Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

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Etiquette For Visitors To Britain

I do hope you will accept my most sincere apologies for this. It’s just that my pores are seeping with vitriolic indignation at the moment.

We have a gentleman who landed on our ‘green and pleasant land’ several years ago, who has remained here at Her Majesty’s pleasure far longer than we wished him to. He simply doesn’t seem to understand the fundamentals of social etiquette.

From the very start, the venerable Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, has not been a very considerate guest. Since his arrival he has deliberately and actively promoted the most extreme and repugnant jihadist causes, narrowing his venomous and malicious attention upon vulnerable people across our country. He has maligned and denigrated our social values and beliefs, nor does he even bother to put the toilet seat up! As HRH might discreetly say about our guest; ‘we are most displeased!’

Clearly, Mr Qatada never bothered to read any books on social etiquette, nor listen to advice from such social luminaries as Ita Buttrose. Had he done so he would have known the old maxim: whether fish or house guest – both begin to smell after a few days.

After years of our politely hinting to Mr Qatada, Othman, Moth Man - whatever you want to call him, we finally had to step outside of our normal traditions of hospitality and tell him ‘Go Home Abby!’ In fact, just as an enticement, Her Majesty’s courts pointed out to Mr Qatada, that there was a sincere and earnest invitation from his native country of Jordan, where they would absolutely love to have him come home. They were keen to see his holiday slides and hear more about what he has been up to.

But Mr Qatada has dug in his heels. He’s afraid that should he return to Jordan, he might be faced with a lifetime of having to eat falafel and chic peas again, rather than our lovely traditionally British fayre of jellied eels, winkles, and spotted dick!

Being the wonderfully generous hosts the British are known for, we bought him a lovely new orange jumpsuit and prepared to place him on an Easy Jet flight back to Jordan. Je finis!

Sadly, our ministers had failed to appreciate how utterly envious Mr Qatada has become of our great British lifestyle. He too wants to have his own free house, along with free medical visits to the proctologist, and eye glasses prescriptions, and especially his free packet of cash fortnightly. He has become far too enamoured with our lifestyle to return to his own.

After spending years of watching american telly re-runs of Judge Judy every morning, Mr Qatada became enticed by the commercials featuring little Gumby-like figurines, screaming about how they’d been given the wrong ladder, or had tripped on a banana peel at the zoo and could now collect thousands of pounds for this travesty. Mr Qatada recalled all the times when he had slipped on bars of soap in the shower, and had to be helped a bit by his cell-mate – a rather large chap named Herschel, whose father was once a famous Zulu warrior.

So he got on the phone and called the National Terrorist Help Line demanding justice! His solicitors jumped into action. Clearly Mr Qatada’s rights had been violated. He claimed we had been torturing him on a daily basis; he was forced to sleep on down pillows, when he had specifically asked for foam. And not once – not one single time during his stay here had he ever been offered free breast-implants on the NHS! So off to the courts his solicitors went.

Look, we’re British. We don't subscribe to the practise of excessive huggy-feely, mawah-mawah air kissing of cheeks kind of stuff. Her Majesty’s Courts simply said ‘Thank you for your visit. It’s time for you to go home. And by the way, we’ll give you a pack lunch of salmon and cucumber sandwiches.’ But this simply wasn’t enough for Mr. Qatada. He certainly wasn’t having any of it! Firstly, who would EVER fly on Easy Jet? He wanted access to the First Class Lounge at Heathrow and to fly on British Airways... And there would be none of that ‘Premium Economy’ nonsense; at the very least, he expected to be in Business Class!

But we demurred. We felt certainly we had done enough and it was time for him to leave. In a conciliatory moment, Her Majesty’s Courts did agree to up the ante just a bit and offered to provide a ‘collectors edition’ DVD box of Coronation Street shows. Our reasoning was that our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, had sent the same thing to Barack Obama and he never once wrote to complain. If it was good enough for ‘The Pres,’ surely it would impress Mr Qatada. Apparently not.

Today the National Terrorist Help Line has contacted Mr Qatada, telling him that they’ve obtained an injunction against the United Kingdom, preventing us from flying him back to Jordan. They had secretly obtained a copy of British Airway’s new in-flight menu for Business Class. Nowhere on the menu was there a mention that Cardamom coffee would be provided. This is an appalling and malicious violation of Mr Qatada’s rights.

Now, rather sadly, The European Court of Human Rights has issued a mandate prohibiting Her Majesty from sending Mr Qatada home! Their leading reason is about Jordan. They have a fear that Jordan might be worried Mr Qatada has been here so long he now may be using language we hear on Gordon Ramsay’s cookery shows. Their tender ears are far too sensitive to be subjected to such foul language.

Now we’re facing a paradox. We can’t keep Mr Qatada in prison. We’re required to release him into society where he could start selling Amway products or Time Share holidays. To keep him at Her Majesty’s pleasure is a violation of his ‘rights.’ Nor can we send him home as this could be a violation of his ‘rights.’ He may have some overdue library books and the Jordanians take a grim view of these things. SO what do we do?

To coin a phrase from a vapid commercial featuring talking meerkats with Russian accents; ‘Simples!’ We give the venerable Mr Qatada a choice: He can either go home to Jordan with a complimentary package of nappies. (because he’s gonna need them after he gets through answering the questions Jordan has for him.) OR, he can try another slant on what freedom means.

He can have a long-stay holiday, where all his ‘rights’ are respected, where the food is good, and the weather is warm, at Guantanamo Bay Cuba.

There. Done. We’ve given the Venerable Mr. Qatada freedom; Freedom of choice: He may choose between the life he has created for himself, or the life for which he is accountable.


A Postscript:

Whilst this essay was clearly written tongue-in-cheek there is a powerful message here about Great Britain and Human Rights. Whilst Mr Qatada's behaviour is the very antithesis of what our nation stands for, we have an obligation to protect him. Sure, it's easy for us to just throw up our hands in surrender and pop him on a plane back to Jordan. But the reality is that he most probably would be subjected to torture. For this reason, we cannot. We cannot because the very freedoms he ridicules we celebrate, with pride. Our parents and grandparents gave their lives so that we could live within that freedom. And regardless of whether the individual is a despicable scallywag, or just an idiot, we must protect him just as we would our own. We must because anyone who declares safe harbouring from oppression - we must give every consideration to the facts at hand. Yes, there are people who not only manipulate those freedoms, but flaunt them before us and laugh about it. I suspect Mr Qatada may be one of those wholly distasteful individuals. But what separates the UK from those countries who walk over the human rights of others is the fact we practice what we preach. Yes, it can be difficult at times, but we must. We must at all costs stand for our nation's values. Hopefully we will find a way within those laws to send Mr Qatada on his way. I certainly have no intention of inviting him over for a fish dinner any time soon. It is with a firm resolve that our nation will always be respected and seen as a model for what the meaning of freedom is.

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Mothers Day? Is it Just for Women?

I’ve always tended to look upon our school headteachers as wise captains of ships, full of young impressionable minds. A headteacher’s wisdom and guidance serves to nurture and inspire those dedicated teachers who give so much of their lives to help develop our nation’s children towards adulthood.

So I was shocked to read that Helen Starkey, the headteacher of Johnstown Primary School in Wales, made the decision to ban Mothers Day. Well, in fairness, as I understand it, she has banned the children from preparing Mother’s Day cards, and any associated events. Her reason was not out of cruelty, but I suspect, more so as a result of falling prey to the advancement of America’s commercial marketing grasp on the rest of the world. According to Mrs Starkey, her reason was out of ‘sensitivity,’ as five percent of her students were separated from their natural birth mother.

Here in Britain Mother’s Day is actually known as Mothering Sunday, and is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. However, it has no association with the American holiday in May known as Mother’s Day, or as some cynics call it, (me being the leader of that cynicism!) ‘Hallmark Day.’

The original translation from Latin is a derivative of ‘Refreshment’ or ‘Laetare Sunday,’ during Lent: the first words of the opening prayer of the Mass are Laetare Jerusalem (Rejoice Jerusalem), and honour is given to the Mother Church. The extension to actual mothers was gradual, and evolved at time when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants, were given a day off to visit their family.

Now it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and cards to their mothers. But it can also be recognised, in its truest form, as a time to recognise those who practice the act of mothering. The dictionary defines ‘mothering’ as ‘to care for or protect.’ It is not gender specific. Unfortunately, as the distance between continents become shorter, the commercial aspects of this date overpower its broader and possibly purer origins.

‘Mothering’ comes from carers, nurses, male parents, or anyone who serves or cares for others, those who provide loving, nurturing care as if they were the mother to the individual. These people are so often forgotten or ignored and I find it heartbreaking that due recognition is seldom given. The individual who has cared for an invalid or elderly person, who needed mothering in its truest sense, may be forgotten this Sunday and at all other times.

Most Sundays in the year churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or ‘daughter church.’ Centuries ago, it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit the main church or Cathedral of the area.

Over time the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. (It’s difficult to comprehend that less than a hundred years ago children who were as young as nine or ten would leave their village home to work in cities like London.)

And most historians believe that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their families. As they travelled along country lanes, children would collect wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

The American holiday, which has sadly become so commercialised, began in 1912 when an International Mother’s Day association was formed, as a result of the efforts of a Methodist spinster, who recognised the importance of strengthening family ties. The United States Congress passed a joint resolution marking the second Sunday in May as ‘their’ official ‘Mother’s Day.’ It was then proclaimed as a national holiday.

The American date failed to catch on in countries where the US didn’t have strong influence or control, because within the resolution was the mandate that the American flag be displayed on all homes and government buildings in reverence to the mothers of America. It just smelled a bit too nationalist for other countries.

No matter who it is that nurtures, cares for, supports, defends, helps and loves, they certainly deserve accolades of gratitude, praise and love. Today, above all, please don’t forget to recognise them, no matter where in the world you may be!

And if you simply can’t think of anyone at all….you could always hug a priest. There’s not enough of that either!


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