RUTH WARS

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Obiwon Naomi lives on the planet Moabitu. She is very sad because she has lost her husband and her two sons leaving their two alien wives behind. She has ran out of food and decides to travel back to her home planet Israelion.

Unfortunately she only has one space in her space ship so Ruth Skywalker and Orpha Winfry are forced to have a dance off to decide who will go.   On the return journey Ruth, Obi Won and Padwan Zac have to over come various challenges at boarder control and from rogue aliens receiving parts of a wheel chair as a reward. Obi Won is very despondent by the time she gets to Israelion, when interviewed by a journalist droid BTWJD-1S for a local TV network she decides to change her name from Obi won to Obi Lose. When they arrive in Isrealion Obi Won sends Ruth out to meet a wise old sage named Yoda who challenges her to a game of drafts in a near by café. She wins and retrieves the final part of the wheel chair.

Boaz meanwhile has heard of Ruth Skywalker and all that she has done to help her mother in law and assemble his chair. He greets her and says:

“I have been told about what you have done for your son since those hard days in Amersham, how you left your life of sin and returned home to Jesus. The Lord has answered your prayers for hardship that you may grow. May the Lord bless you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded . May he provide shelter for you under his wings. Now come and eat with me and my men’

He invites Ruth to stay with his men for lunch

After lunch, Obi Won Naomi hatches a plan to win Boaz’s heart. She gives Ruth Skywalker a sparkly top and tells her to make herself look fit (not hard for Est) and then to go and find Boaz kipping at a party. She is told to wake him and ask if he will cover her with the corner of his blanket. The only problem is everyone at the drinks party is also sleeping under a blanket so her and Padwan Zac have to be really careful not to uncover the wrong person. When she finds Boaz, she asks to be covered him and he is delighted and says: “Your kindness is greater than that which you have shown to me over the last few months. You have not run after more abled bodies men, better looking, faster, stronger, more Godly and less crude. I will do all that I can to cover you and more’. Boaz asks Ruth to marry him.

They return to their friends and family for celebrations to which Boaz announces. “There is one problem. There is one person in line before me.…..Daft Redeemer”.

Star Wars music begins blaring. “Da da da dun da da dun da da’. A very scary Daft Redeemer enters with light sabre to the accompaniment of red lights and dry ice if I can get some (didn’t manage to get these in the end- if only).

In a gruelling battle Ruth Skywalker, Padwan and Boaz defeat him and the path is made clear for their marriage.

Grow up Britain!

At the end of this blog is a graphic image. The kind that gives you bad dreams at night, but I want you to read on because my aim in writing this meandering, at at times amusing piece is to persuade you to look at it….like a grown up should. 

The other day I had the privilege of conducting a historic walking tour of central London. Admittedly LSE were scraping at the barrel choosing me. I fail even to fulfil the basic requirement of the whole venture the ability to walk. But thanks to 6 hours following blue hyperlinks on Wikipedia I delivered the best darn push tour London has ever known!***

I could bore you with many useless facts from that day: about the 350 clocks in Buckingham Palace and their two full time employees – I know, doesn’t that just tick you off – or the significance of flags on government buildings in Whitehall, or the sex life of Mahatma Gandhi (it was potentially less celibate than one might expect) but I won’t. Instead I want to draw our attention to the 169ft* column in the middle of Trafalgar Square on which stands a stone statue of Admiral Nelson.

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Now I don’t know much about the guy (to my shame all I know is what Wikipedia has told me) but of all the characters I talked about that day, from politicians to terrorists, scientists to architects, it is Nelson who has stuck with me the most. Why? Because I feel he represents a Britishness that is nearly totally gone. Allow me to explain.

One look at the guy (you may need binoculars for this task, I don’t know exactly what William Railton was thinking putting him all the way up there!) begins to get the imagination going. It depicts a man who in life stood 5’5″ in height, blind in one eye and possessing only one (left) arm. The eye he lost in Corsica in 1793 after debris struck a sand bag near his head. The arm he lost in Tenerife five years later after being hit by a musket bullet. It is said that he not only refused to be carried back onto the ship stating: ‘Leave me alone, I still have my legs and one arm’ but also returned to giving orders a mere half an hour after the ships surgeon hacked it clean off. Suffice to say he was made out of tough stuff. This is no better summed up than in some of his final words on the 21st October 1805. As he lay haemorrhaging to death in the Hull of HMS Victory, a French bullet lodged in his thoraxic vertebrate he is said to have muttered ‘Thank God I have done my duty’.

In the line of duty Nelson quite literally risked [and lost] life and limb. He faced danger, death and deprivation. He fought real battles against real enemies and was happy to die for his cause. He knew what he wanted to live for and knew what he was prepared to die for.

Yet ask an average Londoner today about duty and they’ll put the kettle on. “Due tea” is about as far as we get. Most of us have no idea what we’re living for, let alone what we’re prepared to die for, so we knock up another brew and wait for the results of the Bake Off.

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If my reignited passion for British history, has taught me anything it’s that the old England had thicker skin than the new one. The ruddy calloused hands that built an empire are fast sinking in a pot of Olay moisturiser. The desire is there, but the character aloof. We still want a cause yet we are not prepared to suffer for it, we still want duty but not at the expense of our autonomy and we still want a fight but on our terms. So what do we do? Well, we imagine battles that aren’t there and we overlook the ones that are.

Allow me to give an example. Many of you would know that I recently appeared on Channel 4’s Dispatches Undercover: Britain’s Abortion Extremists in which I was branded, amongst other things an ‘anti-abortion fanatic’ for my voluntary work with Abort67. I believe this hyperbolic, farcical piece of pseudo-journalism proves my point entirely.

The documentary made by Cathy Newman (who actually went to my school, would you believe) and her team of neutral as acid supporters: a doctor, an MP and two ‘victims’ produced a 30 minute piece exposing the various pro-life groups operating in and around London. As can be expected they made us out as a bunch of religious nutters who just love to harass women, block doors, film patients, and hold ‘lurid banners’. It asserted that because of our actions, buffer zones should be enforced around clinics to prevent women from ‘walking the gauntlet’.

Our security footage shows that nothing can be further from the truth. We ask members of the public respectfully what they think about abortion and respect their right to engage or walk past. We never block doors and only film to protect ourselves from false allegations – and, I should add, undercover documentary makers. We do use images, but we don’t apologise for doing so because it is the quickest and most effective way to show the humanity of the unborn child. We never retaliate in word or deed, though we are oft slandered, intimidated and on one occasion attacked. Finally, we are not a religious organisation, we are a human rights organisation and we welcome volunteers from a range of faith or no faith backgrounds. In sum, we are about as aggressive as Lizo from Newsround (who’s journalism, though tame was a darn sight more balanced than Cathy’s)

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All we do is offer a different opinion. The truth, and it’s the truth that offends not us. Don’t believe me? Watch a local policemen give testimony to our sedateness, or pop down to Columbo street one Friday afternoon and see what we do. We have nothing to hide, indeed our aim is simply to expose whats hidden.

But you know something, it’s the gauntlet phrase that amuses me the most. Not because abortion is amusing, nothing is funny about abortion, but because it make the whole thing sound like the set from Gladiators. You can imagine that Welsh guy in the black and white stripes now: ‘Stranger you will go on my first whistle!…Pro-life religious women-hating fanatic, you will go on my second whistle! 3,2,1 go!’ Sometimes in my most frustrated moments I think I should get some inflatable pads just to give Cathy Newman or Caitlin Moran something write about.

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But here’s the the thing, the fact that the documentary told porkies doesn’t bother me that much. What bothers me is that it infantilises society.

Consider the following extract from an article by Caitlin Moran my friend Liv shared with me (I quote at length to give context, please forgive the bad language, I could put stars in between but I’ve never really understood that practice).

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imagine accidentally getting pregnant at 16, then having to run past a barrage of anti-abortion protestors outside your local clinic, all holding up pictures of dead foetuses. We’re not dealing with this in a special, noble lady-way. We’re like, “THIS IS ALREADY A REALLY, REALLY SHIT DAY. I PRESUME YOUR CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF CHILDREN EXTENDS INTO A LIFE SPENT VOLUNTEERING IN CARE HOMES, FOSTERING AND DONATING YOUR WAGES TO THE NSPCC — AND DOESN’T SOLELY REST ON HARASSING AND ABUSING TEARFUL, POSSIBLY RAPED WOMEN WHO ARE TRYING TO GET A SAFE, LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE SO THEY DON’T FUCK UP THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.”

……we’d love it if a big bunch of pro-choice men turned up at these clinics, and helped escort the scared women in. That would be some top bro solidarity.

As far as ‘sit down, shut up’ arguments go, you can trust Caitlin to produce a good one. However, notice how she infantilises women. She makes them into pathetic little children who need to be escorted around and protected from the facts. Caitlin, are you a feminist or not? In reality the average age of abortion last year was 21 (look at Gov Stats doc). Extreme cases do exist and are tragedies, but they only make up for between 1-3% of the total. Therefore the average women we encounter is exactly that, a grown up sexually responsible women. We as an organisation respect women, and believe they are perfectly able to engage with our displays or walk past. We trust women. We respect their cognitive abilities, and, I can’t believe I’m writing this, we respect their right to choose whether they want to listen to us or not. Some even thank us for our work.

But it’s not just about infantalising women. I have on a few occasions now met men, real men, with stubble and side burns and stuff, who are totally disempowered by such arguments. They are made to believe the unborn child has nothing to do with them- as if it was conceived by pollination of something-they are given no job, no duty and therefore seek solace in their Xbox.   Other manly men refuse to see the images ‘lest I get a nasty image in my head’. Yes I appreciate they wish to protect their thought life but come on! This isn’t gratuitous violence this is actual violence, against real people.

In all this I wonder what Nelson would think? Or indeed anyone who lived before our bubble-wrapped, supposedly sanitised, prepubescent pepper-pig generation.

After all, Nelson lived in the time of the press gangs, slavery, hangings and war. When London streets bustled with vendors, urchins, prostitutes, gin drinkers, heralds and pick pockets. Where traitors remains hung in the open air for all to see for month after month after month. Personal space had not been invented yet. Now that’s a gauntlet, but I bet Nelson wouldn’t have called it that. Of course not – he had bigger fish to fry, he had a real war to fight, complete with blood and guts and weapons.

We too have a bigger war to fight, an actual war, with casualties far greater than those of Nelson’s day. I’m talking of the 191,014 children killed by abortion last year in England and Wales, the 43,383 children killed in London, the 2062 killed in Southwark, or the 20 or so killed two days a week in that GP surgery you saw in the documentary.

If the population of the Isle of Wight was wiped out you’d call it genocide. But that is 59,514 less than the national total. If a full Stamford Bridge collapsed mid-match there would be national mourning, yet that is 1542 less than the London total. If a secondary school was gassed because those children couldn’t be supported by the state there would be riots on the street. Yet no one lifts a finger for these little human beings, abandoned, suffocated, ripped apart, ejected, discarded.

So here comes the image. Are you going to look at it or not?

Because yes, they are human beings – a little known scientific fact that no one wants to discuss. Living, distinct whole human beings with eyes and fingers, and brainwaves, and potential. As one doctor states “Not potentially human but humans with potential” Nothing proves it like the image:

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Can you see what’s happening? We are being led to believe that ‘creeps’ on the street, engaging members of the public in respectful conversation is an injustice, while silently behind closed doors and into toilet bowls little human beings are being killed, and flushed away.

We are being led to believe that women cannot handle facts, that the public walk ways are as private as a teenagers bedroom and that violence is akin to disagreeing with someone else’s choice.

The actual injustice friends in that women are not being told the facts and until some one does they may commit a real violence against a real human being.

So we going to grow up or not? Are we gonna face the facts and fight the real war? Or are we gonna be stunted by hyperbole seeking to distract from the actual issue?

As Wilberforce once said “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know” (Closing Speech in House of Commons 1791).

*That happened in London between 2-4.30pm on September 21st 2016
*Subject to the opinions of those who gave positive feedback
* Excluding the feedback of those that didn’t have anything nice to say.
*Another Wikipedia page said it was 145 ft.
*Massive thank you to Kathryn Hunter for proof reading and editing.

The Art of Coping

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If there is room in the large bin of self-indulgent Facebook reflections on todays significant vote, I’d quite like to add my own. I write this not as a politician or as one who is remotely informed but as Brexiter St David who believes in the art of coping.

Over the weekend I met a family who’s 3 month old child fell from its sling onto its head. Hearing this I immediately began reflecting publicly on the frailty and vulnerability of young children. ‘How dependent upon their parents they are’ I lamented, ‘such that a combination of gravity and a faulty sling can threaten their whole existence’. The father patiently listened to my pompous and misguided reflection before suggesting an alternative way to look at the situation. ‘We took him to the doctor’, he interjected, ‘the doctor said babies fall on their heads the whole time and that their soft skulls are more than able to cope with this kind of thing and worse. He gave her an examination and sent us home’, before closing with a more apt reflection of his own: ‘It’s as if God created babies knowing we would drop them’.

Why do I write this? Because right now many remain voters in this nation and many more Europhiles gazing in are in the throws of despair and depression over the Brexit vote. My father for one, rummaging around for his evening pills on the floor above is already showing early signs of post Brexit depression. “You have destroyed the Europe I aimed to build’ was his final murmur before bed. Whilst cabbies do donuts and endtime Christians clink glasses of Shloer, fear fills large chunks of London.  Post graduate, passport possessing, share owning Londoners are terrified, as are their foreign neighbours who fear the swift instalment of a xenophobic 4th Reich under a slightly podgy aryan leader.

Fear is reigning and it is not ok. Not because we should all be positive about the hard challenges that lie ahead and its potential cost to us as individuals, but because we need to be truthful- and the truth is we will cope. If breaking my back has taught me anything it’s coping. Under the most adverse and extenuating of circumstances the human spirit has an impressive track record for coping. Like that baby, we’re more resilient than you think. Individuals cope, communities cope, institutions cope and countries cope.

Change is hard even for those that demand it, yet the very way God has made us allows us to cope with change. We’ve done it in the past, we’ll do it in the future and we’ll do it in response to Brexit. It’s kind of what makes us British- coping. Not failing, not thriving. Just coping.

Indeed by God’s Grace we can cope with a great deal more than we ever imagine. The amount of bodily fluid that has come out of me at inconvenient times in the last few weeks has demonstrated this to me. Even tonight I managed to piss myself driving home listening to BBC radio 4 news, (funny but not that funny-right?). With this comes disappointment and embarrassment but you don’t remain there, wallowing in piss, as they begin playing Archers Omnibus, no you get up, you get in, you change your pants and you start again. This is coping!

But you know what? Coping isn’t meant to be the end. Coping is but a stepping stone to thriving.  Coping is the ability to endure circumstances, thriving is making the most of them. The vote is done, the decision final. The question is will be take the step. Will we just cope or will we thrive?

 

Matt Damon on Mars and Euthanasia

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In a few weeks time Matt Damon will be gracing our screens in the adaptation of the Andy Weir novel The Martian. The film follows the futuristic story of the astronaut Mark Watney, who finds himself stranded on Mars for a record 549 sols (approx 1.5 years). His character is a jack the lad with an extremely high IQ and a supreme knack for surviving on hostile red planets. We know this because he detailing his various exploits in a series of logs akin to Facebook updates- like this:

So here’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes [his ship] or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab [his tent] designed to last 31 days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of these things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed.

But Mark Watney is no pessimist. No it’s not long before he starts filling his log with surprisingly addictive entries about how on earth (or should I say how on mars) he’s going to overcome the notable obstacles listed above. He does so with varied success through a mix of technology, creativity, humour and brawl, keeping the reader posted every step of the way with his log come blog. When he is not surviving he finds time to critique the music and film choices of his teammates as he makes his way through their personal supplies. Whenever this formula gets boring you are transported back to earth into the office of Venkat Kapoor, the suitably PC named NASA lead, as he and his cliché team of geeky techies and fowl mouth media professionals work round the clock to ‘save Mark’. Of course -as can be expected of the genre – the whole world tunes into the affair and in their own way start rooting for Mark because as the trailer explains: “every human being has a basic instinct…to help each other out’.

Like splashing in a puddle the film is fun but shallow. Mark Watney is an amusing and enjoyable character but lacks depth. This is likely because Andy Weir clearly wrote the book in order to be a film (well done Andy!) and therefore felt no need to elaborate on that which a camera can’t see. Besides who wants to read about a lonely depressed guy on Mars when you can read about a stoic survivor? Consequently Damon’s character just bumbles his way through numerous terrifying situations, keeping himself and his sense of humour in tacked, so that when he finally regains contact with NASA he can make a joke to cheer everyone up- ‘That’s our Mark!’. He only shows signs of breaking twice and on the second occasion passes it off as a ‘tantrum’ making Mark an unhelpful role model to a depressed generation. Yet perhaps this is Marks selling point. Though he is highly intelligent he’s not a deep thinker, a profound orator or a pretentious poet, he’s just a diligent 9 till 5 kind of guy who prizes trivial things when the hard work is over. His first and probably only reflexive statement in the whole book comes towards the end and it’s no Neil Armstrong. Mark is questioning whether the effort and expense of a rescue mission is worth his ‘sorry ass’, he concludes:

Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary figures we’ve dreamed of for centuries… but really they… [are trying to rescue me]…..because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes but its true. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up and give blood. If an earth quake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do…

But here is the irony, despite the deliberate squarness of his character, Mark Watney’s story is profound in both theme and timing. Indeed I would say these were its only redemptive features.

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 The theme is found in Marks speech above: that ultimately it is not money, progress or prestige that motivates us to save life but simply life itself. So long as Mark Watney is alive, the world seeks to preserve his life, period! Despite the magnitude of Mark’s predicament no other alternative is ever discussed, no you made your bed now sleep in it, no sacrifice for the sake of many and no euthanasia. Mark and his counterparts at NASA have no choice but to preserve life, and they are remarkably unquestioning in this calling. For a book that only mentions God as a swear word this is an interesting angle to take. After all in a world where so many are in need, surely it doesn’t make sense to spend so much time, energy and money on a single life? But the brilliance of the universe in which the book is set is that it never even entertains the question. One is therefore left to assume that perhaps its not man’s question to ask?

Now this brings us onto the second redemptive factor of this film being its timing. On 11th September the Assisted Dying Bill was rejected 3-1 in the house of Commons to the delight of Justin Welby and the disgust of the pro choice lobby that was picketing outside. In brief the bill sought to legalise the assisted suicide of terminally ill patience who wished to end their lives at a location and timing of their convenience. Though suicide is no longer a criminal offense in the UK, assisted suicide is, meaning that those who seek it must travel to centres like Dignitas in Switzerland, unaccompanied by UK medical workers, to perform the deed. Currently 1 person goes every fortnight from the UK. The bill suggested that it would prevent botched jobs, the threat of criminal conviction and alleviate unnecessary suffering- all good reasons, so why was it rejected?

Well believe it or not but Matt Damon, of all people, that infamous British political satirist, has the answer: because as he says it is ‘the basic the role of the humans to help each other out’ and by that he means to preserve life, not lift a cup of lethal poison up to a persons mouth. The film applies this on a personal level illustrated by Watney’s decision to try and survive against the odds. It applies it on a governmental level illustrated by NASA’s insistence on saving Mark at any cost and finally it applies on a societal level illustrated by a world that earnestly seeks Marks survival, no matter how improbable. Our government , like NASA in the book, has made up its mind, insisting that it is the role of the Government to protect venerable people and not to help them on their way. The question therefore remains, what do we think as individuals and as a society? Will we enter into the thinking portrayed by Matt Damon and his Interstella mates in The Martian or won’t we?

Before I probably have to deal with a couple of defeaters:

  1. A Martian astronaut and a terminally ill person are very different

Of course there are substantial differences between a person with locked in syndrome and an astronaut stuck on Mars, but I feel the similarities are sufficient enough to be relevant. Firstly Matt Damon’s character might not have been terminally ill but he is in a terminal situation. We must also note that he, like many who suffer from MS, motor neuron disease or high level paralysis, is totally dependent of man and machine in order to survive. Secondly Matt Damon’s character might not have wanted to die, but he like me and many other suffering people I know, do considered it- but wanting and willing are different things. And finally Matt Damon’s character might not be suffering like some people in favor of the bill, but you can bet he suffered in other ways and ascertaining ones level of suffering compared to another or asserting a criteria for when suffering becomes too much to merit life is not the job of a doctor, but a God.

  1. There were solutions to Mark’s problem in a way there are not for a terminally ill person.

At the crux of this question isn’t actually the subject of life and death but the subject of control. Matt Damon’s characters immediate decision is simple, it is between life and death, where as a terminally ill persons decision is more complicated for it is between death now and death later, but this is only a surface difference. Matt Damon’s character may not have a life expectancy of 6 months (a criteria in the rejected bill) but he, like all of us, is still dying, second by second, minute by minute, day by day. The challenges he survives today he will one day not survive. If he makes it home (a fact I have intentionally not stated as not to spoil the film) he will one day fail to breath, even in an atmosphere rich with oxygen. The question is really whether we should have control over that death or not.

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Into this comes the greatest lie of the pro-choice lobby. Simply put it suggests that one should have autonomy over their death as they do a job, car, a spouse or pet dog. Control according to them amounts to dignity and no one wants to deny a person that! But it’s a false dichotomy, an illusion, a lie. The very fact that a person is dying of a horrific terminal illness suggests that despite our best efforts we are not actually in control of our lives. Indeed we never have been. A person who claims to have controlled their birth place, their education or simply the way their parent(s) treated them- all perquisites for the autonomy of choosing a job, car, spouse or pet- is either mad, lying or God. Humans are not in control of their birth no more than their death. We don’t know what will happens next: whether our children live long lives or short lives? Whether we get that break at work or miss out due to unjust circumstances? Or whether our spouse will stay with us or find love else where? Yet we think because we can choose our breakfast cereals, wallpaper or boxer shorts we are. Can we not see these are mealy decorative features that delude us into thinking we are in control when were not? If we renounce these illusions we will find freedom, if we maintain control we will not. We must understand that dignity and control are very different things. In fact I would argue that dignity is found in the humble acceptance of ones situation not in attempting to control that which we know we cannot, that I would call defiance.

To choice ones death seems like a wonderfully mature decision made by the most humane of humans, but please believe me when I tell you that it’s a non choice, a childish defiance against a situation one cannot change. Like the demanding a lethal injection from a stewardess in a plane hurtling towards the ground it is actually a deeply inappropriate response to ones situation. You’re better off singing, praying, encouraging the pilot or at the very least doing up your seat belt. You simply don’t know what those last seconds or minutes might hold, only God does.

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Therefore society: What will our  attitude be towards those that suffer incomprehensibly? What words will we say? What gesture will our brow communicate? What attitudes will we imbibe by the very posture with which we stand? What will we pray for them when we are alone?

Will we promote life in the mists of suffering or diminish it? Will we offer the illusion of choice or be dignified enough to accept we have none? Will we be compassionate or prudent or both? Will we encourage the sufferer on into a fate unknown or will we opt for the way of death, a path us humans know all too well already.

‘Let us encourage one another on, all the more as we see the day approaching’.

is what the Bible says, I fear the Martian optimizes this better than most of us.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

My fingers may not have caressed cards, chips or women but sin doesn’t start in the fingers but in the heart. The portal to the heart is the eyes and ears and through them I have been much exposed. I now must pay the price. Will the wide hips and squishy sides of a normal women ever satisfty me now I have seen the rock hard physique of bikini clad females wondering through hotel receptions? Will a play list blurting out through some crappy speakers at a mates house imageever compare the the $250 a head table at the night club Encore? What of the sound of a porn star orgasming on some elaborate contraption played down the radio at 3 in the afternoon, to which the DJ responds, “what a privledge’! What is my heart meant to do with that? I can bury it I can burn it, but it will always be in my conscience in some form.

But heres the thing. I want to blame Vegas for what its done to my heart, when in reality Vegas only exists because of my heart, a heart that is desperately ill; that seeks not to love but to feel, not to think but to bypass not to serve but to be served. That is in effect what Vegas is- one huge heart bypass. It wants sex but bypasses relationship, it wants fun but bypasses responsibility and it wants money but it bypasses hard work and the the end result is a lot of scaring, a short bout of life and a temporary solution to a much larger problem-the state of the human heart.

Anyone who has been to Vegas, even the kings and queens of hedonism, will tell you of the ‘saturation point’. Perhaps its 24 hours, 48 hours or 2 weeks but eventually you’ll reach it. It’s the point at which the human soul can take no more of the ‘fun’. Just like a human stomach at an all you can eat buffet, the mixing of too many foods in too greater amount leaves one resenting the whole experience even the joyful parts- and I must add at this point there are joyful parts- try as I might to hate Vegas, I cannot, the tenacity or building a recreational city in the middle of the dessert, finding a way to power its roller coaster, monorail and billion light bulbs, and then having a thousand gallon fountain display every fifteen minutes is reason for marvel. It’s impressive, it’s fun but it’s not joy and it does not satisfy. The question is why?

One of the stags commented that ‘you could write a thousand dissertations on Vegas and still not understand it’, perhaps he’s right but I have a theory non the less. Vegas is bourn out of desire: desire for sex, desire for money, desire for fun- ultimately it’s a desire for joy. Now we can suppress these desires as many in the church and other religious have done with devastating consequences or we can indulge them to the max, as in Vegas, but both approaches fail. As explored, the average person in Vegas can only manage it for short periods and have to adopt a cultural skitsophrenia in order to cope with it (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas- which i must add is not conducive to any relationship. ‘Honey’, your wife asks ‘ why have you bought a 4kg bucket of marmite and some wet wipes’. ‘Darling’, I shall reply, ‘What happens in Tesco’s stays in Tescos’- I don’t think it works). It seems painfully clear to me that, as a Christian who kept his mouth shamefully closed for most of that weekend that I now must break my silence and talk of a third way. If Vegas isn’t the answer and religion isn’t the answer what is?

How one experiences the joys of games, drink and sex, not in short excessive sprints but continuously throughout our lives, not shamefully and secretly but openly and honestly and not at the expense of other peoples dignity but in such a way that builds others up (such that they are seen as more human and not less)- is in fact a theological question for it surrounds the question of desire, and more particularly the origins, purpose and management of desire.

Regrably I have not the time, brain or patience (with my I-pad) to explore the first two theories now, I will however, as a man of flesh who made it through Vegas by the skin on his teeth, talk about the third -desire management.  You’ll be pleased to hear the answer is not a case of denying desire but simply of directing them. The only issue is that the desires in question (sex, money, power) are extraordinarily powerful: the kind of desires that manipulate us do things that we don’t necessarily like until we become someone who at best we don’t know and at worst we hate. Like the ‘mighty Colorado river’ used to power 15.5% of Vegas at the Hoover dam, it requires a huge and impressive structure in order to direct the desires of man in a constructive manner. Those adept in dealing with the destructive potential of desire know this. It should come as no surprise that two of the primary steps in the Alcoholics Anonymous program (along with Gamblers Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous)  are the confessing of ones helplessness in dealing with desire followed by the identifying of a higher power in order to save and direct one from such desires..

It would be all too easy to leave it there, to leave higher powers, God and Jesus to the wasters and for us ‘reasonable folk’ to crack on under our own strength but just because we don’t attend one of those meetings doesn’t mean we don’t need help. Not all of Jesus early followers were wasters looking for help; some were high ranking military officials, others academics, business women and financial workers (some weren’t even looking for Jesus) it was in meeting him that they realised their need. Jesus words cut to the heart of man like nothing else. ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor but the sick, I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinner’ (Luke 5.31-32).  Of all modern cities surely Vegas shows us that despite our brilliance and creativity we’re not healthy, that underneath the amazing architecture, lights and fountains we have desires that we don’t know how to control, we have a saturation point we cannot account for, an itch we can’t scratch and that ultimately we too need help.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, it keeps on beating inside our diaphrams. It goes wherever we go, and continues to pump gunk around our limbs. The Gamblers Annymous looks after folks from every age, cast and tounge who are brave enough to admit they have a gambling problem, the Church looks after folk from every age, cast and tounge who are honest enough to admit they have problems with desire.

Hacking Family Round Robin (alternative)

DDH....the Lord has comeDear readership,

People often ask me why I bother writing Christmas round robins. ‘We have enough trouble keeping up with our own family let alone somebody else’s’, they protest. To which I say ‘well, why bother keeping up with your own family- what with its meager achievements and petty developments- when you can hear all about mine!

Firstly however I must offer my sincere apology for the absence of last years letter. I, David Hacking (Old Aldronian, Old Cathusian, Clair College Cambridge alumni, member of the Bar for the last 203 years and possessor of my own website) was unable to compose such a letter, not because I didn’t have numerous accolades to share – I did, and more than you- but because I was travelling with my family in India. Yes, last year I found myself in the heart of the Forth world. Last Christmas day I found myself on a dusty Indian street, surrounding by dark faces, a chorus of car horns and a vegetarian breakfast-a rather traumatic experience, I think you’d agree. Despite all this we had a great time. We met some fabulous people including Bishop Samuel, enjoyed some exotic food (not all of which stayed down) and even found a bit of sun for my beloved wife Judy–compensation for an 8 hour taxi ride we undertook between Chennai and Cumbum, in which Mum sat between two seats.  All in all a different but delightful Christmas break.

“The wedding bells have been a ringing”. Yes I bring fair tidings about my 3rd eldest son, Alexander. On the 31th August last year he was finally wed to the wonderful Jenifer ex-Walsh and now Hacking. It was a fantastic occasion executed with much class and good taste.

In other news, I am delighted to announce my second son Danny has found ‘latino love’. He is engaged to a woman from Peru named Anouk and is expecting a baby in May! He hopes to be married in the Lake District in September 2015.  Like the NHS, keep it free! We are also excited to announce that Jennifer is also expecting. After initial delays she expects the new sofa will arrive in Nun Head next Friday.

Meanwhile Belinda is delighted Scotland didn’t go independent and Andy works diligently at his medical degree (when he’s not winning grand slams, that is). He is currently on year 3 out of 83 in the Queens Belfast Medical Department. It’s a shame really because we all know that as soon as he finishes his training, at the tender age of 106, he’ll become a priest -something to do with calling apparently? God clearly doesn’t have my number. He must be one of the few people in the world that doesn’t. Perhaps he hasn’t seen my website? I’ll send Him an email about that after this. Another thing to do! . Gosh aren’t I an active 75 year old! Did I mention I am currently doing arbitrations in Malaysia. -anything to not do the washing up.

Anyway, all this chat about God reminds me. Darling Christian! As many of you may know Christian (my youngest son) was in a terrible rock climbing accident in July. He broke his back and now has limited function of his legs. He has spent the last 4 and a half months in rehab both in Wakefield and now, after much struggle, at Stokemandaville. He has shown good improvement and may learn to stand and walk a little over the next few years. However he expects a chair will be a big part of his life from now on. Remarkably he is joyous and uncomplaining about the hard road ahead. We are extremely grateful for all the support friends and family have shown during this time. We are also grateful he did not hit his head, even if this means he is as articulate and argumentative as ever.  Christian is confident that ‘good will come of this (followed by something about God, I forget)’. I can see that being true. For example Christian’s personal loss means he now understands how I felt when he refused to go into my old boarding house, Gownboys!

In response to this tragedy my first son Doug on a visit from Australia,  decided to turn a ‘casual’ swim of the channel into a ‘sponsored’ swim of the channel to raise money for Christian’s cause.  He completed it in September in 14 hours (twice as long as my time). Alex and Jen went to celebrate his arrival in France only to find they couldn’t get down to the beach from the cliff top, so they just shouted at him instead. We were all very proud of his achievement. I don’t know exactly how much money he raised, but I assure you it was more than all of your children’s charity endeavors put together.

Finally, I, Lord David Hacking (issuer of over 140 Arbitration Awards) continue to work very hard on international arbitrations. Part of my success is using any and every opportunity to promote myself – Christmas round robins are no exception.

Festive Greetings,

Lord David Hacking and my Decedents