Darwin DayTuesday, Feb 10, 2004Charles Darwin was born on 12th February 1809. He didn’t do especially well at school, being more interested in bugs and beetles than in Latin grammar. His father thought he ought to study medicine, but Charles quit medical school after less than a year, saying he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. He went to Cambridge instead, and developed an interest in geology and natural history. In 1830, one of Charles’s teachers learned that they needed a naturalist on a Royal Navy survey ship, the Beagle, which was due to sail for South America, and Charles leapt at the chance to go.
What to wear at funeralsTuesday, Jan 20, 2004As you know, I do funerals. That is, I conduct Humanist funeral ceremonies. Some think there’s a form of etiquette for funerals. What matters, surely, is being well-mannered, considerate, and sensitive to the feelings of the bereaved. I don’t think it matters what you wear, as long as you behave in a respectful manner. Strangely, some of the rudest, most disrespectful people I’ve come across have been buttoned-up elderly women who’ve talked in carrying whispers throughout (they’re probably the same ones who talk during the matinees at the Wolsey Theatre), or deaf people who’ve ignored the available loop system, sat at the back, and asked their neighbour ‘What did she say?
Following the crowdTuesday, Dec 30, 2003When I was in my teens I lived on Merseyside and worked in a bank, and when I didn’t have to work on a Saturday morning I used to go hiking around North Wales with my best friend for the weekend. Catching the ferry across the Mersey at tea-time on Fridays meant wading through a crowd of commuters all going to Birkenhead and beyond. Many of them spent the short time on the ferry walking around the deck in the same direction – clockwise.
Womens RightsMonday, Dec 1, 2003Next Sunday, the 7th December, I’ll be contributing to the annual Celebration of Human Rights at the Unitarian Meeting House in Ipswich at 10.45. This year’s theme is Women’s Rights, but there is precious little to celebrate. Maybe that seems pessimistic of me, but I can’t help feeling that because the majority of women and girls in this country enjoy more freedom and independence than their great-grandmothers enjoyed, we’ve become complacent.
HalloweenThursday, Oct 30, 2003When I was a child my parents were members of a Caledonian Society, a social club for Scots people. They had children’s parties several times a year and one of them was for Halloween. At that time I didn’t have any idea how it originated, I just knew that it was fun to bob for apples in an old tin bath, carve a pumpkin lantern, and dress up in a scary costume while the grown-ups pretended to be frightened of me.
Let it rain!Friday, Sep 5, 2003It’s nothing personal you understand, as I’m sure they’re all very nice people, but I’m getting a tad irritated with weather forecasters. Whenever they mention that there’ll be more fine dry weather they tell us it’ll be lovely, and every time they hint at the prospect of a spot of rain they sound positively apologetic. The earth in my garden is rock hard, the grass has turned brown, my water butt is empty again, and in any case I really don’t have the time or energy to lug cans of water around to my poor parched plants.
The literature of death and bereavementSaturday, Aug 23, 2003A talk given at Ipswich Crematorium’s Open Day by Margaret Nelson in 2003 My mother died suddenly at a party at my sisters on Christmas Eve, just after shed demonstrated how to do the can-can to some children. I dont what they thought about a woman in her mid-70s doing high kicks, but she was very proud of being able to kick her own height. I told her it was time to go because I still had things to do for dinner the next day.
Robert G IngersollWednesday, Aug 13, 2003In a way, doing Thought for the Day might be considered good training for a political candidate, as most politicians these days have to present their ideas in as few words as possible. We live in a sound-bite age. There aren’t many people who can hold an audience in thrall with a speech lasting two or three hours, rather than the two minutes I’m being allowed this morning. I’ve only heard a couple.
Art & LifeThursday, Jun 19, 2003If Sue Lawley asked me to go on Desert Island Disks, my luxury item would have to be a regular supply of chocolate. It would be more difficult to choose just one piece of music. My favourite varies from week to week. I’ve been listening to a new Hoagy Carmichael CD this week, so Stardust is my current favourite. And which book would I choose? Again, that’d be difficult, but if I were shipwrecked in the next couple of weeks maybe I’d ask for Staying Alive, an anthology of poems edited by Neil Astley.
Michel de MontaigneSaturday, Mar 1, 2003Michel de Montaigne I’m fond of quoting the French humanist Michel de Montaigne. He died on the 13th September 1592, but his observations are as relevant today as when they were written. At forty-two Montaigne had a medal struck with the words, Que sais-je?, meaning What do I know?. Hes best remembered today for his essays, where he examined what he did or didnt know, accepting that we cant know everything, while questioning everything.