Tuesday, 18 March 2008

L4/33-43 Blockbuster Lent Catch-up

Too much Bucks rubbernecking and mocking the cat. I have notably failed to log my Loving of life and living of Lent. It has been purring away in the background, like Max the Cat on a radiator. So, briefly...

33. Volunteering in a prison or supporting prisoners' families
Been in and out of prisons for years. I’ve pitched in to help with a particular job in one after Easter. Long term member of the Howard League. Go to their website, and weep over the idiocy and waste of it all. There is a tiny number of really dangerous people who should be banged up for public safety. As for the other 97%, we spend more money per head than it costs to send them to Eton churning out designer criminals to satisfy the tabloids’ simplistic vengeful instincts. 70%+ of them are back for more within two years. I remember a geezer coming up to me after a funeral years ago saying “You work in Reading prison. Is it true they have TV’s in there?” and launching into a major diatribe. In those days they had the odd TV but no toilets. Which would you rather do without? Attempts at dialogue useless. Grrr. All sorts of other places in Europe just sort the little tykes out instead, and that actually keeps the crime rates down. When I worked in a prison we reckoned 50,000 was breakdown point. We’re currently shooting 82,000+ and hitting the international superleague for imprisonment rates, along with Iran, the former Soviet Union and Syria. The US, of course, leads the world in this, just in case anyone were tempted to believe it couldn’t get siller. Some of the best people I've ever met in my life work in those places, but the whole idea of them is crazy. Contemplate move to Finland, where the whole silly business has been pretty much abolished as a concept, but decide I can’t stand the cold winters. Thoroughly depressing subject.

34. Find out about your national patron saint
Cry God for England, Harry and Saint George. One of those is a patron saint. Saint George? Or is it Harry, these days?

35. Plan a UK based holiday or short break
Beginning the negotiating process for this summer, trying to get everyone together.

36. Pray for countries in conflict with each other
In Church — window on the world. Should be, anyway. It was in Ashendon.

37. Buy a Fair Trade product
Yeah, yeah. Do this all the time. So does Lucy. Got a bag of apricots just to prove the point.

38. Half the world lives on £1.40 a day. Can you?
Yes... and No. On the Tuesday in question I was working out in the Aylesbury deanery, so there was a bring and share lunch, and a lovely meal with ten friends from the church before my evening confirmation — a brilliant day sharing generous hospitality when I couldn’t have gone to the shops anyway, and no big bills went out. So, with a bit of help from our friends, any of us can do this for 24 hours — but, I would guess, not much longer. How do people live like this? I still admire George and Ben to the bottom of my boots.

39. Cook or eat from a cuisine you haven't tried before
Abject failure. Stephanie has invented a new way of doing bacon with honey and mustard dressing, but I don’t suppose that counts.

40. Take a bag of clothes to a charity shop
This is distinctly problematic, and I failed largely because, apart from running shoes and smalls we tend to get all our clothes from charity shops anyway! Especially in posh areas like this there's plenty of good stuff, with the added thrill of the chase you don’t quite get with homogenised high street fashion stores. Lucy manages this bit of my life far more efficiently than I could.

41. Find out about human trafficking
I was horrified back in February to read in my Amnesty magazine about the scale of Trafficking in the UK. Smoke, if not fire, is evident in hospitality and the catering trade, domestic labour, care sectors, agricultural and food processing sectors, construction and prostitution. One basic place to start on the world stage is for the UK Government to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (ECAT). Tell the so-and-sos to get on with it, here.

42. Learn how to say Hallo and Goodbye in a different language
And for my next language... Tamil. Hallo — easy peesy — Vanakkam. Goodbye — er, er, er, — Poyvituvaruviken (expecting the answer Poyvituvarangai). Working on Wednesday with a Tamil speaking colleague. Gotta start somewhere, so why not here? How long would the Beatles have had to stay in India to end up singing “you say Vanakkam, and I say Poyvituvaruviken”?

43. Read about what happened on Palm Sunday
Didn’t have to because the passion according to Matthew was read to me, beautifully in Church (in broad Bristolian), by someone who really cared about it, understood and entered into what was going on, enabling me to climb into the narrative and get lost in it. It makes an incredible difference for good when this happens in Church. I wonder about the fashion of everybody following liturgical texts in pew Bibles. I suppose if a text is being incompetently read you have to, but Biblical books were written for public recitation and hearing, not chopping up into little gobbets and following with your finger. Some people go to concerts and follow the score, but it isn’t the only, or even best way to fill your soul with music...

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