Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mrs Rabbit and I took a wee holiday to Bruges last weekend. We hopped on an overnight ferry as foot passengers from Hull to Zeebrugge and then took a short bus trip into Bruges itself. It meant driving into England first, of course, which is always an adventure.

I'd been told solemnly that there was nothing on the other side of the border but howling darkness and incomprehensible north-country accents. Indeed one eventually arrives at a small stone with the words "England" on it which appears to have been set up by an intrepid pioneer to indicate to the wary traveller something along the lines of "this far and no further". The hills were bleaker - the sheep more bedraggled and unhappy.

But, surprisingly, civilisation did continue and we soon arrived in the city of Newcastle where the locals have set up an enormous and sinister looking angel cast in iron - called the Angel of the North - which serves as daily visual exhortation to good behaviour by reminding the Geordies of the two options traditionally offered to them by benevolent judges in past years: Death or Transportation.

The ferry trip was calm but not so calm that you weren't rocked to sleep by the North Sea swells. We arrived in Zeebrugge on a glorious morning with an orange/yellow sun low on the horizon shining through the cranes.

It was cold in Bruges - colder than Scotland had been when we left. The canals were all frozen and the ducks were wandering around looking alternately confused and irritated as they searched for open bits to swim in. At the height of its fortunes, Bruges was a port city. The estuary which gave it access to the sea silted up at the beginning of the 16th century however, and Antwerp took up the slack.

The Groeninge Museum itself almost makes the trip worth taking. This time around there were repairs going on and about half of the collection was inaccessible. Oh, and chocolate.....did I mention chocolate? Or pastries? Okay, chocolate, pastries and the Groeninge Museum.

Belgians are an odd lot. The Dutch speakers and the French speakers don't get on particularly well. Most of the famous Belgians are either fictitious or have become legendary over time: Tintin and Inspector Poirot - Jacques Brel and Sister Sourire (the singing nun).

A telling indictment of low national self esteem: One of the tourist pamphlets solemnly informs the visitor that bakelite is a Belgian invention!

Mrs Rabbit and I spent a good part of the afternoon at the Chocolate Museum where a handsome and capable chocolatier with a suitably Belgian moustache tried out his charms on the missus!

True to type

I was being teased by the members of one of my two Vestries when I first started doing little mini-sermons a year or so ago in a now-defunct daily God-slot on one of the local commercial radio stations.

Reference was made to the episode of the Vicar of Dibley where the rector was asked to do Pause for Thought on Radio Two. Nonsense, I replied, I'm nothing like the Vicar of Dibley. But, I added, the resemblance between the Vestry at St Mungo's and the Dibley Parish Council was quite striking.

They really don't help themselves either. This evening one of the wardens was giving his excuses for showing up fifteen minutes late for Vestry. Seems that he backed over a sheep coming out of his driveway this evening and had to spend twenty minutes jacking up his car with the help of a neighbour so that he could drag the poor beast from where it was pinned underneath.

I phoned him this evening to enquire after the sheep's health. Apparently it's a bit lame and not a little irritated but still alive and expected to remain that way.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Battle of the Buses

There are 800 buses trundling around the UK today bearing the slogan 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life". The organizers of this campaign suggest that this is merely a 'positive' counter-campaign to some group or other who had 'Jesus died for your sins' slogans plastered on the sides of London buses in 2008. These apparently also bore a link to a website that described the Lake of Fire in which non-Christians would inevitably be plunged by obliging angels on the last day.....or something of that sort.

Not to say that 'free thinkers' (as opposed to the rest of us who are in chains) wouldn't have come up with such an idea on their own.

Anyway - this appears to be a battle between fundamentalists of different parties and shouldn't concern right-thinking Anglican people one whit. It's not all about Richard Dawkins' need for publicity - but that portion of the campaign which is about Richard Dawkins' need for publicity could probably be identified without binoculars.

Given that Charles Darwin was once seriously considering a vocation to ordained ministry and that most mainline church clergy have little problem with the evolution of higher life forms from lower life forms, I suggest that the deadly conflict between the two is overstated.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Port of Zeebrugge, early morning. More to come.