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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Child circumcision - it is WRONG!!

What right does anyone have to circumcise a tiny child? 

I was amazed to read that the rate of male child circumcision was around 75% in the USA. Why? The evidence that it helps health is weak and the main reason is a religious one. Sorry, but in the 21st century, whatever your (adult) religious views we have NO RIGHT to violate a child because of our adult views.  See .

Where there is medical intervention on behalf of the child, as in the case of vaccinations, I have no problem with adults making decisions on behalf of infants. Where a body is being violated by child circumcision (male or female) there is no justification.

Agree or disagree?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Apple's success and rampant consumerism

I read today that Apple is now the most successful company ever with a market value of $623 billion. Our extended family has a wide range of Apple iPods, iPads and Apple laptops and desktops so I am not surprised at their success: somehow they have a way of making us want their consumer products with each one better than the last.

Of course there is a flip side to this: our whole global society is based on rampant consumerism for growth and yet growth has to be, ultimately, an impossible dream when resources are limited. We are (nearly) all  smitten by the drug of wanting ever more, and ever better, products and rarely are satisfied by what we have.

When did you last go out and buy a product, any product, with the intention of making it last and last? It seems that all consumer products are designed NOT to last more than a few years: washing machines, PCs, kettles, toasters, fitted kitchens, cars, you name it.

I just wonder how our present society and its values will be viewed in 100 years' time?  At what point in the future will the pendulum swing back and will we start to put a real value of quality and longevity again?

Whilst not advocating the "3 choices of wallpaper" communist approach, I do think we now make a rod for our own back by having too much choice and, with it, so much waste. I'm as guilty as you and it is very hard indeed to change one's ways.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Be Ye Not Afeard

Although not great sports fans, my wife and I have been totally enthralled by the London 2012 Olympic Games over the last couple of weeks. For several years now we have watched the stadiums being built - we travel past there every time we visit our son in London - but we had no idea just how impressive the Games were to be. We feared a terrorist attack, but thankfully all was peaceful. This was a good humoured, well run, people unifying, fun extravaganza. It felt GOOD to be British again: we organised the events well, the world enjoyed them and Britain is a better place for having hosted them.

For me one of the most moving parts was the speech during the opening ceremony by Kenneth Branagh in which he quoted these words from Shakespeare's "The Tempest":

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, 
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. 
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments 
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, 
That, if I then had waked after long sleep, 
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming, 
The clouds methought would open, and show riches 
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, 
I cried to dream again.” 

For all our faults, the British are a good, just and caring people. During these last few weeks we have shown the world what we are really all about and it is something for which we should be rightly proud.

And we are not quite finished yet! Next comes the Paralympic Games.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Spiritual Places

In the last few weeks I have visited several of England's famous chapels and cathedrals. Local to home is Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, a most wonderful building from the late 1400s with its awe inspiring fan vaulting and famous for its choir at Christmas. Also I visited Liverpool Anglican Cathedral where my wife and I met in 1968 and the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral in the same city, also known as Patty's Wigwam because of its unusual shape. Finally, today I visited Coventry Cathedral built 50 years ago adjacent to the site of the old cathedral bombed by German bombers in WW2.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
When I go into a cathedral there is usually a sense of the holy, the other, in our presence. Even as a marginal Christian one senses this and the link with others who have been in the same place years, perhaps hundreds of years, before to be quiet and open to the beyond in our midst.

These days it is sometimes harder to feel this sense of wonder in some of our great cathedrals: they are busy busy places with novel ways to raise money to keep the roof from leaking or to "engage" (how I hate that word) the common man or child actively. So, in this bustle, the quietness and sense of peace is missing. Sadly I sensed this in the Liverpool Anglican cathedral: it no longer felt a holy place. Likewise in Kings College chapel which is now very much on the tourist trail.

And yet, in the Liverpool Metropolitan cathedral (Paddy's wigwam) and in Coventry it was different. Both places still evoked a sense of peace, otherness and calm, helped in both cases by the magnificent stained glass windows which bathe the naves in light and colour.

No doubt other religious faiths have their own temples and places of peace. I hope the sense of the spiritual is still alive in them.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Virgin Media call centre woes

Recently we've consolidated our media services, saving around £20 a month, but not without some pain. We had TV and calls from Sky, phone landline from BT and broadband from Virgin Media. Now all comes via Virgin Media. The problem was the phone line, for which we had a new number: BT did not disconnect the old line and I found out today we were still being charged line rental and will do so for another 30 days cancellation period. Virgin Media should have informed them to disconnect, but did not.

I contacted BT first to find out what was going on: helpful UK call centre and all explained clearly. Then I contacted Virgin Media's call centre - big problems! Although I have had very helpful call centre operators in India before so have nothing against these as such, the Virgin Media experience was NOT a good one. In all, I was on the call for around an HOUR and passed between a good number of Indian operators getting not very far. Then the line went dead and a Scottish voice said, "hello, do you have a problem with your phone line?". At this point I muttered "God give me strength" when I thought I would have to explain everything all over again. Luckily Jamie, the VERY helpful Scotsman, had my notes and was able to resolve the issue: Virgin would refund the line rental if I sent a copy of the final BT bill to their head office.

Finally I contact Sky to confirm I was no longer being charged for calls. Again a very helpful Scottish lady, Donna, answered. She checked details and confirmed there were no more bills to pay and their contract had been terminated.


   BT UK call centre:  8 out of 10 
   Virgin Media Indian call centre:  3 out of 10
   Virgin media UK call centre: 8 out of 10
   Sky UK call centre: 8 out of 10

When the Virgin contract expires in 12 months I shall think long and hard about what to do. So far I have been less than impressed with their service.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Swifts -- "the globe's still working"

There is a famous poem by Ted Hughes about the return to the UK from Africa of the swift with this extract:
"They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come —
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones
Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,
Speedway goggles, international mobsters —

A bolas of three or four wire screams
Jockeying across each other
On their switchback wheel of death."
The return of the swift at the end of April is a highlight of my year: each spring the screaming overhead of this scythe-winged bird signals the return of  warm summer days and reminds me (and Ted Hughes) that the world is still working as it should. There is a danger this may not be for ever though: there are plenty of hazards on the migration paths of summer visitors and many bird species are suffering great reductions in numbers e.g. cuckoo and house martin.

The cycle of life

May 1st 2012 was quite a day.  Just after midnight my niece gave birth to her first child - a baby girl. At around nine o'clock my own daughter-in-law gave birth to our second granddaughter - little Lucinda, shown here.

Later in the same day our wonderfully kind and helpful neighbour David, who had been fighting cancer for many years, lost his battle and died at home at around 5 pm.

So, in one eventful day, two new lives came into the world and one departed. Such is the cycle of our living, brought poignantly to our attention this week. Let's wish the little newcomers a long and happy life and David, rest eternal, either in another life on another plain or as part of nature's way of returning life to life.