Tag Archives: Rowan Williams

Friday the 13th

Fascinating Aïda used to sing a song called Taboo. One line was about inviting a vegetarian to a barbecue. In the case of Daughter yesterday, it was more about the wisdom of asking the vegetarian to order the food for the AstroSoc barbecue for Freshers’ week. I have no wish to ask for more details as to what she actually bought. (Grilled mushrooms anyone?)

The event was shared with the Physics students (might be Quantum Soc?), who wanted them to have a plan B in case of rain. It won’t rain, Daughter told them. And, you know, Astrophysicists are surely that little bit closer to any potential rain, so would know what’s coming. That’s my theory.

It was Friday the 13th. Did you notice? My travelling went better than the date made me expect, but I suffered the ignominy of being mistaken for a woman who goes to Blackpool. By the time I got to Manchester Piccadilly the platform was full of (superficially) similar women, all heading for fun in Blackpool. I changed trains in Preston, and the Grandmother later told me about the time when she did that, and a kindly man tried to tell her she didn’t have to, because it was a through train to Blackpool. (He found it hard to grasp that she wanted to go to Glasgow.)

I spent part of the day reading about devils and demons. In two separate books. What are the odds? I expect the date helped. First I read a short story about The Good Little Devil (with my breakfast, if you want to know). Then I moved on to John Connolly’s latest Samuel Johnson book, which as the disCERNing fan knows features CERN and the Higgs Boson.

Once Daughter had got the barbecue going, starring whatever devilish veggie-burgers she could muster, she left the two Socs to their fate and grabbed her gown (academic, not dressing) and dashed downtown for her meeting with Hillary Clinton and Peter Higgs.

Hillary Clinton at St Andrews

It wasn’t a threesome, but when people like that come to town, you go and see them. At least if you’re so boring as to having applied for tickets before the star turns became publicly known. As it happens Professor Higgs didn’t come. But what Daughter forgot to mention was that Hillary Clinton wasn’t exactly alone.

Rowan Williams. Mary Beard. Tim Berners-Lee. Jane Goodall. To name but a few ‘nonentities’ who were there. Apparently the former archbishop said his only claim to St Andrews fame was having married two of its former students.

Hillary Clinton at St Andrews

I mentioned Glasgow. Like the Grandmother, I went to Glasgow, where I overheard someone talking about crayfish kebab. Walking from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street I came across a poster for safe sex. No, I didn’t. I looked again. Surf and Fax was being offered. So did I hallucinate that crayfish kebab?

Once I’d reached my destination I learned that the Hungarian Accountant is in town. But also that Eoin Colfer isn’t.


The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I’m no Archbishop, but I’ll have a little go with Philip Pullman’s latest book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, which is such a mouthful as to make it almost impossible to talk about. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it, but thought that since I usually like Philip’s writing, there was no reason to make an exception for something where he tries to stir up the church. Except Rowan Williams seemed not stirred at all. I think he was meant to be, and it’s only because the man is quite reasonable, as Archbishops go, that he could say he liked it.

Did I like it? If I say I’m not sure, it’s an indication of how well written it is. Because I was so drawn into this new version of the life of Jesus that it was hard to see it as fiction. So I can totally identify with any Christians who become enraged with it, despite it saying in large letters on the back ‘THIS IS a STORY’. Most will still not remember that when tempers warm up.

Philip Pullman, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

The other hint to its status as fiction is the small detail that there are twin brothers, Jesus and Christ. But after that I sort of lost the plot. I struggled to come to terms with who was bad and who was good, if such a division could be made. I was pleased, and relieved, to find that I seem to have learned more than I thought, back in primary school. There was nothing new here, with the possible exception that I’ve never read much from the Bible in English.

There was no good or bad in the end. What Philip shows us is the two sides to Jesus. He simplifies the reactions to Jesus from those around him. Jesus doesn’t always come across as a ‘nice guy’, but I think Philip was more after the church than Jesus. It feels very anti-church, which I suppose is only to be expected.

TGMJATSC is different from Philip’s usual fairy stories in that it seems to follow the original far more than we’ve seen elsewhere. There was more of the New Testament here than there is of Cinderella in I Was a Rat, for example. And maybe you can’t have people laughing at Jesus, which explains the lack of jokes.

I don’t like the title. I didn’t find Christ to be a scoundrel at all. And I would have thought that was the whole point.