Monday, September 30, 2013


So the weeks of hard work, shredded nerves, tensions, tantrums, preparations and rehearsals are behind us. Well, there you go then, as my dear sainted mother used to say, all over bar the shouting. Except of course the shouting isn’t quite over as congratulatory messages keep on arriving. What an evening Friday turned out to be. Chris was on top form and, like the man on the flying trapeze; he flew through the show with the greatest of ease. He had the audience from the very start and proved himself to be not just a singer, an actor, a dancer, but the complete entertainer. It must have made quite an impact on me because I find myself still thinking about it, the subtle changes he made in intonation, in gesture, and expression. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living with Champagne Charlie one way or another since the eighties and, familiar as I am with it, this came as a completely new performance. He well deserved his standing ovation. So I reckon I was wrong in not wanting him to do it and an apology is forthcoming but it was only because, at his age, I wasn’t at all sure he could do it.
Even taking into account the audience’s enthusiastic response it was certainly a triumph in every sense and hats off too to Douglas who just has to be the supremo of stage managers. Finally Paul Knight’s contribution as MD and the musicians. There must have been something to criticise surely? Well, yes, only a minor one, but I did feel the trumpet was too loud and it should have been muted. Much to my surprise Douglas informs me it was.
The only disappointment of the evening was the failure of the “streaming” to live up to expectations and we were looking forward to it so much. The gremlins really got in the works in particular as far as the sound was concerned. The opening number for example, “Music Mad” was performed (for us watching the film that is) in complete silence and there were glitches most of the way through. We thought it was just us suffering but according to some of the e-mails it seems it was pretty universal. Fortunately the last twenty minutes or so went smoothly which was some consolation.
So, what a delightful evening it was. While the guys are in London I have been looked after by our friend Judith who is a gem. I think she can either read my mind or she is psychic but never have I been so spoilt. Friday was also her birthday and mutual friends Derrick and Joanna wanted to celebrate by bringing us dinner: smoked salmon and rocket salad for starters, beef cooked in red wine with mashed potatoes and green beans Cretan style, that is with onion and chopped tomato, and for dessert a pear, apricot and almond crumble; and to wash it all down celebratory style champagne of course. Actually I’m not a lover of champagne. I find it too dry so I like it as a bucks fizz. This one though was a Greek version and I found it most potable as, even though labelled brut, it had just the tiniest edge of sweetness and went down a treat.

I have been watching “Cranford” again. I know it is only a short while since I watched it previously but it is such a remarkable piece of television, and as Judith hadn’t seen it, we have settled down to watch every episode before she leaves. She loves it and I am enjoying it as much as first time round. I just needed the excuse of watching it again so soon. With a stupendous cast, the crème–de-la-crème of British acting talent giving perfect performances; beautifully written, beautifully photographed, beautifully directed at just the right pace it is, in my humble opinion, the best thing the Beeb has done in years. I have no doubt, after an interval, I shall watch it again.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Yet again the religious maniacs have been responsible for chaos and bloodshed. I refer to the Al-shabab attack on the shopping mall in Kenya where so many innocents were gunned down or wounded, not jut Kenyans but citizens from various countries. What is it with these primitives that jihad seems to be the only answer to their grievances and ambitions, and what are their grievances and ambitions? The establishment or spread of Islam and sharia law, that barbaric set of rules and punishments; beheading, flogging, amputation, stoning, that has no place in the twenty-first century and yet, and yet, and yet, regretfully, they want it. Maybe now when moderate Muslims accept their religion has been hijacked by fanatics they will do something to help in the fight ageist terrorism because that is what it is. But just how do you counter millions of brainwashed primitive uneducated men some of whom are willing to sacrifice themselves in suicide bomb attacks in order to gain a supposed paradise and those mythical 72 virgins.  And then there is the problem that, like Christianity with it’s literarily thousands of sects; it is not a cohesive whole but rent by factions, tribal animosities, and traditions. It’s one helluva mess is it not? A Gordian knot and nothing in the near future at least is going to untie it.
So tomorrow evening comes the big moment. After weeks of rehearsals, planning, organising, scoring and fraught nerves Champagne Charlie has a one-night stand at Wilton’s Music Hall.

Wilton’s has teamed up with live streaming experts so we will be able to watch it here in Crete – that is if my nerves can stand it – after all it’s going out to a bigger audience than it has ever done and it’s going out live! If you’re interested, details can be found on the website of Arts Streaming TVs and it’s free. Boy, I am such a Luddite I simply can’t keep pace with all this new technology. I don’t even know how to use my mobile phone and it is the simplest phone you can get. It doesn’t connect to the internet, keep a diary, take photographs or cook breakfast but it still leaves me all at sea. Mind you this bloody machine is inclined to give me the megrims. I think Douglas was pleased to get away I called on him so often to get me out of trouble and he was beginning to show distinct signs of impatience. I swear this computer, like Hal in the movie 2001, sometimes goes its own sweet way behind my back. Why I would like to know, if I type out a word accurately, and I am absolutely certain it is accurate, does it sometimes come up with a similar sounding alternative. Spite, that’s all it boils down to, sheer spite.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Strange dreams

What strange goings-on happen in the mind when one is asleep? You wake up and know you have been dreaming but unless the dream is exceptional or very vivid you don’t remember no matter now hard you try to recall it. On the other hand if the brain is trying to tell you something very important and you need to wake up quickly it will produce the most bizarre dream imaginable. For example the other night I dreamt I was in a small room. There was a single bed and an old lady lying in it. As I stood there she looked at me and said. “The river has farted. Rivers don’t do that very often.” I made a dash for the adjourning bathroom and immediately was wide awake with a burning throat that showed in my sleep I had suffered an oesophageal reflux, something that hasn’t happened for years, more years than I can remember as I have never had one in Crete and that is going on for eighteen years. During the time I suffered a hiatus hernia, something else I haven’t suffered from all these years, I nearly choked to death in my sleep more than once and I always made sure I ate early in the evening so that the food had time to settle somewhat before I went to sleep. The burning sensation caused by the acid in a reflux can be truly distressing but fortunately this one was minor. Still it took a good six or seven minutes to clear before I could go back to sleep again. I still like to eat early in the evening so I have no idea what could have brought this on.
“The river has farted. Rivers don’t do that very often.” What a truly weird thing to say. Sounds like a haiku except it is already one syllable too many.
Golden Dawn – there’s a misnomer if ever there was one. Dark Dawn would be more appropriate or, even better, Dark Twilight. For those not up to scratch with the situation in Greece, thanks to the recession history is almost being replayed with the founding of a right-wing fascist party named Golden Dawn who, although they have garnered eighteen seats in parliament are, with their black uniforms, flags and almost swastika insignia nothing more than street thugs claiming to be the people’s friend. The Greek people that is, no one else, hence their parliamentary gains. They have tried to make a show of distributing food  to those in need but only Greeks. However the mayor of Athens put an immediate stop to what was only a gesture currying favour although, god knows there are plenty in desperate need. The ultra-rich have taken their money (most of it ill-begotten) and fled the country to purchase expensive properties in Britain and France leaving the poor to carry the can.
The latest outrage by Golden Dawn was the murder of a left-wing singer. It has created a backlash throughout the country (I should think even with those who voted for them) and, at last, the government appears to have woken up to the threat
The case files of 32 incidents involving Golden Dawn members are to be investigated using legislation designed to combat criminal gangs, the public order minister announced on Thursday.
In a letter to Supreme Court the chief prosecutor requested that 13 cases from Athens and 19 from other parts of the country be investigated as the continuous acts of a criminal organisation under article 187 of the penal code.
The first case dates from 6 June 2012 and involves an attack by 25 Golden Dawn members on a man in Veria and the last concerns the murder of Pavlos Fyssas in Athens in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Among the cases is a September 2012 incident when a Golden Dawn gang, led by two MPs, attacked non-Greek street traders at a local festival.
Reporters were told that as the constitution does not allow for the banning of political parties, "everyone will now be taken before the courts and this will reverse the activities of this particular party".
Each chapter in the Rattigan biography is headed with a quotation. I was particularly taken by, “The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened.” Saki.
How true, how true.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cretan Hospitality

Is there anywhere in the world that does not harbour religious hatred?
A Roman Catholic priest in Zanzibar has received treatment in hospital after attackers threw acid at him on a street in the island's capital. Police say the
elderly priest was attacked as he was leaving an internet cafe in the island's old town.
It follows a similar attack on two young British women there last month.
Tensions between the majority Muslim population and Christians have been on the increase in recent years, as well as on mainland Tanzania.
"He sustained burns in his face and shoulders. The acid burnt through his shirt," a Zanzibar police spokesman told Reuters.
Tanzanian police say they are searching for witnesses to the attack which occurred in the old part of Zanzibar City, Stone Town.
Tourism is a key source of revenue, with some 200,000 visitors to Zanzibar last year
It is the latest in a series of assaults on religious figures in the country and the fifth acid attack since November, when a Muslim cleric was hospitalized with acid burns. (Tit for tat? An eye for an eye?)
In a sign of further tension, a Catholic priest was shot dead in February.
The attack on the British girls in August occurred in the same part of Stone Town.
Zanzibar's President Ali Mohammed Shein said the assault had "brought chaos and confusion to our country and outside".
Zanzibari officials have offered a £4,000 ($6,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
A popular tourist destination, the acid attacks came as a shock to many residents of Zanzibar who say attacks on foreign travellers are rare.
Police say no suspects have been arrested over the attack on the priest.
“Welcome Maldives – The sunny side of life.” That is the headline on Google of the official Maldives Tourist Board and the islands are evidently a popular holiday destination. Not quite the sunny side of life for a fifteen year old girl raped by her stepfather and sentenced to a hundred lashes for having sex outside of marriage. Similarly a rape victim in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to two hundred lashes. What kind of a religion is it that creates laws that can so pervert all sense of logic, common sense, and humanitarianism? So if you are raped in a Muslim country get over it. There’s no point in going to the police because that way you may be in even bigger trouble as a judge decides you need a taste of the whip. It is truly disgusting. Fortunately for the Maldives girl there was such a universal outcry that the sentence was revoked and, as the Maldives also rely on tourism for a great deal of their income perhaps would-be holiday makers might have second thoughts.
Sunday we trotted across the road to our neighbour Aglaia’s house for a lunch party thrown for her grandson Janis who is off to university in Heraklion. Strange to think we have known him since he was four years old. When I say “we trotted” I mean Douglas, myself, and our guest, Vicky. Chris is in London psyching himself up and working hard on preparing “Champagne Charlie.”
There must have been forty or fifty people at Aglaia’s (the Maradakis family is an extended one) seated at two long tables in the courtyard and, as always on an occasion; baptisms, weddings, Easter, the food just kept on coming starting off with traditional pies filled with either feta or spinach, tomato fritters, a delicious potato salad, scented with some kind of sweet herb, I don’t know what, a xoriatiki, that is a village salad consisting of tomatoes, onion, cucumber, peppers, olives, topped with feta and drizzled with a generous helping of olive oil. Sometimes the cheese used in a xoriatiki is misithra, more of a cream cheese than feta. Snails arrived next, one lot cooked in oil and another in a buckwheat sauce. I’ve always resisted having a go at snails but decided for the first time to try them. As far as I am concerned it is like eating rubber flavoured with whatever they are cooked in so I don’t think I will bother again although here they are a great favourite. Douglas and Vicky ate them with obvious relish but the one was enough for me. The snails were followed by sausages, roast lamb, roast pork and roast chicken and a pilafi. Now pilafi is quite simply rice cooked in lamb drippings and with lemon juice it is one of my favourite foods. Consequently I ate far too much of it (no self-control you see but it was delicious)
Finally desert: half a dozen or more different types of cakes and chocolate confections, ice cream and something one has only at this time of the year after the grapes have been harvested, a grape jelly called moustafaria. At least I think it’s called that, something like it anyway.
As you can imagine no one wanted anything more to eat that day. I left about four o’clock and the others half an hour or so later. Seven thirty in the evening we could still hear the party going on. It was great for Vicky to experience traditional Cretan hospitality.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The X Factor

Have spent a number of evenings looking on YouTube at auditions for The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, America’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, etcetera It seems to be happening all over the world now and I suppose all over the world there are thousands if not millions of wannabes all with hope in their hearts and ninety-nine percent of them having those hopes dashed. Every kind of human being seems to want his or her moment of fame: tall, short, fat, skeletal, black, white, Asiatic, children, seventy year olds, groups, nearly all of them talentless, hopeless and pathetic. It really is very sad if one allows one’s feelings to run in that direction especially if an auditionee is so bad he or she has the judges in uncontrollable hysterics and some of them simply will not accept rejection, will not accept they just haven’t got it in any shape or form. A contender will appear all bright and breezy and the auditions that take place in a room with no accompaniment might seem daunting and a little unfair (Stay in tune! Stay in tune!) but you are there to give your all so, ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Pete Smith.’ ‘How old are you?’ ‘Twenty three.’ ‘And where are you from?’ ‘Birtwhistle on Tweed.’ ‘Ok, and what do you do for a living?’ ‘I’m a bricklayer.’ ‘And what are you going to sing for us?’ Now this is where the rot starts. Pete, looking just a little worried, gives the title of his song, to me usually unintelligible but Simon seems to know it and, giving his approval, also gives the go ahead, possibly with a ‘Good luck.’ A transformation immediately takes place. From being that bright and breezy Pete with something of a personality, if not much, Pete’s face is now totally bland, expressionless. Any personality that might have been there has totally disappeared. It’s a death mask. He gets to the end of his song, if Simon allows him to do so, receives his three or four no votes and either (a) defiantly stands his ground and wants to argue it out or (b) quietly leaves the room.
If it is (a) Simon might say something like, ‘That was without doubt the worst audition we have heard today. You really do not have a voice. You were off-key and inaudible and I didn’t understand a word you sang.’ Or it could be something like, ‘To be a recording star it is necessary not only to have a good voice but to have personality, charisma, charm. You have none of these things. I’m afraid it’s a no.’ And this assessment, apart from a singular lack of talent, must surely apply to more than ninety percent of the contestants some of whom come back for a second or even a third go with the same result.
A great many seem to think the louder they sing (sing?) the better they are, while others are virtually inaudible, and all have problems with their diction.
Well it might be simply awful for many but it still makes for good television I suppose and I take my hat off to Simon Cowell. He knows his business and who would want to sit all day through act after act that can be summed up in one word, ‘tripe?’ He’s earned his millions.

There is another interesting aspect to this global phenomenon. When the auditions take place in a large venue before hundreds of people it would seems that something akin to religious hysteria sets in. The audience which appears to be predominantly young female will erupt with screams, whistles and yells for apparently very little if any reason. A contestant appears on stage and if, for some reason, they like the look of him or her – the first roar of approval goes up. He/she then opens his/her mouth and emits the first note. This elicits screams and yells and a standing ovation. Oh, come on now! A standing ovation on the very first note? Do me a favour – please!

Thursday, September 12, 2013


It’s time for the warm PJs though no need of a blanket yet. The nights are definitely cooler though the days remain hot. Kalyves beach is still crowded as much as it ever is which means there’s still plenty of room, unlike pictures I’ve seen of popular resorts in high summer where you simply can’t move on the beach and pay through the nose for the privilege. There are still rude and bad-mannered people around but the Germans,; previously noted for their bad manners, seem to have given away to the Russians who are in every sense of the word the pits!
Apart from everything else he is doing, Douglas has just harvested our grapes, a whole lot more than I anticipated.
Champagne Charlie at Wilton’s on the 27th is almost sold-out and, still with two weeks to go, I feel sure it will be a full house. They have been rehearsing in the evenings in the old school just down the road. It consists of one large room, quite fascinating with many photographs of Cretans down the years and an old cannon that’s probably from the Turkish time. The room can be used for free by anybody in the community and, rather than rehearse at home where Chris feels it might annoy the neighbours, he can make as much noise as he wants there, the nearest building just across the yard being the little church of St. George. The only drawback with events at the old school is that there is no loo. If I make any money I’ll finance the building of one as a gift to the village. Could anything be more practical? Evidently every now and again during a rehearsal a strange head will pop through the doorway just to see what is going on.
Still on matters theatrical, why is it that directors so often never trust their material, or their audiences, but feel they have to invent something unusual when directing a classic. Oh, it’s old and jaded, it’s period, it’s a museum pierce, it’s been done so many times, something new is needed.
Joe Hill-Gibbons is a director I had never heard of but then that doesn’t mean anything as I have been away a long time and he is reputed to be extremely talented. It would appear though that he has gone off the rails, blotted his copybook somewhat with his production of Marlowe’s EDWARD 11 at the National.
I have only read the review in the Mail  by Quentin Letts and the whole thing sounds horrendous. I usually appreciate Letts’ reviews so I presume he is not doing a clever-clever Kenneth Tynan but giving an honest opinion.
The large headline reads – “A royal tragedy? It’s more Monty Python meets the Krankies.” I can safely assume that everyone knows Monty Python but for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Krankies, they are a Scottish comedy act. I don’t know if they are still performing but they were very successful in the seventies and eighties. Letts’ review describes the production as “gimmicksville” and what with video cameras, head mikes, piano accompaniment and scenes announced on giant screens, a queen who smokes cigarettes and Prince Edward  played by a woman in exaggerated school uniform and gum chewing assassins while the king in his death throes writhes on a plastic sheet, gimmicksville seems most apt. Travesty could also describe it.
The big question is why? Why will some directors not trust their material and treat it with the respect it deserves? Why do they feel they have to leave their mark by being different or in some way outrageous? There’s plenty of graffiti on walls that shows up the perpetrators as idiots and in a way this is the same syndrome. You have in your hands a masterpiece – treat it as such. The last thing it needs are gimmicks.
Are there any redeeming features in this production? Performances? Set maybe? Apparently not.
More than fifty year ago I saw a production of this play presented by the Marlowe Society (amateurs) at the old Kings Theatre, Hammersmith and believe me it needed no gimmicks to be totally enthralling. To this day I can see most vividly and hear the king’s screams in the death scene and it was probably the only time I saw an orgasm on stage. The executioner played it as a sadist getting his rocks off and on the line, ‘Was it not marvellously well done? He clapped his hands, heart shaped, either side of his crotch, gave every indication of what was happening and I swear I could see the semen stains on his breeches.

Also in the fifties I saw a production of Sophocles Oedipus at The Old Vic. If memory serves me right it was directed by Peter Brooke. When Jocasta commits suicide it is done symbolically by her standing behind an upright sword and then, legs akimbo and with a series of squats, the sword penetrates her vagina. The night I saw it there was a loud universal gasp from the audience and I believe on more than one occasion there was a fainting which I can readily believe. Such is the power of suggestion and it would do some directors a bit of good to bear it in mind. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

French without Tears

The fig season is over, now the grapes are ripening and it’s the turn of the prickly pear. I have never seen so much fruit before, the plant is absolutely laden, half a dozen or more on every paddle and they are delicious. Soon it will be the avocados, the quinces, and the guavas and then, just before Christmas, the oranges. The tree in the courtyard is as laden with fruit as the prickly pear. So far they are green and about the size of a golf-ball but they will be ready for Christmas, and I mustn’t forget the winter figs which will be ready at the same time. And at last we’ve had rain.
“I can spot one a mile off.” No, I’m not talking about queers; I’m talking about women who are queue jumpers. In the doctor’s surgery the other day there were two of them, both ex-pat Brits who arrived well after us. Having already waited the best part of two hours in an overcrowded waiting room I told Chris to watch them and, as sure as god made little apples, at the first opportunity they were in before anyone could move. This extended our wait another half hour. I managed to address one as she made her way out.
‘Thank you for jumping the queue,’ I said
‘I didn’t jump the queue,’ she replied, ‘I had to have a blood test.’
What the hell did she think I (and everyone else) were doing there having a picnic? Greek ladies too have a habit of entirely ignoring the existence of a queue, usually in supermarkets.
Reading a biography of the playwright Terence Rattigan whose plays, having long been ousted by the kitchen sink school of the fifties and dismissed more or less as trivia for many years, have recently been rediscovered and produced once more in London to much acclaim. Great to be appreciated after you’re dead, huh? His first play, written in conjunction with an Oxford friend, was produced when he was very young but, although it received four of five productions both in London and America; it was not exactly a great success. After that – nothing. His father was determined he should go into the diplomatic corps and in order to avoid it Rattigan signed on as a writer for Warner Bros, a dead end nine to five job six days a week for £15 and achieving nothing. But during this period he wrote no fewer than eight plays – all rejected.
He finally made it with French Without Tears and I wonder if the great unwashed in the auditorium are ever aware of the drama that goes on backstage, let alone on-stage. Here is a description of the dress rehearsal with a cast that, if not already famous, soon would be. I take it from Geoffrey Wansell’s book. I hope he won’t mind.
“The mood on stage was nervous. No sooner had the curtain gone up when Trevor Howard forgot his second line… Rex Harrison played as though he was constipated and didn’t care wh0 knew it.. Roland Culver put in more “ers” than he had done at the reading. Jessica Tandy was so slow she might have on a modern strike and Percy Walsh forgot he was playing a Frenchman and every now and then lapsed into an Oxford accent. Only Kay Hammond looked reasonably relaxed… the mood in the theatre turned suicidal. Jessica Tandy looked across the footlights to her director and proclaimed, ‘Mr. French you know we can’t open tomorrow night. This isn’t a play; it’s a charade, and an under-rehearsed one at that.’”
On opening night, convinced his play was aging to bomb Rattigan spent the evening in a neighbouring pub. To everyone’s surprise the play was a roaring success with the audience laughing at practically every line. The cast took their bows and there were cries of “Author! Author!” So Rattigan had to be found but he never got around to masking his curtain speech. By the time he arrived on stage the stage hands had grown tired of waiting and lowered the curtain as he took one bow.

There is an old  song originally from Showboat, and later from  When the clouds roll by,’ “Life upon the wicked stage ain’t all a girl supposes,” and that lyricist certainly knew what he was on about.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


There was a beautiful photo on Facebook of a Dalmatian and her puppies in a basket; so many it was impossible to count them all. Obviously pedigreed they were no doubt bred for sale. Well, maybe good homes will be found for fifteen or more pedigree Dalmatians but what is going to happen when human beings breed at the rate of knots with no practical thought as to whether or not they can actually afford  their offspring or for their future and all in the name of religion?
A Christian evangelical movement where followers avoid contraception and have as many children as they can is spreading to the UK; from America of course. They are called “The Quiverfull.”
"Get married. Have a quiver full of kids if you can.” So said unsuccessful presidential candidate and father-of-five Mitt Romney in a recent speech to Southern University graduates. It was a conscious echo of Psalm 127.
The psalm - where children are compared to arrows for war - is the inspiration for the Quiverfull movement.
"Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They shall not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."
Christians in the movement believe in giving up all forms of contraception and accepting as many children as God gives, both as a sign of obedience to God and in a bid to ensure the future of the faith. They obviously ignore the mention of war and “the enemies at the gate.”
In the US, Quiverfull families numbering tens of thousands frequently reach up to a dozen children but now the movement is gaining popularity in other countries.
In the UK, where the average family size is a moderate 1.7 children, this makes couples who follow this evangelical nonsense stand out.
Vicki and Phil have just had their sixth child. "I feel this is the normal [situation] God created and God initially wanted, and that actually society has gone a little skew-whiff," says Vicki, of south London. (It’s amazing isn’t it how people know exactly what God wants?) "Over time, we realised that actually if He [God] wants to conceive a baby during that time, and he made her naturally desire her husband more, maybe that's what he'd prefer us to do," Vicki says. (God never whispers in my shell-like ear as to his wants so how come Vicki is so privileged?)
“God wouldn't overwhelm us with more than we could handle. One baby at a time arrived, and we were handling it, so we felt our marriage was being blessed by this choice and we continued."
The movement is growing in the UK through informal social networks and the Christian homeschooling community. Doug Philips, a leading American Quiverfull figure, is behind the organisation Vision Forum, a major provider of home education materials.
Nancy Campbell, a Tennessee-based preacher is influential in the movement. Her ministry, “Above Rubies,” advocates motherhood as a woman's highest calling. Its magazine is distributed to more than 100 countries worldwide, with a circulation topping 160,000.
For this year's European tour Campbell visited six countries in a month, preaching at women-only and also family retreats attended by like-minded couples and their burgeoning broods.
Campbell believes that many women have forgotten their biological, and for her, God-given function. "He created her with a womb. And in fact that's the most distinguishing characteristic of a woman. In the American Webster's 1928 dictionary, it says that woman is combination of two words: womb and man. She is a womb-man." (No no, come on. Perfectly logical so wipe that smile off your face.)
But there's more to the Quiverfull mindset than a love of big families. It's based on a backlash against the growing acceptance of birth control and feminism within Christianity.
Quiverfull ideology also advocates a return to "traditional" roles in the home, where women are wife and mother first of all. They are their husband's "helpmeet", (would slave be a more appropriate word? What century is this woman living in?) Designed to support him as head of the household and primary breadwinner.
One who tested her faith in Quiverfull to the limit is Vyckie Garrison, a mother of seven. Once a cornerstone of the Quiverfull movement in the US, she left in 2008. Her website “No Longer Quivering” is described as a "place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse".
Garrison suffers from a rare bone condition that made pregnancy dangerous. Her husband had a vasectomy after baby number three. But after reading Campbell and other Quiverfull authors, her ideas and the vasectomy were reversed.
Garrison continued to get pregnant against all medical advice, almost dying with the birth of her last - and seventh - child. But for a true believer, dying in childbirth is supposedly a noble act, she says.
"I really believed that I wouldn't die unless God willed that I die, and if he did then I would accept that, because obviously he's the smart one, and has the big picture and knows the whole plan." (That’s one way of putting it and I guess the smart one has nothing better to do with his time.)
There are plenty of critics of the Quiverfull beliefs. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In these situations you're giving the man ultimate power - you're saying the only one that can check his power is God," one ex-believer says.
Feminists are perhaps the fiercest critics of the budding Quiverfull movement.
They accuse it of trying to undo the equality and freedom won for women over decades of struggle, and claim that the idea of automatic male leadership is anachronistic.
But advocates say their approach to family life is both authentically Christian, (Did Jesus say anything at all about having large families?) and the best training for children to take on what he sees as the moral decay afflicting American society. In other words brainwashed in the faith yet still there is absolutely no guarantee that a child is going to grow up a dedicated Christian or even a responsible member of society.
Within the Quiverfull movement, having larger families is part of a broader plan.
"Mothers determine the destiny of the nation," Campbell says. "We're in a battle for the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. And our children are all part of that battle."
Campbell believes there are specific groups of people with high birth-rates that she is worried will soon outnumber Christians. Ah, here we get to the nitty-gritty. As usual, fear lies behind it all. "We are limiting our children. And then we are allowing other cultures to come into our nation who are having a lot more children than us. In other words we are to be swamped by Muslims. Maybe god whispers in Muslim ears about having large families.
"Gradually, down the line, the culture is going to change, without anyone doing anything except having children, or not having children," she says.
Back in south London, affecting the destiny of the nation was something Vicki could identify with. "I do think I'm raising my children to be future voters, and possibly to be future politicians, MPs." (Pathetic.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Santa Muerte

Apart from the devastating floods that have taken a number of lives, two articles of interest on the news, both about Pakistan. Firstly “it’s a dog’s life,” or death as the case may be. Dogs are considered by Muslims to be unclean, they could never be thought of as useful workers (sheep, police, sniffer, rescue, etcetera) or wonderful household pets and companions, and, sooner or later are likely to come to a horrible end, beaten to death with staves. The pictures are gut-wrenching.  The fear and pain these animals must go through does not bear thinking about. Mind you there are those in the West who are just as guilty of animal cruelty. Police in three American states have recently arrested a number of people and rescued three hundred and sixty-five dogs used for fighting and, if not fighting, treated abominably. The stories are not edifying as far as the human race is concerned. Cretans are not noted for their kindness to dogs but I think that all stems from the long Muslim occupation. It’s logical anyway and hopefully it is gradually changing with the younger generation. It’s the luck of the draw I suppose, both for humans and animals, where and when you are born.
The second Pakistan story though is truly amazing. If you were gay would Pakistan be the country you would most like to live in? I think not, and yet I read it is a gay paradise! What? Impossible! It’s a Muslim country. Amazement on my eyebrow sits. In any other Muslim country you would face either a term of imprisonment, or in some countries, certain death, but in Pakistan there is no need to remain in the closet. Come on out and join the party of which I am led to believe there are many and quite open.

Last year, police in northern Mexico arrested eight people in connection with the killing of two boys and a woman in ritual sacrifices which prosecutors said were linked to the cult of Santa Muerte.  A senior Vatican official has condemned the cult of Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, in Mexico as "blasphemous". A "degeneration of religion" Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, said. Whatever could he mean? Does he mean Christianity, the Roman lot in particular? Or does he mean all religion? Either way he is way off the mark. Religion degenerated a good many years ago. Religion is big business, nothing more. The Santa Muerte cult, which reveres death, has been growing rapidly in Mexico. It is represented by a cloaked female skeleton clutching a scythe. It is particularly popular in areas of Mexico that have suffered from extreme violence carried out by the country's drug cartels. The cult is believed to date back to colonial times. It merges indigenous beliefs with the tradition of venerating saints introduced by Christian missionaries after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. 'Anti-religious' Devotees pray to the saint at home-made altars and often offer votive candles, fruit and tequila in the hope Santa Muerte will grant their wishes. Cardinal Ravasi said the practice was "anti-religious". I see. Lighting candles in church (money in the box please) is okay, lighting candles at home is simply not on. "Religion celebrates life, but here you have death," he said.” Again I would argue with his reasoning, religion is all about death, the afterlife, God in his heaven, Satan in his hell, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, Allah, paradise and 72 virgins, whatever. Religion is not about life except to make us all in this life believe whatever they want us to believe or suffer the supposed dreadful consequences after death. No, religion is definitely all about death. “It’s not religion just because it's dressed up like religion; it's a blasphemy against religion", the Cardinal said. So why are there ornate and splendid heavily decorated churches, reliquaries, chalices, crucifixes, and the Stations of the Cross, or the Via Dolorosa as it is called? Why are there statues and pictures and paintings of saints in churches? Why the candles and the incense? Why do the clergy dress up in special vestments, changed for various holy occasions? Why does the Pope wear such gorgeous clothes? Is this not dressing up religion? The cardinal also referred to the fact that the cult is particularly popular among members of Mexico's drug cartels and accused "criminals" of invoking it. Cardinal Ravasi said a country like Mexico, where more than 70,000 people are estimated to have been killed in drug-related violence over the past six years, had to send out a clear message to its young generation. "The mafia, drug trafficking and organized crime don't have a religious aspect and have nothing to do with religion, even if they use the image of Santa Muerte," he said. There are no reliable figures showing how many people worship Santa Muerte, but academics studying the subject say more and more Santa Muerte shrines have been popping up in Mexico and the US, where the cult is popular with Mexican immigrants. If the cult includes killing and ritual sacrifice I can sympathize with the good Cardinal’s woes otherwise is it any more or any less harmful than any other religious belief?