Thursday, 12 February 2009

Thursday 12/02/09

My elder daughter, who lives in Accrington (Huncoat, to be precise), has announced her intention to marry her new boyfriend in 2011. With well over 2 years to prepare for the wedding, she’s now busy scurrying around and organising everything as if it were happening next weekend – bless her. Her intended sent Hay a text saying she’d be his mother-in-law, which made him as popular with her as Carol Thatcher is at the BBC. He sent me a text the other day spelling my daughter’s surname incorrectly! I suggested they just live together, as she would be giving up a beautiful and exotic foreign surname like Van Bergen for McTavish – a name only found in jokes about Scotland.

Given I’m trying to build a house before I retire, while simultaneously shelling out 20% of my salary in maintenance for my two young boys, my daughter and her intended will have to take on the bulk of the wedding cost (as you’d naturally expect 30-somethings to do anyway), which will mean cutting corners.

I suggested to Hay that we could make it a double celebration by getting married at the same time, thereby saving both couples some money. She alerted me to the fatal drawback that we’d have to get married ‘oop north’ and she wasn’t too enamoured with eating lard butties, black pudding, Wigan kebabs (3 pies on a stick), sad cake (a variety of Chorley cake peculiar to the East Lancs mill towns) and Manchester tart as a wedding feast. It’s also a bit difficult getting hold of white wedding clogs in t’ namby-pamby south - although there is a rumour that there’s a chap in Black Pockrington who does mail-order.

Just a quick aside: Police cordoned off Liverpool City Centre this morning when a suspicious object was discovered in a car. It later turned out to be a tax disc.

Talking of Manchester tart and mothers-in-law, did you realise that Pat Phoenix of Coronation Street fame (Elsie Tanner) was Tony Blair’s mother-in-law for a few days? Tony Booth, Cherie’s father, married Pat just a couple of days before she died of cancer.

It’s amazing how the mind flows and makes connections, ain’t it? Let’s go with the flow and see where on the road to perdition leads.

Pat Phoenix’s original surname name was Pilkington – a name synonymous with St Helens and glass. Pilkington is the UK’s largest manufacturer of glass and has recently developed a self-cleaning glass called Pilkington Activ. Just a bit of useless information, but handy if you’re considering building a house in the near future, as I am.

St Helens brings us to St Helen – a.k.a. St Helena of Constantinople, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine The Great, and probably the cause of him converting to Christianity (but not till he was on his deathbed).

Constantine is one of the most surprising Christian heroes in the entire Christian tradition. He is, first of all, a successful general. He is also the son of a successful general, and at the head of the army of the Western Empire, and he's fighting another successful general, struggling for who is going to be at the top of the heap of the very higher echelons of Roman government.

As an army man, he was undoubtedly a worshiper of Mithras, although it has been suggested his mother was a Christian well before his conversion. What happens is that in 312 AD Constantine has a vision. Luckily for the Church, there's a bishop nearby to interpret what the vision means. Constantine ends not converting, technically, to Christianity, but becoming a patron of one particular branch of the church. It happens to be the branch of the church that has the Old Testament as well as the New Testament as part of its canon, which means that since this branch of Christianity includes the story about historical Israel as part of its own redemptive history, it has an entire language for articulating the relationship of government and piety. It has the model of King David and it has the model of the kings of Israel, and with this governmental model the bishop explains Constantine’s vision. Constantine becomes the embodiment of the righteous King, and once he consolidates his power by conquering, eventually, not only the west, but also the Greek east, where there are many more Christians concentrated in the cities, which are the social power packets of this culture, he is in this amazing position of having a theology of government that he can use to consolidate his own secular power. It worked both ways; the bishops now basically had federal funding to have sponsored committee meetings so they could try to iron out creeds and get everybody to sign up, as heretofore the myriad sects had been engaged in interminable squabbling as to which was orthodox and which heretical.

Despite converting the Roman world to Christianity, Constantine himself remained a pagan until the last few days of his life. Some thought it was to enable him to commit as many sins as possible before having them all expiated on conversion.

That link neatly brings us back to that atheist bus campaign again, which seems to have spawned a plethora of copy-cat ads on behalf of various competing Christian sects and communities. Even the Orthodox crowd are getting in on the act. It won’t be long before some sect pays for an ad saying, ‘There is a God, but only our version of God. The rest are heretics and will burn in Hell forever’. I’m reminded of Jesus’ comparing his followers to a flock of sheep.

It’s a fact that, with the faintly possible exception of the Diocletianic Persecution, Christian sects have probably committed more atrocities against each other than have ever been committed on them by non-Christians; in fact I’d even go so far as saying that throughout history, the followers of the Abrahamic god in totality (including all varieties of Christians, Jews and Moslems) have, in the name of their single deity, shown less tolerance between themselves and committed more atrocities against other Abrahamic sects than has been perpetrated on them by any atheist, agnostic, pagan, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Shintoist, Druid or vegetarian. Catholic against Protestant, Sunni against Shia, Christian against Jew, Christian against Moslem, Moslem against Jew – the list is endless. Sad, really.

I think the atheists should reply with an advert that says, ‘There definitely is no God, as if there were, this bus would have been lightning bolt fodder by now. QED!’ That should settle the question once and for all – until the bus had an accident, and then the deists will use the old post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Christian groups have been vociferously complaining that they are indignant, mortified and grossly offended by the suggestion than their imaginary friend (the evidence for whom is no more compelling than that for the Flying Spaghetti Monster) doesn’t, on the balance of probability, exist. My message to them is to either prove conclusively that he does exist, or GET OVER IT AND GROW UP!

Where next? The Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The Flying Spaghetti Monster spawned the Pastafarians, whose tenets hold that there is an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster who created the entire universe after a bout of heavy drinking. Rather than Ten Commandments, they hold sacred the Eight I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts. The Pastafarian conclusion to prayers is the utterance of the word "RAmen", which is a portmanteau of "Amen", the Aramaic declaration of affirmation, and “Ramen”, a type of Japanese noodle. The Pastafarians believe that heaven contains beer volcanoes and a stripper factory. Their version of Hell is similar, except that the beer is stale and the strippers have sexually transmitted diseases.

Hell takes us back full circle to Hay’s apocalyptic and eschatological vision of the north – people in tack suits, eating chips and pies and hanging around boarded-up 1960s shopping centres, where the only shops that are still open are the Pound Shop, a betting shop, a chip shop and a tanning parlour / nail bar.

Before concluding I shall take a slight hellish tangent via Terry Pratchett and Neil Gamen’s hilarious book, Good Omens, which introduces the reader to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; War, Famine, Pollution (Pestilence having retired in 1936 following the discovery of penicillin), and Death. However, they have given up horses in favour of Harley Davidsons, with empty crisp packets materialising in Pollution’s wake.

I guess I’d better end my meanderings there. Perdition calls.


  1. What do you mean, "If you're new to this blog, then you're best advised to dip in somwhere further down, or else you'll think I'm barking".

    You are barking, that's why we read every day - Accept it, Sir, and move on!

    Carry on rambling like that and you might be a contender for my crown - It was very funny, thank you!

    WV is gattion - Is that a galleon for Spanish cats?!

  2. Hello there!
    Just stopping by, I saw you on Comedy Goddess' page. That was quite a thought process there mister. I feel like I've been on a very long train ride...that I really liked.
    Love the spaghetti monster.
    Good for you telling your daughter to live together first. I wish my daughter would've listened to me when I told her that.
    I think I'd like to keep my eye on you...If its ok with you...I'll stop by now and then.
    Thanks for making me smile.

  3. Sweet Cheeks,

    'Fraid it's not possible for the daughter and her intended to live together first. She's had a hefty dose God and it's marriage or nothing.

  4. Hello, Chairman Bill,

    Is your blog related to some electronic cigarettes ? Why i am getting your blog when i google ?