Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Farmer and the Head Mischief

A school is a very different place when the children are not there! So after Mass this morning it was nice to have a tour of Moorlands School today to meet the staff and children. My first visit had been a Governor's meeting and there was a distinct absence of children then and no real idea of what the school felt like! Today though was different! A quick coffee in the staff room and then a wander from class to class, seeing children at their work (and play!), having a quick conversation with members of staff and children alike. 'Are you a Head Mischief?' asked one little girl. I knew what she was asking...but I was neither a head mistress or 'a head mischief!' It reminds me of one of my visits to a primary school when I was a Curate in Barry. 'Are you a real farmer?' I was asked in the playground. I didn't, at first, know what the little boy was asking. Me? A farmer? Of course not. At least, I don't think so. Was it something I was wearing? If I turned to look behind me would I see a flock of sheep that had sneaked up behind me in a Disneyesque fashion?! Ahh, farmer! I quickly told him that, 'No, I wasn't Farmer Dean. I was Father Dean. Now he had to work out what that one meant! But soon he was busy rescuing his ball from the drain! Perhaps he never gave it a second thought!

This afternoon it was another school. This time the more auspicious surroundings of the Cathedral School in Llandaff to work with a group of Year Sixers to plan a Mass for a Chaplain's conference (to be held there in February). The task today? To explore what we would do if we could change the world! There were many different propositions! From having 'Chocolate Friday' when everyone in the world was given chocolate (why stop at Fridays I thought?!) to making sure that everyone had a job or a home. Perhaps the chocolate idea wouldn't be too favourable in the eyes of the recently announced £1.4m strategy from the Welsh Assembly to tackle obesity in children aged 7 to 13 years - but perhaps it was an apt suggestion from a pupil in a school where Roald Dahl was once a pupil!

It's been many years since I picked up a Roald Dahl book to read. In fact I only ever remember reading one or two when I was a child. At the moment I am making up for lost time and making my way through the Chronicles of Narnia (none of which I have read before!) I started with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and have just started The Magician's Nephew but even though they are very slim volumes, simply written for children, I always seem to be ready for sleep as soon as I clutch the pages! It's where I'm off now I think. So it's up the stairs I go, clutching my C.S. Lewis! Maybe I'll get to the third chapter tonight before I fall asleep! I'm not sure why I'm so tired...maybe it's all the farming I'm doing!

Friday, 16 January 2009

On the Buses

I am impressed by their missionary zeal, their rapid response, their colourful collection of words clinging to the sides of buses up and down and across the country. The people behind the Humanist Advertising campaign which splashes a moving message across our towns and cities simply reads: 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.' I don't see the problem myself. The campaign was began in response to various Christian advertising campaigns that have appeared in the same place (and whose webistes promised 'non-Christians an eternity of torment in a lake of fire.' Ouch!) I'm not sure what worrying or lack of enjoyment I experience as a result of actually believing that there is a God, mind, but the Atheist advertisers have, in my mind, every right to spread their message. 'There's no God.' 'Probably' Or as Richard Dawkins says, 'Almost certainly.'

Since I gave up my car a couple of years ago I have spent much time on buses and trains and have rather enjoyed the experience. There have been a few occasions of frustration caused by late arrivals, non arrivals, delays and missed buses but apart from that I quite like travelling by public transport. For the most part things work well. The journey gives me time to think or read or grapple with the crossword or catch up with some work or watch the world go by or, rather, watching the world watching me go by. Criss crossing through each other's lives, all going somewhere, anywhere, moving on, moving away. I wonder how many of my fellow travellers worry about the existence of God or if their lives are only half enjoyed because they just don't know what or who is out there or up there or if there is anything or anyone anywhere that makes it all worthwhile.

A Christian bus driver has refused to drive a bus that carries the campaign. I see his point but I won't be waving the next bus on because of what message it carries. Rather, I shall see the irony of being carried along by a bus that proclaims that there probably isn't a God. After all, I shall be planning my school assembly (to be delivered to a mixed bag of Christians, atheists, agnostics or 'couldn't care lessers') or writing a homily or grappling with the crossword or watching the world watching me go by: making my way through my day, through my life, trying to get somewhere. Like everyone else on the bus. Or maybe, just maybe, I shall be on a bus telling me that 'Every little helps' or one that entices me to try the new Flame Grill Burger from McDonalds. Either way, I hope I shall arrive safely.

The stories may be found at: