Something fun to do on New Years Day!

Here’s something you can do – probably without leaving the house!  A few months ago I met  guy called John who takes amazing shots using a pinhole camera.  I learned how to make a camera obscurer at primary school so I understood the principle.  I did a little research into the topic and realised that half of the fun of pinhole photography is the Blue Peter aspect of making the camera.  I discovered that I could make a home made pinhole camera without even leaving the house as I had a film sitting on the shelf. 

 This link goes to plans that you can print out and make now!  I used a 35mm film, cereal packet, electricians tape, can of Stella and a encil from Bede’s World to take this arty shot.  Give it a try!



How to Love Your Neighbour

I was looking through some old photos from my first teaching job.  This was taken really badly in th days when this was as good as you would get from a digital camera.  I set the task of producing a collage showing what the teaching “love your neighbour” really means.  This is what one young man brought me back…

Love your neighbour

Merry Christmas

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

The Archbishop Misleading People?

In the coffee shop last night I noticed The Times had a large banner on the front page bearing the heading “Three?  Wise?  Men? Asks the Archbishop”.  When I turned to page three I was confronted by an article entitled “It’s all a Christmas Tall Story”.  The article has a tone which paints Rowan Williams as having said something controversial.  In the interview that is quoted, the Archbishop points out many of the glaring additions to the Nativity such as snow, a donkey and Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. 

The chances of any snow falling around the stable in Bethlehem were “very unlikely”. And as for the star rising and then standing still: the Archbishop pointed out that stars just don’t behave like that.

As with many biblical narratives, it all seems a little unbelievable because of the popular modern additions and myths surrounding the even.  Popular modern mythology tells us that Mary wore blue and rode a donkey to a stable where three kings arrived with gifts. 

This type of ‘biblical’ story telling in the style of Disney is reminiscent of the Exodus.  In the Disney narrative, Moses floats down the Nile in a basket past a crocodile, hippo, cruise liner and heavy seas.  The simple narrative becomes unbelievable because of the additions often made by well meaning children’s writers and Sunday school teachers. 

Needless to say, the way the Archbishop was reported upon has led to quite a lot of backlash despite his assertion that he believes in the virgin birth.  The article asserts that “Dr Williams’s views are strictly in line with orthodox Christian teaching. The Archbishop is sticking to what the Bible actually says”.  Still he is “a classic example of why the Archbishop and other Christians in high places should be very careful about what they say in public”.  Sometimes you just can’t win with some people!

So who is misleading people?  The Archbishop?  The Times?  People’s perception of what they believe they have read?

Having ‘Bottle’ in Religious Debate.

The letters page in The Times seems to have become that which it always does at this festive season.  The letters page always invites more back biting and name calling than most faith based internet forums at Christmas.  However, it was with sorrow that I noticed the lack of bottle that David Fremlin of Colchester shows.  He claims to be an atheist and seems to have decided that he would show how his faith has made him into a more tolerant and well rounded individual fully equipped to live in multi-cultural Britain.  He did this by referring to Christianity as “tosh”.  I would have much greater respect for his boldness if he were to direct other rude and dismissive comments at other world religions over the coming weeks.


Last night we donned our coats and ventured into the cold nigh air of Leeds to watch the late night shoppers over a cup of coffee.  This was followed by the one daily showing of Beowulf at the cinema.  This is a film I have heard a lot about of hype about it on the run up to its release but it appears to have been received in the same manner as a damp three year old firework.  It appears to have disappeared from cinemas with the lightning pace of a speeding bullet.

As you may be aware, the whole film is created in CGI utilising the features of the actors.  This means that Ray Winston is able to portray a tall naked young fighting man with a six pack.  Something he himself was concerned about when he was sent the script to look over.  Whilst this style of cinematography is becoming more and more commonplace, Beowulf is not shot in the obvious cartoon animation style of the likes of Shrek.  The intention here is instead to be able to show a realistic but obviously ‘other’ realm complete with monsters and dragons.  My initial reaction to the cinematography was deep scepticism and I was worried greatly by the first scene.  This was mostly because party in the hall of Hrothgar felt as though we were watching the animation between level one and two of a fantasy based computer game.  Obviously this made me a little apprehensive about the rest of the film.  However, as the film progressed and more and more actors were blended into the animation it became much more believable.  At some points in the film the action disjointed as main characters seemed to move much more easily that the bit part characters who occasionally looked like robotic dancers.  I am glad I saw it at the cinema as it would definitely feel like a computer game if I saw it on the TV next to a playstation!

The tale itself is based upon the Anglo Saxon epic poem and feels like the stories you would tell around a camp fire after battle whilst quaffing ale.  It is important to bear this in mind whilst watching the film otherwise the story can become “thin gruel” as one critic penned.  The tale is one of the quest for redemption as the main characters struggle with their past weakness.  The monster Grendle wreaks havoc in the kingdom as a result of the kings earlier failings.  The hero Beowulf defeats the monster but then succumbs to the same temptations as the king.  This results in a similar turn of events as the kingdom becomes victim of the same fate as once again a monster preys upon the people.

The story highlights the cyclical nature of history as one generation follows in the footsteps of the previous.  This was left to the imagination of the audience as the final scene sees the third king struggling with the same temptation that defeated his forebears.  It is so difficult for us to all remember that our past does not define our future. 

For me, the character of Beowulf brilliantly illustrated the ‘front’ that people use to hide their inner vulnerability.  His whole life was spent building ‘a name’ and persona called Beowulf.  His character became a separate entity to his reality.  For the four corners of the Earth his name was known as the one who killed Grendle and Grendle’s mother.  He was tormented by the knowledge of the truth about how he came to be such a powerful ruler through his deception.  This came to a head as he sought to make right the situation.  Eventually he gave up his life to make up for these inadequacies but not until he had chopped off his own arm and fallen to his death.  As he dies he is assured by his closest friend that people will tell his tale down the ages to which he responds with his dying breath “It’s too late for lies”.  If only he had found the redemption he was being offered.  He had became the most well renowned person in the region and yet the ‘front’ he had created provided him with no joy.  With the current celebrity culture and cult of personality this seems to me like an important message to hear.

Abuse of Power

My friends and I have been having a debate over the purpose of a sermon.  One conclusion is that a sermon is not a personally sounding board to vent your own frustrations and entertain with personal anecdotes to illustrate your frustration.

With this in mind, what is the ASDA fast lane all about?  I have used the self service counter now on numerous occasions.  On precisely zero of these occasions, I have been able to proceed without the assistance of a member of staff to reset the computer because of a glitch.  If I am going to need a member of staff to enable me to self service myself, it kind of defeats the point! They may as well just have another ordinary till!!  At the end of the whole debacle, the computer states “thank you for using the fast lane”.  This is mildly ironic at best and annoying at worst.

So to sum up my point, a sermon should not be used as an opportunity to publish your own personal frustrations.

The Golden Compass

Ruth and I went to see The Golden Compass as people seem to be making such a hoo-ha about it.  I fist came across Pullman’s Dark Materials a few years ago when the school librarian thrust it at me demanding that I read it.  He was convinced that the book contained the answers to life the universe and everything and I must be converted to Pullmanism.  There has been much talk in the media about it and much discussion between Christians about it’s apparently Antichrist tendencies.  Some would say that this is enough of a reason for me to go and see it.  However, they would be wrong.  The most compelling argument for going to see the film came from a colleague who once declared “I can’t wait for the revolution to come.  That is when I get to roam the wasteland with an axe”.  His reason for seeing The Golden Compass was simply “fighting bears wearing armour”.

I really enjoyed the film – particularly the fighting bears.  I did find it a little disturbing to see one of them punched so hard his head came apart.  I certainly wasn’t expecting that from the PG certificate and warning of “mild peril”.  I don’t think I would have batted an eyelid if it hadn’t been a film that was obviously aimed at children.  That aside there was a lot of fun and enjoyment to be had in the film.  Dakota Blue Richards gave a sterling performance as did many of the other child actors.  After seeing the other children’s book to film phenomenon of Daniel Racliffe disappoint on so many levels this came as a welcome surprise.

In spite of the huge pleasure that I had in watching the film, on reflection, the biggest problem I have with the film is that the plot seemed surprisingly thin and very reminiscent of 101 Dalmations.  The film in many ways relied upon it’s brilliant cinematography and computer animated graphics of fighting bears to resell the tale of the kiddie-snatcher.   

I had been hyped up by many on the internet to see a tale destined to shatter the church and bring about a new world order.  Whilst this may be evidenced within the books, on the cinema screen I did not convincingly see this.  The tale sets the academics against the ‘establishment’ but this does not come across as the church but instead governments.  If it were not for the use of the word ‘heretic’ it would be impossible to tell who is really the intended target.  Even when I think of it as an “attack” on the church, I am struck with how outdated the view of the church is.  At any time you could imagine Simon McBurney bursting onto the screen and declaring that “no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition”.

Ruth of course had a totally different take on the film.  She believes it is all Jungian psychology.  She spent 10 minutes regaling me with tails of male/female animus,  archetypes, completion of self and separation.  She seemed to make sense but if I also had a doctorate in clinical psychology I may have understood it better…

The final point that the film taught me is about myself and my relation to the world around me.  The older I get the better I find the acting prowess of Tom Cruise and the worse I find that of Nicole Kidman.  How queer!

God’s Insurmountable Love

There is something amazing about Christmas time and it is the hope that is provided for those of us who feel alone, unwashed or unloved.  God did something amazing, he came to earth to let us know how much he cares.  Jesus came to the marginalised and stood with us.  He came to the outcasts and stood with us.  The Archbishop of Canterbury puts it like this in his Christmas message:

So at Christmas, God shows that he is not ashamed to be with us. He has heard our cries of weakness and self-doubt and unhappy longing, he has seen our wanderings and anxieties, and he is not ashamed to be alongside us in this world, walking with us in our pilgrimage. And because he is content to walk with us, we are challenged about whose company we might be ashamed to share. So easily we decide that we would be ashamed to share the company of the sinful, the doubting or the outcast. But God, it seems, is not ashamed to be seen with such people.


I’ve nearly finished my exam marking.  The funny quote of today was in response to the quote “religious people are the only ones who care about the environment”.

Other people like naturists and friends of the earth care deeply about the environment.