Thursday, 30 April 2009


Here's the evidence why I don't chop down the tree in my garden that is steadily falling over!

Remember the Petition against water rates hike for churches?

Thursday 30 April 2009
10 Downing Street

Churchwaterbills: e-petition response

We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to instruct water companies to return to charging churches as charities rather than as business premises.”
Details of Petition:
“Changes in water charging structures in a number of regions mean that churches are charged on the same scale as businesses, leading to large (for example, 1300%) increases in annual water bills.”

The Government’s response
Traditionally, surface water drainage charges have been based on the rateable value of properties, as allocated by the Valuation Office. Places of worship, along with other specific groups and organisations, did not have to pay these charges because of their zero rating. Four water companies, Yorkshire (2001/02), Severn Trent (2000/01), Northumbrian (2006/07) and United Utilities (2008/09), have switched from rateable value to area based charging.

The Government supports site area charging for surface water drainage in principle, because it offers financial incentive for customers to install sustainable drainage systems which improve water quality and prevent surface water flooding. However, the Government believes that it is clearly very wrong if customers such as faith buildings, community amateur sports clubs and scout huts are facing hikes in their bills of several hundred per cent, and where there are massive variations between what is being charged in different areas by different companies.

The Government recognises the level of concern over charges for surface water drainage, especially in some areas of the country and for some groups where increases in charges have been disproportionate and insensitive to the needs of water companies’ customers.

It is ultimately for the water regulator Ofwat, the independent economic regulator of the water industry, and individual companies to agree a fair and proportionate system of charging that is sensitive to those organisations who previously enjoyed a cross-subsidy. However, Defra has made the Government’s position clear to Ofwat and to the Chief Executive of United Utilities (whose customers have been most affected, including as a result of miscalculated bills). We have also made it clear that increases in bills of this magnitude are not in line with Defra’s guidance on charging issued to Ofwat in 2000, or Ofwat’s more detailed 2003 guidance to the water companies.

In particular, Ofwat’s guidance states that companies that are thinking of introducing site-area charging need to assess possible impacts on all customers’ bills. Ofwat’s guidance goes on to state that companies will need to take into account the scale and speed of any bill changes to see if they are reasonable and acceptable to customers.

It is for individual companies to prepare their charging schemes and for Ofwat, as the economic regulator of the water industry, to review and approve them. Customers with sensitive properties, who are concerned about disproportionate increases in their bills, or inaccurate bills, should raise their concerns with their water company in the first instance or, failing that, with the Consumer Council for Water.
United Utilities has been the focus of many of the recent concerns expressed in the media and in representation directly to Defra. As noted above, Defra has conveyed its views on this issue to Ofwat and to the Chief Executive of United Utilities.
In response to such representations, United Utilities now proposes to set its surface water drainage charges for 2009/10 at 2007/08 levels for customers such as faith buildings, community amateur sports clubs and scout huts (i.e. at levels prior to the introduction of site area charging), and is also committed to finding a long term solution to this problem for 2010/11 and beyond. This is a very welcome step forward although Defra will continue to monitor this issue and engage further with Ofwat as necessary.

Comment:"and is also committed to finding a long term solution to this problem"
There wasn't a problem before some Water companies decided that here was a soft target that would increase their income. After all, they have to pay their Directors salaries and pension plans somehow.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Well, I'm quite pleased with the results.

Flixton's statue on the left - both heads were broken off and large part of Mary's neck missing .... St Margaret South Elmham's on the right, torso broken into several pieces, both heads off, and a large part of the top of Mary's head missing.

On close examination the repairs are evident, but from normal viewing distance ....

Annual Meetings

Nine down and two to go ....

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Was it something I said?

Oh how fickle ... our visitor has being giving his attentions to three other churches in the locality, outside of this Benefice. And I thought we were something special!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Taking the rough with the smooth

Life here in rural NE Suffolk is usually quiet and peaceful, but over the last couple of days there's been a strange person doing the rounds of our churches who clearly has a problem. On Monday he (she?) went into Flixton and turned both banners by the altar to face the wall, moved the crosses, and smashed the small plaster statue of Mother and child that had only been put there three days before. They placed two large volumes of "The Life of Christ" (not ours, so must have been brought with them) on the altar and left their distinctive mark in the Visitor's Book.

On Tuesday they went to St. Cross South Elmham, opened the lectern Bible to the end of the Book of Revelation and pulled the cross above the pulpit off the wall. The small weekday wooden cross on the altar was dismantled, and the icon of St. George in the porch was taken down and left lying face down on the ground.

Today it was the turn of St. Margaret South Elmham. The church banner was turned to the wall.

A wheatstraw cross taken off the wall and placed upside down in the pulpit. The small plaster statue of Mother and child suffered the same fate as Flixton's.

More significantly, a wooden cross from the windowsill was laid sideways on the altar on top of a paperback copy of a book by the satanist Aleister Crowley.

They left the same signature in the Visitor's Book.

We know when we leave our churches open they are subject to abuse, but this person needs to keep taking their medication.

It was quite a pretty statue as well. I'm going to have a go at restoring it.

Sorry if you're blonde, but ....

A married couple were asleep when the phone rang at 2 in the morning. The very blonde wife picked up the phone, listened a moment and said 'How should I know, that's 200 miles from here!' and hung up.

The husband said, 'Who was that?'

The wife answered, 'I don't know, some woman wanting to know if the coast is clear.'

Another invitation

According to my e-mail Inbox, George Nduka needs urgently to hear from me.

Sorry, George, you're going to be disappointed.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The death toll rises

Living surrounded by nature is wonderful. This evening I watched two cock pheasants battling it out for supremacy on my lawn, and neither of them took any notice of me when I opened the back door to get a closer view. However, another aspect is not so idyllic.

I live in a house of 28 windows, and every springtime birds of all ages, but mainly young, kill themselves by flying into the glass. Yesterday it was a beautiful chaffinch lying dead on the grass underneath my study window. This afternoon it was an adult male blackbird slumped in the middle of the mint, and not under any window at all!

I can guarantee that at some point virtually every day for the next 5 or 6 weeks there will be a loud thump from somewhere upstairs, and on inspection I will find a small feathered body with its neck broken lying outside and somewhere nearby.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Home from Home

Man builds chapel for wife whose church is 'too busy'

A retired watch importer has built a 12-seater chapel for his wife after she said that her own church was too overcrowded. Jon Richards, 63, built the chapel, which includes an altar, font and a tapestry of the Last Supper, next to the family farmhouse in Mappleborough Green, Worcestershire. To assemble the chapel, Mr Richards and his wife Muriel visited scrap yards and markets all over Europe in what they call a two and a half year “labour of love”.

The chapel is now being used for weekly services for the Richards’ friends and family. A local vicar has also agreed to perform home communion services four times a year. The chapel has even received requests to be used as a wedding venue, but has had to turn them down as it has not been consecrated.

Mr Richards said, "I built it for Muriel because she's really passionate about her religion but the local church is often too busy,” reports The Telegraph. "She's delighted to stand at the front of services and hand out the bread and wine to everybody then organise the music. The building is so peaceful that we often spend our long summer evenings in there relaxing when there's no service."

The chapel is only 12ft by 8ft. As a result the Richards could not fit the font they had bought inside, so they now keep it outside the entrance. All the features of the chapel, which has been named the Twelve Crosses Church, were acquired from old church buildings, with the exception of the windows which were made by a glazier who is a friend of the couple.

Mr Richards said, "The chapel is like a jigsaw puzzle of different church architecture and I would love to know the history of each part."

The Richards are still active members of their local Anglican congregation at the Church of The Holy Ascension.

Mrs Richards said, "Jon's become the expert on everything to do with the chapel – I just go in there to relax and pray."

And to think that I used to make do with a cupboard under the stairs when I could have been working on the shed inthe garden ....

In the temporary absence of Mad Priest over the border


A MAN spent almost a week in prison after he was arrested for picking up a ticket left on a train. Abidrashid Abdilaahi returned the ticket he found on a table when confronted by the guard and bought his own. But he was still arrested at Nottingham Station and spent six days in prison after police failed to book a translator for his first court appearance.

Nottingham magistrates released Abdilaahi, 41, on Tuesday after sentencing him to one day in custody for theft. He pleaded guilty to the charge. Abdilaahi's solicitor Dean Bower said he had been punished more than enough for a trivial offence. "This is not a serious offence," said Mr Bower. "The ticket was returned to its owner moments after it was taken. All that happened was he was walking through the carriage looking for a seat, glanced down, noticed the ticket and picked it up. He did not know if it was valid or not and did not intend to use it. He was then sold a valid ticket to Chesterfield, even though the person who sold him that ticket was making arrangements to have him arrested at Nottingham."

Transport police interviewed Abdilaahi with an interpreter because his English was poor. They then decided to keep him in custody, but failed to book the interpreter for court the next day. Magistrates had no choice but to adjourn his case because Abdilaahi could not understand what was going on. No Somalian interpreter could be booked until after the Easter Bank Holiday on Tuesday – after Abdilaahi spent six days at Lincoln Prison.

A spokesman for British Transport Police said an interpreter was present when Abdilaahi was charged on Thursday morning. "It was our understanding that there would be an interpreter in court," he said.

Abdilaahi, of Mere Road, Leicester, is originally from Somalia, but is a Dutch national with the legal right to work in the UK. He is a cleaner at Leicester Royal Infirmary. His lawyer says Abdilaahi is in poor health and was not given his usual medication until he had been in prison for five days. "He is poor," Mr Bower said. "And six days of incarceration have already cost him approximately a week's wages, although fortunately he believes his job will still be there for him."
Magistrates released Abdilaahi immediately. He was not asked to pay usual prosecution costs of £70.

The defendant saluted the magistrates and repeatedly thanked them as he was led out of the dock.

It is the police's responsibility to book interpreters for a defendant's first court appearance as it usually takes place within 24 hours of them being charged at a police station. Sanchia Wheeler, a civil litigation lawyer at Nottingham-based law firm Cartwright King, said: "Police officers are human and do make mistakes. However, care has to be taken where it is clear that such errors can lead to the unnecessary custody of persons and deprive them of their liberty. I feel that the officers have to answer for their actions and he deserves an apology and compensation at the very least. There should be a process in place to ensure that matters such as booking an interpreter are confirmed before their attendance at court."

A spokesperson for East Midlands Trains said: "We are working hard to prevent ticket-less travel on our trains and have already introduced a number of initiatives to prevent anybody travelling without a ticket, such as the introduction of more ticket vending machines at stations and educating passengers through posters at stations.
In addition, we will be introducing automatic ticket gates at a number of our key stations this year."

Oh - that's all right then ....

He's a persistant little fellow!

3.05 p.m. and "Alan" has just called again - this time to ask if my Sky Television is working okay. Hmmm, bit of a problem there in that I don't have Sky. I told him I knew this was a scam and to "get stuffed!"

Another 15 Hail Mary's as penance ...

Another attempt ...

... to con me.

There I was, enjoying a post-communion piece of toast and home-made marmalade when the telephone rang. Answering it I was greeted with a voice with an accent appearing to originate in the Indian sub-continent ....

"Hello, this is Alan. I just called to ask if your colour television is working okay today?"

Yeah. Right. Get lost. Prat.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Another invitiation from the Benin Republic

In my Inbox today .... and I see the sender changes their gender by the end of the letter !

You're invited to "Contact FedEX Express Delivery Services Benin Republic.".

By your host Steven Obi:

Date: Tuesday 14 April 2009
Time: 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM (GMT +00:00)
Location: Attn My Dear Friend,I have paid the fee for your cheque draft and i took it to the ECO BANK PLC to confirm it then the Manager of theBank MRBENARD UGO told me that before the check can get to you it will expire on the way and if it expired it will become useless so Headvice me toconvert $1.5m (ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) into cash and pack it into the strong iron box anddeposit it in FEDEX EXPRESSDELIVERY COMPANY BENIN REPUBLIC to deliver it in cash to you.And i did it as he advice me because heis abanker he knows the durability of any foriegn check or draft.I deposited the said package in the FedEX EXpress Delivey Company asancotton materials for secuirty reasons.This is the registration Number of your Package Fed/122p/mtm/2008 Zip Code;0113388 so do notlet the company to know the real contents of the package so that they can deliver it for you safely.I want you to contact thecompanyimmediately with the following informations though igive them your information but you need to reconfirm it for them.Below is the requiredinfomation you need to give them now,
1.YOUR FULL NAME_____________
2YOUR CONTRY_____________
4.YOUR PHONE NUMBER_________________
5YOUR FAX NUMBER________________
6.A COPY OFYOURPHOTO________________
All thesethings is needed from you now to submmit to the company for urgent delivery of your package contains $1.5M Please contact the deliverycompanyimmediately and reconfirm your info to them to enable their agent locate you when he arrived in your country.This is the company contactinfo.Rev Dr Larry Joe Director Tel;+2299327-8110 FEDEX EXpress Delivery Company Benin Republic.Please contact the company immediately you receive this email so that your package will leave tonight to be deliver toyou.Get back to me assoon as you receive your package from the company.
God Bless you.


How many kinds of sweet flowers grow ...

... in an English country (Vicar's) garden?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bank Holiday Monday

I know that clergy don't technically get Bank Holidays off since they are secular rather than Christian holidays (at least, that is what I was taught in my first post), but in practice they are quite often quieter days since every other human being is off enjoying themselves. So I wasn't too put out when asked by a couple if they could come and see me this Bank holiday afternoon to talk about their forthcoming wedding. Accordingly I haven't gone out anywhere today, but spent this morning catching up on paperwork, and the early pert of this afternoon writing the first draft of next Sunday's sermon. And now the man has just telephoned saying they can't make it today as his other half is not feeling well. I just hope it's nothing trivial.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Prophet or profit on Good Friday

I came across this cartoon many years ago, maybe as far back as the late 60's though perhaps my memory is at fault there, and I have kept it ever since. It was relevant then, and remains so today.

Processed meat products by e-mail

Some are so easy to spot. Take this one that arrived in my Inbox overnight:

From: "Sarah Pick Arson"
Size: 5882

Do I really believe there is someone in the world called Sarah Pick Arson? If there is, she has my sympathy.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Told you

Wednesday of Holy Week, and it's clear. (And not just heaved onto another surface for the purposes of taking the picture!)

It's all filth

Over at Life is full of surprises, TL has been musing on the various ways of creating a good compost. My experience has been that perfectly good compost can be made without any smell or sludge simply by piling the garden debris up and leaving it open to the air. The majority of professional advice is to cover the heap over so that the heat from the decaying matter hastens the whole process. In my experience, that is what produces the stink. An open pile takes longer, but it's odour-free, and provides somewhere warm for the neighbourhood cats to sit in winter, keeping their little bottoms warm!

As the photos show, I have two main piles - one a large open-cast heap and the other a contained box mainly for grass cuttings. We are currently digging into the big one, and you can see the quality of compost that is at the base.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Why do people fall for these?

An unknown benefactor has just e-mailed me from the Republic of Benin in West Africa.

Good Day, I wonder why I did not hear from you for your $1.2 Million, which is your own share after the sucess of our business. Is it because the money is small or what? I have deposited it with UPS COURIER COMPANY BENIN REPUBLIC IN WEST AFRICA as package box.note that UPS Do not know the content.

He then gives me an e-mail address to contact the UPS Managing Director PASCAL EZEH, and that he has paid the delivery and registration fee for me, and is leaving for London tomorrow.

All I have to do is provide them with YOUR FULL NAME YOUR CURRENT HOME ADRESS AND TELEPHONE NUMBER A COPY OF YOUR PICTURE YOUR CONUTRY YOUR AGE YOUR OCCUPATION and send them is their security keeping fee of $98 as soon as you have contacted them ok.
Dr William Udoh.

Well, Dr. Udoh, what a load of crap. And you can't spell. Go swivel.

Scrambled ...

... both my lunch and my study desk.

I have never tried scrambled eggs with smoked salmon before. I wouldn't go out of my way to find it and order it, but it was very pleasant nonetheless.

And as for my desk ... it will be clear by the start of Holy Week ... hopefully!

A little bit of culture

From a frustrated librarian's blog

Something wonderful from the far side of the world ...

Friday, 3 April 2009

Walking to a future

Just home from the rehearsal for our Benefice's first wedding of the year, tomorrow, in the church of St. James South Elmham. Nice young couple, and the church is a riot of white flowers - yes - flowers - even though it's Lent. They will be removed for Palm Sunday, so the place will look bare and stark for the close of Passiontide and throughout Holy Week. On Good Friday all the hangings will also be removed, leaving the altar naked until Easter Day. When I posted about making the marmalade for my Coffee Morning tomorrow I had forgotten that I had transferred that event to next Saturday because of the wedding. At least it's now made, and I don't have to worry about it in the midst of the extra services this coming week.

My preparations for this Holy Week are slowly coming together. I lay out the various days on the table in the hall, so that each pile can be picked up as required. At the moment there's a large bag of palm crosses and several service books that will be needed on Sunday. Looking at the Gospel reading I find that I don't like the suggested passages given us by the Revised Common Lectionary for the Passion Gospel. It's either incredibly long, or too short, so I have looked instead at the version in the old 1980 Alternative Service Book, and I think it's much better. So I shall be using that one instead. And since we have the Passion narrative to get through, I don't preach on Palm Sunday. (Sighs of relief from the congregation!) After all, the Gospel says it all, and I don't feel that I need to subject the congregants to more words after that great piece of prose.

And so the journey to Jerusalem begins, leading to stupendous and wondrous events. No doubt tomorrow's wedding couple have similar feelings about their big day.