch of suf­fragan bishops elected to the House of Bishops when that synodical op­portunity came in 1975, and con­tributed memorably and often amusingly to the Synod. He had in­stant recall, and could repeat whole pages of verse — and even prose — after a brief perusal. This gift per­meated and enriched his preaching.
Similarly, he could conduct an ordination service without reference to the book, and accurately name 30 confirmation candidates, not only when laying his hands on them, but also later when administering com­munion to them.
While he sought to walk with God in each part of his life, he also had a family pride in his great-grandfather Thomas Hare, after whom he was named.
This Thomas (1806-91) had been a friend of John Stuart Mill, and originated proportional representa­tion by the single transferable vote, based on the “Hare quota”. He quite possibly led the Church of England indirectly into its own later adoption of this fair-voting system, by marry­ing as his second wife the sister of Edward White Benson, and dining regularly with leading ecclesiastics. Richard Hare came three years ago from Cumbria to name the Electoral Re­form Society’s offices in South­wark “Thomas Hare House”.
Richard had remained a bachelor until he was past 40. He was then wonderfully repaid for his earlier restraint by finding and marrying Sall. They lost a first child soon after birth, but he is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.
Sall, with Richard, made their home in Sandal a place of great hospitality and refreshment. When Richard retired, they moved back to the Lake District, where he had many ties, not least through his having been in 1974 a founding trustee of the Calvert Trust, a Lake District pro­vision for active holidays for the physically disabled.
Sall died in 1999; and he then lived on his own, becoming lame in the legs, but with never a limp in his spirituality. He deliberately orientated his ministry in retirement to be one of constant encouragement to all who came his way. He officiated at the weddings of each of his three children, and baptised each of the seven grandchildren, the last one only days before Richard died.
He was God’s gift to the Church of England as a great Christian leader, but he was also a wonderful, timely joke whom God had bestowed on us all with an indulgent smile.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Not dead, just busy - The Garden Bench

Those of you who read my blog posts with care and attention will recall that my garden bench had become dangerously wonky, and was ready to collapsed under me, had I been foolhardy enough to sit upon it.  Well, I was not, but instead utilised a wooden stool.

The stool, while safe, was not as comfortable as one might imagine, so I decided to invest in a new garden bench.  I was kept in a state of being terribly excited for about two weeks, because the bench, instead of being delivered to my esteemed abode, absconded to somewhere in Sussex.  The recipients in Sussex were not pleased with their non-purchased bench, and sent it back.  So what with one thing and another the bench careered all over England.

Anyway, it finally arrived ten days ago on a Saturday, and I immediately set to assembling it.

I had dissembled the old bench two weeks before.  Did you ever notice how long it takes to dismember decrepit old things?  They are never rotten in the parts that enables them to be taken apart easily, somehow.  I once had to dissect a garden shed.  It had a leaky roof and a rotten floor, but every clapboard was attached with six nails and it took me two days of hard graft to reduce the damn thing far enough to transport it through the house and to the dumpster in front of the house, which had been specifically hired for the occasion.

The old bench dismembered - slats

The old bench dismembered - side pieces

I am thinking of cutting the slats shorter and using them and the side pieces to make a garden chair ...

After the old bench was dissected, I hadto clean up the space where it used to stand, in preparation for its replacement.

The package with the bench pieces.  The second package in the background turned out to be unconnected to the bench, and contained my bike-box (bijou exercycle).  How big was the chance that they would turn up on the same day?

Fragile?  Is that the right sort of bench for me?  A fragile garden bench?!?!?!?

Well packaged

It came in pieces that just needed to be slotted together and screwed in - child's play!

View from the bench

Pond is looking lovely, but does need topping up once or twice a week given the heat

The marjoram is doing especially well in its pot.  The wooden clogs belong to me.  They are perfect for hardening, and if something heavy falls onto your toes you feel nothing!  They should use those things on building sites.

You see the orange sail?  That is the awning I installed.  It isn't really an awning, but a 'sun-sail'.  There isn't the space for a sun umbrella, so I installed this sun-sail to shade me from the sun.  Keeps the kitchen cooler, too!  And since it is waterproof, I can sit out there in the rain as well.  Chance would be a fine thing!  I am rather irritated by this never ending sunshine, if I wanted that sort of thing I would have moved to Spain.  England is supposed to be cold and wet and foggy, for goodness sake!  I cut down all that vegetation at the wrong time, at the start of a heat wave, and now I am sweltering in the heat, rather than being cooled by its shade.  I know the garden vegetation would win in the end, it always does!

View from kitchen window, mainly taken to show off the window, which I have finally managed to clean properly.  It had gotten quite filthy, since the various vegetations had encumbered and encrusted it, and I had not been able to clean it for several years.  But now it gleams and sparkles like a polished diamond.  I should hire myself out for one of those 1960s TV commercials, the ones that extol the virtues of cleaning products.  

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Not dead, just busy - Horticultural Tabula Rasa

Another reason why I have not been posting is that the garden had grown completely out of control.  I had not been able to keep an eye on it because of my ramshackle door, and once the door was replaced I was too exhausted to do much.

Unfortunately the plants in the garden cottoned onto this, and entered into an anti-DB alliance, and made a bid to take over the house as well.  They destroyed part of the garden fence, overgrew the conservatory, blocked the kitchen window, and tried to grow into the bathroom window.  Most of the attack was spearheaded by the pyracanthia pricker bushes.  They also grew into the garden path, so I could no longer reach the compost heap, or tend to the pond, never mind using the washing line to hang up laundry.

Well, it couldn't last.  I spent three weekend, including bank holiday weekends, to cruelly squash and disappoint the world domination dreams of the herbaceous  take-over consortium - they blocked my path to the compost heap, now they are the compost heap!

I have an axe, a saw, heavy duty clippers, and a will of iron.  And if I have to turn half the garden into a compost heap, by golly I will do it!

First I cut the pyracanthia in front of the kitchen back to within an inch of its life.  I told it to grow in the two foot space between the kitchen and the bathroom window, and leave it at that.  Otherwise - and here I brandished my axe menacingly - I'll take you out root and branch!

Then I did the same to the pyracanthia next to it, only that one shall be dismembered until it dies.  The area where it grew will be turned into a mint plantation.

The last pyracanthia I slashed was completely entwined with the quince tree, and weaving lovingly between the two was the neighbour's honeysuckle.  Well, it can suckle no longer!  I lopped off its branches one by one, snipped them into smallish pieces, and entombed them in a huge black compost bag, together with large quantities of over-ambitious ivy shoots that I had brutally ripped off the kitchen window and wall.

Next in line were the two buddlias, which, though beloved by butterflies and myself, were severely punished for demolishing my fence and overshadowing the conservatory.  It took three days of sawing, but they are now subdued and contrite looking.  Who knows whether they will survive - herbaceous wars are fought without pity on either side.  When I was weak I tried to plead with them, and they ignored me - now that I am strong again I have trodden them underfoot.

The problem with a small garden like mine is where to store all that lopped off vegetation.  I neatly divided it into three piles: (a) leaves and tiny twigs, (b) bigger twigs and branches, and (c) huge branches.  The leaves came into the compost heap, where I added compost starter (beneficial bacteria and nutrients to set the composting process off, and lots of water (that also speeds up the digestive process).  The twigs I piled against the fence, to dry - they will come in handy as kindling when the winter comes.  The huge branches I leaned against the elder (tree, not person) in the back of the garden, to dry out and become brittle enough to be further reduced.

A huge amount of work, all this.  When I had finished, I noticed that I had seriously dirty windows, and that the garden bench was rotten to the core - no doubt the herbaceous consortium had intended me to sit on the bench and crack my spine while it collapsed under me.

Well, tough luck, I won and I am going to keep it up until order is once more restored to my garden.  Yes, MY GARDEN!  Bloody plants, never follow orders.

I bought a new garden bench, and also a shade sail - you attach the latter on different points in the garden - like hacked back stumps of uppity pyracanthias - and sit underneath it in the shade it casts.  An alternative to garden umbrellas, and an experiment.

Anyway.  You can see how busy I am.  I have also been to a garden party, started to list scarves on ebay, and started a wool replacement exercise in the house, to get on top of the moth menace.  More of that in due course.

There were pyracanthias here, as high as the top of the house

That bare fence used to be covered in ivy, which I couldn't get to because the pyracanthias were in the way

Here once grew another pyracanthia

Drying kindling twigs

Big branches leaning against the  elder

Massive compostheap

Compost bag

Pond OK, but needs repopulating

View down from bathroom window - now possible!

Mangled fence, culprit one - now destroyed - buddlia

Overgrown conservatory

Pots of herbs, ready to be planted

Large number of rubbish bags, full of stuff that can't be composted