Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

March 2006

PoliticalFriday, March 31st, 2006, (7:29 am)

The United States 66th Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is visiting the British portside city of Liverpool today where she is expected to get a less than warm welcome.

On Thursday the local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, called her coming “The most unwelcome visit to Liverpool since Oswald Mosley came here in the 1930s.” Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley was a British politician principally known as the founder of the British Union of Fascists.

Dr Rice is first visiting Blackburn to repay a visit British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made to her home town in Alabama in 2005. She will then attend a gala concert at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to celebrate the city’s status as European Capital of Culture 2008.

This is the first visit to the region by anyone from President Bush’s administration which is, to say the least, very unpopular throughout not just in Liverpool but the whole of Great Britain. A website at was set up as soon as Dr Rice’s visit was announced.

Dr Rice is of course no stranger to seeing, and ignoring, demonstrators. But if she was under the impression that the British public share support for President Bush in the same way as our beleaguered Prime Minister, Tony Blair, she will certainly be disappointed.

Several groups have already planned many peaceful demonstrations opposing not only the war in Iraq, but many of America’s foreign policies. A planned visit the Masjide Al Hidayah mosque in Blackburn was said to have been cancelled due to safety concerns, though later it emerged that the mosque simply withdrew their invitation to the US Secretary of State under pressure from the local community. The Muslim Council of Britain, the largest lobby group for the UK’s 1.6 million Muslims, said the cancellation was not surprising given hostility towards US foreign policy.

Such is the extent of bad feeling toward Rice, a representative of American politics, that the security surrounding the most protected woman in the world is being stepped up. City workers have even been ordered to make sure paving slabs are secure so as they will not be able to be thrown at the US Secretary of State!

Faith & ReligionTuesday, March 28th, 2006, (5:39 pm)

What’s wrong with the Church? Why is it that less and less people are going to Church these days? Is it because society no longer feels the need to be seen as ‘being good?’ Or is it because ‘the church’ as a body (particularly the Christian church) simply doesn’t know how to speak to people anymore? What do YOU think is wrong with the church?

I’ve been reading a Xanga of a pastor from Texas, a guy who, on the face of things, seems like ‘a good bloke’ as we would say here in England. Admittedly he does keep a loaded Glock 9mm in his closet, as well as a 12 guage shotgun and a 30-06 rifle, but he lives in the wild wild west where gunfights are common place and a part of everyday life (according to his friend). But aside his need for firepower, ‘Deputy David’ as i like to call him, seems like a guy who is at least trying to do ‘God’s great work.’

In a recent post on his Xanga he posed the question to his largely Christian readership ‘what would the perfect church look like to you?’ It’s an interesting question to ask in the ‘land of the free’ where the religion of consumerism outstrips all others, and where vast shopping malls seem to have become cathedrals of the new age.

The answers he got were interesting, if not unexpected. Some nice ideas were raised by church attending Christian folk, but nothing ground-breaking. I pondered the question myself, wondering what indeed would be ground-breaking? How could church as we understand it evolve? I drew a blank.

I don’t know much about the history of the Christian church. By that I don’t mean Jesus and the Bible, I mean the church as in the people who get up early on Sunday morning to sing songs and listen to a sermon. But it seems to me that in the last 100 years or so at least, the formula of ‘church’ hasn’t really changed that much. I might even argue that the little change there has been is out of step with the way in which society and culture has changed in the same time period.

So while Deputy David, the gunslinging Texas pastor, might be curious as to what makes a church perfect for you, I’d like to ask you what makes the church not so perfect for you. In other words I’d like to know why it is that you DON’T go to Church. Not because I want to preach some hellfire and damnation you understand, I’m just trying to get a grip on what it is that prevents so many of us from finding our place in the modern church, however modern that may or may not be.

The formula of a Sunday morning service with singing, notices then a sermon (or ‘message’ if you use the modern term) is tried and tested and serves the church well. But aside the introduction of drums, electric guitars, a relaxed dress code and the occasional tattooed pastor, has anything really changed in church?

If Christians believe that the unsaved are destined to “burn in eternal hell” surely the church should be looking for something that serves those people rather than itself. The concept of a Sunday service seems, to me at least, rather outdated, insular, and uninviting. It feels like flat-pack fellowship to me. Quick and easy to set up, a bit cumbersome and awkward at times, often coated in an attractive polished veneer, but ultimately disposable.

The doors of the church may well be open wide, but it looks like these days it’s going to take more than the offer of a free cup of coffee and eternal life to get people to walk in.

GeneralTuesday, March 28th, 2006, (10:51 am)

Well after months of regular visits to the dentist (albeit the dentist is just next door) all the work on my bad tooth has been completed. So, I can now smile again. Yay!

As some of you may be aware I had a 1.4cm titanium dental implant pit in to my jaw a few weeks ago. I’ve had to wait for the bone-graft to work and the gum to heal before I could have the rest of the implant and new tooth fitted. Since the removal of the bad tooth, a lateral incisor I’m told, I’ve had to put up with a crown and in the last few weeks a rather dodgy looking dental fascia.

The last few weeks have been the worst though. The fascia was simply a bit of plastic styled to look like a tooth that was used to fill the gap in my teeth while the jaw and gum healed. It was effectively just a tooth shaped bit of plastic that was simply glued to the teeth either side. It was problematic as it was constantly working loose.

The fascia actually looked okay, but I felt like it looked strange, and therefore it had a quite profound effect on how much I smiled. As stupid as it sounds I really tried hard not to smile a lot because I didn’t want people to see the rather ugly gap at the top of the fake tooth, a gap that had to be left there in order for the gum to heal.

The funny thing is that in the last few weeks I’ve also felt kind of down, something which is almost unheard of for me. While there are a few things that have contributed to this, I sincerely believe that not smiling hasn’t helped me in the slightest. The tooth is in, it looks just like the rest, and once again I can smile without worry. And as foolish as this sounds, I really am very very happy about that!

Working in the club taking pictures for their website I often get people say they want pictures with me (don’t ask me why – I have no idea!). Normally I’ll jump right in and snap a pic, but I’ve avoided that in the last few weeks, in fact the fascia tooth became so unstable in the last couple of weeks I avoided going out altogether!

The work has come at a considerable cost though. Nearly $4000 in total. But I’m happy to pay it really. I had no idea how ‘connected’ I am to my teeth, in a sense of I had no idea how having a tooth issue could actually knock my usually unshakable confidence.

So now I’m fixed I feel great. The tooth feels all smooth and strange in my mouth. I have just one more appointment at the dentist next week to see how it’s going and to discuss if I want a small amount of silicone gum put at the top of the tooth where it emerges from the real gum. But for now at least I just feel like I’ve been put back together again. And at last I can smile as much as I did before!

GeneralSunday, March 26th, 2006, (10:54 am)

My Aunt, my Dad’s much only sibling, died last Sunday. She’d been fighting bone cancer and was at home recovering from a bad turn. She was 84, much older than my Dad who knew her more as a mother figure than a sister. I, of course, only knew her as ‘Auntie Doris.’ A jolly lady who lived with Uncle Ken in what my childhood memory had as a huge house with a magical garden in a leafy suburb of London called Chorlywood.

Uncle Ken died way back in 1984. He too succumbed to cancer, and very quickly too. But his death never really affected me as I hadn’t really known either of them particularly well, and as a child I must confess I was more interested in their magical garden rather than them.

The strange thing is that Dad and I were talking on the phone on Sunday when I called to say Hi. We’d been chatting for about half an hour or so when he announced he had some “rather sad news.” I guessed at what the news would be as it surely wouldn’t be that important to have taken such a back-seat in our conversation. “One of the dogs has died?” I said. “Well no. I’m afraid Auntie Doris has.” He replied.

For a couple of seconds I said nothing as my brain struggled to put the death of my aunt into context with this conversation about recycling that we were having. Did my Dad really just tell me in that matter-of-fact way that his sister, his only sibling, had just died?

Terrible as this may seem to say, I didn’t even know she had cancer. I hadn’t seen her for nearly 10 years, and it wouldn’t have been much less than about ten years before that time that I’d last seen her too. So right then I didn’t feel a loss, I was just shocked that Dad mentioned this almost in passing.

Her funeral was on Friday. That’s pretty quick by any standards I imagine, though I’m no expert in these matters. I was in Essex (near London) anyway this week attending to various meetings, seeing my Grandmother ‘Yogi’ and my Brother too. I don’t often go down south as it’s so far away in English terms, and I had planned to leave on Thursday and head back home but when I learned the funeral would be Friday and that both my Brother and Sister wouldn’t be able to make it, I felt like I should attend if only for my Dad’s sake.

Friday was overcast and foggy following a week of good weather, classic movie funeral weather I thought to myself. I got to the crematorium with quite some time to spare so I sat in my car and watched another funeral party arrive, the people all dressed in various black suits and officially mournful looking clothes.

When Mom and Dad arrived we went and joined the others waiting for the hearse to arrive with the coffin. We followed the coffin in and the funeral got underway. It turned out auntie Doris was a Christian, and loads of people were there to celebrate her life.

Her youngest grandson gave a moving tribute and toward the end as the Vicar was talking about “saying goodbye to Doris” my Dad started to cry. The strange thing was that my Mom did nothing. She didn’t comfort him at all. I looked across at her and couldn’t believe she wasn’t making any attempt to comfort her husband, so I put my arm around my Dad. That was the first time I think I have ever done that, certainly in a way of support like that. It really choked me to tell you the truth.

Afterward we gathered outside and friends and relatives greeted one another. It struck me that we were the outsiders. People would speak to us and some even said to my Dad “I didn’t even know she had a brother.” ‘Way to be sensitive’ I thought to myself.

The experience made me feel sad that I didn’t know her better. I felt quite disconnected, but the funeral also demonstrated that I come from an emotionally fragmented family. My mothers inability to comfort Dad as he cried made me feel sad. I’ve often said we share the same name but not much else and that was a graphic demonstration on that very fact.

The wake was held at auntie Doris’s house, the house with the magical garden. We chatted for a while with Christine and Andrew, my cousins whom I haven’t seen in more years than I can remember. The house wasn’t nearly as big as I recall, but of course the last time I was there I was just a child.

The immediate family were in the living room and dinning room, huddled together like team players on a time out. We stood in the hallway marooned with another couple who knew Ken when he was alive but weren’t really close to Doris. And although we were family we were distant, like Hawaii from America.

I wanted to walk around and talk to people, meet my cousins grown up kids whom I had never seen or known there names before that day. I wanted to chat with Doris’s friends and maybe learn a little more about her, and perhaps my father too. But I couldn’t, I felt like a crasher, and more importantly I wanted to just be by my fathers side on this day.

In the end my parents and I went into the garden, to say goodbye to it I suppose. I wanted to see it one last time, to take a few moments for myself to remember uncle Ken and auntie Doris as I knew them, and maybe even to say sorry for the fact that I didn’t know them better.

PoliticalWednesday, March 22nd, 2006, (3:24 pm)

Okay, some all together not very encouraging responses to my last post. Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply, many new commenters and hardly any regular commenters oddly enough.

So I have another question. President Bush’s war on terror is now well into it’s 4th year so perhaps I can ask you all how you think that is going? He said he would rid the world of terror, but it seems from watching the media, and even fictional TV and movies, that we’re more scared of terror now than we ever were. Is this merely an acceptable blip in the terror scale, like a rise before it’s crushed? Or is the President’s war failing?

After 9/11 the world felt a great sympathy for America, but now it seems not unfair to suggest that President Bush has squandered nearly all that good will among foreign nations. Further more it actually seems like President Bush has managed to create a very serious level of anti-American sentiment from countries and former friends who actually rallied alongside the United States in the wake of September 11th 2001.

I’m curious to hear what some of you might say to the claim that Osama bin Laden has effectively won his war so far in that he has managed to change your life, restricted your freedoms and reduced your liberties. Through fear it might be claimed that he continues to have the upper hand as homeland security is stepped up and liberty is pushed aside in this war against terror.

Certainly though it can’t be ignored though that there haven’t been any more attacks on American soil. Though Spain, Australia (via Indonesia) and Great Britain have all suffered attacks. And in Iraq alone (now the ‘front line’ of the war on terror) American tax payers spend one hundred and seventy seven million dollars a day and that’s only the cost of that action is cash terms.

Can President Bush seriously expect to win a war on terror? Lets use a unfathomable amount of imagination here and say the middle east becomes a home for peace thanks to America, what then? Where does the war on terror move then?

Is it unfair to suggest that President Bush is in actual fact losing his war on terror, and that if Osama bin Laden wanted to affect the freedom and liberty of those in the west, one cannot ignore the fact that he has achieved this already.

GAME : September 12th

GeneralSaturday, March 18th, 2006, (8:36 pm)

With America being celebrated among Americans as “the land of the free” I’d like to ask you a question. What is your idea of freedom? What does freedom mean to you. Do you consider yourself more free than others, and what do you use to measure your freedom?

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