I would like to wish all my blogging friends a very Happy Easter. I hope you all have a peaceful time.

Although I am not religious, I respect those who are, and appreciate the spiritual comfort they get from their faith.

However you are celebrating the season, be safe and well.

A Biblical Association

Readers of my fiction serials will be aware that my current story has a religious theme. The header graphic accompanying each post is a quotation from The Bible, The Book Of Revelation.

Those of you who have read up to the most recent episode will be aware that the direction of the story is taking a darker turn. And that it has little or nothing to do with religion.

However, many of my most recent ‘followers’ do not seem to have read past the first episode.

In the last ten days, I have ‘welcomed’ at least fifteen new followers whose blogs are packed with religious quotations, ‘fire and brimstone’ preaching, or just a lot of basic ‘God Stuff’.

Once again, I conclude that many ‘followers’ do not actually read the post, and only follow because of a few words or tags that they spot as they trawl WordPress looking for recruits or converts to their own brand of religion.

Sorry, you lot. I haven’t followed you back.

Not a single one of you. Maybe you should give up on me?

But then you would have had to actually read something to come to that conclusion.

Hanukkah 2020

As usual, I forget these religious festivals, and have to rely on Kim to remind me. So this time, I am reblogging her post.
Happy Hannukah, everybody!

By Hook Or By Book


Tonight marks the first night of the Festival of Lights and I’d like to wish all my Jewish friends Hanukkah Sameach! I’m also turning this annual post in one a little more humorous this year so I hope no one minds.








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Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Chocolate, and hot cross buns

It’s Easter. I had to be reminded of the fact, as I am not (and have never been) remotely religious. All over the world, committed Christians are celebrating perhaps their most important religious festival, and I am more or less oblivious to their devotions.

I get mixed up. I thought last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, but that was wrong. But some things I am sure of. At Easter, we get chocolate eggs, as gifts. (Well most children do, anyway) And we can also buy hot cross buns. (They are not hot, unless you heat them up, which few people do now. But they have a pastry cross on them, for religious significance.) Trouble is, when I was young, you could only get those buns on one or two days of the year, obviously around Easter time. But now, you can get them all year round, so almost everyone has forgotten what they mean.

Same thing with those chocolate eggs. They used to be in the shops from the middle of March, but now they appear just after Christmas, being sidelined briefly for Valentine’s Day. Then there are Easter Cards (who sends them?) and small fluffy chick toys. They also pop up in early January, so by the time Easter arrives, they have usually been bought, put away, and forgotten. And Easter moves around. It is never on the same day, so it seems to an unbeliever like me. That makes it harder to keep track of, let’s face it.

Then there is the weather. In the UK, Easter is a long weeked. People are off from Thursday night, until Tuesday morning. But it’s at a time of year when the weather is notoriously unreliable in the British Isles. The redoubtable people of this sceptred isle still tend to go away somewhere anyway, if only to visit relatives, or to sit in a caravan by the coast. Then they can look at the grey skies, listening to the children complaining, as the rain beats down on the roof. Add to that the schools get a two-week holiday during some of the worst weather of the year, and you can guarantee a lot of very unhappy under-18s will be bemoaning their fate.

In some places, including many parts of the UK, religious people will be joyously celebrating whatever it is they celebrate at this time of year. Good luck to them, and I wish them well.

For the rest of us, it is too much chocolate, buns that are not hot, and too much time off, in abysmal weather. And no shops open on Easter Sunday, not even the greedy supermarkets. But that’s a good thing.

Happy Easter, to one and all.

Blogging stuff: Religion

Along with the other trends in following I mentioned recently, I feel that I have to mention something else that is beginning to reappear at a rather alarming rate. I have noticed that some followers and commenters lately have been of the ‘Bible-bashing’ variety.

Personally, I do not think that blogging is the place to expound your religious ideas, or attempt to convert those who do not share them. I don’t mean those general bloggers who also mention going to church, attending Easter services, or enjoying a family christening. You know the sort I mean.

Their blogs are full of fire and brimstone, thanking the Lord for everything that happened, including that morning’s sunrise. They often blame natural disasters and terrorist incidents on God’s displeasure, and warn that only bad things will happen unless we all start to believe in the same things as them. These blogs are often disguised. They have innocuous names that do not mention religion, or gods. Click on the blog to leave a ‘thank you’ for following, and you will see that it is comprised almost entirely of fiery scripture quotes, and entreaties for you to do things like ‘follow the right path.’

They mean the same path as them, of course.

I have no issues with religious people. Many find real comfort from their religion, and it helps them lead a happier life. Some take inspiration from religion to do good things, and others are peaceful and contemplative because of their beliefs. I would not use this blog to attack them, and I certainly would not use it to try to stop them believing in their gods. On the other hand, as an atheist I do not appreciate being lectured to about something I have no interest in.

I know, I don’t have to read them. And I don’t. But I do not like the way that they ‘sneak in’ by commenting on posts, and by having blog names that disguise their true purpose. So, at the risk of upsetting some genuine people, and perhaps losing many potential new ‘followers’, I have this to say to them.

1) If you are a fundamentalist religious person, please ignore my blog.
2) Do not like or comment on my posts as a way of getting me to look at your own blog.
3) Please do not follow my blog in the hope of being followed back. It will never happen.
4) Use a title for your blog that gives you away for what you are, instead of concealing the fact.
5) Enjoy your religion. Say your prayers and thanks. Go to your meetings, or whatever it is you do.

Believe in what you want to believe, and live a long and happy life. But just leave the rest of us alone to follow a different path. The one we have chosen.

400 Today

This is the 400th published post on my blog. Four hundred articles, tens of thousands of words, numerous video clips, but only two photos. Countless hours spent in research and verification, as well as avoidance of plagiarism. Many more hours spent physically typing the posts, tidying up the blog, replying to comments, and liking and commenting on other peoples’ posts. The time spent thinking up themes and ideas, recalling a long life, jobs, relationships, holidays and experiences; that cannot really be measured. It is a constant process, and has almost become an unconscious one.

When I started this blog, in the late Summer of 2012, I had no idea what to expect. I thought it would be perhaps a dozen articles, about moving to Norfolk, and discovering a new life in the countryside. I was very wrong about that. Despite ups and downs with popularity, times when it all seemed too much to bother with, and highs when I have received wonderful praise, it has become an integral part of my life. A day without looking at the blog, checking what others are doing, or thinking up things to write about, has become unthinkable. It is like a job. An unpaid job, but one that you really like doing, so you don’t worry about the terms and conditions, holiday entitlements, or dinner breaks.

I have seen blogs come and go during this time. Most, if not all far more entertaining than mine; better conceived, slickly presented, and glossily illustrated. I have been sold to, preached at, criticised, and applauded. I have been on the receiving end of misinformation, scams, mad people, zealots, and weirdos. I have had to learn to sort the wheat from the chaff, the genuine from the false, and the worthwhile from the worthless. If I had bought every book, get-rich scheme, better skin treatment, potion, lifestyle option, keep fit programme, and dietary wonder that I have had pitched at me, I would surely be bankrupt. If I supported every cause, every campaign, and championed all the worthy organisations that have appealed for my help, I wouldn’t have had time to write a word. If I had decided to follow all the different religions, cults, scientific pathways, and spiritual nirvanas proposed to me, I might well have ended up in an insane asylum. This is the downside of blogging, the constant bombardment of other people’s money-making schemes, and crazy ideas.

Luckily, I declined all of it; became a member of nothing, a consumer of nothing, and a believer in nothing. As far as I am concerned, they wasted their time. In the back of my mind, I do sometimes worry about the one percent that apparently fall for this stuff, and what it may have done to their lives. The Internet (and Blogging) has two faces, and you have to make sure that you are always looking at the right one. I consider myself lucky to have chosen well, and to be part of a small but valuable community of thinkers and writers who are all striving for much the same thing, and finding like-minded individuals to accompany them on their journey.

The good side of Blogging is without compare. It brings freedom, friendship, the power to express thoughts and ideas, and to amuse, entertain, or inform. It releases weights, empowers people, and might even change things for the better, at least in individual lives. It develops skills, improves communication, and reaches out across the planet. There is absolutely nothing to compare to it. No best-selling book, or Oscar-winning film gives such a personal message, or records the life of someone so well. No eulogy can match the physical reality of a life’s work, left behind for as long as the Internet exists, for the edification of future generations, and the information of descendants. Most of us around my age have only some faded old photos, or perhaps some cine film to watch, or dried out letters to read. In the future, our blogs will be our legacy, our lives today there for others to see, in perpetuity.

That’s why it’s all worth it.

London Life (1)

Until this year, I lived almost all of my life in one or other district of London, starting in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, which were then working class districts of South-East London. Then there was a gap, when my Dad moved us to Bexley, which was then in Kent but is now a London Borough. I later moved back to Clapham, then to Wandsworth, when I married. Going up in the World, so we believed, we moved the short distance to Wimbledon, where I stayed until 1985, when I moved back to Rotherhithe, specifically the part known as Surrey Docks. This was no longer just a working class district, as the regeneration of Docklands had radically changed both the area, and the people that lived there. After many years there, I eventually found myself in Camden Town, the now fashionable area just North of London’s West End, where I stayed for 12 years, until moving to Norfolk. So, I had lived in South East, South West, and North London, missing out only the extremes of the East and West at either end.

For those of you who do not know London, it must be said that it is a vast place. From Barnet in the North, to Croydon in the South, is a road distance of almost 24 miles, and from Dagenham in the East, to Hounslow in the West, nearly 30 miles. This is an area of 720 miles, all heavily built-up, with an incredibly dense population, and severe traffic problems. That population is very diverse, with inhabitants from almost every country in the World, speaking hundreds of different languages, and bringing their own cultures to the areas where they have chosen to settle. Yet Londoners are also strangers in their own, forbidding city. Many rarely leave the areas in which they live, except to commute to work, or seek entertainment.

Crossing the Thames from one side to the other is usually done underground, on the vast tube network, as using a car in the central area is a waste of time, and parking is at a premium, day or night. Most buses run the full 24 hours, and can be a good way of getting around, providing you know in which direction to take one in the first place. Only tourists sit in the front seats upstairs though, it just isn’t cool. And you don’t talk to anyone, unless you have to, it just isn’t done. No point asking directions anyway, as chances are the person you ask will either not speak English, or be as lost as you are.

It is just too big. As a result, Londoners have learned to live in the districts, turning them into small villages inside the Metropolis, each with a unique character. Street markets still thrive, though it is doubtful you would ever see them, as only the locals would know where they are. I am not referring to Camden Market, or Petticoat Lane, as these are on the tourist trail; I mean the old London markets, such as East Street, Roman Road, and Chapel street, where crowds still flock to do ‘normal’ shopping.

The original London, The City, is a place all to itself. Housing the financial district, St Paul’s cathedral, and The Barbican, it is self-governing, self-policing, and packed full of fascinating history at every turn. Teeming with workers during the day, it becomes almost uninhabited after dark, and at weekends, and eerily quiet, except for the small area in and around Smithfield meat market. Names you may have heard but that meant nothing to you, like Tottenham, Fulham, or Hendon, are in fact areas that are busier than most large towns in Britain, with a population to equal those too. Some Londoners live all of their lives in one or other of these areas, without ever feeling the need to travel around, or to move house; some because they have no choice, others from preference. There are districts associated with rich people, and expensive houses, like Chelsea, Kensington, or Hampstead. In reality, they are home to large numbers of ordinary working people also, and many were formerly the poorest areas of the Capital.

The River Thames is more than a river flowing through a major city. It defines your part in London Life. Whether you live North or South of it, what bridge or tunnel you use to cross it, views from bridges or embankments from one side or the other, and the iconic buildings and areas lining its banks, the Thames is everything to London. The former docks and wharves that were once the lifeblood of the Capital, providing its very reason for existence, and employment for a large part of the population, are now long gone. They have been replaced with pleasant walkways and open spaces, such as The South Bank, or attractive riverside dwellings, out of the financial reach of most of the inhabitants. It is cleaner, and the views along the river are better as a result, though I am not convinced it is really an improvement. Riverboats still ply their trade up and down the Thames, but these days, they are for tourism and entertainment only, as the few commercial ships that you see will be taking London’s rubbish to be dumped somewhere.

The once bustling pubs with river frontages, are now offering nouvelle cuisine, and welcoming coach parties of Japanese tourists, to enjoy a taste of ‘Real London’. Still, there are now cormorants fishing off the piers, and fish such as salmon have found their way back to the shadow of Tower Bridge, so that is something to be thankful for, I suppose. And there are the bridges. They are mostly spectacular, and something that I genuinely miss. London at night is enhanced by its bridges. There is the simply unequalled Tower Bridge, which still occasionally rises, to let large vessels pass, and the great concrete slab of Waterloo Bridge, which has always afforded the best view of London from anywhere in the centre. Further West, the bridges of Albert, Battersea, and Chelsea, illuminated by hundreds of lights, give a fairground appearance to their surroundings. If you ever visit London, make sure to take the long walk along the embankment from East to West, as the dozen or more bridges you will see on your way (there are more of course, but you will not walk that far) will tell you as much about London as anything else you may discover.

Religion is well catered for, though many of the ‘ordinary’ Londoners are far from religious beings. There are numerous Synagogues, catering for the large Jewish population, of almost 200,000. More recently, Mosques have appeared all over the City, including the grand and imposing main London Mosque, just inside Regent’s Park. There are Protestant and Catholic churches in abundance, including large cathedrals, as well as smaller churches of every denomination you could think of. The Hindu Temple in Neasden is worth the long trip North-West, as the building is stunning, and all are welcome there. There are places of worship for Hare Krishna devotees, Quakers, Mormons, and of course, Jehovah Witnesses. Alternative religions are well catered for too, and you will find the offices of Scientologists, Christadelphians, and even the Secular Society, for agnostics. For a City that seems to have put religion aside, it is exceptionally well served, nonetheless.

For most visitors to London, whether foreign tourists, or Britons attending a sporting event, or going to see a show, it is only the centre that they experience. The Theatre District, Chinatown, Soho, Oxford Street, or the large parks. For Londoners, these are communities too. Only yards away from the strip clubs and gay bars of Soho, lives a community that has existed for centuries. Social housing, deprived conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment, all cheek-by-jowl with wine bars, night clubs, and theatres showing the latest big musical. You only have to listen to the constant sirens, or attend a hospital A&E department, to realise that something other than entertainment and shopping is really going on all around you.

You cannot ever hope to understand London unless you live there. You don’t have to actually be a Londoner, as I am. In fact, a minority of the inhabitants of London actually originate from there. It is a magnet for the whole country, as well as the World outside the U.K. There are as many Irish people there as can be found in Dublin, and Scottish accents are as familiar to Londoners as cockney ones. It could be argued that ‘real’ locals are dying out, as they move to the suburbs, escaping unaffordable housing, or just trying to get away from the hustle and bustle. But London has always had a diverse population, since the Romans first bridged the Thames, so it is more accurate to realise that there is no such thing as a ‘true’ Londoner; residence is the only qualification.

This is the City of my youth, my middle age, and the very thing that defines me. Though I no longer live there, I have no doubt that I will always be perceived to be, and to feel inside, a Londoner.