Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Women Bishops

So, the Church of England has voted against the ordination of women bishops at its General Synod on 21 November 2012. How progressive is that? What is particularly troubling is the number of women in the laity who have argued for their own subservience on this issue. It turns out that half of those voting against were women associated with the conservative evangelical group Reform or the traditional Anglo-Catholic movement, Forward in Faith (surely wrongly named?).

I am inclined, however, to call for the expedition of the removal of bishops from the House of Lords on the grounds that they represent an organisation with strict discriminatory policies; namely, that women cannot actually get to the top on the basis of some bizarre reading of stories that may or may not be true and of dubious authenticity. Equally – and for not dissimilar reasons – it is time to disestablish.

Or maybe on the grounds that a belief in the supernatural should not be rewarded with a seat in Parliament.

The Rhine Route by tandem – the experience (5)

Worms is one of Germany’s most historic towns. It claims to be the country’s oldest city. But it is mostly associated with Martin Luther’s hereticism through the Edict of Worms. BBC Radio 4 had Worms as the topic of In Our Time in 2006. The podcast is still available

The Cathedral dates from the 12th Century. It has four round towers (see left) and is dark inside due to the red sandstone. It has to compete, however, with both Koeln and nearby Speyer (right) over grandeur.

The ride by this time was becoming a little harder. We had had no rest days; though Worms provided us with our first hotel of the tour – and a bed. We decided that we would have a day off and visit Strasbourg. A campsite 20 km north of the city was our target. Gambsheim in France had a large municipal campsite with a railway station convenient for getting into Strasbourg. So we thought. In total the day was 100 km. The ride is not the prettiest at this point as the river is significantly banked and the cycle track is behind the bank. Hence there is no view.

We stopped at a small restaurant nestling in a wood 100m or so from the cycle track. The owners had no german or english, but we did negotiate some food and beer suitable for supplying the energy for the final 20 or so kilometers to Gambsheim. A bit spooky, and goodness knows what the business model is, but welcome nonetheless.

Arriving at Gambsheim in the twilight was not the best. The campsite reception was well and truly closed and all facilities locked, but there was an event going on involving some French-German goodwill with games and music. And beer. Albeit sweet. The night presented a most spectacular lightening storm that was to introduce much wetter and cooler weather for the final push to Basel. The tent held out.

Trains to Strasbourg were roughly hourly, but sometimes buses. The French – even when they are located so close to the border – do not concede to other languages, particularly English. The ticket machine needed some knowledge of French in order to negotiate its system; and one needs to be able to anticipate the bus rather than the train. Suffice to say, we missed the bus necessistating another 70-minute wait.

Strasbourg’s cathedral is most impressive – the door (above, left) is representative. Inside there are many treasures and some anomolies. For example, an atomic clock that would be more suited to a museum. The hourly performance does keep people hanging around in anticipation.

Strasbourg is more than its cathedral, however. It is a fine city in which just to wander and explore. The architecture is stunning. The small streets are a treat. We treated ourselves to one museum – the Tomi Ungerer museum. Ungerer is a famous – infamous even – illustrator of children’s books and advertising materials as well as a satirist.

The Rhine Route by tandem – the experience (4)

Remagen in the direction of Koblenz travelling south is one of those notorious places – the bridge across the Rhine was destroyed in the war and never replaced. The pillars remain with the flags of theUSA, Germany and the European Union. It is a chilling place.

It is also an excellent part of the route – the surface is concrete and flat. It is shared with pedestrians and can be a shade busy at the weekend. But good progress can be made. And so it was that we made it to Koblenz for an overnight stay. The junction of the Mosel and the Rhine is busy with shipping and a shade restricting (no accessible bridges). The statue at the Deutsches Eck is that of Emperor Wilhelm I dating from 1897. It is imposing and celebrates the (re)unification of Germany after three wars. The picture (right, sourced from the US Library of Congress through Wikipedia) dates back to 1900. Though it was destroyed in 1945, it has always represented a desire and a will for unification. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the names of the Laender making up the federal republic were again inscribed.

Onward south we headed to Loreley (Sankt Goar), a picturesque section of the river. And uniquely dangerous for shipping due to its limited width and currents. There is an inscrutable traffic light system allowing only one way movement. According to myth, Loreley used to sing hauntingly from the rock bewitching sailors to their deaths.

The weather had changed since Koeln, the day before. No longer did we have to contend with heat and sun. Summer rain forces the compromise between waterproofs (getting too hot and by definition wet from the inside) and just getting wet and letting the cycling clothes do their ‘wicking’ duties. It is as it is – imperfect. It is partly why we do the outdoors.

We took another ferry across the river from Bingen to Rhuedesheim am Rhein largely to be on the correct side of the river for the campsite in Wiesbaden. But these are two places that seem to face off to one another. From a tourist’s perspective, they both do the same thing – provide food, drink, hotels and promenades. There is a lot of facing off on this river. Castles do the same along this stretch. Where there is one castle, you can be sure that there is another. Each with their dynastic and family histories.

The river is very tempting for a swim. There are many secluded spots with beaches – particularly in the section Mainz to Worms. Care is needed, however. This river claims many lives each year. The currents are serious. There is one further hazard. Whilst one may feel in a secluded spot viewed from the bank, that may not be the case from the river. Barges are one thing, but very large cruisers are quite another especially when one has travelled without a swimming costume.

You’ve been Trumped

I’ve just watched this documentary in amazement. The corruption story is contemptible. Trump is building a golf resort on the East Coast of Scotland south of Aberdeen. Planning permission was originally rejected by the council – not least because the plan involved the destruction of a unique habitat with SSI (site of special scientific interest) status. The decision was called in by the Scottish Government, led by Alex Salmond, and overturned.

However, there are good people in Trump’s way. Local people whose houses, for Trump, are unwelcome features in the landscape. It is the story of how they have resisted and how the forces of the state have facilitated Trump against the locals. There is an extraordinary scene where the police manhandle the amiable journalist, handcuff him, and bundle him off to the police station in Aberdeen. But that is nothing against the despicable acts being perpetrated against the locals. Their water was cut off and not restored. There is footage of the electricity supply being cut by a digger; and the locals being billed for fences that they did not ask for or need.

Please watch.

Bigot of the year

Stonewall, the gay rights campaigning group, it seems, risks losing valuable sponsorship from Barclays and Coutts banks. The two banks have threated to withdraw support if Stonewall runs its bigot of the year award again in 2013. Both banks are concerned about being associated with the award after it was given to Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland at its annual ceremony last week. A deserved winner. Notwithstanding the bigotry, any award that two ethically-challenged banks struggle with must be hitting the mark.

O’Brien won decisively, reported the Guardian newspaper, “after describing gay marriage as a ‘grotesque subversion’ of the traditions of marriage and likened it to slavery. The cardinal called it an ‘aberration’ and claimed it might clear the way for polygamous marriages and would cause ‘further degeneration of society into immorality’.

That strikes me as being spoken by a true bigot. Pure folly as well.

John Cooper Clarke plays Brighton Dome, Review

Thursday 1 November, 2012, some 34 years since my first exposure to the Bard of Salford through his album Disguise in Love, there he was in front of me. The Dome really is not the place to see him, but my countless previous attempts at seeing him at smaller venues always ended in disappointment. I was never quick enough to get tickets.

If you want to hear his poems, this is not the tour for that. The poems support a programme of observation on modern life, politics, sex and, particularly, mortality. His reflections on Alzheimer’s Disease are acute. There are at least two good things about it. First, suffers just keep on meeting new people. Second, they forget what comes next. His apparent dislike of Terry Pratchett – or at least position on assisted suicide – pervades the whole show. “I did a gig recently in Switzerland but made sure I had a return ticket”. Terry Pratchett wants to be able to die before he becomes a “bumbling vegetable”, apparently. For JCC, that is the present state, far too premature.

We had ten minutes on why he endorsed Domino’s Pizzas (normally he only endorses products that he can get right behind like yacht makers). Skillfully he linked the concept of pizza to the another disease, Swine Flu. “It’s the only nourishing meal that can be slipped under the door”.

Source: flickr_newbie, Wikipedia

Another ten minutes were devoted to the rebranding of venereal disease (as it used to be). He told how VD was rebranded as sexually transmitted disease after a jolly by stakeholders in a sunny climate only to realise when they got home and had replaced all of the stationery that it is the ‘D’ that is the problem. Disease. Another jolly was organised, this time on the Isle of Man (no man in an island, goes the quote, but the Isle of Man shows this to be untrue), to come up with STIs – sexually transmitted infections.

So which poems did we get? Beasley Street, of course, with its 30 year revision, Beasley Boulevard. Also from the back catalogue his favourite poem – though it is so only because it is connected to his swear box which is the source of his pension – Evidently Chickentown. He made a poem out of an imaginery guest list. We got I fell in Love with my Wife as an encore – one of those wonderfully romantic pieces that never fail to warm.

JCC is a consummate performer. So engaging. He gives the impression that he is chaotic – shambolic even – but this is a slick programme. Certainly he could have gone on beyond the 90 minutes that he was allocated. He had to deal effectively with a lone heckler.

Just brilliant.