Monday, December 20, 2010

"I'm no sugar plum fatty"

As you can see, I love ballet, and so when something relating to this art form gets into the news, it grabs my attention. I was taken aback though to read the headline:  "I'm no sugar plum fatty" . The article by Miranda Bryant of the Evening Standard prompted me to wonder: "What qualifies a person to be a ballet/theatre/art critic? More specifically in regard to this article: what are Mr. Macauley's qualifications? 

Do editors require the critics to have formal qualification before they consider their critiques for publication? Is so, what are those qualifications? Are they limited to journalistic qualifications, or do they need specific training in the field they pretend to know so much about? Take Mr. Macaulay, for instance. Has he ever attended dance class? Was he an accomplished dancer himself, or like so many of us, an armchair expert? Try as I might, I could not establish whether or not Mr. Macaulay has had dance training or not. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.

Coming to the nub of the issue though, we need to ask was the critic justified in criticising the dancer's figure - leaving aside for the moment whether or not his evaluation of her figure was realistic, should he as a professional journalist be commenting on her weight at all, or should he restrict his comments to her skill (or lack of it) as a dancer?

If you look at the attached photo of Jenifer, I'm sure most of us would be hard pressed to say that she is carrying any excess weight, and so his jibe, though it might have seemed quite ironic, and a little bit funny when he wrote it, was, in the opinion of this writer and ballet fan, downright unfair.  

We all like to boo Craig Revell-Horwood with his "Awful" and a "Disaster" and his quibbling over small technical aspects of the dances by the celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing. But, at the end of the day, we know that Craig is himself a dancer and he knows what he is talking about, but what gives Mr. McCaulay the platform to rubbish another's performance? I might sit at home and criticise a rugby player or soccer player and express my opinion loudly. However I would not have the gall to write an article for the local newspaper, and expect to be paid for something I could not do half as well. 

Perhaps I have wronged the man and he has been ballet trained. If that is the case, he should restrict his comments to actually critiquing the ballet and not feel it gives him the right to make personal comments about a persons physical appearance.
I personally consider myself a balletomane, that is a person with an interest in ballet and one of the things at the top of my list of favourite things to do is to watch a ballet. How nice it would be to go down to the West End and watch all the performances and then actually make money, rather than spend it, by writing about it for a newspaper. Unfortunately I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to be a critic. 

Mr Macaulay has refused to apologise for his words saying that a dancer's body is an integral part of his/her art. I did not see the performance, but if Jenifer could fly through the air as she is depicted in the photograph, I would say her dancing ability was not hampered at all. As she said, had she been thinner she would not be able to do the things she does. She must know, having experienced the agony of an eating disorder. 

I find myself agreeing with the writer on an article for the Calgary Herald who said: 

Macaulay should be ashamed of himself. He cannot possibly be unaware of the prevalence of eating disorders, and not just among dancers. Studies have found that girls as young as eight are focused on dieting.
Let's not allow Macaulay to do such a disservice to the cause. His comments should be pegged for what they represent -- an anachronistic attitude toward women's bodies that has no place in the cultivation of healthy self-image among women.

Read more:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Visiting Stats

  MonTues WedThur FriSat SunTotal Avg
Pageloads 10 10 00 2729 4
Unique Visitors 10 10 00 1113 2
First Time Visitors 10 10 00 911 2
Returning Visitors 00 00 00 22 0

Since I posted my last blog on Saturday I can see lots of people visited. Thank you, one and all who stopped by - would love to have some comments on what you thought.
Did you agree, disagree? I'm curious. 

Please feel free to comment on anything that I have written. All thoughts are welcome

Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I am not a US citizen, but here is my opinion on the DADT Act that has been repealed (but still needs to be signed into law. This was actually, except for a few embellishments at the end a response to something a friend on Facebook wrote.

I'm happy for the repeal of this silly law in the USA. As far as I know there is no conscription in the USA. People join the army for a variety of reasons, and when they join up, they found themselves serving alongside men and woman from very many different backgrounds. Different races, different religions, different political persuasions. all things that can without tolerance e reason for internal conflict and division.  The recruits are expected to leave their prejudices behind them and get on with the task in hand (which is defending your country). Now, with the repeal of DADT, recruits will be tThe notion that 
  1. a homosexual man is totally preoccupied with sexual activity, and that they continually seeking out the "talent" amongst their supposed heterosexual colleagues when they are in the shower, in other words that they are LUSTING after every man they see.
  2. Heterosexual soldiers never lust after their female counterparts, and that no sexual contact takes place between members of the opposite sex.
  3. Homosexual people have not, along with their heterosexual colleaugues, left lovers and partners at home, for whom they have deep affection.
Are simply not realistic. 

I think it is common cause among the many young men and women who choose to join the military, and especially among those serving abroad and away from their partners. is that they are, for the sake of the nation, SACRIFICING, their sexual relations for a time, to get on with an important task of defending the nation. Sexual relations in certain contexts are totally inappropriate, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.

Actually, if as a straight man, you were showering in a public gym locker room where you know some of the other men are gay. Would it not be your instinct to be discrete? If a woman officer working on the front-line was flaunting her assets amongst male colleagues, would she not be reprimanded - as her behaviour would be inappropriate and unfair.  Similarly, it should be noted that men could be more discrete when they are amongst other men.

With regard to public displays of affection: Since when is that appropriate in the context of war. It is not appropriate whether the two people involved are men, women, or a man and a woman. I cannot see how the repeal of this act will make it possible for "public displays of affection (holding hands, kissing) to be the order of the day. In civilian life, people often have these public displays, and nobody bats an eyelid when such public displays take place between men and women. However, if a man kisses another man or wants to hold his hand, it is frowned upon. Sorry but that is a double standard.

No doubt, there will be some "fall-out" as a result of this repeal as certain people feel they cannot serve with openly gay colleagues. This will however open the door to other young men and women who would like to serve in the military, but have till now not felt able to, as it would entail them "living a lie". When the USA opened the door for people of colour to serve alongside their white compatriots in the military, there were naysayers and opponents. No doubt some intolerant bigots decided that their "principles" were more important to them than the nations security and they left.  

Whether you regard homosexuality as a sin or not, in this instance,, is completely irrelevant as the Military is an arm of the state, and as such has nothing to do with the Church and doctrine. This is the principle of the constitution. 

Sadly, given that men and women die in wars, when a married or engaged man/woman, their spouse or betrothed is invited to play a role in thee ceremony or may be invited to receive a medal military honour on their behalf, but gay men who were in long term relations with a partner in the military who has been killed in the line of duty are ignored. Likewise, married partners get the financial support in the form of pensions etc. but gay partner has no financial support, even though they made the same sacrifice. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm NOT generally a fan of Melanie Phillips, columnist for the Daily Mail in the UK, and usually find that my opinions and hers do not coincide. However, I will admit that I may be have to set aside my "knee-jerk" reaction in regard to this week's offering.

In her column this week, headed: He's ignorant, cruel and un-Christian. But don't expect the spineless Church to banish Bishop Pete Melanie takes a swipe at the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, for rather caustically predicting that the upcoming marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton would only last seven years. He justified this astounding prediction on the "fact" that they are "shallow celebrities" and that the Royal Family is "full of philanderers"

Allow me first to emphasise the point that this is a BISHOP of the Church of England. As Ms. Phillips pointed out, the prelate must have taken a vow swearing "true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors, according to the law," Leaving aside, for the time being, whether or not a church leader should be swearing allegiance to ANY earthly person, the fact remains, that he did, and these comments are not in anyway showing loyalty to the Queen, or the royal family. 

Secondly, irresponsible comments such as those uttered by the bishop are cruel and undeserved. They show a prejudice that is out of place when coming from the lips or finger tips of a Christian. How are William and Catherine "shallow celebrities?" William is the grandson of the Queen. He did nothing to make this happen - he was born into the role. He is famous simply because of his relationship to the Queen. Catherine likewise is only famous because of her relationship with Prince William.

TRUE - we live in a society where everybody feels perfectly justified in expressing their opinions on everything from politics and sport to the latest developments on the latest "reality" TV show and everything in between. And here I am doing just that. True too, not only do people express their opinions, but their opinions can go global and viral, by means of Internet Social Networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and Freedom of expression, is also a human right, and so Pete Broadbent is indeed entitled to his opinion and his political beliefs.  That being said, just because one has an opinion, does not mean it is politic to express it. 

When one holds a high office, either in the church, or in government, or any other organisation, one has to on occasions hold his own counsel, and remain aloof.

Déanann ceann ciallmhar béal iata 

I came across this Irish Gaelic proverb by chance - but it appears to be apt. It means: A wise man keeps his own counsel. 

When we make a statement, we need to bear in mind our role in society, and how our words will be taken bearing in mind that office. 

Here is a categorical statement which is sure to provoke some rigorous discussion, not to say arguments:

POLITICS and RELIGION do not and should NEVER MIX.

Sounds okay on the face of it, and I can sense many readers are nodding. But would Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu agree? I seriously doubt it - it was as Bishop of Johannesburg and later the Archbishop of Cape Town, that he took a very political stance on the racist policy of Apartheid. I could point out other church leaders who rightly or wrongly took a political stance on a variety of matters. 

I am not suggesting that a church leader should NEVER state a political opinion. But I do feel that church leaders should "hold their counsel" on particular political personalities or parties. In this case, I feel that the bishop was way out of line with these comments. It would have been unwise, had he expressed his opinion at a private party among friends, but the controversial clergyman really went too far when he made his thoughts known on the Internet, with the inevitable outcome that his comments would be widely broadcast and discussed. Making negative comments about others behind their backs is spreading gossip - an activity clearly condemned in the Bible. But to suggest this is gossip is to lend some credibility to his remarks, but since his comments are, as far as I can tell, merely an opinion, they are merely speculation. At best, they are erroneous, at worst, they are outright lies. 

Christians should tell the truth. There is a straight forward maxim - not easily argued against - but its counterpart is also true: A Christian should not speak lies. Between the truth and lies there is a no-man's-land of the "unknown" . Into the chasm of the unknown falls such things as speculation and opinion. We are required to tell the truth, but we are not required to say what we are not sure of. 

I would suggest that in this regard, the bishop was speculating about William and Catherine, and his comments were simply not helpful. 

They were cruel in that they were downright nasty about the Royal family being "philanderers".

Only Bishop Peter knows what motivated him to say the things he did, but it would seem that he allowed his political bias to cloud his judgement. 
Whether his comments were wide of the mark or not is frankly irrelevant - they were unjust. 

What God has put together, let no man put asunder - that is what it says in the Bible, and I believe that in as much as William and Catherine are betrothed (promised to one another) they have been put together. Only God knows if it is He who put them together or not, and pronouncing on the success or otherwise of a marriage that is yet to start is, possibly almost as bad as tearing at the very cords that bind them. 

So, perhaps, for once, Ms Phillips and I agree on something. Do you?

UPDATE: In today's paper, an update on this story. The Bishop has been suspended from his duties.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I love the Daily Mail – not that I agree necessarily with what they say or how they report a story, but it is, let me say, entertaining to read the story and the underlying prejudices of the reporter that are carried along in the style of the writing. Even more entertaining are the comments of readers that are posted on the internet. Take for instance the story of the man who objected to being woken (prodded – he claimed) on the train by the ticket conductor and refused to show his ticket. I will include the article as it appeared on the Daily Mail website, so that you can read it for yourself.
This is because papers tend to withdraw stories after a while.

'Don't prod me you silly little girl': Train-rage pensioner screamed at woman ticket collector who woke him up
A pensioner who flew into a rage after a woman train worker woke him up to check his ticket has been fined £965. Peter Dodd, 66, left Nicola Loynes in tears after he screamed at her not to 'prod' him and called her a 'silly little girl'. He angrily refused to show his ticket on the Southeastern train because there were barriers at Ebbsfleet and Kings Cross.
Dodd, who was unrepresented, was yesterday found guilty of disorderly conduct and failing to produce a ticket following a trial at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Dodd looked like he was about to attack Ms Loynes as 'everything they said was enraging him into a volcano of fury', a fellow passenger said. 'He was so bloody-minded,' he added.
The retired researcher then refused to speak to ticket conductor Leslie Conway when she intervened on the 8.05 service from Ebbsfleet last October, saying: 'I'm sleeping.'

After his arrest, he made a counter-allegation of assault against Ms Loynes for nudging him awake. Dodd said he had been awake all the previous night and was intending to spend a full day at the National Archives in Kew. He said: 'I'm a gentleman of a certain age, used to certain consideration and certain manners - these I did not receive.
'I was manhandled by Ms Loynes while trying to sleep.I was woken rudely and inconsiderately and I'm a client - they can wait.'

He added: 'To use the playground refrain: she started it.' Passing sentence, Deputy District Judge Stott said: 'Train staff have a right to ask for your ticket and you must show it.
'It isn't you for you to lay down conditions. 'On this particular date, clearly you chose not to produce your ticket. 'There was fear in the evidence I have heard today of your reaction under a trivial circumstance. 'I regard it as undoubtedly being disorderly - you lost control of yourself for reasons best known to you.'

Dodd, of South Kensington, west London, was fined £300 and ordered to pay £500 costs, £100 compensation to Ms Loynes, £50 compensation to Mr Conway and a £15 victim surcharge.

Mr Dodd, in my opinion totally overreacted and deserved the consequence of the fine and is lucky to have got away without a ban from the railways. However – I titled this article "Jobsworth" because in the comments that followed there were a number of people accusing Ms Loynes, the train worker, for being a "jobsworth" - a new expression to me – but I have come to discover that it is not that new in terms of usage.

"he did not need to be woken up by a petty jobsworth" - wrote one commenter.

"Difficult to depends on how this panned out. Perhaps the ticket collector on a 'jobsworth' poked him aggresively and startled which case I would also be annoyed. On the other hand if she just tapped him politely,then he shouldn't have been so's all to do with attitude...." wrote another.

"Another example of the ordinary British person being fed up with over-authoratitive jobsworths. If we weren't constantly harassed from morning to night by people with more power than sense, this sad little girl might have had a nicer day!"... observed another.

Not being familiar with this quintessentially British expression, I looked it up, and here is the definition – for those of you equally befuddled.

A jobsworth is a person who uses his or her job description in a deliberately un-cooperative way, or who seemingly delights in acting in an obstructive or unhelpful manner.

A minor clerical worker who refuses to be flexible in the application of rules to help a client or customer.

Jobsworth is slang for a person who is very pedantic at work; named after the oft heard, "I can't let you do that, it's more than my jobs worth."

To my surprise there has even been a song written about this strange breed, aptly named "Jobsworth" - written by Jeremy Taylor, who also wrote "Ag pleez, Daddy!" and The Lift Girl's Lament".

Well, I hope you had a smile, I enjoyed it and I know exactly the kind of person he is singing about. I don't however think that the hapless Ms Loynes can be described as a "jobsworth" at all. She was simply doing her job, and given the number of people on benefits at the moment and the moans and groans of those who are burdened with a "tax-bill" - should we not be grateful that this lady is earning her wage? I was happy to see today that she had written a comment in her own defence:

I would just like to say in my defence that Mr Dodds was lightly tapped on his arm to wake him as he did not respond to me twice asking for his ticket. I have a duty to care for the passengers travelling on my train so after receiving no response Mr Dodd's welfare became my first priority. I was at no time rude to Mr Dodds, I am a firm believer of treating those how I would like to be treated myself. I was never bought up to be rude to anyone and have often been commended on my high levels of customer service. We all have a job to do at the end of the day and will do it to the best of our ability, I am and never will be a jobs worth but believe in treating all customers fairly and with a level of consistency no matter what the age. I would also like to add that I didn't let anybody apart from my colleagues see me upset. I have never been reduced to tears by a customer but this time these where bought on when the shock of how I had just been spoken to set in.

This comment puts a different slant on the whole story. The impression created by the grumpy pensioner was that he was suddenly set upon by the conductor, Ms Loynes and that she demanded to see his tickets. It turns out, she spoke to him and he did not respond. As she says herself, Mr Dodd's welfare became her priority. She was not aware however that she was about to disturb Mt. Versuvias and it would erupt.

I heard this week that the people who would judge us the most are those who know us the least – or words to that effect – and I think that this is the case with this story. I must admit I have not had a high opinion of Mr Dodds, and there may be reasons which he has not shared with the court or with us, which would explain, if not justify his bullying behaviour towards Ms Loynes. I think it unnecessary and unfair to brand Mr Dodds as terrible, etc. His behaviour on that occasion may have been totally uncalled for and unjustified, but this does not mean that he is always like this. Likewise, if one has a difficult exchange with an official, it certainly doesn't mean that the person is in general a difficult character, or that they are necessarily being a "jobsworth".

Young people in London are becoming fed up with being cast in a negative light simply because of the actions of a few delinquent young people. They have set up a website for their cause – it is:

However the same can be said of most groups of people who are lumped together and demonised.

  • Bankers – characterised as over-paid, greedy, swindlers, people who caused the credit-crunch.
  • Evangelicals – right wing, fundamentalist, Bible-bashing, judgmental, uncompromising (in a negative sense of lacking any compassion).
  • Homosexuals – characterised by promiscuity, wishing to corrupt young people, HIV positive, etc. I chose the term 'homosexual' rather than 'gay' because many who would speak badly of this group use the "H" word.
  • Politicians – lying, self-serving, unhelpful, etc.,
  • Unemployed/people on benefits – undeserving, lazy, thieving, scroungers, etc.
  • Young people (or 'hoodies') – characterised by rudeness, inconsiderateness, violent behaviour.

All negative stereotypes of groups – just because some bankers have made an awful lot of money at the expense of the economy, does not make every banker responsible for the crisis. Just because some big names in the Evangelical world have had hardline and intolerant attitudes, or that some have acted corruptly does not make every evangelical Christian a hypocrite. There are gay men who have multiple partners, and there are those who, illegally, seek sexual relations with teens and younger boys. However, these people are not the majority of gay men. It is also true to say that it is not only gay men who engage in pedophilia. The actions of politicians are very frustrating at times and we are right to criticise them for their actions, but there are politicians who are not simply power-hungry but genuinely seek to serve society. In the UK it has become a national sport to ridicule the jobless and characterise them as lazy and scrounging. This may be the case with some, but many simply cannot find work and need the "Job seekers allowance" just to get by.

I hope that after reading this, you will come away with a pause for thought – I think we all need to realise that we can sometimes fall into the TRAP of over-generalizing. When we do this, whether or not we express these prejudices out loud or just think them, we are contributing to the problem rather than being part of the solution. Jesus came into the World and unlike the revered rabbis of his day, he would go and talk to the eople who were marginalised – the "drunkards and 'sinners' – polite talk for prostitutes. There was never any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on his part, but this did not stop the Pharisees and Saducees from being very condemnatory. However Jesus brushed off their criticisms with contempt.

When I reflect on this newspaper article, I think we can learn that we need to show understanding and respect to those who live and work amongst us. Mr Dodd did not show respect and paid a hefty financial penalty as a result. Instead of being grumpy and cursing the ticket checkers, it would be far more beneficial to smile and thank them for their service.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Commemorating 9/11/01

Nine years ago, the world changed and became intensely less safe because of the religious zeal of a few people. It is, I am sure I can assert, without much argument, one of the saddest days in history when four passenger planes were hijacked and two flew into the World Trade Centre towers in New York City, One crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington D.C. and one did not reach its intended target, but crashed into a field. It ranks easily Pearl Harbour, the starts of World War I and II, The Blitz (The 70th anniversary has just passed), The Holocaust, The massacre at Beslan, and the 7/7 bombings on London Tube trains and buses to name just a few.

Each of these occasions has been commemorated in some symbolic way, usually by a religious ceremony or by some monument being built to honour those that had died as result. If I were to ask older folk, who were alive at that time, I am sure they can recall vividly the declaration of war with Germany made in 1939 by the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that was broadcast. However, with the news coverage of the events on September 11th 2001, many more people can recall note only listening to, but watching live as it happened, the place crashing in the WTC, and the towers collapse, one after the other, and the resulting chaos, and the tremendous rescue effort that followed. Because we not only heard about it, but watched it happening, the event impacted itself into our memories. 

How does one commemorate an event like 9/11? Lay a wreath at a memorial? Hold a moment's (traditionally a minute) silence at the moment it happened. Sad events such as those listed above usually evoke intense feelings of sadness but often, associated with that sadness are feelings of anger directed at those who we believe are responsible for causing the event. Anger in itself, is not wrong, especially when it is directed against injustices such as those perpetrated against the victims on 9/11.  However we are told that in our anger, we should not sin. (Eph 4:26) Sadly, when people get angry, the 'red mist' descends and they (we) lose perspective. Justice, in ancient times was often administered by a king or a head of state. Often, when this king was personally affected by the alleged crime, his ability to make fair judgement was impaired. In principle then, in our modern times there is a distinction drawn between the three 'arms' of government, executive (head of state), legislative (parliament, Congress) and judicial (law courts).  Further, it is expected that in jury trials, a judge or a juror who personally knows any of the people involved in a case, or who has somehow been affected by the case under review should not have anything to do with that case. 

However it is not only in the context of court and trials that judgements are made. Every day, people form their own opinions about what is happening in the news - we all cant help it - we hear something on the news and we, without necessarily knowing all the facts, draw our own conclusions about the rightness or wrongness of an action, and who is responsible. It is as it were a mental reflex action! We hear of a road accident, and we immediately are interested in who is responsible. I am as responsible for being judgmental as much as the next person. I have no doubt that everyone has an opinion about who is responsible for 9/11. Although it is common knowledge now that Al Quaeda led by Osama bin Laden were responsible for devising, and sponsoring the attacks, some people feel the need to cast the net of suspicion wider or come up with some convoluted conspiracy theory that implicates the GW Bush administration in the attacks themselves. Then there are those who feel that ALL Muslims are or THE RELIGION ITSELF is responsible for the attacks...

Such is the case of one Reverend Dr. Terry Jones who has written a book "Islam is of the Devil" and who has declared September 11th World Burn a Koran day. He is the pastor of a church called Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. As might be expected, he has received death threats and now goes about armed with a pistol. The idea of burning Qurans has been condemned by people from every quarter and the inadvisability of going ahead with the idea has been spelt out by everyone. I still can't quite get over how the church is called "Dove" - when doves are supposed to be symbols of peace. He is trying to make out that this is only about the Quran but then wonders why he has deliberately decided to do this dastardly despicable deed on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks - clearly drawing a link to those events. Also, if the Quran, in his opinion, is of the devil, why not also burn the holy books of other religions too - hinduism, buddhism, etc. Clearly, this act is not primarily about destroying a "corrupting text" but specifically aimed at hurting and inflaming those he blames for the 9 11 attacks - Muslims. 

What is to be done about this state of affairs? We only need to cast our minds back to Salman Rushdie and the infamous book "Satanic Verses" and the reaction to this formerly Muslim writer to the publication of his book, and then there were the cartoons of Mohammed that caused an uproar and demonstrations all over the world. In his wisdom, the crazy clergyman has provided advance warning and has made his intentions very clear. Since he really refuses to see sense, what needs to happen now? Should he be allowed to proceed with the crazy idea? 

I don't think so - I think that images of Qurans being thrown into a fire would have such a backlash, and has already been indicated, it could endanger the lives of American (and possibly other troops). Based on that fact, I think that the Federal Government of the USA would be justified in taking whatever steps necessary to prevent the quran burning - including sending in the National Guard.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Merry Wives of Windsor and some thoughts on getting married.

You do amaze her: hear the truth of it.
You would have married her most shamefully,
Where there was no proportion held in love.
The truth is, she and I, long since contracted,
Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us.
The offence is holy that she hath committed;
And this deceit loses the name of craft,
Of disobedience, or unduteous title,
Since therein she doth evitate and shun
A thousand irreligious cursed hours,
Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V

It was such a wonderful experience going to the Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames and seeing this play performed. It is hugely funny - I have not laughed so much in a long time. If anyone asks, methinks The bard invented situation comedy! As with many of Shakespeare's plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor (hereafter referred to as the play) is about disguise, and marriage. With plot and sub plots, the play is far too complicated to explain fully here, but the bit that I want to focus on is the daughter of one of the 'wives', Anne Page, has three suitors, who are:

Master Abraham Slender: Shallow's cousin. He is shy and self-effacing, and always defers to his uncle, who wants him to marry Anne Page. Slender's servant Simple describes him as having "a little whey-face, with a little yellow beard" (whey means pallid.) Slender is not particularly interested in marrying Anne Page, but he is willing to go along with what his uncle has arranged for him. However, Anne Page thinks he is an idiot, and has no intention of marrying him.

Dr. Caius: Dr. Caius is a French physician who seeks to marry Anne Page. He speaks bad English with a French accent. He is also hot-tempered and challenges Evans to a duel. Mistress Quickly, his housekeeper, devises a scheme whereby he will be able to marry Anne, but the plan fails.

Fenton:  in love with Anne Page and seeks to marry her. At first he sought her hand only because of the money she is inheriting, but he soon fell in love with her for her admirable qualities. Anne's father opposes Fenton, however. He believes Fenton is unsuitable because he comes from a higher social level and is too sophisticated and worldly for Anne. He also thinks that Fenton is motivated by a desire for monetary gain.

The notes above are taken from this website:

Master Page, Anne's father wanted Anne to marry Abraham Slender.
Mistress Page, Anne's mother wanted Anne to marry the French doctor.

The quotation I started this blog off with are the words of Fenton.  In a hugely funny scene at the end, the other two suitors find they have been duped and almost married off to boys, pretending to be the lovely Anne.

So much for the story: Why am I blogging on this subject? Well, I believe that down through the years, this matter of marriage and suitable marriages has been a major issue and although we are now in the twenty-first century, we cannot take for granted that people are getting married for the right reason to the right people. Different cultures have different perception of arranged marriages - that is where people other than the two people concerned make the decision to marry.  

My father always jokes that he married for money: He was thirsty at the time and my mother had two shillings and sixpence: The price of a beer in those days!

Jokes aside, for many people marriage is all about money. People decide to marry or NOT to marry based on whether or not they will be better off financially.  Some tax systems are set up such that the married couple gets certain benefits that single people are not entitled to, whereas other systems are "individual" based and as such tax both parties in the marriage separately without taking into account the marriage at all. I am no tax expert,  but suffice to say, that taxation has played a significant role in decisions on whether to marry or not to marry.

In this era of "free love" the concept of keeping sexual intercourse to the confines of a marriage is regarded by many as quaint.  People cheat on their spouses, and sleep with other people, and when challenged their defense can be summed up in the words: "It's just sex" - I don't love him/her, I love you. In the words of that famous Tina Turner song - "What's love gotta do, gotta do with it?"  Love is nothing but a second hand emotion - or so she thinks.

Marriage for cultural and religious reasons. Recently, the UK had to introduce laws that prevent people being taken out the country and forced to marry someone (usually a total stranger to them).  This is because many Pakistani parents have pledged their daughters' (mostly) hands in marriage to a stranger (in Pakistan). I mention Pakistan simply because it is within this community that the issue is most prevalent.  We have read of serious crimes being committed against people who have attempted to avoid this - or where the daughter has become involved with a man who is not the one her parents intended for her to marry.  The expression "honour killings" springs to mind.  I understand that there are some marriages that had been so arranged that have worked - and that the couple do love each other, or at least grow to love each other, but personally I am most sceptical about such unions.

Marriage to gain residential and citizenship status in a country. Citizenship is something that is granted to people who are born in a country or people who have entered a country in terms of the laws of that country with the stated intention of remaining there. However, as with marriage, the decision to go and live in a country is often driven by economics. Immigration laws are thus set up to prevent an influx of people from all over the world who would represent a drag on the economy - who would use resources that are needed for the citizenry. However, no country can simply pull up the draw bridge and let nobody in or out. There are clearly defined grounds under which a person can become a permanent citizen. One of those grounds is marriage. If a person marries a citizen of certain country they gain the right become a citizen of their spouses country. Sadly however, there are people who will stop at nothing to gain citizenship to which they would normally not qualify, and there are others who see the chance of financial gain, who facilitate such marriages. In the UK, there are thousands of such fake "passport" marriages.  

On the other end of the spectrum is the PREVENTION of marriages for religious or cultural reasons. Apartheid laws in South Africa made it a criminal offence for people to marry people of a different race - that is so-called "mixed marriages".  I think the same was true under the Third Reich, and also in certain Southern States of the USA.  Church leaders preached against "mixed marriages" and quoted passages from the Bible to support their prejudice against these unions.  Fortunately, most places in the world have dispensed of these antiquated ideas, and in so far as race is concerned, people are free to marry whom they will.

Some people object to "inter-faith" marriages where the people of different religious backgrounds marry.  Christian/Jewish, Muslim/Christian, Muslim/Jewish, Catholic/Protestant, etc.  In the Bible, Paul writes that we should not be yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Cor 6:14) Does this mean that a Christian can never ever marry someone who is not a Christian? The thing is how can a person be sure that the person they are wanting to marry truly is a Christian and is not just saying they are a Christian because they want to be married? I suppose one can use the old Evangelism Explosion 3 question: If you die now would you be going to heaven? And if yes, why? However, we know there are a lot of people out there who can "talk the talk" but they don't "walk the walk." Thing is, at the end of the day, one cannot be sure, and one has to take a person's word for it.  Not only that, but was that meant to be injunction against Christians marrying non-Christians - there is a verse in the 1 Peter where Christian women married to non-Christian man was urged to live a life that would be a testimony to her husband and thus win him over to Christ.  There is another verse where it says that a non-Christian can leave a Christian, but that a Christian should not divorce a non-Christian purely on that basis. Some religions will tolerate a non-adherent being married to one of their faithful, provided the non-adherent converts to the religion.  Personally, I question the genuineness of the conversion if it is purely to make oneself marriageable to a person. I, for one would not convert to any other religion for ANY reason, because I believe what I believe. Equally, I would not want to put the person I marry under that kind of pressure. Of course I would want my spouse to share my faith in Jesus, but it should be because of who Jesus is, and not because of me.

I am not saying that conversions before marriages are not genuine conversions - that would be highly judgemental and improper, and, in many cases I am sure that the conversions are very heartfelt and true. The questions remains that in matters of faith, do both parties have to see eye to eye? Let us push the envelope out a bit further - assuming that both parties are Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) do they have to believe the same things about their religion or is there room for differences of opinion on questions of doctrine? Can a tongue-speaking Pentecostal marry a Roman Catholic who prays to the saints? Can a Calvinistic Presbyterian wed an Arminian Methodist? Can a baptised-by
-full-immersion Baptist be wedded to a baby-sprinkled-with-water Anglican? I'm sure you get my drift. I believe the answer is of course, YES! Not only can it happen, it does, over and over.  I am not going to be a Pollyanna and  pretend everything will naturally work out - I believe that inter-faith marriages have stressors that strain at the bonds that would bring a couple together - but the fact is, that if a couple can see past the religion - and love the individual, then the differences in faith can be worked out in the long run. Marriage is, after all for this life, and NOT for eternity - as Jesus clearly stated that marriages do not continue into the hereafter.  For further discussion of this aspect, look at the following website: Religious Tolerance

The story of Romeo and Juliet, was also about "forbidden love" between two families - who had some on-going feud. That was one of Shakespeare's tragedies. Another barrier that rears its ugly head is that of class or social status. On the one hand there is always that sneaking suspicion of the motives of the person set gain the most from the marriage that they are merely marrying for money/fame. It is very unusual for royalty to marry commoners. Even in the play, Master Page was suspicious of the motives of Fenton for wanting his daughter's hand in marriage. However, just as in Romeo and Juliet, where the couple can see past the differences and still love each other, it is often those that surround the couple that want to see the marriage breakdown and may make it their purpose to firstly prevent the marriage, and secondly, if that fails, meddle to such a degree, that they cause rifts in the marriage. This is where "in-law" problems often come to the fore. You often hear at wedding receptions, statements to the effect that it is not just about the bride and groom, but that two families are being united in the marriage. With the greatest of respect, I beg to differ - a marriage between two people is about the two people getting married, and choosing to share their lives thereafter.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Gen 2:24

There comes a time when other members of a person's family must withdraw themselves and allow the couple to make their lives together - and accept the decisions they make even if those decisions aren't those which they would make themselves. This is not to say that circumstances cannot arise where one's family must for a while take priority over one's partner, but such circumstances should, in my opinion, not be open ended - and even in such circumstances, the partner's needs should be considered, and communication should be open and honest between the partners.

There is one area in which I have no cut and dried answers as to what I think should occur, and that is in the case of people with special needs (learning difficulties) needing and wanting to get married. There are two sides to this discussion and they go around the question of the ability of an individual to give informed consent. In the UK, the law states that

People with learning disabilities have the same rights in law as anyone else to marry, have a civil partnership, or live together. Providing the person is over 16 years and has a general understanding of what it means to get married, he or she has the legal capacity to consent to marriage. No one else's consent is ever required. (NHS) - emphasis mine.

That may be the case, but for practical purposes, families and loved ones of people with learning difficulties, will be concerned that he/she is entering a relationship he/she will not be able to cope with or that he/she will be taken advantage of by the spouse. There are cases, where people with learning difficulties have been duped into entering marriages of convenience - so that the other party can obtain a visa or even citizenship

Licensed to abuse: a question of dishonour

While every effort should be made for an individual with difficulties to get married, either to a person who is not got learning difficulties or a person who has, they must at the same time, as vulnerable adults, be protected against unscrupulous people who make take advantage of their limited ability to understand, to trick them into marriages that they neither want nor are in the person's best interests. Personally I don't quite know what to think about this issue. I would welcome people's comments.

Finally, I come with much hesitation and great trepidation to the topic of great controversy - that of same-sex marriage. I am going to address this topic, though I realise that even as I state my opinion, I will upset and probably disappoint a great number of my readers. In stating my opinion, I will try and set forth my reasoning as clearly as I can. I trust that for the most part, if you disagree with me, you will, at the very least agree to disagree, and not allow our diverging opinions to cause a dissolution of our friendship. I have no problem with you adding a comment to my blog or indeed my facebook page. I have set up my bog such that all comments need to be approved by me before posting - but you have my word that I will post every comment I receive unless it is abusing or uses inappropriate words - regardless of what opinion is being made.

I believe that homosexual men and women should have the same right to marry each other as heterosexual men and women. Notwithstanding that some Christians believe homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexuals cannot be Christians, this does not give the Christian church a right to limit the rights of individuals (whether they regard themselves as Christians or not) to choose the partner with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives. I would go further to suggest that surely it is preferable for people who regard themselves to be in a committed relationship with one another (as signified by marriage) rather than living separately. Marriage laws are set up to protect the rights of both parties in that marriage, should it fail. Gay people should have access to such protections as well as straight people. In California, Proposition 8: which was voted for by the public and effectively banned same sex marriages in the state has been revoked and overturned on constitutional grounds. While I would be concerned if the right of Churches to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, that is the limitation of that right. A pastor with a marriage licence should, if he/she is willing, be able to perform a marriage right with same-sex couples if he/she has no objections to it. On the other hand, agents of the state such as marriage officers and magistrates should perform same-sex marriage ceremonies if they are called upon to do so. Some may feel that my feeling on this matter is at odds with my faith. I will simply state that I don't believe so. Firstly there exists a sizable number of Christians who don't believe that homosexuality is a violation of God's law. Secondly, regardless on my stand on the above issue, my morality has nothing to do with other's right to live according to their own conscience.

Men and women who are homosexual but are failing to acknowledge this publicly or even to themselves in some cases, may marry a person of the opposite gender in the futile attempt to change their sexual preference, or at the very least hide their same sex attraction (SSA) and may even have children. However many such marriages fail. The fallout is even more acute than in cases where a straight couple separate or divorce. The other partner may feel used and abused by the gay partner, and gutted that the love portrayed by the gay person to their spouse, may appear to have been a pretense, thus making it harder to bear. The aggrieved party may feel cheated even if the gay person had not actually cheated (had a relationship with someone else). Far more preferable is that a person finds the partner with whom they can connect emotionally, psychologically and sexually and that they can build a relationship based on honesty and trust.