Post Referendum

When I woke up on Friday morning to the news of the EU Referendum result, one of the thoughts in my mind was, I simply do not know how I can speak about this on Sunday morning. It’s one of those momentous moments in current affairs which I believe needs to be spoken about from the pulpit; but I felt so disappointed, upset, dejected, anxious, even fearful for the future – St Paul’s words “utterly, unbearably crushed” even came to mind – that I did not know how I could speak.

I still think it is a bad decision that the British electorate have made, and one that we will live to regret. Among the things that most upset me, is the fact that the great majority of under 40-year-olds wanted to Remain, while a similarly large majority of over 50s wanted to Leave. It is my children and grandchildren, who will have to live with the consequences of my generation’s discontent, which has overruled their hopes and wishes.

I grieve, too, over what the whole campaign leading to the referendum has done to us as a nation. It has so divided us, bitterly divided us, and I fear will have weakened even further our trust in politicians and our ability to take part in sensible, informed debate and decision-making. Both sides have been guilty of fearmongering, threats and outright lies, though I think it has been clearly shown that the Brexit campaigners were the more guilty in this respect. The media, especially the tabloid press, have behaved abominably throughout. We’re used to that, of course, but these last few months it has been more than usually reckless and damaging. And when I look at the spokespersons for the Leave campaign, and contemplate any of them stepping up into leadership of the country in coming months or years, my heart sinks even further. Some of the possible future Prime Ministers I will find difficult to pray for if they come into office, except to pray that they quickly get replaced by someone else. (This is not a prayer I recommend: it hasn’t worked well in the past.)

So. Some of this I admit may be nothing more than uncertainty anxiety. But I hope that if any of you were contrariwise elated about the result, you will bear with me. I know that a lot of people in this congregation felt as I did. We need to hold that complex of feelings and fears here in the safety of God.

So. I was especially grateful for the Archbishops’ statement on the EU Referendum result, which the C of E released on Friday morning. You may not have seen it. It is wise, gracious, irenic, and I want to read it to you now.

Statement from the Archbishops on the EU Referendum result
24 June 2016

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the Referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union
The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all re-imagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way, will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

This is a time for us to step up, and show that we Christians are people of hope.
What values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others? [Our] common task [is] to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers… cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and … affirming the unique contribution of each and every one… being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation[:] Unity, hope and generosity.

The Bible is a book of hope; our faith is a faith of hope. God says through Jeremiah to the exiled Israelites, who surely had so many reasons to despair (and these words may resonate with some of us who feel we have become exiles from the Britain we thought we lived in): “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (29.11) And St Paul similarly writes to the Christians in Rome, a small group of believers in a hostile society, who also must have had times of being anxious and fearful. The words are about how the Christians should live together and relate to each other, but perhaps they can also be about how we relate to others in the society at large:

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15.1-4, 13)

Unua babilado

Ĉu vi povas kredi ke ne ekzistas esperanta klubo en Oksfordo?

Mi eklernis la internacian lingvon antaŭ ok semajnoj, uzanta la interretan kurson ĉe Duolingo. Ĝi estas tre interesa kaj amuza; oni povas vere fari bonan kaj rapidan progreson. Do, mi finis la kurson… sed, kio nun?

Kiel komencanto / mezo- aŭ malaltnivela esperantisto, mi povas nun legi esperantajn revuojn, gazetojn, librojn, retpaĝojn (sufiĉe malrapide, kaj nur se ili ne estas tro malfacilaj!), sed: kiel trovi okazon por paroli aŭ babili en esperanto? Do, mi skribis al EAB (Esperanto-Asocio de Britio) kaj demandis: Kie mi povas trovi esperantiston por babilado? Mi ricevis respondon kun enkondukon al germana esperantisto kiu loĝas en Oksfordo. Li estis volonta renkontiĝi kun mi por babilado.

Kaj ĝi okazis hodiaŭ matenon, ĉe la Cous-Cous kafejo en St Clements-strato. Stranga renkontiĝo! Mia nova amiko ankaŭ havas malofte okazojn por babili en esperanto, sed li skribis blogon en la lingvo. Tamen, mi faris la plej bone ke mi povis, kaj la barilo de timo rompiĝis. Ĝis la revido, eble?

Harriet Hitchcock

Harriet Hitchcock

Harriet Hitchcock (a distant cousin of the famous Mrs Tiggywinkle, possibly?) is the Woodland special investigator, the sole proprietor of the Harriet Hitchcock Investigation Agency. For many years she has lived among the Woodland animals, helping them with their everyday problems, and occasionally investigating some more serious mystery, crime or misdemeanour. Her colleague Popgoes is a reformed weasel, originally from the East End of London, where his colourful youthful misdoings were conducted up and down the City Road.

Here in Marston it’s become a tradition that the Family Carol Service on Christmas Eve includes a seasonal Harriet Hitchcock story. These often revolve around some criminal attempt to steal the fabulous Holzbein Crib, a treasure of 15th century German woodcarving which is the proud possession of the local parish church, which the animals also love to attend, unbeknownst to the human parishioners. Many of these and other problems are resolved by a time of sitting in contemplation in front of the Crib, which wonderfully conveys the message of God’s love at Christmas, to those who look upon it.

Other important characters in the Harriet mythos include her best friend Betty Bunny, and the numerous Bunny children who traditionally all have to be named. Annie, Benny, Connie, Donnie, Ellie, Fifi, Ginny, Honey, Izzie, Johnny, Kenny, Lenny, Minnie, Nancy, Ollie, Penny, Queenie, Ronny, Sonny, Tony, Una, Vinny, Winnie, Xena, Yogi, and last (and least) Ziggy. When this first happened, some of the hearers who hadn’t spotted the built-in mnemonic asked, “How did you remember all those names?” Some years later, they’re a bit more fussy and will say things like, “You left out Xena this time!” or, “You called Fifi Fanny!”

This Christmas is the last one before Harriet, like her Author, retires. She is moving down to the West Country to live with her cousin Wilfred Prickles. Hence the title of this year’s episode: Harriet Hitchcock’s Last Case.


Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police have indicated that, for the duration of the A40 roundabout works (well, actually, forever) you are welcome to use Old Marston village as a rat run at all times.

It may shorten your commute by a few minutes, and will relieve pressure on Oxford’s extensive roadworks system.

Please feel free to ignore all road signs, e.g.

  • Access only
  • 20 mph speed limit (Except when traffic is stationary, it’s perfectly acceptable to drive through the village at 40 mph)
  • Give way to oncoming traffic

Relax! None of these regulations will ever be enforced.

Many people also like to use Old Marston village as a free Park and Ride, and either cycle or take the bus in to work. But get here early! as parking places may be thoughtlessly taken by people who actually live or have business in the village.

Also, there is no need to make allowances for

  • Cyclists
  • Pedestrians
  • Children walking to school (Ew! walking! They must be attending one of those local State schools. Losers.)

All of these are well-trained in leaping out of the way of King Car. And if they don’t leap fast enough… well, there are plenty more where they came from.

This is a public service notice brought to you by Oxfordshire County Council Roads and Transport.


New Laptop

Today I treated myself to a new laptop: Asus ZenBook UX305. According to some of the online reviews I read, it has better specs than the Latest MacBook Air, and is about £200 cheaper.

It comes, however, with the usual amount of stuff and nonsense included, that you didn’t want or ask for, and that it takes you unnecessary hours to find out how to get rid of.

Hey, ho. Isn’t computing fun?

Dignity in death

Pope John Paul II was nearing the end of his life. Afflicted by Parkinson’s disease, his hands trembled and his speech was almost incomprehensible when he appeared each Sunday on his balcony at St Peter’s to bless the masses below. This Pope had changed the world, confronting the Soviet empire and helping to bring it down. He was a figure of historic importance and with each Sunday blessing he was disintegrating before our eyes. At an editorial meeting, one of my colleagues suggested we should comment on his infirmity. Someone took the line that the Pope was weakening the Church by parading his incapacity, that he should do as past popes had done: withdraw into invisibility, in mute acceptance of God’s will. All of a sudden Mahler sprang to mind. ‘Absolutely not,’ I erupted. ‘What the Pope is doing is bringing decline and death out of the closet, showing that it happens to us all, that it is not shameful. He is setting an example. He’s telling us not to lock away our popes and grandparents in care homes but cherish them in our midst, able or disabled, until the end. He is manifesting dignity in death, and the value of life.’

Quoted from Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler? page 206

Five Years On

Five years on from the last school reunion I attended, I was there again yesterday for the 55th anniversary reunion of our starting at secondary school in 1960.

I thought I’d relink the two posts I wrote about the experience back then.

Glad and gay


Yesterday’s experience was even more weird and wonderful that that of five years ago. I don’t yet trust myself to write about it publicly. Perhaps as the days pass I may find the mental and emotional equilibrium to do so…

A Song for Jenny

Like lots of people, we’ve watched A Song for Jenny this week. A few days later than most people, because we don’t have a TV licence, so we have to watch it on BBC iPlayer.

My strongest memory of that day in 2005 is of getting a phone call from my son Tom.

I was working in my study in the middle of the morning, the phone rang, I picked it up, he said

“This is Tom – I’m OK.”

“What do you mean: You’re OK?”

Two of our children were living and working in London back then. I can’t imagine what I would have felt if the conversation had gone like,

“Have you heard from -?”

“What do you mean: Have I heard from -?”

“Turn on the TV.”

… Though this powerful drama helps me to imagine what I would have felt.

My heart goes out to the Nicholson family, and all the other families who were left bereaved by the horror of that day. Would I, as a priest, have been able to forgive and love those who had murdered my child and 51 others?

I don’t think I would. I think I would have said, “Well God, you’d better help me to forgive and love these people – if you want to and can. But until you do – I’m going to hate the hell out of the people who have done this evil thing.”


Here’s the list of the dietary requirement options for the conference I’m going to be attending in September. It takes up probably a good 25% of the whole booking form.

Vegetarian but eats fish
Demi-Vegetarian (no red meat)
No beef
No pork
Nut allergy
No seafood
Diabetes (low sugar)
Other: Please specify

I suppose it’s no joke if you do have food allergies or intolerances of one kind or another. But I also can’t help thinking we’ve become a lot more picky than we need to be. Too bad there isn’t a
No tasteless

Fun with Linux

For several years I was a real Linux devotee and proud of it. In spite of the frustrations, it seemed to me a model of how computing should be, and a parable of what human endeavour (and the Christian Church) could be, if people worked together instead of trying to compete or make a profit from everything. I even built my own computer and installed various versions of Linux on it, and used it most happily.

That ended when I found myself one day in John Lewis, looking at a reduced end-of-line MacBook, and realised /I could afford it/! For a while it seemed like perfect bliss: MacOS was based on UNIX, but it worked. Seamlessly. Without the frustrations that so often were part of the Linux experience back then.

That was the beginning of my love affair with Apple which lasted through two laptops and a desktop computer, and a couple of iPads. But when the last of those MacBooks was reaching the end of its natural life, and upgrades to the next OS were just coming thicker and faster, and outstripping the hardware so that I could no longer run the latest versions of essential software, and the prices had risen so high… I found I could no longer be a Mac user.

So the next step was to buy a PC laptop (the very one on which I’m typing this) and a desktop machine running Linux. The desktop was a bit wobbly, and for a while I installed Windows 8 on it, but have recently gone back to Linux Mint; while the laptop became my primary computer. And I have now set up a dual boot system on the laptop and installed Linux on the ‘other half’, which is the half I am now principally using. And remembering just what fun Linux is, what a sense of achievement there is in learning how to do things with it, and the freedom to do things that are not constrained by the tech-giants like Microsoft, Apple and Google. Linux has come on a lot since I last used it, and has even more to offer than it did then.