Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A barber's tale

Apologies to any regular readers who must have wondered whether I've given up this blog for Lent! Life's been somewhat hectic the last few weeks and I'm only just catching up.

But I just had to share what happened to me when I went to get my hair cut at the local barber's yesterday. I've been witness to several fascinating conversations over the years as I've waited to be trimmed, but yesterday's takes the biscuit and resulted in me sitting there with tears rolling down my cheeks.

The barber was cutting the hair of an older man while his wife sat on the bench next to me. The conversation got onto the subject of global warming. I pretended to read the paper but I was listening in to the conversation which went something like this:
Barber - “Global warming’s a con.”
Couple - “Yes, yes.”
Barber - “They say now that ships give out more carbon than planes.”
(Several tuts and a shaking of heads).
Barber - "My mother always said years ago that, when they woke up to global warming, they’d use it to tax us!”
(More tuts!)
Barber - "And the latest research says that the ice cap that’s supposed to have been thinning is now growing back and getting thicker. Just look at the ozone layer. They told us that there was a big hole in it, but now it’s repaired itself.”
And then the lady piped up, “Yes, we’re always the ones who are expected to make the sacrifices, but why do they keep sending rockets up and making more holes….”
(Did I mishear her?? But she continued...)
...“They should try to send all the rockets through the same hole!” And, later, “They ought to find ways of going round the ozone layer!”

I only just managed to suppress an outburst of laughter......only just! And it still brings those tears to my eyes every time I think of it!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wise words

'Learn to say "No". It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin!'

(Charles Spurgeon)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What are you doing for Lent?

The season of Lent begins today. Are you giving anything up? I think that it's much better to do something positive, and I love Scot McKnight's proposal, which I've copied from his blog below. It's simple but, if everyone was doing it...and then doing it...well, can you imagine?

I am asking my blog’s readers to consider a challenge for Lent. No, it is not giving up anything. Instead, it helps move Lent into 40 days of living out the gospel: I am asking you to begin and end each day of Lent (beginning Wednesday) by reciting the Jesus Creed. And, whenever it comes to mind throughout the day, I am asking you to recite it again. In your evening recitation of the Jesus Creed, we are asking you to give some moments of recollection to confess any sins against the Jesus Creed throughout the day.

Here it is:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.

What we are discovering — in tune with the wisdom of ancient Israel’s recitation of Shema and the early church’s recitation of the Jesus Creed and the Lord’s Prayer — is that this sacred rhythm works love of God and love of others into the bones and sinews of each day. Who will take this challenge?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sensual Intelligence - 4: Your Mouth

I've just got back from taking an assembley for Year 1 & 2 pupils during a 'Green Week' that the school have organised. We looked at various photos of locally common birds, and I encouraged the children to look closely and really appreciate the different colours of the birds the next time they saw them, rather than just glancing at them and missing the beauty in front of their eyes. That's what this series, taken from a chapter in Tony Buzan's book, Head First, has been about: increasing our sensory awareness.

This morning I'm thinking about taste, which I - for one - take for granted.....until, that is, your learn facts like these:
  • Your mouth contains up to 10,000 super-sensitive taste buds.
  • These 10,000 taste buds can detect sweet flavours at one part per 200; salt at one part per 400; sour at one part per 130,000; and bitter at one part per 2,000,000!
  • The taste buds combine with your olfactory system to allow you to distinguish millions of different tast sensations.
Buzan tells of a fascinating piece of research that picks up on the old question of whether it's 'proper' or 'better' to pour the milk or the tea first into the cup. Some time ago a group of tea drinkers got into a major argument about it; those who said that the milk should be put in first insisted that they could always tell the difference. It was decided to put them to the test.

To everybody's amazement, the tea drinkers were nearly 100% accurate in identifying which liquid had been put in first. In order to find out exactly how they did this, researchers decided to find out exactly what happens when either milk or tea is poured first. They filmed the process of pouring milk into tea and tea into milk, and then played it back in slow motion.
They observed that no matter how fast the liquid was poured in, a few drops always raced to the head of the tea-fall or the milk-fall, and entered the other liquid first. When the first few drops of milk entered the boiling cup of tea, they were immediately burnt before the remaining volume of milk could plunge in and cool the liquid down. These tiny drops gave a very delicate burnt/singed milk tinge to the taste of the tea. In contrast, when the tiny boiling drops of tea hit the giant cool lake of milk, they were immediately cooled and none of the milk was burnt.

The tea tasters were right - the incredible human body and its senses triumphed once again!

Once again, Buzan suggest some exercises to help us grow in our awareness of this sense of taste:
  • Experiment with dishes from as many different nations as you can. Not only will this widen the 'intelligence' of your palette, it will simultaneously increase the intelligence of your olfactory system.
  • Regularly prepare foods with many different textures.
  • Care for your mouth, tongue and gums with regular check-ups and daily brushing and flossing, done correctly,
  • Where appropriate, eat food with your hands. Your hands are an advanced monitoring system for your stomach, and their millions of touch receptors will alert your entire digestive system to the forthcoming pleasures. Eating with your hands will also provide the essential natural oils for the skin of your hands, lips and face.
  • If you drink alcohol, develop your wine-tasting skills.
Wine tasters tend to use common words and phrases to describe the different tastes of wines, such as 'sweet', 'dry', 'heavy', 'lemony', 'nutty', 'sharp', 'sticky', 'fruity' etc. Try to find new and imaginative ways of explaining what your mouth really feels:
"This wine tastes as clean as a bird's song sounds."
"This wine is so full bodied that it feels as if it should be eaten rather than drunk!"
"This wine grabs the back of my throat like a ferret grabbing its prey!"

Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to describing wines - try anything else that you can think of: cheeses, breads, chocolates, whatever!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Quotes for living - 4

"I have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them...." (Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit)

"Live the adventure!" (Star Wars strapline)

Which do I lean towards?

Friday, February 1, 2008

A cheerful heart - 1: ALIEN!

One of my favourite Bible verses is from the book of Proverbs: 'A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.' I love a good laugh, whether it be a good joke, a gifted comedian, a funny TV programme or a day-to-day incident. And a good laugh is good for you! So I'll add a 'cheerful heart' post from time to time!

It's about time Carole and I played a practical joke on some unsuspecting family member or friend. We used to be really good at them. I remember us hiding behind a car in a Coventry side-street early one morning whilst Uncle Andrew strode up to a friend's front garden with a big 'FOR SALE' sign and proceeded to hammer it into the middle of their lawn. Our friends, alerted by the banging, came out and started remonstrating with Andy, while he continued regardless...Carole and I did laugh. And that's nothing compared with what we got away with when Michyla was staying with us....but that's for another time!

I'm always amazed how easily people are fooled, and will swallow a tale hook, line and sinker! Below is a video outlining what I think was one of the best practical jokes of all time - I still can't believe that it worked. I was reminded of it following Jeremy Beadle's death recently. The sound's a bit out of sync....but that won't stop you laughing at the reaction of a farmer's wife when an alien drops in for tea!!

House of smells!

If you've been following these posts you will have seen last week's account of the smells that have been assaulting the olfactory receptors of the Plummer family in recent days: the stench of a blocked drain, and the pong of a newly painted bedroom that gave me 'Dulux-poisoning' last weekend!!

Well, here we go again. Carole and I woke up in the early hours of this morning to a house reeking with the pungent smell of petrol. Had a tanker jack-knifed on the road outside, spilling its load?

It turns out that the culprit was our eldest son, Mark. Having passed his test a few weeks ago, he underwent a rite of passage just after midnight - filling up the car petrol tank for the first time. Apparently, the nozzle suddenly came out of the spout. Mark says that it could have happened to anyone though, apparently, he soaked his clothes from the shoulder down (was he kneeling during this rite?) and sent petrol splashing all over the forecourt.

Carole's put the clothes through the wash this morning, but it doesn't seem to have made any difference. In fact, the heat of the radiators, over which they are currently sprawled, seems to be increasing the odour's potency. I've got to get out into the fresh air!

And, when I do, Im going to reflect on two stories.

Firstly, a Biblical story relating to a father's reaction to the smell of his son's clothes. The conniving Jacob had dressed himself in his brother, Esau's, clothes in order to trick his aged and unseeing father into giving him his blessing, rather than his brother. We're told that, 'When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, "Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed..."'

The Bible is nothing if not honest about the weaknesses and foibles of its heroes. What can this story teach us about honesty and integrity in our relationships, and about a God who can still do something special in, and with, our lives, even when we've screwed up big-time?

And, secondly, a wonderful story that I've used on several occasions about a young boy who smeared some smelly Limburger cheese on his grandfather's moustache while he was asleep. When his grandfather woke up, he exclaimed, "This room stinks!" He went into the kitchen, sniffed, and said, "This room stinks, too!" He walked through the whole house grumbling, "The whole house stinks!" So he went outside, took a deep breath....and cried out, exasperated, "The whole world stinks!"

Sometimes, when the whole world stinks, the answer is right there under our nose!!