I like bank holidays and long weekends. I especially like pairs of bank holidays, and extra-long weekends. Today really felt like a Friday at the office, particularly as The Secretary* was handing out buttered hot cross buns (albeit cold).
Getting home, The Mother had been baking ready for breakfast tomorrow, so the house smelled of warm cinnamon. Hot cross buns for breakfast: the one thing Christianity really has going for it.
* no, she is nothing like the film
As it’s Good Friday, good Christians everywhere should be eating fish and following the Stations Of The Cross. I’m not any sort of Christian, good or bad, but even so it’s a good day to think about self-sacrifice for The Cause, whatever that happens to be.
Of course, whether that’s what Jesus did is a moot point. It’s debatable whether the crucifixion even happened; even if you believe it did, was it more an act of self-sacrifice or self-promotion? An awful lot of Jesus’s acts in Scripture have an air of deliberate planning about them. The prophets had said: the Messiah will go out and do X; therefore, Jesus went ahead and did those things. He was like some modern evangelicals and millenarians, deliberately trying to push history into a sudden new phase by carrying out others’ prophecy.
So, self-sacrifice, self-advancement or self-promotion? You could ask the same question about Malcolm Kendall-Smith, dismissed from the RAF and sent to prison yesterday after he declared that as he thought the Iraq was illegal, he would not fight in it. The judges at his court-martial, however, ruled that by the time he received his orders the legality or otherwise of the original invasion was irrelevant.*
Kendall-Smith has sacrificed himself, and his career – he said himself that the RAF was one of the great loves of his life. The judge, however, accused him of being more interested in self-promotion: of trying to make himself into a martyr for the cause. I’m not in a position to judge this myself: my own best guess is that he wasn’t, but he should have realised that that accusation would be made. Whichever is closer to the truth, it’s a strangely apt story to appear in the headlines on Good Friday.
* The Guardian article suggests in one paragraph that the judge ruled that members of the services aren’t allowed to dispute something’s legality: if the government says something is legal, those orders must be followed. However, that wasn’t something that the ruling itself relied on.
I often don’t agree with the writing of Julie Bindel, the left-wing feminist who apparently believes that everyone should have full control over their own body, unless they were born male, or want to prostitute themselves. Today, though, I thought she was along the right lines when she wrote about diet and classism: it’s easy to criticise poor people for being unhealthy, when they don’t have the time or the money to eat well.*
She falls down, though, by jumping on something that’s a common Scottish stereotype. The Deep-Fried Mars Bar.
Having lived in Scotland, I can assure you that hardly anybody actually eats these things. They do exist, usually in about one chip shop per city. I’ve had one myself, from Pasquale’s in Edinburgh.** I’ve had one. That’s my point – nearly everybody who has had one, has only had one, just to try.
Everyone in England thinks the Scots survive on the things, but hardly anyone down here has heard of something that’s almost unhealthy, but far more common. The deep-fried pizza. Hard, greasy, fat-soaked, they sound just as horrible but they do exist. They’re real. People eat them regularly. People live on them. People get fat on them; they’re more than just part of a national stereotype.
* And this isn’t a new problem, of course: the British government originally brought in compulsary school PE lessons because they were worried about the poor health of Army recruits. That was during the Boer War.
** I’m not sure if Pasquale’s is still there – it was on Clerk St, near the old Odeon, and opposite the greengrocer’s that’s now a vintage clothing shop.
When Belle and Sebastian released their last album, a couple of months back, I wrote that clearly I’m not a true fan any more, because I didn’t buy it until the second day of release.
Well, it took me an entire week to realise that they’d released another single. By today, when I finally bought “The Blues Are Still Blue”, it was already in the charts.
Of course, I still had to buy it, on lovely blue vinyl. Apart from being a sad geek, it’s one of my favourite songs on the album, with a particularly glam feel to it. The sleeve is blue, of course, but it’s a warm, dusky, beautiful shade. All round, it’s a great piece of work.
Because without it, I’d still be laid on the sofa with blocked sinuses and an awful headache.
Yesterday, whilst I was in that state, I was listening with my Dad to Radio 2,* to Arthur Smith‘s comedy clip series The Smith Lectures. And, during the show, he played Ford Kiernan‘s cover of the Coldplay song “Yellow”, done in a swing style.**
I was laid there listening to this, this annoying ballad redone as a nice cheerful piece of easy-listening swing, and I couldn’t help thinking: this is actually rather good. Certainly compared to the original: it has verve,*** it has wit, and it doesn’t have Chris Martin’s horrible whining all over it. But it’s swing. It’s Easy Listening! Am I getting old?
* it was his choice, I’d like to add, not mine.
** according to The Internet, it was released on his charity album Swing When You’re Mingin’.
*** but not The Verve, of course
Bleurgh. Cold. All blocked up. Runny nose. No appetite. Can’t stop sneezing.
Don’t think I’ve been near any seabirds lately, though…
My rather cruel jibe at Fife the other day only seems to have invited a single complaint, from Greig, who pointed out that Fife was the birthplace of Sir Sandford Fleming. I’d never heard of Sir Sandford Fleming myself; but it turns out that he was rather important, particularly in Canada. He invented time zones, designed the first Canadian stamp, and surveyed the route of the first trans-Canadian railway line; more importantly, he was apparently the inventor of the in-line roller skate.
Now, I’m not being deliberately cruel to Fife again here; but it made me think: just how many famous people were born there but had to emigrate to do Great Things? Sir Sandford, clearly; Andrew Carnegie is another obvious one. Adam Smith is the exception – a lot of The Wealth Of Nations was written in Kirkcaldy. If you widen it to the rest of Scotland, you could add Thomas Carlyle,* Daniel Wilson,** and probably many more. Does it outnumber the people who stayed behind, though? No doubt this is something I’m going to be proved very wrong about.
My passport renewal application was sent off the other day – and, no, you’re not getting to see the photo. My current plan is for a trip around Bavaria and Austria, by train – I could apparently get the train from here to Munich in a single day without too much trouble. Big Dave thinks I’m mad.
More on bird flu: it’s all a bit over-hyped, isn’t it? The big news story this evening seemed to be: people are still buying chicken. The ever-helpful BBC has come up with a page of Useful Information, answering the questions on everyone’s lips. “Will my cat have to be put down?” “If I find a dead duck, who do I call?” DUCKBUSTERS, naturally.***
In other news, I’ve found that people still do suffer from curvature of the spine, after all. Clearly, this week was my week for insulting random strangers. Roll on Monday!
* Moving to Chelsea counts as emigration if you ask me.
** The famous Scottish-Canadian archaeologist, not the other one.
*** “Symbolic Forest – for the freshest 20-year-old memes around!”
Driving to work this morning: the sun was warm, and the sky blue. Leaving the office at lunch time: the car was hot, and I zoomed along with the windows down.* “Lovely,” I thought, “why not go to the beach?”
So, I popped down to the seafront, and sat down on the beach with my sandwiches.
And, as soon as I did, the heavens opened. It pissed down.
It’s not quite summer yet.
* and with a Herman Düne album on the stereo.
Breaking news report: a bird has died of H5 bird flu, in Fife. The authorities are concerned, and have sealed off the area, for fear that it might spread to civilisation.
(I haven’t been there for about five years, I have to admit. Apparently it’s quite nice now – they even have electricity!)
You might be wondering, having read yesterday’s post, how I know quite so much about the founders of the Salvation Army. The answer: my mother.
My mother would frequently buy me lots and lots of books, usually from the local library’s “for sale” stack.* Every so often, though, she would pop down to our local Christian booksellers, housed in an old ice factory near the docks, and buy me something Moral and Improving.
Sometimes these would be factual books about the lives of great Christians, such as, for example, William Booth and Catherine Mumford. More often, though, it would be a children’s novel with a religious theme. They started off just like any other novel, but when it came to the crunch point, the characters would find that only God could save them.
One series I particularly remember was a series of science-fiction stories, set in a far-future solar system where Christianity had been long-banned, but was preserved by a group of secret space-age knights who had been very heavily influenced by the Star Wars movies. Their worlds were dark and gritty; but if the characters’ faith or energy-sword-waving skills didn’t save them, a deus ex machina surely would. Indeed, the whole point of these books was that God definitely is still about the place, and can pop into the story for the occasional bit of divine intervention when needed. The reader can see that God is real, even if only the “good” characters can.
* “Withdrawn from stock, 25p each”