Thought For The Day

Thought For The Day – Bonfire Night – 5th Nov 2019

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Remember, remember the fifth of November…

Guy Fawkes was by no means the only conspirator in the gunpowder plot, but he’s succeeded in being the man we most associate with it. His claim to the day was immortalised by the mask used in the graphic novel and film, ‘V for Vendetta’, where the character V is masked as Guy Fawkes throughout. Since then, demonstrators against parliaments and powers the world over have worn the Guy Fawkes mask, because it says at the end of the film: ‘V was you…and me. He was all of us.’ Read More

Thought For The Day – Sharing The Harvest – 24th Sep 2019

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This weekend was Harvest Festival. When I was little, we’d set off to church for it, laden with bounty from the garden – marrows and broad beans; redcurrants and gooseberries – and we’d decorate every corner of the church with our harvest offerings. The altar would be surrounded by sheaves of corn and elaborately plaited bread, and we’d sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ like we’d all personally done so. Read More

Thought For The Day – Forgotten Places – 20th Aug 2019

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In Scotland we’re famous for majestic unspoilt landscapes, and there’s some unusual proof that some of them are really quite empty of people: in the rankings of the least popular Ordnance Survey maps in the UK, Scotland claims all of the top ten. If you watch Landward on BBC Scotland, you’ll have seen a recent episode where the team took on the challenge of visiting the area covered by the map at number 1: OS Explorer 440, covering an area in the Highlands, north of Inverness. As soon as the team arrives, they see an osprey, then a lizard, then a beautiful waterfall: not quite the featureless landscape one might assume from it being so decisively overlooked by the map-buying community. Read More

Thought For The Day – Fair Play – 15th Aug 2019

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Strange things are happening in cathedrals down south. In Rochester, they’ve installed crazy golf; and in the nave at Norwich you can slide down an enormous helter skelter. No news of anything like that in Scotland, yet. But if you’re from St Andrews, the news in August has always been about the fun of the fair. The rides might not be inside the churches, but the whole town grinds to a halt every year, as one by one, the main streets are taken over by the Lammas Market. It’s said to be Europe’s oldest surviving medieval street fair, and it’s been running now for over 900 years. Read More

Thought For The Day – The Wrong Person – 14th June 2019

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I wonder if you might join me in a thought experiment. Imagine there’s a new rule, that everyone whose birthday it is, has to attend the same birthday party. Today, in one corner you’d have Steffi Graf and Boy George, eating cake and comparing notes on the paparazzi. In the other, you’d have Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, chatting to Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America. Can you imagine that conversation? Let’s make it a bit more weird. Say in heaven – if they all make it there – you continue this birthday tradition. These four would be joined by Che Guevara, the South American revolutionary; and Judith Kerr, author of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Sam Wanamaker the director would be there too, to capture the whole thing on film. Read More

Thought For The Day – It’s My Birthday – 5th Feb 2019

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It’s my birthday today! The great thing about birthdays is that even if the sheer excitement of presents and parties tends to wane with the years, what doesn’t change is that feeling deep inside that somehow it’s your day. It feels as though the moment of your birth caused such an outburst of joy from everyone near and dear to you, that the echoes of it keep reverberating down the years, so you feel buoyed up by it again on every birthday. Read More

Thought For The Day – Blessings – 10th Jan 2019

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January’s a tricky month, emotionally speaking. It contains Blue Monday, statistically the saddest day of the year, a calculation based on weather conditions, levels of debt, and the length of time since Christmas. Crucially, enough time has now passed for us to have already failed to keep our new year’s resolutions: we know we need to take ourselves in hand, but we currently lack the motivation to do so. And for many people that means insomnia, as we while away the wee small hours fretting about our failings. Read More

Thought For The Day – Index

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I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website and this post serves an index to these pieces.

5th November 2019 – Bonfire Night

24th September 2019 – Sharing The Harvest

20th August 2019 – Forgotten Places

15th August 2019 – Fair Play

14th June 2019 – The Wrong Person

5th February 2019 – It’s My Birthday

10th January 2019 – Blessings

2nd October 2018 – Choices

4th September 2018 – Weather-making

23rd August 2018 – Festival Season

25th July 2018 – St Anne

8th June 2018 – Sabbath

29th March 2018 – The Royal Maundy

8th March 2018 – International Women’s Day

19th January 2018 – Loneliness

14th November 2017 – The BBC

30th August 2017 – Bridges

18th August 2017 – Sad News

27th July 2017 – The Sleeper

11th May 2017 – Blessed Transactions

28th April 2017 – Passing Places

28th February 2017 – Pancake Day

2nd February 2017 – Groundhog Day

1st November 2016 – Red Letter Days

Thought For The Day – Choices – 2nd Oct 2018

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As rescuers struggle to reach the victims, the death toll from the tsunami in Indonesia keeps rising. Our screens are filled with pictures of devastation and grief, and we wonder how on earth anyone can bear it any more. We seem to be hearing about extreme weather events too frequently these days, and too many people are dying. Thanks to the aid agencies, we can offer practical assistance to the communities affected, but our over-riding reaction to this news is often a sense of powerlessness in the face of natural disaster. Tsunamis and hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, are all considered ‘Acts of God’, even by insurance companies, who often won’t pay out for them, because they’re not caused by human hands.

So we turn to our religious leaders, seeking soothing words about meaning and purpose, and we observe with relief the inspiring outpourings of humanity that tend to accompany life’s worst episodes. And sometimes religious words help. There’s even a specialism within theology that devotes itself to making sense of the evils that happen, in spite of a loving God. But I wonder how much longer we can continue to blame all of this weather on God.

Yesterday saw the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commissioned by the United Nations. 3 years in the making, it involved 86 lead authors from 39 countries. They’ve combed through all the scientific literature, on the feasibility, impacts and costs, of achieving a 1.5 degrees centigrade ceiling on global warming. The good news is they reckon it can be done, if the world takes some very tough steps, which will require massive global governmental consensus and action. But the report also asks us to look again at our lifestyles, to try to make more of a difference through our own everyday choices. In the olden days, God made the weather. Well, we’re making it now, and that’s a rather sobering thought.

Meanwhile, this dreadful news makes us all think about what it must be like to lose everything. In sending all love and strength to everyone suffering in Indonesia, let’s also hold our own loved ones close today.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.

Thought For The Day – Weather-making – 4th Sep 2018

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In Mexico, the car-maker Volkswagen is being criticised for overuse of Hail Cannons. To avoid damage to the new cars they store outside, they’ve invested in vast machines that fire waves of pressure into the air to prevent hailstorms. But the farmers around them are claiming that this also prevents rain, so their crops are failing. Cloud-busting has been going on for quite a while. For their Olympics, the Beijing Weather Modification Office used 21 rockets around the city to fire silver iodide into the clouds, to make the rain fall before it reached the capital.

And manipulating the weather has been a motivation for religion since time began. We’ve had sun gods and rain gods, gods of thunder and gods of the winds, and we worshipped them to seek a measure of control over the weather. The Bible itself is full of weather phenomena – Noah’s flood and the famous rainbow; it raining quail and manna during the Exodus; Jesus calming the storm; and the sky turning black on Good Friday. In those days, God made the weather. But these days, we make it; not just through cannons and rockets, but through how we live. The choices we make, and our addiction to fossil fuels, are contributing to the slow baking of the earth. And while it can feel like we’re too small to take on such a big global issue, perhaps we could all join the dots more than we do.

We’re getting better at carrying shopping bags, to avoid the 5p charge for a plastic one, and hopefully reducing the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans and in landfill.  But there’s still a lot of plastic in our clothes. Nylon can take 30 to 40 years to break down in landfill, so perhaps the next thing we could work on is how to re-use and recycle our clothes, so we’re all doing our bit to make the right sort of weather in future.

We’re also getting better at working with the weather, and finding ways to harvest it too, through forests of wind turbines, and fields of solar panels. Of course Scotland has pioneered hydro-electricity for many years, given that we’re often blessed with wet weather. And as Autumn starts to be felt, perhaps one day, we’ll find a way to do something productive with all those Autumn leaves, too.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.