Je Suis Charlie

January 7, 2015

I had an interesting discussion on a forum earlier this evening regarding the dreadful terrorist attack in France on the offices of French satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’.

It started off easily enough with a friend merely posting the hashtag of support “Je Suis Charlie”

To which I replied:

Je Suis Charlie too … although I despair at people who deliberately provoke others (and put the lives of innocent people in danger in the process) in order to make a point.

My friend took this to mean that I was condoning, or at least excusing, the actions of the fanatics who had carried out the attack. I felt that I needed to clarify my position: I am certainly not excusing, or condoning, the actions of the terrorists.  But, if you poke a bear with a stick and it attacks you, most people would stop poking the bear. 

I will not change my view that the publishers were acting irresponsibly. That might well be a sad indictment on the way the world is or, at least, my view of it, but there you go.

Apparently, it was I who was poking the bear as I got the response:

“So it is nearly ok for a bunch of terrorists to wreak havoc and terror in a country where freedom of expression is regarded as one of the pillars of their democracy….as is ours.
If this is an example of your “religion” then I’ll stay agnostic thanks.”

Well, no, that is not what I was saying at all. I sought to clarify once again:

That’s not what I said but if that’s how you wish to interpret it,  I can’t stop you. Nowhere did I say it was ‘nearly ok’ for the terrorists to do what they did. But take your argument to its logical, if pedantic, conclusion. The moronic terrorists were merely using their own freedom of expression… which you would not deny them.

I have no problem with people lampooning, by whatever means, extremists of any religion, creed, colour or opinion. Indeed, one of the Charlie Hebdo front pages was aimed squarely at the terrorists and not at the prophet. But others were aimed at the Prophet (along with other faith leaders).

ALL Muslims will have been offended by cartoons lampooning the Prophet, just as all Catholics will have been offended by the cartoons lampooning the Pope. Most have enough sense to complain about it rather than go on a murderous spree. Many will have just shrugged their shoulders and thought ‘sod it, it’s not worth the bother’. The Charlie Hebdo publishers WANTED a reaction. They got one. And I feel desperately sorry for all those involved. But they deliberately baited an insane, murderous bear.

If you think it’s ok to say, do or draw what you want in a deliberate attempt to provoke someone and then say “it’s free speech and you can’t stop me” then I disagree with you. To be deliberately hurtful and spiteful is wrong, is it not? Maybe you disagree and think it’s ok.

I get hurt when people make assumptions about me and throw insults at me (or those things I believe in, or am) because I’m white, middle class, have a faith and come from Liverpool. Does that mean it’s ok for people to carry on doing it cos it’s ‘free speech’ to say/do what we like about/to whom we want and what they may believe in (even if those beliefs have been sadly radicalised).

And, if you think only people of faith (even misguided faith) are violent extremists then, I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Agnostics and atheists have their extremists, too.

So, yes, lampoon the terrorists but not the prophet. Because that is childish, stupid, infantile and pathetic. In my opinion. Which might well be wrong – but it’s mine and you can’t deny me the right to have it. Because that would be an infringement of free speech, too :)

End of conversation… but not of thinking.

Will self summed it up quite well, I think:

will self
It is impossible to condone, or seek to condone, the actions of the terrorists in Paris. But when your choice leads to harm coming to others, should you really have freedom of choice? In Child Protection issues, we teach that you should never offer unconditional confidentiality, that confidentiality is conditional on what we are told not leading to harm continuing to be done to the teller or others.

There is a risk that this might be interpreted as “they got what they deserved”. But that is so very much NOT what I mean.Clearly, they didn’t deserve to be murdered in cold, or rather, hot, blood. I’m not sure where I’m going with this…

The cartoonists, of course, provided the best responses – but the comments underneath say all that you need to know about the world in which we live and some of the idiots with whom we share it, as does this small selection of responses to a Muslim tweeter who had the temerity to say that the terrorists were not representative of the vast majority of Muslims:


I Am Charlie – as long as Charlie isn’t deliberately intending to be offensive to those who don’t deserve it.

2014 in reviewh

December 30, 2014

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 480 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas Charity Gifts – a rant

December 24, 2014

Over the last few years I* have provided a goat for a family in Kenya, books and pens for a classroom in Malawi, chickens for a family in rural India and a provided funding towards training a vet in Mozambique. Apparently.

I know this because I have received Christmas cards telling me that I have done so and, as such, I should feel extra good about myself and full of the spirit of Christmas.

The thing is, of course, I didn’t. So I don’t.

Somebody else did. So presumably they do.

Obviously I have no problem with people donating to charity – and they are all worthy causes but when I choose to donate to charity, I’d like to choose what charity I support.

These AREN’T Christmas presents, at least not to me – they are a way of giving yourself a present by pretending you’ve given a present to me.

By all means carry on donating to your chosen charity – but not on my behalf. I’d rather have socks.

Thank you.

*somebody else

North Western Synod – end of season report

May 27, 2014

So another season has come to an end … but how well have the teams in the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church  fared?

Well, because nobody else is prepared to do the research (or in the least bit bothered) I have prepared this short report.

The Premiership.


We won it. (Well, Manchester City did). The only other Premiership team from the Synod (and they shall deservedly remain nameless) came a miserable 7th and were lucky to get that high.

The Championship.

Burnley_2888330bWe (Burnley) came second and got promoted to the Premiership. Blackburn came 8th, Bolton managed only 14th and were the highest placed team in the division with a negative goal difference. None of our teams got relegated though so all is good.

Division 1. Preston North End came a creditable 5th – but didn’t make the play-off final. Oldham managed 15th place to stay in the division but, sadly, Carlisle finished in the bottom 4 and were relegated. So, next season, they’ll be in ….

Division 2.

rochdaleWe (Rochdale) finished 3rd, and gained automatic promotion. Fleetwood finished 4th and were in the play-offs where they beat Burton Albion  in the final at Wembley to gain promotion to League 1. Bury finished 12th, Accrington Stanley (who are they?)  got as high as 15th and Morecambe stayed in the division by finishing 18th out of 24 teams.

Football Conference. Macclesfield finished  comfortably lower mid-table at 15th but, sadly, Hyde were relegated due to  finishing none from the bottom of the table (24th out of 24 with a goal difference of minus 81)

Nothing much is happening, football-wise, between now and August when the leagues kick off again.

Time Has Proved You Right

April 14, 2014

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. I’ve written about my experience before (Where There’s Blame There’s A Claim), and again shortly after the Hillsborough Independent Panel had published their finding (Vindicated Or Vindictive).

When the inspirational Anne Williams passed away I wrote a song – it was the only way I could think of to deal with what I was feeling (A Mother’s Love)

I began to get a bit frustrated by the lack of progress and the fact that the police service STILL seemed to be stalling as we learned that documents were coming to light that had not been made available to the HIP. (A Year And A Bit On)

On Wednesday, I am meeting with a civilian investigator from the new inquests to discuss the statement that I gave to West Midlands Police 25 years ago (actually on 19/11/1999 – 7 months after Hillsborough). There are things in the statement which I remember saying and happening, and a number of things which I don’t. Of course, 25 years on, my memory is blurred – as is my memory of much of the day itself – but I hope this will be an opportunity to set the record, as I remember it, straight.

There are others who have written and performed songs to try and express feelings and keep the events of that day in the present rather than have it consigned, unresolved, to the dustbin of history.

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby wrote a song shortly after the HIP results were published. It says what I wanted to say far better than I ever could. Brian kindly sent me an MP3 of the song so that I could post it. It is far better quality than the video I posted a few days ago from when I met them both at Llyn Acoustic Guitar Festival last year.


Time Has Proved You Right

The song can be downloaded from iTunes – it’s only 79p – and a healthy percentage of that goes to the Hillsborough Families Support Group. Not only is it a great song, but it’s helping to make a difference.

Cathryn and Brian are performing at the Liverpool Acoustic evening on April 25th at the View Two Gallery, Matthew St, Liverpool,  L2 6RE.

It’s from their “Real World” album…please think about buying the song – or the full album; it’s full of great songs.

I hope that I only ever have to write one more blog post about Hillsborough – and that one will be titled “Justice – At Last”



The First Palm Sunday

April 8, 2014

palm sunday


It was, as it usually was, a blazing hot day in Jerusalem. There were a fair few more people in the city than usual as pilgrims came from around the country to celebrate Passover and the streets were busy. The crowds were swelled by those who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the latest winner of the prestigious Temple (Wood) Turner prize for Carpentry, a certain Jesus from Nazareth, who was rumoured to be coming to the city to collect his prize.

The competition, whilst prestigious, was also mired in controversy with a number of previous winners having been discredited. Noah had been awarded the prize for his sculpture ‘A Big Boat’ but the general feeling was that, as the judging panel consisted of his wife and sons (due to nobody else being alive) the voting was possibly biased in his favour. Joshua was discredited when his sculpture ‘A Tree in wood’ turned out to be, well, a tree that had just grown rather than been carved.

Still Jesus’ entry into the competition “Loaves and Fish in Olive Wood” had been generally well received by the judging panel. The workmanship was naïve, certainly, but that lent a certain air of authenticity to the piece and, so long as he didn’t make a meal of winning…

Anna was polishing the buttons on her uniform. She was proud of the fact that she was the only woman currently serving in Blue Watch of the Jerusalem Municipal Fire Brigade. Actually, she was the only woman serving in any Watch of the JMFB and she knew she had to work twice as hard as a man would in order to be accepted but she had proved her value time and time again.

Her shift had started mid-morning and had been unremarkable so far. A couple of flat-bread ovens that had been left unattended had needed attention but, other than that, attending to her uniform was all that was occupying her time. And it needed to look good because, traditionally, the JMFB provided the guard of honour for the winner of the Temple (wood) Turner prize for Carpentry as he (or potentially she – but it had always been a ‘he’ for as long as anyone could remember) arrived in the city to receive the plaudits and the Golden Lathe trophy.

Just after one o’clock, she gathered with the rest of Blue Watch and marched in formation down to Lion’s Gate. It was certainly hot and uncomfortable in her full dress uniform and she was carrying the ceremonial bucket which was heavy but, thankfully, not as heavy as the ceremonial hose that was being hauled along on its trolley by Samuel and Aaron.

When they reached Lion’s Gate the crowd was even more populous than it had been in previous years – ten or fifteen deep in places with people hanging out of windows and on rooftops, too.

As the Watch members stood to attention it was clear that some of the crowd were being overcome by both the heat and the occasion, with ladies swooning quite regularly. If the situation carried on, and the crowd numbers continued to swell, it was quite likely that Jesus would be damned with fainting praise as he walked to the Temple to collect his prize.

And it was not just the crowd who were being overcome – after the exertions of hauling the ceremonial hosepipe through the City, Aaron and Samuel had been given leave to go and refresh themselves as they were looking decidedly peaky.

Captain Fadi, a wise and experienced man, knew that the crowd needed to be cooled down. He could hear the cheers of the crowd as those further down the slope of Mt Moriah got their first glimpse of the prize winner and the excitement reached boiling point. He ordered Anna to splash the crowd with water from the ceremonial bucket to cool them down – but it was having little effect.

“It’s not enough, Captain,” cried Anna, “we need to do more.”

Captain Fadi knew that the situation could quickly get out of hand and took a brave decision – despite Samuel and Aaron not being back yet, and although Anna was, as yet, untrained in its effective use, he yelled over the tumult “Hey, Anna, grab the hose – we’ll use that to spray the crowd.”

As is often the case in these situations (Matthew 18.2, John 6.9) there was a small boy nearby and he took up the Captain’s cry: “Anna, the hose”… soon all the crown joined in yelling

“Hose, Anna, Hey Anna, Anna, Anna, Hose, Anna Hey Anna, Hose, Anna”

“We need to get the spray over more people, Anna,” cried Captain Fadi, “climb onto the roof of the tallest building and spray from there”.

Once again, the crowd echoed his cries “Hose, Anna, in the highest!”

And THAT’s when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

So now you know.


This lent I’m giving up giving up…

March 17, 2014


How does the liturgical season of Lent normally affect us? Well, for many, it is a time when we ‘give something up’ – maybe chocolate, or alcohol, or biscuits, or … well, the list is endless. And why do we do this? Because, in some way, our small sacrifice of self-denial encourages us to relate to Jesus Christ and his self-denial during the 40 days and nights he spent in the wilderness.  It reminds us what it is like to confront temptation and, like Jesus, overcome it. And, what’s more, we can be morosely miserable about it and take great pleasure in telling people “No, no sugar in my tea; I’ve given it up for Lent.”


Was it Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation”? What good and faithful followers of Jesus we must be if we can go 40 days without caffeinated drinks or lemon drizzle cake. True disciples, undoubtedly.

And, what’s more, these little sacrifices we make usually have an added benefit – we lose weight, or we save money or we get fitter. It’s almost as though we’re not actually making a sacrifice for Jesus but, rather helping ourselves out instead.

Would we put as much effort into Lent, into our self-denial, our sacrifice, if we knew that someone else was to benefit instead? If we didn’t accrue the benefit of our labours but they were to go to someone else? Maybe someone who wasn’t expecting it … God forbid the beneficiary was someone who didn’t deserve it!

But isn’t that actually what happened all those years ago? Jesus made the biggest sacrifice of all, gave his life, not for His benefit – but for ours. And humanity didn’t deserve it then – and doesn’t deserve it now, yet still the sacrifice was made.

So this year, let’s not look at making self serving sacrifices, let’s do something for others.. Acts of Random Kindness for people who maybe don’t deserve it.

I was the recipient of an ARK 20 years ago in Liverpool – I’d parked in the City Centre to go to a meeting which had overrun. When I got back to my car I feared the worst as I saw something tucked under the windscreen wipers and knew I’d been ticketed for outstaying the parking meter. But it was an anonymous note which just said “I’ve put 20p in your parking meter; maybe you could do the same for someone else. God bless”.

So let’s not stop doing something in these days leading up to Easter, let’s DO something instead. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, sometimes just a small word or act can change the world of someone in need. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.”

If you need help with ideas, why not register at and they will send you daily emails offering ideas of what you might do to make a difference to someone or a situation.


By the way, I’ve not given up chocolate for Lent so, if any of you have done, and want to make sure that you aren’t tempted by that bar of Dairy Milk…. my address is in the phonebook