Dis is me, Eccles

Dis is me, Eccles
Dis is me, Eccles

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Should noisy adults be allowed in church?

One of my younger readers writes:

Dear Uncle Eccles,

What should we do about noisy adults in church? I am six years old, and I go to Mass with my parents and Lucy, my sister. Lucy is only three, and very well-behaved, usually either sleeping, reading a book such as Charles Kingsley's Water-babies - she scribbles on the heretical parts - or drawing pictures with crayon.

Water Babies

Warning: probably a book to upset Blessed John Henry Newman.

My parents are naughtier, but I am usually able to keep them under control by hissing "Ssshhh!" at them when they start chattering.

However, other adults are not so well behaved. Part of the problem is that they aren't trained to be quiet, as those of us who attend St Tharg's Primary School are. So we often hear adults chattering through those parts of the service that are less exciting than others, for example:

1. the bit before it starts, when worshippers are encouraged to discuss their neighbour's clothes and hairstyles;
2. the sermon - although I personally found it very interesting when the priest said he was appointed only for those who lived in the parish, and he wanted all visitors to get lost;

Punch cartoon

Welcoming worshippers to the parish.
First polite native: Who's 'im, Bill?
Second ditto: A stranger!
First ditto: 'Eave 'arf a brick at 'im!

3. the prayers, which always sound the same - I'm told that some churches make them more varied by saying "In our cycle of prayer we pray for all who live in Lembit Opik Terrace, for the people of Liberia, for the diocese of Luton and Bishop Loquitur, for all librarians, liberals and libertines, and for all limpets." But we don't do that;
4. the "peace", which the grown-ups just use as an opportunity to cuddle each other (yeugh!);
5. that Scottish song near the end, about someone called Angus Daly, which I don't understand.

Anyway, you get my point. People with short attention spans, such as grown-ups, need something to distract them. Of course they have their smart phones, and so they can (and do) send texts and follow the cricket score when things are getting a bit dull, but it's not enough.

Noah's Ark by Tracey Emin

Mrs Emin drew a nice picture during Mass.

So it's bit of a dilemma, really. Most adults are not really needed in order to make the service go with a swing, and there should perhaps be some nursery arrangements made for them, so that we children can worship without being distracted.

Oh, and one last thing. We kids don't like songs such as "Shine, Jesus, Shine" or "If I were a butterfly": we find them patronising. Give us "Salve Regina" or "Iam lucis orto sidere", any day. Then we'll know we're singing a work written by someone who was actually religious, rather than just a greedy entrepreneur. I know the adults like dumb hymns, but we kids do expect something better.

Love, Alex Smith (age 6).

quiet coach

A modern "quiet" church.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Why don't I hate Ian Paisley?

Ian Paisley, alias Lord Bannside, is dead, and I feel very guilty. Look, I know it was my Christian duty to hate him, and now I should be opening the champagne, dancing around, and writing a blog post saying that the old bastard is no doubt going straight to the Lake of Fire, but... actually I don't feel that way.

True, he had a slightly Protestant view of religion - just as you might say that Richard Dawkins has a slightly atheist view of religion - and, like Dawkins, he said some horrible things, many of which were rather stupid. For example, he thought the popes were the Anti-Christ, although it's not clear to me whether he would have included St Peter in that number.

Paisley at airport

Ian waits at the airport for the Pope (and/or the Anti-Christ) to collect his baggage.

Yes, this is worrying. I ought to be thinking nasty thoughts about Paisley and they just won't come. Probably he's in some queue for Purgatory now with Donald Sinden the actor, who has also died, each trying to shout louder than the other. Luckily, Brian Blessed shows no signs of joining them today.

The Lake of Fire. Some people end up here (not readers of this blog, obviously).

If it wasn't that he had many of the same religious opinions, my big brother Bosco would even now be condemning Paisley to the Lake of Fire.

Look, I'm trying to think nasty thoughts about the Reverend Ian Paisley (or RIP, as everyone is calling him today), but they're not coming. I had the same problem when the comedian Bernard Manning died. The man said unspeakable things, but he wasn't just plain evil in the same way as Hitler, Stalin, and the rest of them.

Bernard Manning

Probably you should shout "Yah, boo" at this photo of Bernard Manning.

Admittedly, nobody is claiming that Ian Paisley was a saint, in the same way as St Francis or St Thérèse of Lisieux. Actually, these days, when asked to think of a saintly character, people name Gandhi or Mandela instead: this proves that the era of satire is dead. Still, Paisley may be slightly saved, in spite of all his obvious nastiness.

No, I really don't find it in me to spit on his grave. Sorry. Perhaps if I pray a bit more, I will be able to summon up more hatred...

Paisley anf McGuinness

Devil horns or rabbit ears? RIP shares a joke with a friend.

Jesus asks "What would Dolan do?"

Jerusalem, AD 30

Jesus of Nazareth, the young preacher and miracle-worker who has taken Israel by storm, was today criticised for his "bigoted" views on sin. Said one commentator "He should ask himself, 'WWDD - What Would Dolan Do?' before sticking his neck out in this way."

Caped Dolan

The Caped Crusader: Dolan leads the way.

Specifically, Jesus was criticised for saying to a woman taken in adultery, "Go and sin no more." The general consensus is that He should have taken the WWDD approach, and joined her in an "Adulterers' Pride" march, to celebrate some religious festival, rather than criticising her perfectly natural lifestyle choice.

Dolan and Obama

WWDD? Feast in the company of notorious evil-doers! So the Messiah got that one right.

Another occasion on which Christ is said to have fallen short of the high moral standards of Cardinal Dolan is when He scourged the temple, overthrowing the tables of the money changers, and the chairs of them that sold doves. Apparently He was objecting that a house of prayer had become a den of thieves.

Said one critic, "Apparently, He refused to join in the 'Thieves Pride' service that was being conducted in the temple. I can't see the blessed Dolan acting like that. Moreover, if the Temple of the Holy Innocents were to be converted into a pet shop, then Dolan would never have tried to prevent that."

Dead parrot sketch

Trouble at the Pet Shop of the Holy Innocents.

We therefore urge all our readers, before contemplating any difficult course of action, to ask "What would Dolan do?" One can avoid so much trouble by giving into the world, rather than trying to take a high moral stance. So no referring to a "generation of vipers", please!

Dolan cracking up

Now, being serious for a minute...

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Family-friendly churches

It has been reported in the Tablet that parents are put off attending church by the inconvenient timing of services, which are not family friendly, and which clash with their busy lives.

bouncy church

Come to church, and let the priest and people bounce!

The picture above shows one possible solution: mobile, bouncy churches, which can be parked in the street and, like ice-cream vans, play music to attract families with young children. We suggest the tune of Wesley's Shine, Jesus, Shine or else Newman's If I were a butterfly to get the kids running to church, especially if there is free ice-cream on offer.

For people who prefer static churches, it is important to adjust mass times to the convenience of those attending: since the priest only works on Sunday, he can easily fit in with the wishes of the customers. It seems that a popular time is early afternoon: fathers and mothers can come along and doze in luxuriously-upholstered pews, while the kids play with lego. In the background the priest can do whatever he chooses (mumble a few prayers perhaps) as nobody will be paying attention. So no change there.

kids at the altar

"Let's play priests and deacons!"

As the picture above shows, it is sometimes possible to get children involved in the service. After all, when it comes down to it, the job of a priest doesn't require much training: you say the red and do the black, or possibly vice versa, and - to get through the only bit of the service that isn't written down in detail - you can buy books of ready-made sermons.

Basil Loftus sermon book

An essential book for the priest who's run out of ideas.

In general we can base our actions on the maxim "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Here, Jesus was clearly saying that Sundays are a day for rest and relaxation. If you happen to feel like dropping into church, that's a bonus, but God really doesn't care. Going shopping at IKEA, or to a football match, is just as good. Keep the day holy of course - but only by doing what YOU want.

Still, churches should be thought of as cool places to hang out. Although they often offer nothing more spiritual than what you can find in shops or sports grounds, the main reason for the service should be to have fun.

baby in priest costume

Getting the kids involved!

Lastly, churches are not just for conventional services, of course. They have the added advantage that they often host "fun" events, such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, where all the family can come along and party. Our final picture reminds us that the revels should start in the church, and not be kept until afterwards.

flamenco in church

It's flamenco time!

If that doesn't bring in the punters, then I'm afraid we're doomed.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Prodigal Son

There was a man called George who had three sons. The eldest was called David, the second Patrick and the youngest Andrew. The youngest one said, "Father, give me a share of your estate." The father said "Actually, we only have a family debt, but you are welcome to take your share of that. No, I thought not. Still, you can take that can of oil that you found, together with anything else that is yours, such as the bottle of whisky and that dreadful set of bagpipes that you will insist on playing at all hours."

Salmond steps out

The youngest son steps out.

At this point we should point out that the youngest son was definitely in two minds about going. His heart told him to leave, even though his head told him it would be madness. Still, in the end he went, and soon squandered the few pounds he had been able to take with him; then he decided to print his own money, but it was not widely accepted, and indeed the expression "Bent as a five-salmond note" soon passed into common usage.

He therefore went to work for a farmer, and was sent into the fields to feed the haggises. He would have loved to have fed himself on the revolting porridge that these creatures ate, but none was given to him.

Bagpipes on a bicycle

The taming of the haggis.

After a while he could take no more of this, and said "I will arise and go to my father, and say, 'Father, give me money and I will live with you.'" For this trick had worked in 1707 (did we mention that the youngest son was adopted?)

And his father saw him coming when he was still far off, and said "Bring my best pair of trousers and put it on him; for he cannot wear that dreadful kilt, as it frightens the cat. Also, let us kill the fatted calf and have a fatted Yorkshire pudding with it: anything but haggis, anyway."

fatted Eccles cake

... with fatted Eccles cakes to follow.

Now, the eldest son, David, was in the field, tending to the leek harvest, and singing strange ballades, as was his wont, and as he returned to the house he heard wondrous music: for the youngest brother had brought his bagpipes back with him, and was attempting to play James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie on them.

girl tossing caber

I thought pole dancing was naughtier than this.

And he was angry and said to his father, "In all the years I have been with you, I never caused half as much trouble as my young brother, and yet he gets a wild party."

And the father said, "Son, it was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was lost, and is found."

And at that moment the youngest son popped his head round the door and said, "Thanks, Dad. Well, I'll be off again now..."

Cameron and Salmond

The prodigal son breaks the news to his father.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Is the Universe under threat?

Regular observers of the (Catholic) Universe have been shocked recently on sighting some new intruders, which many regard as a serious threat to civilisation as we know it.

Patrick Moore

The late Sir Patrick Moore attempts to explain the Universe.

Although the Universe contains several bright stars, which - in accordance with this blog's policy of never being nice to anyone - we shall not single out individually, astronomers have long known of the existence of other strange objects. One such is the large gas cloud known as McDonagh's Nebula, named after the distinguished eco-theologian, whose endless sermons on why Jesus hated global warming and genetically-modified wheat shed very little light on the Heavens.

Universe cover

The Universe, in more peaceful times.

However, what has caused significant distress recently is the emergence of a small group of red dwarves - these are ancient, decayed bodies, and generally not very bright. These particular ones are collectively known as the cluster of ACTA. Professor Joseph Kelly, a leading expert, is said to have dismissed the sighting as a reflection of "diversity", and so far the red dwarves, although irritating, are not believed to be a permanent threat to the Universe. Scientific theories predict that that they will eventually collapse into a black hole and never be seen again.

black hole

A black hole. Note how it leads to a distortion of all teaching nearby.

Similarly, a sighting of the dwarf star Loftus in the constellation of the Basilisk shocked many people a week or two ago: although it was very prominent in the 1960s, it was not expected to flare up again, and many astronomers had regarded it as extinct. Because of its distinctly eccentric orbit, many do not regard Loftus as a truly Heavenly body.

Shades of Gray

Finally, one astronomer complained of the Fifty Sheds of Gray.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Cardinal Dolittle at the Pearly Gates

The date: about 2050. St Peter (at the Gates of Heaven) is reading some old posts from Eccles's blog. Enter the late Cardinal Timothy Dolittle of New York.

Laughing Cavalier

The Laughing Cardinal, by Franz Hals.

Dolittle: You must be St Peter. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Peter: Ah, yes, Cardinal Dolittle. We've been expecting you.

Dolittle: Straight into Heaven, then? I hope you've got a good solid double portion of steak and fries waiting for me. I know what I expect from Heaven! Ha ha ha ha!

Peter: Actually, it's not quite as simple as that. For cardinals our usual procedure is that a committee of three saints will take a preliminary look at your case. Exit.

Enter Saints Fulton, Daniel and Patrick.

Fulton Sheen laughing

St Fulton Sheen discovers that laughter is infectious.

Fulton: Yes, well there are certain problems about admitting you to Heaven, Timothy my boy. I seem to remember you put your considerable weight against me about thirty-five years ago, when the Catholic Church was trying to canonize me. Some nonsense about whether my body could be moved. Hmmph, it wouldn't have needed a giant crane, unlike some people's bodies...

Holy Innocents Church

Holy Innocents Church, New York.

Daniel: Hi, Timmy! I was one of the Holy Innocents massacred by Herod.

Dolittle: Ha ha ha! You don't look as if you were under 2 years old.

Daniel: No, but nobody wants to spend eternity in diapers (nappies), so when we got up here they let us grow up. Now, Timmy, what's all this about your trying to close down our church in New York?

St Patrick

St Patrick sends the snakes off to work for the National Catholic Reporter.

Patrick: I'm afraid I'm also dissatisfied with your conduct, Timothy, my lad. If Irish people in New York want to celebrate my day with a parade, that's all well and good, to be sure it is. You should be there leading it - waddle, waddle, waddle. But why are you joining with the "gay pride" people in this event? Another failure on your part, Timothy. Ochone!

Re-enter St Peter.

Peter: Have you told him the bad news?

Dolittle (disconcerted): What, no automatic place in Heaven?

Peter: No, son, it'll be 999 years in Purgatory on a bread-and-water diet. Remember, that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for you to get through the gates of Heaven. A very tight squeeze...

Dolan laughing like an idiot

He was certainly the life and soul of funerals.

Dolittle: Ha ha ha ha ha!

St Peter (whispers): Do you think we should tell him he'll be sharing a room with Cormac Murphy-O'Connor?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Pope Francis organizes "Tiddly-winks for Peace"

Following his highly successful "Football (Soccer) for Peace", Pope Francis has now arranged an all-star Tiddly-Winks Game for Peace. Although the Holy Father's love of football is well known, not so many people are aware that he is also a passionate supporter of the Buenos Aires Tigres de Tiddlo and never missed a game when he lived in Argentina.


The fingers of God.

There are of course precedents for Pope Francis's latest bid for peace. In 1338 Pope Benedict XII declared himself "very unhappy with the way the 100 years war is going" and attempted to bring it to an end by arranging a tiddly-winks match between Edward III of England and Philippe VI of France; but the game had hardly started when Edward accused Philippe of smearing his counters with garlic, and the contest broke up in disorder.

Pope Benedict XII

Pope Benedict XII: his counter-measures did not prevent war.

It is expected that Diego Maradona will take part in the Tiddles for Peace: not only have many English football supporters written in saying that he a complete and utter winker, but Diego himself is said to be very attracted by the pot. However, nobody who actually has any influence on world politics has so far agreed to take part: in particular, ISIS has refused to send a team along, although they have promised to play golf with President Obama once he has surrendered the White House to them.

Winker Watson

Britain's star player.

The final words should go to Pope Francis: "Tiddly-winks is a human phenomenon, and special," he said. "A winks game is a highly symbolic act that helps show it is possible to build a culture of en-counter and a world of peace. Now, let's get squopping!"

Pope Francis gets a shirt

Pope Francis receives the "Tigres de Tiddlo" shirt of Buenos Aires.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Blog, by Franz Kafka

Nobody has identified Kafka's reference to the Governor (below): some say he is intended to represent a bishop, others that he is a headmaster or a vice-chancellor. In the end, it doesn't really matter.

Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K.: he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested. As he switched off his computer and prepared to leave the house, there was a knock on the door and a man entered. "Who are you?" asked K. The man did not reply directly, but told K. that he was under arrest. "Arrest?" asked K. "By whose authority?" The man explained that he came at the order of the Governor, who was unhappy with K.'s blogging.

The Governor

The Governor.

The Governor was man who held great power over him. "What have I done wrong?" asked K. "That's something we're not allowed to tell you." Another man entered and added, "Go into your room and wait there. Proceedings are under way and you'll learn about everything all in good time. Meanwhile, you'll stop blogging, if you know what's good for you."

"I've done nothing but tell the truth on my blog," explained K. "He admits it," said the first man. "Make a note of his confession." "He doesn't have the Governor's authority to tell the truth on his blog," said the second man. "He'd have done much better to write a totally uncritical blog, saying 'More kudos to the Governor!' every time his master did something remotely praiseworthy."


More kudus!

"What will happen to me?" asked K. "We can't tell you that," said the first man. "Any punishment will be entirely voluntary, although of course you won't be able to escape it. We can't even tell you how long it will last, as that's a secret known only to the Governor."

"People were complaining," said the second man. "Who were they?" asked K. "We're not allowed to tell you," replied the man. "Just accept your punishment without resisting." "Well, it will give me an opportunity for prayer and reflection," said K. "I know the Governor doesn't go in for that sort of thing, but I do find it helpful."

An opportunity for prayer and reflection.

"Look," said the first man. "Will you stop bringing religion into everything?" "You might consider the case of Tina B.," said the second man. "She blogs, but she follows a totally uncontroversial liberal secular agenda. As a result she is worshipped as a demi-goddess. Nobody ever told her to shut her Kuchenloch."

"We're not here to help convicted criminals," added the first man kindly, "but let me tell you something. You made the mistake of blogging under your own name, so that your enemies could track you down. Now you're in deep trouble. Why, you didn't even password-protect the most controversial posts."

K. was reminded of the case of the famous blogger Bruvver E., whose passion for the truth was legendary. Nobody knew or cared who he was, apart from an obsessive man in the South of England, who had run up a huge telephone bill by phoning up random people called Eccles and screaming "Aha!" at them.

Basil Fawlty

Mr E.C. Cleese? Aha! Your secret is out!

"Will I see the Governor?" asked K. "I must plead my case. After all, I was merely pointing out certain dangers that threaten us all." "See him?" asked the first man. "Of course you can't see him. He has issued a statement saying you are guilty, and that is final. Just accept that his high status means that his decisions can't be questioned." "You should have appealed to his vanity," said the second man. "Even if his own writings might be rejected by Bryony G. as being too banal, you must always praise him."

K. became silent - for a long time...

Polly Toynbee on the right to massacre

On massacres, the media need to reflect what is happening in the real world

An edited version of a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee.

Here we go again, the never-ending story of the rightwing newspapers' campaign to roll back the right to massacre. The front page of the Sunday Times is at it once again today: "Record number of people manage to stay alive", which will, it says, "revive the debate over the right to massacre". Right on cue, up pops Tory MP Fiona Bruce of the all-party pro-life group to say, "I don’t understand why there is not more outcry about the fact that we allow viable people to be massacred.”

Polly Toynbee in pyjamas

Should crazy people who wear pyjamas in public be protected?

The fact that some people are not massacred has nothing to do with a woman's right to choose: if a woman does not wish to be a mother, a daughter, a niece, even simply a neighbour, then she has the right to massacre anyone she does not wish to put up with.

What is remarkable about this non-stop stream of anti-massacre stories is how far out of line the rightwing press is with the real world of their readers. It's true that we don't see more than one or two massacres a week around Toynbee Towers in Lewes, nor even at the Castello Politoynbi in Tuscany, but, looking to Africa and the Middle East as our examples, as all good Guardian-readers should, we see that massacres are very, very ordinary, and a mark of civilisation.

ISIS and the police

Protecting the right to massacre.

A study from the University of California has been looking at TV and movie treatment of massacre: needless to say, they find it makes money, since people want to see on screen a reflection of what they hope for in their daily lives. However, the portrayal of massacres is generally negative. No heroine can commit an angst-free massacre.

Texas chainsaw massacre

We can learn a lesson from Texas!

Look at the flow of anti-massacre stories just in the Mail in the past months, and these are only a selection: "Cameron reacts angrily to ISIS genocide with visit to fish market", "Obama refuses to support massacre of Christians, as he heads for golf course".

The real campaign is to normalise the law in line with attitudes and behaviour. No need for a doctor to authorise a massacre, no need for an late "cut-off" date for decapitations. For the third of women who are likely to murder their families, it remains a stigma few dare discuss openly. Time for the world to catch up with the Guardian approach to an everyday medical fact.


Anti-massacres - bringing us back to the Victorian age.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

We love Giles Fraser

From time to time Canon Giles Fraser, the Anglican priest-in-charge of St Mary's, Newington, darling of the BBC's Thought for the Day waffle-slot and the Guardian's leftie-rant pages, has received harsh criticism on this blog. This is mostly because his passionate approval of homosexual acts, same-sex "marriage" and secular socialism seem to jar badly with Christianity. Some have claimed that when he introduces himself with "It's me, Giles!" it does sound suspiciously like "It's Sméagol!" but I am sure this is purely a coincidence.


This is NOT Giles Fraser, merely a lookalike.

However, this blog is nothing if not fair, so credit where credit is due: sometimes Fr Giles gets it right. On August 29th he had a go at Dawkins and his remarks about Downs Syndrome, with a piece Nobody is better at being human, Professor Dawkins, least of all you. Sorry, Richard, if even Giles Fraser thinks you're barmy, then you're in trouble.

Dawkins and Einstein

Dawkins explains his theory of moral relativism to a rather bronzed Einstein.

Only a week earlier, on August 22nd Giles had decided that, all things considered, he wasn't keen on Islamic violence (decapitation, crucifixion, etc.), writing If this is real religion, then you can count me as an atheist. A poor title, Giles, as Guardian readers have a short attention span and many will have read that as simply You can count me as an atheist, but never mind.

death to juice

"When's George Galloway turning up?"

Go back one more week to August 15th, and he's writing Sometimes it’s good to talk – even to ‘terrorists’. This is his bravest piece of all, as it challenges the left-wing Gaza always good, Israel always bad line with a more balanced Gaza!? Israel?! Arentchasickofemboth?? judgement.

Well, you can see what a difficult position this puts me in. When I need a spiritually nourishing subject for my blog, I find out what Richard, Tina, Giles, ... have been doing, and usually one of them comes up trumps. But now I can no longer rely on Giles. Bastard.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Pilgrim's Ogress 9: The Ghost of Digby Stuart

Continued from Part 8.

The story so far: Eccles and his Aunt Moly are on a pilgrimage. Expelled from Portugal for harassing the Prime Minister while he was making an in-depth study of fish markets, they have arrived in Roehampton, near London. M.R. James takes up the story.


What secrets lie behind these doors?

It was, as far as I can ascertain, in August of the year 2014 that a post-chaise drew up one evening before the door of Digby Stuart College, the site of a former Sacred Heart community and school for girls in the handsome borough of Wandsworth. The two passengers in the chaise were a young man in a red biretta, together with a much older lady clutching refreshment in the form of a bottle of gin.

They produced their cards - their names were Eccles and Auntie Moly - and were admitted by a maid, and shown to their rooms; for they had determined on passing the night on the premises in order to investigate a series of mysterious happenings. At around three o'clock of the morning, the young man was woken by a loud scream of "Woeful!" from the room of his aunt, so he hauled himself out of bed, and rushed to her assistance.

He found the old lady gibbering incomprehensibly, her faced twisted into a loathsome caricature: this was exactly as he was accustomed to seeing her, so he was not particularly alarmed. "Eccles!" she cried. "I have seen the ghosts of two nuns. They were writhing restlessly and moaning 'Beware Tina.' They would not leave until I threw my false teeth at them. What can it mean?"

Pope St John-Paul II

In happier times, saints would pass through Digby Stuart College.

Enquiries from the servants elicited the information that these two ghosts were frequently seen to haunt the college; they were said to be the spectres of Mother Mabel Digby and Mother Janet Stuart, who had founded the college in the nineteenth century. Perturbed by the wicked teachings to be found there, they were unable to rest in their graves.

"Who is this Tina?" asked Eccles. The maid replied that she was a professor at the college whose work centred on religion, society and human flourishing. More specifically, she was fascinated by sex - or at least the subjects of gender, sexuality and reproductive ethics, areas in which she had produced writings that drove most Christians up the wall.

girls on wall-bars

Some pious Catholic girls being driven up the wall.

After further enquiries, it was determined that Professor Tina Beattie lived in a houseboat on the tidal Thames, where she watched birds - focusing particularly on their gender, sexuality and reproductive ethics - and even wrote a webbed log about them.

Many of her most notorious publications had been inspired by the ornithological world; for example, God's mother, Eve's Avocet and Ornithology After Postmodernity: Diving into the Void.


Eve's Avocet.

"You are doing important work here," commented the young man on his arrival at the houseboat. "Watching the birds and the changing tides, occasionally plunging bravely into the river for a swim."

"You think so?" replied the professor. "Do we not agree that there is a need for a new historically and materially rooted theology of the unity of nature and grace? I told the Pope that and he put the phone down on me."

"This is too deep for me," admitted Eccles. "However, you can perform a great service for the souls of Mother Digby and Mother Stuart, simply by staying on your boat, and mumbling to yourself about nature. I would say 'Forget Catholicism,' except that it seems from your writings that you have already forgotten it."

"I shall consider your words carefully," replied his hostess. "Out of the mouths of grebes and ducklings." Eccles blenched in horror as she dived into the Thames, emerging a few minutes later with a fish in her mouth.


Tina Bee-Eater.

To be continued.