Friday 30 December 2022


 Louise and I have established a programme of films from our DVD and Blue Ray collection for evening watching during Advent, and then from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6. We watched Frank Capra's 1938 masterpiece 'You Can't Take It With You' last Friday, 23 December. It may have been a year since we last saw it, but the film had lost none of its charm or meaning. There were even sequences which had me exclaiming with joy, 'This is a socialist film!' That makes it a real Christmas treat.

The Capra film that took two Oscars in 1938 - Best Director and Outstanding Production for Columbia Pictures 

Of course, with Frank Capra (1897-1991) things are sometimes not quite what they may seem. That is what I have learned, now I have been inspired by his films to find out more about the man. There is a moment in You Can't Take It With You, towards the end, when Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, the eccentric American idealist who doesn't understand why he should pay taxes to the government, refuses to tell James Stewart, in the role of  Tony Kirby, the young banker, the whereabouts of the woman he loves, Vanderhof's granddaughter, Alice Sycamore, played by Jean Arthur. 'I'm not and never will be a snitch', says Grandpa Vanderhof. 

But Frank Capra learned to compromise and became a snitch himself.

His biographer, Joseph McBride, in 'The Catastrophe of Success' (1992) wrote:

'How long Capra may have been informing before September 1951 cannot be determined from the available evidence, but it was as early as 1947 that he "began to act strangely, to look for 'villains'". (p.604)

This was around the time the Hearings on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began in Washington and the McCarthyite witch-hunt started, seeking to purge the USA of any trace of the 'red menace': Communism. The world of the witch-hunt was not a rational world, not least when the heat was turned up on Hollywood by HUAC with its 1951 round of hearings. Two Hollywood figures of note, Sidney Buchman and Michael Wilson, probably never knew that Capra had named their names to the security board. Both men's careers were soon severely damaged. Capra had not collaborated openly with the committee so the American public never knew for certain what Capra had done - and Capra

Thursday 22 December 2022


 If you identify as a Christian - and there is a wide spectrum of beliefs about what the term 'Christian' means - then it is a given that there was and still is something special about the charismatic carpenter-turned-preacher who lived around two thousand years ago in Palestine. 

If you identify as a Humanist - and declare there is no God - then you still might have more than a passing interest in the person that 19th century theologians called the 'historical Jesus'. Intellectual curiosity might mean you want to find out more about the historical person called Jesus - what did he say? what did he do? why was he killed? why, after his death, did he become the focus for a religious cult who believed he had been restored to life and was actually the Son of God? 

You might also be intrigued by the question: 'What did Jesus look like?, knowing that the historical reality was bound to be different from the Caucasian stereotype of western popular imagination. In fact, Israeli archaeologists and British forensic experts collaborated in 2015 to develop a computer model of the face of Jesus based on forensic archaeology. Led by the retired medical artist Dr. Richard Neave, formerly of the University of Manchester, the images constructed by the team of scientists suggest that Jesus of Nazareth might have had a wide face, with dark eyes, short dark hair, a bushy beard, and olive-coloured, tanned skin. Dr. Neave and his team based their reconstruction on the analysis of three Semite skulls which had been dated to around the same period when Jesus lived, combining the data with anthropological references. 

A computer image of what Jesus of Nazareth may have looked like
 - my acknowledgements and thanks to Popular Mechanics, the magazine in which this image first appeared. 

I am one of those modern, liberal Christians who do not take the bible as the literal word of God. That is our common ground with Humanists. Instead, we turn to what we see as a precious gift: the tool of de-mythologizing. We take the traditional, orthodox stories in the biblical text, root them in their historical context as any good historian would do - and then try to tease out what is timeless and of universal significance in these tales from the past. Our instincts tell us that there is much fruit within these stories. As Quakers would say, we are following the Light - the Spirit is leading us to truths that are timeless and

Tuesday 20 December 2022


 I haven't posted on COVID since mid-October when I was sharing the news that Europe was facing another wave of the pandemic with the continent's medical authorities fearing that vaccination rates were still not high enough. The British Office for National Statistics no longer give their updates as regularly as they used to - and they have become more selective both about what data is shared (displaying statistics for England only is usual - UK statistics are harder to track down) and how that data is presented (last week, I read that deaths from COVID were over 150,000 - the number accepted by the scientific community is in excess of 208,000 - such an attempt to play down the catastrophe of COVID in our medical history is an insult to the memory of those who have died from this deadly disease). 

Please note that I still wish to spread a Christmas message of cheer as well as send a warning. That's why this post is illustrated with screen shots from my inimitable Jackie Lawson  online Advent Calendar. I do recommend you get one next year - and explore what fun and games are available right now on their website. 

Jackie Lawson Screen Shot - 1

The media were remarkably silent about COVID as we approached Advent and then entered this Christmas season. I waited. I knew what the medical and scientific authorities had been saying in October and they were unlikely to have changed their minds. When the weather turned colder and people moved indoors and gathered together, infections would increase. Their thoughts, their voices, were simply not being given air-time or press-space as the warm autumn season turned colder. Why? It is difficult not to conclude that the pursuit of profit was yet again trumping public health needs. I go into Sainsbury's for a weekly shop on Monday mornings and I am now amongst the 5 per cent who are still

Sunday 11 December 2022


Patrick Cockburn in the 'i' newspaper published today (10.12.2022) writes:

 "Britain has entered an era of legalised larceny by the politically well-connected some 150 years after the Victorians ended what they execrated as the "Old Corruption".

By this term, the Victorians did not mean only practices that were illegal but all the behaviours which had enabled the ruling elite to obtain jobs and money through patronage and partisanship.

As Cockburn notes, the best-known achievement of the Victorian reformers who wanted to root out the cancer of corruption from the political world was the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 which paved the way for a British civil service open to all through public examination. I would also add the legislation that ensured that, by the end of the Victorian period, corruption had been outlawed from all public elections. 

Yet now we are viewing example after example of what I shall term 'administrative malfeasance' in public office. It is a term I used in 'Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic' (2022). In June 2020, the UK had the highest figure of any country in the world for deaths per million from COVID. I wrote:

"There must be a reckoning. Those of us on the receiving end of injustice need to believe in the possibility of legal redress. ... In my reading a couple of months ago, I learned of a Spanish senator who was attempting to take their prime minister to court on a charge of administrative malfeasance because of his government's failure to respond to the pandemic with the kind of rational and humane insight that other countries such as New Zealand have shown. Amen to that." (pp.35-36).

Two and a half years later, this Tory government is on its third prime minister and desperately doing all it can to ensure that any pandemic report which may emerge in the distant future is a white-wash. Read my book to get the truth. 

Baroness Michelle Mone of Mayfair - Wikipedia image - in 2013 - now under investigation, seeking to clear her name.

Read the allegations against Baroness Michelle Mone over PPE procurement. Notice how many of the worst ingredients of the "Old Corruption" are re-emerging in modern Britain. Here are some highlights from the Wikipedia article on Mone, who was made a peer in 2015 by the then Tory PM, David Cameron:

Born in October 1971,[1] Michelle Allan grew up in Glasgow's East End. She recounted how she had lived with her family in a one-bedroomed house with no bath or shower until she was ten.

She left school aged 15, with no qualifications, to pursue a modelling career.[3] At 17 she met her future husband, Michael Mone, and by 18 years old, she was pregnant with her first child, Rebecca.[3] She then converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and married Michael, an anaesthetist's son from a Catholic family.[3]

Business career[edit]

Mone obtained a marketing job with the Labatt brewing company and, within two years, had risen to become its head of marketing in Scotland.[3] She has since said that she invented qualifications to help get the job there.[3] She was then made redundant by the company, prompting her, at the age of 23, to set up her own business using the redundancy compensation she received from Labatt.[3]

MJM International[edit]

In November 1996 she founded MJM International with her then-husband Michael.[4] In August 1999, Mone launched the Ultimo lingerie brand at Selfridges department store in London. Mone came up

Thursday 1 December 2022


 My statistical records tell me that I have published 411 blogposts since January 2016 when I first became an online blogger. To be honest, I cannot remember them all which makes trawling through them an interesting adventure. Sometimes, I come across a post, read it - and exclaim to myself, "That still reads well. This is still relevant. This is worth re-circulating". When I re-read the post I published on 31 March last year, that was my reaction. Its title then was: 'WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY DO I WANT AND IS IT THE SAME AS THE SOCIETY WE NEED'. Today, I republish it with tweaks here and there to take account of the Quaker perspective that now shapes me.

The blogpost began with a thank you to my friend, David Siggers, in Brent in London. Sadly, David died earlier this year - see my tribute here. Here is how it developed:

"David recently sent me another gift - this time, a book: 'Alone in Berlin' (1947/2009), written by the German author, Hans Fallada (1893-1947). David wrote: 'the protagonists reminded me of you and other bloggers drip-drip of information against this government'. Thank you, David. Sam Munson in The National wrote that Fallada's work is 'the great novel of German resistance ... (and) deserves a place among the 20th century's best novels of political witness'. Philip Hensher in the Independent describes the book as '(Fallada's) heartbreaking tale of futile resistance in Nazi Berlin'. I am fifty pages in; there are around 600 pages in all. I am hooked. It is gut-wrenching.

(I did - slowly - finish reading Fallada's masterpiece. Emotionally, I could only take twenty minutes or so exposure at any one reading.) 

When a democracy slipped into dictatoship - and fear governed every encounter

I began my formal resistance to the new government in the UK the day after they were returned to power back in December 2019 - see this link here - but you will have seen if you opened the link that my warnings pre-date that General Election at the end of 2019. From my political and social and spiritual perspective, as a Christian socialist, I find what has happened over this last decade - and particularly in this last last year and a half - deeply troubling. 

Who else thinks so? I was inspired to wrote this blogpost today by an article in one of my two daily newspapers: the 'i' (the other one is the 'Morning Star'), written by the columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, under the title: 'Racism and sexism stalk this land that I no longer recognise'. Here are some

Tuesday 29 November 2022


My online research into booksellers tells me that Waterstones has more than ten copies still for sale; Amazon has one copy for sale and more are on the way; eBay has at least five copies ready to purchase, complete with Nectar points. Copies of which book? My latest book, published by Matador in February this year: 'Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic'. 

Front and back covers, complete with two American reviews and one from The Netherlands

If you visit the Matador website, using this link - press here - you will find ten reviews, all positive, and a further link to buy your own copy. No pressure, but I see much more of the money from the sale this

Tuesday 1 November 2022


 An intriguing title for a blogpost - or perhaps a turn off. Who has the time to read the English bard these days? Why focus on a medieval Italian poet? Why prioritize Beethoven when there are so many other composers of music? Why single out Rembrandt when other artists abound? Nevertheless, this blogpost focus will give me an opportunity to explore some threads that my recent reading has highlighted. I would like to try to unravel them. And you may find the outcomes interesting. 

Professor John Took

Let me start by referencing a book that I finished reading a week or so ago. It became clear to me almost at once that this volume was one of the most difficult-to-read volumes I had ever encountered. I could only manage twenty minutes at a time. But I persevered because I sensed that the author was communicating ideas that were profoundly important. The book is published by Bloomsbury at £20 and is called 'Why Dante Matters - An Intelligent Person's Guide' (2020). The author is John Took. Googling the title will show that I am not alone in finding the work heavy-going; indeed, there is little

Sunday 30 October 2022



THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE - 'Io rescues Odysseus' (2016) - oil on canvas - by Claire Healey

Dear Rob,

For a sizable chunk of my 24 years, I’ve been witnessing Britain’s political decline. I’ve watched as our institutions faltered, our social safety nets were systematically dismantled, and our leaders grew ever more obsessed with their own power instead of their responsibility to the public. The worst part is that I’ve always known it doesn’t have to be this way. 

My choice of an image to illustrate Matt Gallagher's statement that it doesn't have to be this way - there was an alternative - there was a socialist vision fit for the 21st century and I heard it in person outlined by Jeremy Corbyn at Heartlands in Cornwall in 2017 and 2019.   

Not unlike millions of my peers, I want to build a positive future for myself and those I care about. I can speak for many in my cohort when I say that the optimism is draining, and the dread is setting in. We’re facing down environmental calamity, a broken and unequal economy, rising authoritarianism, and a political system ill-equipped to do anything at all about it. It would be nice if the people in charge were looking out for us, but they’re nowhere to be found. 

I’d also like to live in a country with values I can get behind. Kids really shouldn’t be going hungry, we shouldn’t be price gouged by energy companies making record profits, people shouldn’t need to work multiple jobs to survive, we should probably do something about the destruction of the natural world, migrants shouldn’t be treated as sub-humans – I could go on. I know it could never be a straightforward task, but I’d do my bit to support a government if I trusted that they cared at all about any of those things. It’s quite clear at the moment that they don’t.

A former PM behind bars - see this link for the case against the man - press here.

The last year in particular has been particularly eye-opening. Boris Johnson finally resigned after an insane amount of scandals and a record of lies longer than the Bible. Liz Truss barged-in unelected and did decades worth of damage to this country (and my generation’s livelihoods) in just 44 days. Now, we’ve been blessed with the supposed “return to normalcy” that is Rishi Sunak. As you might have guessed, I’m not exactly convinced. 

Rishi’s vision is not a hopeful one for me, nor I suspect for many others. For one thing, Sunak’s attitude towards environmental issues seems absolutely ballistic. As someone who studied climate science at university, I’m astounded that he’d opt out of even attending the COP27 climate summit, which is pretty much the bare minimum a leader can do anyway. Considering three quarters (75%) of adults in this country express concern about climate change according to the ONS, his complete indifference is insulting not just to me, but to most of the country. 

Wake up and smell the collapse of the world we once knew.

Then we’ve got the cabinet from hell. These are not the kind of people I’d trust to have my back, or even the kind of people I’d grab a pint with. People like Therese Coffey, who said Sunak can take a raincheck on COP27 because it’s “just a gathering in Egypt”. People like Dominic Raab, who is back in action and keen to remove our human rights. People like Michael Gove, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Boris Johnson through every lie and scandal. 

What about Kemi Badenoch, who fought valiantly to make it harder for people to vote, or Gavin Williamson, who was previously dismissed for leaking confidential information as Defence Secretary? Even ignoring Leaky Sue, it’s not exactly a super team of principled leaders. 

What these appointments show me is that Rishi Sunak is completely unserious about actually solving any of the massive problems affecting people my age. These people only think about themselves. No matter how many times the revolving door spins, all this group can produce is a bunch of self-indulgent narcissists that care far more about their careers, titles, and promotions than the state of the country. 

I’ve learned that if I want to live in a better world, I’m going to have to fight for it. These are not problems that can be fixed by asking politely.

Another fighter - Greta Thunberg - August 2018 

For that reason, I’m glad to be working with Open Britain to defend, strengthen, and renew our political system. I’ll never give up on the idea that we can build a system where people like me have an actual voice, and can elect leaders who fight for what we believe in. We know how to start: let’s get proportional representation, get the money out of politics, get our rights back, and begin the construction of something that actually works for all of us.

All the best,


Matt Gallagher
Open Britain


It's your support that makes this movement possible.
Thank you!

Saturday 15 October 2022





SARS-CoV-2 - the virus in a variant form 

I bring you the latest graphs from my online searches and trust that you will read and inwardly

Monday 10 October 2022


 I have been publishing blogposts since January 2016 -  405, to date. This one celebrates my friend, Nick Wilkinson, and his art.

Nick Wilkinson creates an impact - and degrees of resolution - at the Jupiter Gallery in Newlyn, September 2022

Most of my blogposts have been political, but three score and more have been personal, concerned for instance with the role of art in both my life and Louise's - and our contact with Penwith artists, here in Cornwall. Here's one that looks at my own work as an artist when I was much younger:

This one is the third in a series shining a light on my wife Louise's textile art exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in St Ives in 2019:

This one highlights the work of Lee Stevenson, a Penwith artist who painted my portrait in 2020: 

And this one celebrates the work of other Penwith artists I know and whose work graces the walls of our home:

All of which brings me to the focus for this blogpost today - a celebration of the work of Nick Wilkinson. I first met Nick, a fellow dog walker, around four years ago. We talked well together. There was a sense we had things in common. I learned that he earned his living as a driving school owner and instructor - and that he had a passion for painting. I looked at - and liked - work that he showed on line. And then, this year, I learned that his first solo exhibition was being arranged for display at the Jupiter Gallery in Newlyn in September.

One of the effects of this pandemic has been to make me sensitive to unnecessary risk. Even as I write, the coronavirus is morphing into yet another wave to overwhelm our decimated NHS and end the lives of more UK citizens, prematurely. Louise and I have been avoiding travel and meeting others indoors for over three years. So my first reaction to Nick's news about his exhibition was to wish him well - but I was reluctant to attend. 

But I had second thoughts, thank goodness - and changed my mind. I travelled to Newlyn and saw the

Saturday 24 September 2022


 Sometimes, it is enough just to share - and hope you will read and inwardly digest:

Truss and Biden - can you tell which one said that 'tickle-down' economics has never worked?  Can you read their body language? 

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Why Truss and Kwarteng’s tax cuts for the rich will lower growth

by Jeevun Sandher


Why Truss and Kwarteng’s tax cuts for the rich will lower growth


Liz Truss claims that she is cutting taxes in today’s mini-budget because it will boost economic growth. It’s nonsense, fairytale economics. 

These tax cuts will only lead to the rich getting richer and the rest of us getting poorer, creating a more unequal society as well as a less healthy and productive workforce.

Across the world we can see countries with higher taxes on the rich that are more prosperous than ours. Sweden’s top tax rate is 57% (ours is 45%) yet the country produces 17% more per person than we do. If we really want to see our economy grow, we need to get cash in families’ pockets and invest in people and places.

Today’s shocking income and National Insurance cuts, announced by the chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, will give the richest 5% over £8,500 annually, while only giving the average family around £400. That understates the benefit to the rich because it doesn’t include the


The word is that there is a so-called 'nudge unit', working from within No.10 Downing Street, that seeks to shift public opinion in the direction that best suits the interests of those in government in the UK. When I visit my local supermarket - Sainsbury's in Penzance - and I see that I am now one of the very few still wearing a mask, or when I visit my local surgery for my life-saving three-monthly injection as I did yesterday and I read a message that mask-wearing is now voluntary and patients are encouraged to show understanding for those (like me) who choose to continue wearing them, I realize the Tory nudge unit is succeeding - possibly even beyond its own expectations. We are, after all, still in the midst of a pandemic with its own cycle of peaks and troughs.

Jeremiah tells it as it is - on Conwy mountain in Wales before the pandemic

With over 200,000 already dead having contracted the COVID virus (SARS-CoV-2), the unacknowledged government policy since February 2020 of achieving herd immunity through allowing the virus to spread through the population at a rate that meant the NHS and the coffin makers were not completely overwhelmed has certainly left its mark. Johnson and Cummings were definitely 'world-beaters' in that respect. They were rescued from their own folly by the brilliance of those in the scientific

Monday 12 September 2022


Here are the links to the first five blogposts in this Quaker series:

1 -

2 -

3 -

4 -

5 -

In my second blogpost in this series, I explored the teachings of the charismatic carpenter-turned-preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, as written down in the gospel of Mark a generation after Jesus' death. I concluded that these were the words of a man who sensed that there was now a yawning gap between how people should be living out their lives and the reality he saw in front of him. The world had become too caught up in rituals defined by a hypocritical priestly caste who did not practice what they preached. And there was too much focus on the acquisition of wealth. 

Jesus did not just teach about the dangers of money. Actions followed. When Jesus and his disciples travelled to Jerusalem for Passover, he visited the Temple and found the courtyard filled with livestock, merchants, and the tables of money-changers who converted Greek and Roman money into Jewish and Tyrian shekels. Jerusalem was packed with perhaps several hundred thousand pilgrims. Jesus was filled with righteous indignation. How best to describe what happened? He lost his temper? He made a scourge of small cords and cleared the courtyard, scattering the changers' money and overthrowing the tables, saying: 

'You have made my house a den of thieves.' (Matthew 21:12-13)

The Cleansing of the Temple - Lombard School, 18th century

In the accounts of Mark and Luke, Jesus accused the Temple authorities of thieving and names poor widows as their victims. Dove sellers were selling doves for sacrificial purposes to those, particularly women, who could not afford grander sacrifices. According to Mark (11:16), Jesus then put an embargo on carrying merchandise through the Temple, thus disrupting all commerce. Such actions were a direct

Wednesday 7 September 2022


 My debt to Simon Kuper and his analysis in Chums - How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK (2022) - is obvious and acknowledged. His Oxford years as an undergraduate (Magdalen [?] 1988-91) were contemporary and near-contemporary with so many of the men and women who now have political power in the UK. That experience has left him curious enough to do the research and come to the conclusions that he offers in his admirable book. I was an undergraduate at Catz (St Catherine's) from 1967 to 1970, around two decades before these Oxford hot-shots. But Kuper's Oxford was little different from mine. Now, thank goodness, much has changed for the better - but too late to have stopped the rot we now endure.

The Radcliffe Camera library in the centre of the university city

This is a cast list of the Oxford Tories who have shaped our land - yours and mine. I have added their secondary schooling (all private, apart from Truss's), Oxford college and the years they were 'up', as the insiders used to say:

  • Boris Johnson               Eton; Balliol (1983-87)
  • Michael Gove               Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen; Lady Margaret's Hall (1985-88)
  • David Cameron             Eton; Brasenose (1985-88)
  • George Osborne            St Paul's, London; Magdalen (1990-1993)
  • Dominic Cummings      Durham School; Exeter (1991-94) 
  • Daniel Hannan              Marlborough; Oriel (1990-1993)
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg          Eton; Trinity (1988-91)
  • Rishi Sunak                   Winchester; Lincoln (1998-2001)
  • Liz Truss                        Roundhay, Leeds comprehensive; Merton (1993-1996)

I would undo much of what they have created, but then I am a Quaker socialist with deeply-held convictions about how people should be valued, helped to live well, and enjoy fruitful lives. For these

Monday 5 September 2022


Here are the links to the first four blogposts in this Quaker series:

1 -

2 -

3 -

4 -

If you have made this journey with me so far, you might be forgiven for thinking that I am portraying the time of the hunter-gatherers as a paradise on earth. That is not my intention. As Rutger Bregman observes, at the beginning of his chapter, 'The Curse of Civilisation':

'Human beings have never been angels. Envy, rage and hatred are age-old emotions that have always taken a toll.

Rutger Bregman - Dutch historian and writer - the author of 'Humankind' in which he provides an update on recent scientific findings in a number of fields, including biology and anthropology

Yet in Bregman's words, '... our ancestors were allergic to inequality. Decisions were group affairs requiring long deliberation in which everybody got to have their say'. He cites the American anthropologist, Christopher Boehm, who has concluded on the basis of 339 fieldwork studies of nomadic foragers that they are universally concerned with being free from the authority of others. Power distinctions between people were only tolerated temporarily and for specific purposes. The Canadian anthropologist, Richard Lee, worked with the !Kung in the Kalahari Desert and quotes these words of a tribesman:

'We refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way we cool his heart and make him gentle.'

!Kung tribes people in the Kalahari Desert - a Wikipedia image 

Hunter-gatherers do not hoard goods. Christopher Columbus, in the late 15th century, wrote in his log:

'When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone.'

Unfortunately, what Columbus brought in return was disease, exploitation and death.

So why did the stability inherent in the life of the hunter-gatherers come to an end? Bregman says that the science indicates at least two causes:

  1. After the end of the last Ice Age, as the climate changed, an area between the Nile in the west and the Tigris in the east was turned into a land of milk and honey. Food was now in plentiful supply; there was no longer a need to forage; huts and villages were built first, then towns and temples as

Monday 29 August 2022


This is the fourth part of a weekly series of six. Here are the links to the first three parts:

The most important and sustaining element in this exploration of the Quaker experience is the hour of silence and the fruits I draw from that encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Quaker booklet 'Advices and queries' (1994) is a reminder of the insights of the Society of Friends. In it, I read:

'Worship is our response to an awareness of God. ... We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for worship so that all may feel the power of God's love drawing us together and leading us. ... Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern?' (pp.7-9)

How wonderful to belong to a church that asks searching questions and is learning how to thrive on 'ambiguity tolerance' - understanding that we grow by learning to live with uncertainty. 

Ambiguity tolerance is OK

I have already explained that my focus within the weekly hour of silent worship has taken me back in time to the writing of Mark's Gospel, 2,000 years ago - see Part Two in this series. My journey back into the past has not stopped there. Why should it? It seemed to me, as I reflected on the matter in the communal silence, that it was essential to go right back to the beginning - to the point when homo sapiens found that they and not homo neanderthalensis had emerged as the successful new kids on the planetary block. If I was to sustain a spiritual belief about the nature of mankind and its purposes, I needed to become the anthropologist and make sense of these teachings of the charismatic carpenter-

Monday 22 August 2022


This is the third part of a weekly series of six. Here are the links to the first two parts:


 Louise and I attended by Zoom a Quaker day of learning in the Plymouth meeting house, half-way through May in 2022. I made notes and wrote them up - they provide, I think, a useful guide to what we were discovering. The day was divided into four parts, as you can see from the headings below:

Margaret Fell - a founder of Quakerism



SATURDAY 14 MAY 2022 – 10.30-16.30 – PLYMOUTH – led by 

Ben Pink Dandelion and Wendy Hampton


At the beginning, there was George Fox, a 23-year-old in 1647, in search of spiritual truth in the turmoil of the English Civil War when so many radical ideas were surfacing. He experienced a connection with the divine in which he believed that ‘Christ Jesus doth speak to me and my condition’. In this direct relationship, the value of silence was vital. 

Here is some of what I learned from Wikipedia about this remarkable man:

George Fox (July 1624[2] – 13 January 1691) was an English Dissenter, who was a founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers or Friends. The son of a Leicestershire weaver, he lived in times of social upheaval and war. He rebelled against the religious and political authorities by proposing an unusual, uncompromising approach to the Christian faith. He travelled throughout Britain as a dissenting preacher, performed hundreds of healings, and was often persecuted by the disapproving authorities.[3] In 1669, he married Margaret Fell, widow of a wealthy supporter, Thomas Fell; she was a leading Friend. His ministry expanded and he made tours of North America and the Low Countries. He was arrested and jailed numerous times for his beliefs. He spent his final decade working in London to organise the expanding Quaker movement. Despite disdain from some Anglicans and Puritans, he was viewed with respect by the Quaker convert William Penn and the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell.

Memorial to Fox's birthplace, situated on George Fox Lane in Fenny Drayton, England

George Fox was born in the strongly Puritan village of Drayton-in-the-Clay, Leicestershire, England (now Fenny Drayton), 15 miles (24 km) west-south-west of Leicester, as the eldest of four children of Christopher Fox, a successful weaver, called "Righteous Christer" by his neighbours,[4] and his wife, Mary née Lago. Christopher Fox was a churchwarden and relatively wealthy. He left his son a substantial legacy when he died in the late 1650s.[5] Fox was of a serious, religious disposition from childhood. There is no record of any formal schooling but he learnt to read and write. "When I came to eleven years of age," he said, "I knew pureness and righteousness; for, while I was a child, I was taught how to walk to be kept pure. The Lord taught me to be faithful, in all things, and to act faithfully two ways; viz., inwardly to God, and outwardly to man."[6] Known as an honest person, he also proclaimed, "The Lord taught me to be faithful in all things ... and to keep to Yea and Nay in all things."[7]

As he grew up, Fox's relatives "thought to have made me a priest" but he was instead apprenticed to a local shoemaker and grazier, George Gee of Mancetter.[8] This suited his contemplative temperament and he became well known for his diligence among the wool traders who had dealings with his master. A constant obsession for Fox was the pursuit of "simplicity" in life – humility and the abandonment of luxury. The short time he spent as a shepherd was important to the formation of this view. Toward the end of his life he wrote a letter for general circulation pointing out that AbelNoahAbrahamJacobMoses and David were all keepers of sheep or cattle and so a learned education should not be seen as a necessary qualification for ministry.[9]

George Fox knew people who were "professors" (followers of the standard Church of England), but by the age of 19 he was looking down on their behaviour, in particular their consumption of alcohol. At prayer one night after leaving two acquaintances at a drinking session, Fox heard an inner voice saying, "Thou seest how young people go together into vanity, and old people into the earth; thou must forsake all, young and old, keep out of all, and be as a stranger unto all."[10]

First travels[edit]

Driven by his "inner voice", Fox left Drayton-in-the-Clay in September 1643 and moved towards London in a state of mental torment and confusion. The English Civil War had begun and troops were stationed in many towns through which he passed.[5] In Barnet, he was torn by depression (perhaps from the temptations of the resort town near London). He alternately shut himself in his room for days at a time or went out alone into the countryside. After almost a year he returned to Drayton, where he engaged Nathaniel Stephens, the clergyman of his home town, in long discussions on religious matters.[11] Stephens considered Fox a gifted young man, but the two disagreed on so many issues that he later called Fox mad and spoke against him.[12]

Over the next few years Fox continued to travel around the country, as his particular religious beliefs took shape. At times he actively sought the company of clergy, but found no comfort from them as they seemed unable to help with the matters troubling him. One, in Warwickshire, advised him to take tobacco (which Fox disliked) and sing psalms; another, in Coventry, lost his temper when Fox accidentally stood on a flower in his garden; a third suggested bloodletting.[13] Fox became fascinated by the Bible, which he studied assiduously.[14] He hoped to find among the "English Dissenters" a spiritual understanding absent from the established church, but he fell out with one group, for example, because he maintained that women had souls:[15]

as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing