Wednesday, 28 May 2008

tiny Zionist interlude

Reams of fascinating stuff here at My heart goes out to these guys - their reasons for rejecting Jesus as Messiah are thin (as we can see by reading their FAQs, the section of questions from Christians that I have linked to). What complexity in the debate over cultural and religious self-definition there is! What remarkable stories are written in the newspapers, and how many shades of grey, or splintering, fragmenting shards of grey there are in Christian and Jewish life. Almost as many opinions as people!

Surely Christian Zionists need to do some more pausing for thought before the usual anti-Arab knee-jerking...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Syncretism and leadership

A passing reference to a famous debate by Patricia Buckley Ebrey [The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ch ina (Cambridge: CUP, 1996)] writing on the Qing attitude to Christians in the late 18th century raises important questions. The Catholics were divided among themselves as to whether or not ancestral rites should be followed by Chin ese Christians. The Jesuits (inspired by Matteo Ricci) were OK with it, but other Catholic orders (including the papal legate, Maillard de Tournon) were not. This hardline approach led to the emperor (Kangxi, 1662-1722) expelling all missionaries who would not support his stance of making Christians perform the rites (he otherwise tolerated their faith).

Presumably the repercussions of the wrangle among the Catholic leaders were significant for Christians on the ground, some of whom were harrassed (or worse) and who found themselves in some cases, presumably, without leaders (though on the plus side if a 'lay' leadership could arise in the vacuum after foreign priests were expelled then that could stimulate a deeper discipleship among the laity).

All this made me ask, Who should be in charge of that decision? Who is competent to make the ruling? Anyone? Just the legate from the pope? Just the more experienced leader who has imbibed plenty from both cultures? No one? Individual conscience? Surely the church needs protecting? But who precisely is implied by ‘church’, and protecting from whom? If the practice of seen as merely 'cultural' does it harm anyone? Was it, is it worth the hassle of making a stand on this issue?

What would an Orthodox priest have said to that ruling?
What do the varieties of Protestants say about it now?
How do the unregistered churches deal with that problem?
Is there one right answer!?

This is not just a question about cultural practices and their roots or present participation in pagan religion and false worship, this is about the leadership of the church and qualifications for binding the consciences of other believers.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Wright on leadership

The incidental Regent College comment there allows me to segue clunkingly into…

…not the more (in)famous NT Wright, Bishop of Durham and genius New Testament scholar, but Dr Walter Wright, longtime President of Regents College, Vancouver, a major evangelical seminary. His book Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000) raises and answers all sorts of interesting questions about Christian leadership and Christians in leadership. It is full of top secular thinking and management theory, and returns again and again to the tiny letter of Jude (located just before the Bible’s grand finale, Revelation) and what it has to say about leadership and anti-leadership. More on that later; for now, some provocative thoughts on volunteering, which came as a rebuke to me back in March as I was grumbling about recognition and remuneration.

Why do people volunteer? Why do they choose to spend their time and with a particular organisation? There are many reasons. People volunteer to gain love and acceptance. They volunteer to gain recognition and status, to have power. They may join because an organisation gives them an opportunity to influence decisions that affect them. People volunteer to be important… Jerry is an elevator operator in the Washington Monument. He volunteers eight to ten hours per week. He is very pleased to be part of this historic centre in his country. He pointed to his ‘volunteer’ cap with pride and told me that he had to be active at least 10 hours each month to keep his ‘status’. How many people in your organisation are worried about losing their volunteer status?

People volunteer to find self fulfilment and growth…

People volunteer to promote the cause they believe in…

They volunteer as much for the social connectedness as for the actual task…

And finally, behind all of these reasons, we hope that people are also investing in our organisations because they want to serve God. They see our organisation our community is one place they can work out their calling before God. I put this reason last because it is the one that frequently sidetracks Christian leaders, especially pastors. I have heard many pastors articulated the belief that I should volunteer to serve God and accept the assignments they have in mind as an expression of my gratitude to God. I wanted to counter this argument by noting that I am grateful to God and I do work for pay and volunteer to serve God. I do believe that all that I do is an outworking of my calling as a minister of Jesus Christ. However I do not believe that necessarily means I should work in your church in that assignment. [154-56]

Relational leaders take the volunteer’s needs seriously. This is essntial to the leading and motivating of people. Not something I feel very good at. Related to this is my occasional feeling of slowness or intertia at Hope. Does this come about because everyone is busy on other activities? Does it come about through the lack of the shared vision? Does it come about from a lack of top-down leadership? Or does it come about because I am an activist in theory but quite armchair in practice!?

Wright has more to say about how to treat volunteers well, and in passing points out that organisations (obviously including churches) simply do not need paid leaders.

Would that everyone could have a leader, a supervisor, committed to their success.

The supervisor or leader can be a paid member of the team or an unpaid volunteer. Salary does not make one a leader. I should note in passing that any position can be filled by an unpaid volunteer as well as a paid volunteer. I know unpaid volunteers who chief executive officers, Chief financial offices, chief administrative offices, directors, consultants, teachers, directors of marketing, development, etc. There is no position that cannot be filled by a competent qualified volunteer, paid or unpaid, with a good job description and the leader responsible for his or her success.

‘No supervisor,’ says ‘No one cares what I do.’ [168-69]

This is followed up with useful stuff on performance review, good people management practice, and other wise titbits and angles. A great book for long-term mulling.

Chiasm in John 9

Having been alerted to chiasmus everyhere in the Old Testament (David Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, Peter Leithart, A House for My Name) and in chapter 1 of John’s Gospel (thanks to Tony’s time at a summer school at Regent College, Vancouver) my antennae have been up…

I spotted this one in John 9, the healing of the man born blind. Read the story first, as it’s a true gem! The numbers in brackets refer to the size of each scene/unit, and demonstrate remarkable balance in length as well as in narrative content or movement. The man himself is a major figure in A, B, A’ and B’.

A Jesus (7)

B Pharisees (10)

C Pharisees/Parents (6)

B’ Pharisees (11)

A’ Jesus (7)

B’ intensifies the hostile questioning by the Pharisees, while A’ shows Jesus seeking the man out again with even more explicit intent and with conversation that goes beyond physical healing into spiritual healing.

Right in the middle of C is the phrase, anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ (verse 22). This verse echoes the theme verse of the gospel as a whole. In John 20:31 the apostle explains why he has written: so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and by believing have life in his name.

And is it too fanciful to see a mamma chiasmus in the book of Job (along with various parallelisms of course)?

A Job lives well (righteous and blessed)

B The heavenly court (Satan comes)

C Job loses his kids and goods

A’ Job lives well (does not curse God)

B’ The heavenly court (Satan comes again)

C’ Job loses his health

A’ Job lives well (does not curse God)

D Job and his ‘comforters’ [chs 3-27]

E Where/what is wisdom? [28]

D Job and Elihu [29-37]

B’’ God replies to Job [38-41]

A’ Job lives well (righteous and more blessed) [42]

Lord of War

Yet another film to raise the question of realism and extra-artistic significance. This is almost getting tedious (were it not for the seriousness of the subject of this one) - no more 'entertainment' seems to be permitted!

How realistic is Lord of War? Does that matter? Can we enjoy it? (Let alone all the unnecessary sex, I'm talking about the cynical, bleak take on arms and government string-pulling to sell more of them)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Privacy and naturalism again

As for me, I think that no extra disclaimer is needed and that audiences should know better than to rely on films for their historical knowledge, but I could be wrong and questions remain about censorship and responsibility...

...but how I can plug that into Rendition, a film in some ways frighteningly similar to Das Leben von Anderen in its view of government (though the Westophiles in East Germany, as a rule, were not bombing civilians, either in the film or in reality, unlike the extremist Muslims in Rendition and reality). It's very tempting to take Rendition as accurate in spirit and in details - a respectable and innocent Arab living in America is grabbed without due process at an airport and tortured in a pro-US military regime in the Middle East. Watching that sort of thing cannot simply be an artistic activity, as if there were a self-contained artistic zone we can slip into every now and then (pace escapist fans of pap action films). It is bound to affect one's views of the current US approach to fighting terrorism.

And there has been no shortage of films recently about how Americans ought to think about domestic terrorism, the latest being Déjà vu, a slightly glossy and fluffy sci-fi thriller, which once again brings up the question of the viewer-as-voyeur. It's actually very well done (Denzel Washington is excellent and reassuring as always), even if the female-lead-in-underwear device is exploited in a slightly populist and degrading reference to the problem of voyeurism. And the ultra-patriots within the country are just as dangerous as the enemies outside... The state propaganda machine is working hard these days against the defenders of individual liberty and federalism... ;-)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Preterism and apocalypse

A site full of interesting articles and reflections challenging the popular futurist interpretations of certain passages in Daniel, the synoptics, 2 Thessalonians and Revelation.

The Last Days: Rethinking Bible Prophecy in the Light of Scripture and History.

The links to historical and devotional material on the associated Be Still pages are also great. So much food I don't know what to touch first or taste last (to borrow from Stephen Gosson's The Schoole of Abuse, an anti-theatrical pamphlet from the 16th century that entertained us no end as undergraduates).

And here's another great site with collections of preterist and anti Christian Zionist articles.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Lost consonants

The problem with superlatives is that they get used up rather quickly. As does the reader's patience with someone who uses them - it's like a non-dangerous version of the boy who cried wolf.

So, I shall refrain from superlatives as I recommend to you Graham Rawle and his series 'Lost Consonants' in which amusing collages are blended with silly speech bubbles and captions that are missing a letter. I rediscovered these yesterday and fell off my chair laughing several times. I am told that me laughing is quite a sight, as I have a very weird laugh - mostly a squeaking, sawing noise while breathing in, simultaneously slapping furniture and thighs and generally losing control of self and words. Exhausting to perform, intriguing to watch.

Anyway, th'smore than enough about me, go and look at the genius of Rawle.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

NTI political engagement (and post-)

Yesterday's seminar day in Sheffield was as superb as usual. The papers were on...

The complementary teaching of Romans 13 and Revelation 13 about the state
Dutch Calvinist approach to political engagement
Oliver O'Donovan's Desire of the Nations
Genocide in the Old Testament

We really got into some deep discussion, thinking hard about the practicalities of opposition to abortion in the UK, about the nature of a 'Christian State', about O'Donovan and how he's cleverer than all of us put together, about how the prophets were as "genocidal" as Joshua (e.g. Obadiah) but how the New Testament picks this up as being fulfilled in the discipleship of the nations (the destruction of the 'old man'?), and much more besides.

Whippets and flat caps were in abundance, but no breakfast-in-a-box this time (£2.50 from Sandwich Chez down the road from TC's house if you want to sample it) as leftover Bolognase was provided on toast. What other Bible college can do this!?

not at all naturalistic (in that sense, at least)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Why is it called ‘Rise of the Silver Surfer’? How and when does the Silver Surfer rise? Is it perhaps in the final scene when the Surfer turns on his master, ‘Galactus’? That does involve some sort of a moral rise (self sacrifice) as well as the spatial ascension from the surface of the planet. Given how tiny this moral and spatial ‘rise’ is in comparison to all his other movements in various modalities, I think it’s a silly title, even if it does have a nice cinematic ring to it.

But who would have thought that the film could have so many religious resonances?

Right at the opening a new bulletin sums up some of the back-story: “Scientists have ruled out global warming as the cause of the extraordinary climatic events being reported around the globe. With scientists unable to explain the extraordinary events, some are beginning to wonder if the hand of God is at work.”

Here the newsreader articulates an intriguing zero-sum theology of natural/superntural agency. Some things have natural causes (obviously scientists have the final word there) and other things don’t [yet] so that must be God… That sentiment would surely tick off all manner of people, not least Christians who reject any position on causality and natural philosophy they can dub ‘God-of-the-gaps’. However, as a bonus, although probably incoherent, that sentence does represent the kind of thing that a news bulletin would say.

Anyhow, notice how the hand of God may be at work. At the meta-level, the Surfer is the hand of God, and God is ‘Galactus’. And what does this ‘god’ do? Floats around devouring planets (feeding off thermal and other energies), sending his representative ahead of him to prepare the way. An attempt to naturalise and radicalise concepts of the divine, like Pullman’s dust?

Who might the representative of God be? Well in Christian theology he’s Christ, and the Surfer does not disappoint in the final scenes as he stretches out his arms in the classic crucifixion position (compare Superman’s floating position in the stratosphere at a similar altitude in the recent extension of that comic franchise) and gets all white and glowing. This is his moment of self-sacrifice as he heads into the firey [wrath] maw of ‘Galactus’ who is poised over the earth. (Surprisingly no one at NASA spotted its approach! Didn’t they watch Independence Day or Armageddon to see how to track these large objects coming into the solar system?)

So there’s some sort of naturalist parody of judgement, atonement and the like.

Well, probably not, it’s just a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Though that doesn’t mean there isn’t anyhing meaty to say about it… On the DVD the featurette ‘The Four Elements’ there was possibly the most intelligent discussion (or rather, collection of interesting character studies) that one could imagine a cheesy comic-book film having as part of its package. A Marvel writer and the main actors all had something interesting to say and there was none of the luvvie codswallop that usually fills these mini-documentaries (‘Oh, it was so great to work with X, he was so lovely…’)

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Privacy and naturalism again PS

Speaking of which, The Lives of Others also raised questions of voyeurism which I have mused on before (in relation to Being John Malkovich). Watching Rendition didn't help (though the superb review on imdb does) . In fact, I'm not sure that watching films is going to answer the moral questions raised by the activity of watching certain films. Perhaps I should become the kind of person with enough self-control and moral fibre to stop watching a film half-way through, even if I've paid for it. Have you ever done that? If so, what does that say about your pre-watching discernment!?

Privacy and naturalism

As my post on Away From Her indicates, I am currently not too fussed about naturalism in films. But is that a luxury position? Can I say that because I haven't seen a family member die from advancing Alzheimer's long before the body gave up? Can I say that because I didn't suffer at the hands of the Stasi and have to ask 'why?'. Can I say that because I am neither Armenian nor Turkish and so am not woven in to a complex history and culture of recrimination, violence, revenge, massacre, oppression. My identity is not found there, so I am not troubled by minor historical inaccuracies in The Lives of Others or as troubled as some people are by major political and historical statements in Ararat that are extremely controversial.

Am I an untypical viewer? Does the audience in general really suspend its disbelief? Does it do so more or less in 'historical' films, or films set somewhere special?

And what about the marketing of the film. Das Leben der Anderen [a SUPERB film, by the way] has been marketed as being fanatically accurate in its depiction of conditions in East Germany in the mid-80s, but it has been criticised for portraying the Stasi's surveillance practices rather liberally. No assignment would have been left in the hands of just two agents, apparently, and no one would have been left on one assignment long enough to develop any sort of attachment to the people under surveillance. We watched The Lives of Others with friends from church on Friday and then had a long conversation about this with an eminent historical writer.

On the one hand, does that really matter? On the other hand, what if people watched the film and were asking 'why weren't more Stasi people as compassionate as that?' On that particular point, of course, maybe they were - after all, we wouldn't know about it because they would have suppressed incriminating evidence in order to prevent people's arrest. That 'flaw' allows us to be as hopeful about the lives of the Stasi operatives as it opens up the agonised question, above. There is still the question of artistic responsibility. Should the film have a disclaimer at the start that notes what is and what is not claiming to be accurate?

That would be tricky in the case of Ararat because the history is rather controversial. Not to mention the fact that the second half of the film seems to undermine the rather hammy 'educational' message of the first half. 'There was an Armenian genocide' it says clumsily through the words of the young hero at the airport, but then through his further words and actions it says 'people sincerely believe false things on no evidence'. What sort of a disclaimer or otherwise does such a complex (almost surreal) and controversial film require? And is that the director's responsibility, or the distributor's, or the wider society?

As for me, I think that no extra disclaimer is needed and that audiences should know better than to rely on films for their historical knowledge, but I could be wrong and questions remain about censorship and responsibility...

Hoover bags

Or should that be "vac' bags"?

Dad reuses them, and PG advocated the practice when Mrs L changed our bag for only the second time in three years of living here. According to the old man there is a great satisfaction in hoicking out the dust with one’s hands, and this chimes in with my frequent positive experiences in domestic management, especially rubbish disposal. Sounds odd, but there is something satisfying in putting things in the right places – in separating, collecting, transporting, consigning, even over the relatively short distances from the back door to the wheelie bins or the even shorter distances from the dining table (and floor) to the swing bin.

When we turn to washing up we find one of the joys of my life. The satisfaction of cleansing, of making something new again, useable again. It's soothing at the end of a day spent with people or in front of a flickering screen, and it's a way of putting off more important tasks!

That last wrinkle aside, to put it theologically, it's exercising dominion à la the creation mandate of Genesis 1, enjoying the responsibility of work in its various marred glories, and yes, even washing up and taking out the rubbish can be done to the glory of God.

Sibelius and Terminator

The opening of Sibelius’ under-rated first symphony and the main theme of the Terminator 2 film soundtrack bear a strange resemblance to each other… (Not in the Dvorak and Russ Abbott league, but…)

PG pointed this out to me, calling it alternately “Taking motifs and making them work for you” and “shameless plagarism”.

not from round here

We’ve seen it satirised in Hot Fuzz, where the local community dresses up like the Gloucester Klan and does away with any unruly or interfering blemishes to their village. But the satire has more than a grain of truth to it:

The freedom of country life is an illusion of the city dweller. It is real to him only as long as he doesn’t belong to the village community. That community demands strict adherence to its laws and customs. (1)

Kill a child before you kill adat (tradition) (2)

The coercive power of local community sentiment is remarkable. Jesus’ parable on the “friend” at midnight, as recorded in Luke 11 relies upon this. I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his αναιδεια he will rise and give him whatever he needs (verse 8, ESV). Ken Bailey argues that αναιδεια needs to be translated ‘avoidance of shame’ – the neighbour does not want to be known as tight-fisted and since the local community can all hear the guy shouting up to him in the middle of the night he will certainly come and give him what he needs. (3) Ostracism by the local community that would be consequent on such shame, and would increase shame, is not something to be desired!

The purpose of that parable is to point out by contrast the tremendous generosity of God, unconditioned by such local community coercive sentiment, who delights to hear his people’s prayers and answer them. Nonetheless it wholly relies upon the prevalence of that sentiment and to a certain extent relies upon our approval of the coercive function.

This kind of local community traditionalism, enforced with ostracism and even violence is not part of the mindset of the urban Westerner but it is a reality across much of the world. It would be all too easy to point to Muslim communities as exemplary in this case. Even though they do display much of this conservatism and bring it to bear on religious questions (what an affront to the privatised religion of the Rationalist Secular West when it bothers to think about such subjects!) as well as ‘cultural’ or ‘social’ ones (having correctly recognised that such distinctions are fairly artificial) they are not alone in that. Prakke finds remarkable examples in the rural Netherlands persisting into the early 20th century – shopkeepers driven out of business, people carried bodily out of the local area, individuals completely shunned for not keeping local traditions or for leaving the ‘parish’ church in order to join a seccessionist church or house church. This was one of the reasons for the emmigration of hundreds of people from Drenthe to Michigan in the mid 19th century. (4) This was happening in a majority Christian country whose legal system was shaped by the Christian faith and was taking place largely among professing Christians. Perhaps that explains why there are not records of people being killed for shaming the community or for forsaking their religion, things which do still happen in Muslim communities from Africa to the Philippines (including Britain) today…

But pointing the finger is not a simple matter. There are social mechanisms for restraining behaviours in almost every group one can think of, even the unselfconscious evangelical churches of the UK… ;-) There is much to think about here concerning degree, legitimacy, agency and several other –cy words, I don’t doubt.

(1) P. W. J. van den Berg, Het Karakter der Plattelanssamenleving, p.74, quoted in H. J. Prakke, Drenthe in Michigan (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983 [Dutch 1st edn 1948]), p.62.
(2) Malay proverb
(3) Bailey, Poet and Peasant: A Literary-Cultural Appraoch to the Parables in Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), pp.119-133.
(4) Prakke, Drenthe, pp.62-65

Away From Her again

The old man sent me an exceprt from a review of Away From Her on which got me thinking...

'As the daughter of a woman hospitalized with Alzheimers for ten years until her death, I can tell you from observing my mother and everyone around her that there are too many silly false notes to even detail here. Just for one, the idea that the woman is so far advanced that she is putting frying pans in the freezer, yet has the linguistic and cognitive skills to say "All we can aspire to is grace and dignity" is beyond ridiculous.

No film I've ever seen, this one included, has the courage to show what really happens -- the loss of thinking, language, personality, desire to shower and dress, the insistent repetitions or cursing or anger, etc. It isn't a pretty picture, like the one glamorized here, as if you need the warm fuzzy glow ("Let's make love before you leave!") to mist over. What really infuriates me is how over-the-top everyone has praised this because it's so "beautiful."'

Heartfelt though this is, and horrible though the descent of a person into that incurable otherness is, I think the reviewer misses several points to do with the nature of art and fiction.

The film was shot and acted very well - fact - so it's hardly fair to attack it for being beautiful!

Since it wasn't a documentary it is
also fairly immune to criticism that it was selective and unrealistic in its protrayal of the disease - after all, all drama involves suspension of disbelief. The Core was unrealistic in its portrayal of geodynamics, but that is just a frame for the action - a similar thing is true here. Away From Her says, "given this type of deterioration in this woman, married to this man, with this history, in this care home, what might happen?"

It's not really a film "about" Alzheimer's, but about the people, the loss, and about some features of ageing. Yes, there are elements of rosiness and sentiment, but I have seen many films that are more sentimental. It doesn't need to portray the sufferer exactly as she would have been in real life in order to raise all the questions and provide the drama and be as moving as it was. The closing action is quite astounding - at one level, pure Greek tragedy, at another a mere glimmer of false hope against the bleak landscape.

There is a place for a more 'realistic' film about Alzheimer's and for an exposure of care homes that are considerably less attractive than the one in Away From Her but I don't see why Away From Her has to be that film or that place. The demand for realism is very understandable, but I'm not sure it needs to be heeded here.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

some anti-religious honesty

From Frank Furedi, here at He manages to keep his anti-religious animus off the table for most of the article and his analysis of the emptiness of the secular alternative is excellent (ultimately empty, and currently empty in the way politicians and other commentators are inhabiting and promoting it) - just a shame he doesn't follow this insight where it should lead him...

Culture 101(4)

Lesson 4: Away from Her (2006), starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.

An exhausting film. A stunning film. I have never cried so much because of a film. If you care about people, about relationships, about the past, the present and the future, you should see it.

Why am I calling these things Culture 101 (n)? Not because I know what it means, but because I like the way "101" looks on the screen, there's a certain elegance to those signs, and because reading Richard Mouw's When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem has given me 'culture' on the brain.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Culture 101 (3)

Lesson 3: Puccini's 1918 opera Gianni Schicchi

(Lesson 3b, isn't wikipedia great!? Ahem, I'm sure I wasn't supposed to say that...)

Just back from this student production in the Hall of Clare College. Rather crammed, but that was somehow fitting for a one-act comic opera. I don't remember student things being that good in our days at Cambridge! Even if the voices were sometimes drowned by the orchestra and the lack of tiered seating was a bar to full visual engagement it was great fun. Tremendous enthusiasm from all concerned, and some nice touches in the acting and physical movements. Even Mrs L didn't get bored!

Culture 101 (2)

Lesson 2: Alexander McCall Smith, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (Polygon, 2007)

For ages now I have enjoyed the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. In reality, it's only been a few years since the first novel was written, but they feel like old friends. If they weren't so darn good and warming I'd decry them as over-cosy. I guess after two decades of hard-bitten and golden age crime fiction I needed some light relief. And this seventh in the series is exceedingly funny. Pages 109-111 are a particularly rich vein - I laughed out loud six or seven times...

Culture 101 (1)

Lesson 1: a fun Steeleye Span concert last week in the Cambridge Corn Exchange.

You know you're getting old when you go to a Steeleye Span concert and come out grumbling that it was too loud, too 'rock' and not enough 'folk'. It was the old man's birthday pressie from me and I could understand him feeling that way, but me? Yes, I am now officially old, even in the presence of my dad.

The connoisseurs roll their eyes at it but I was glad when they pulled out All Around My Hat as an encore. There were some other great songs and a sublime all-round performance by Peter Knight the violinist (and mandolinist, and guitarist and keyboardist and vocalist...) but overall the verdict stands - past their best and out of balance. Still, they gave it their all, Maddy Prior's slightly lower and less flexible voice notwithstanding - she made up for it by dancing around unselfconsciously, which was almost enough to make the casual observer believe in the innocence of electric folk and folk in general! There are many great recordings around, and I look forward to borrowing them from some friends at Rock who are great fans.