Category Archives: Randomness

Durham Mystery Plays, Fascism and general life stuff

The other day, TractorGirl and I went to see the Durham Mystery Plays, a series of modern attempts to carry on the tradition from the 15th Century of using drama to re-inact stories from the Bible. The most famous series of these is probably the York Mystery Plays, though they have also been revived in Chester. Most of the cast were sixth-formers who did a really great job.

The first play, ‘The Fall of Lucifer’ was at the Gala theatre and based on Britain’s Got Talent; the second was at the Cathedral, ‘The Fall of Creation’ and was an operatic piece with lots of schoolchildren running about, and the remainder, four based on the Old Testament and four on the New, were down at the Sands, a sort of park about five minute’s stroll from said Cathedral.

I think the best and most thought-provoking was ‘God’s Day Off’, imagining what God found when he couldn’t resist taking a look at the Creation on the seventh day. It shows God not being too impressed with the consequences of giving human beings free will and perhaps regretting his decision. It got me thinking about the vulnerability of God and the risk of creation. Probably the most fun play was ‘Noah and the Fludd’, where they made a ‘nark’ to save them and God was a feisty North East women. I don’t think the play in the Cathedral really worked; it wasn’t possible to hear what was  being said most of the time and it all felt a bit silly. I do wonder what the young people re-telling the Abraham and Isaac story made of it…

The day after that, we went on an anti-fascist demonstration with United Against Fascism. I’ll upload photos when I get around to it. The English Defence League came to protest in Newcastle and even on match days I’ve never seen as many police. According to UAF, we outnumbered them; the Police seemed to suggest the numbers were about even. Either way, I think it was really important to stand up against fascism in whatever forms it takes these days. The scary thing though was listening to a bunch of young lads on the train home talking about it all as if it was all great fun. Quite how young some of the lads being groomed are is frightening, as is the level of violence that was casually talked about. One wonders if they really have idea of what they’re getting mixed up in and the consequence for those affected by them.

On a lighter note, my search for a job continues. I have a phone interview to arrange at some point and also an assessment for what they (the uni disability people) think is dyspraxia, which will make my life a lot easier when it comes to psychometric testing. On top of that, I am trying to refresh my memory of my PhD thesis ready for Tuesday’s viva. Apart from a wobble yesterday, I think all of that is going well. But, now for once the sun is out, so I’m going to enjoy working outdoors for a while. TTFN 🙂

Confusing categories

Me in my favourite tie in a characteristic pose

Just a little moan really to distract me from preparing for my viva (on the 8th June – prayers much appreciated!) and applying for jobs.  

I like to wear ties.  

Lots of people seem to assume that doing that is about trying to make a statement about my sexual orientation or gender identity. However, for me, it’s really not about that at all. Yes, I can’t deny I enjoy messing with people’s heads a bit because gender stereotypes and what is considered ‘appropriate’ for each of the sexes seems to be so ingrained, but wearing a tie doesn’t mean I have a deep-seated longing to be  a man. I don’t – I’m perfectly comfortabke with my gender. Nor is it an expression of my sexual orientation – I started wearing ties before I got around to the ‘being honest with myself’ about all that.  

Originally, I got the idea from Kate on ‘The Apprentice’. I thought she looked good and thought I’d give it a try. I wore one to Church one Sunday, and apart fr0m one person (who has a strange gay-guys-don’t-like-lesbians thing going on), everyone complimented me on looking smart (and in one case, sexy, apparently), so I’ve stuck with it.  

I suppose how one dresses does reflect something of one’s personality (or, at points in the past, bank balance and Northern tightness!) and so I guess one could say it is an expression of my eccentricity, but really it’s just because I like them. I like the smart look and it brightens up a shirt. Ok, so with some advice from TractorGirl and others, I’ve got better at choosing ones that look more feminine and coordinate with my shirts, but I still don’t even see the problem if it looks a little masculine. To put it bluntly, I have feminine hair and, ahem, a rather large chest. I don’t think I can really be called stereotype butch. Even if I did, so does k.d. lang, and she still looks sexy.  

Rant over, now to apply for another job and get back to work… oh, and here’s a fun interview with the aforementioned k.d. lang. Enjoy!  

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW7HLqOgM20[/youtube]

All change, please!

Two big changes recently. The first one relates to the new government, about which you’d have needed to be living in a deep hole under Barrow-in-Furness not to have heard about. The second may have been noticed by Church geeks like me – Bishop Tom Wright is to become a professor at St Andrew’s. Having spent the day writing job application letters, I do not have the energy for serious comment, so here’s some irreverent comment instead:

The footage of David Cameron with Nick Clegg was been really quite amusing. If they didn’t have this party-political-coordinated-ties thing going on at the moment it’d be hard to tell them apart! I gather that already some grumpy old right-wing Tories and more left-wing Guardian-reading Lib Dems are having a moan. My bet is it’ll last about six months before falling apart after a blazing row about something trivial that is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I for one am not keen on cross-party love-ins. It’s enough to make you wretch… Wonder what Mr Wesley would have thought: “No con-dem-nation now I dread…” I have rejoined the Labour Party.

Bishop Tom’s departure made the Church of England newspaper, and so did the comment of one blogger, whom I assume is in Durham diocese, that Tom should be congratulated on his amazing ministry, as not everyone could run a diocese from the American lecture circuit and the departure lounges of international airports. Maybe he should get a prize before he takes up his ‘do nothing’ chair. I think a droopy mitre might be appropriate, though I’m open to suggestions…

A Little Light Relief

My last two posts have been quite heavy, so here’s a little light relief:

I went to see Joan Armatrading with TractorGirl at the Sage on Thursday. I enjoyed what I can remember of the concert, but she was going for the stadium effect and so there was a screen with Media Player-style visuals as well as very bright lights and especially loud music, so it all got a bit much for my synaesthesia and apparently I fainted! TractorGirl’s blog tells of how I mistook Joan Armatrading for Joan Armitage for Simon Armitage, a middle-aged male poet. I’m special!

Earlier in the day, I had been to the Baltic to pass a few hours. While there, I bumped into a friend from undergraduate days who was there on a works do, which was random but lovely. In terms of the art, on the ground floor there was a series of three videos by Jordan Baseman about a woman who likes nature and flowers and all that, a man talking about his life of crime and a gay man discussing his first sexual experience in the days when homosexuality was illegal in the UK. I found the latter very moving but didn’t really rate the other two. The rest of the art was bizarre; some bright flashy lights and texts from Iraq war files by Jenny Holzerand something completely random and unintelligible by Raqs Media Collective, which I think was meant to be about falling in love, but just seemed unfinished.

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Gordon Brown has had an unfairly hard time in my opinion for calling Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’ when being driven away from a walkabout. I think her views on immigration and on Eastern Europeans were bigoted (where are they all coming from – Eastern Europe of course, silly old bat!) It has made me more inclined to support Brown; at least he said what he thought! After the hustings, I think my local Labour candidate is a good bet, so that settles the question 🙂

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‘The Cellar Door’ is one of the multitude of Italian restaurants spread throughout the centre of Durham. My previous visits there have been somewhat of a let-down. The service was slow, they never had the wine I wanted and the food was ridiculously greasy. Well, things have changed! I went there with Stewpot yesterday for dinner and it was much better. The food was edible and I didn’t feel I was about to lose ten years off my life. Service was better as the man who always wears a shirt that is too small wasn’t there and the wine was ok. I would now recommend it.

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Finally, life is a bit mad at the moment. I have two job interviews coming up in the next week that would see me doing something rather different to maths PhD work but would both be interesting in their own ways. Prayers for those (Thursday 6th and Tuesday 11th) would be appreciated 🙂 I am doing a science and theology talk on Thursday as well, it’s election day and at some point I have to write an essay on Mission-Shaped Church for my theology course. In addition to all the busy-ness of the next few days, I am absolutely sick of hearing stuff about homosexuality. These last two blog posts have opened a can of worms, and so if anyone talks about it to me, they are liable to get this kind of reaction:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1Zl1stDsUI[/youtube]

Synaesthesia: a colourful world

I see small numbers, medium-sized and larger numbers in various places in space. The colours are not as I've done them here because each number has a unique colour

Yesterday, TractorGirl mentioned that I have synaesthesia, and Jack the Lass was interested in how that works. Well…

According to the BBC, about one in two thousand people have the condition and scientists are unsure about whether the neurons in the brain work differently or are somehow ‘crossed’, but either way the result is a sort of mixing up of the senses, which is unique from person to person.

I hadn’t realised that other people don’t tend to see colours until a chance conversation with TractorGirl a few months ago, so I’m still getting used to trying to imagine what the world looks like without it. For me, sounds have colours and colours have sounds. Colours are also linked to numbers, emotions and strong physical sensations. What this means in practice is that I see a sort of flash of colour when I hear a particular note, or feel a particular emotion, and numbers have a colour even if I write them all in the same colour ink, so nine is green, for instance.

With music, the colour I feel depends on how the piece makes me feel. High notes tend to have brighter shades than lower notes, and loud sounds produce more colours. Green, blue and purple are good colours, red is usually either excitement, danger or a strong physical sensation, pink and orange happen sometimes but rarely, and yellow and brown are bad colours. People seem to think I’m mad if I describe my mood as a colour, but that’s why. Yellow is sometimes accompanied by a horrible scrapping sound. Sometimes, all the colours, sounds and sensations get too much and I get sensory overload, but mostly synaesthesia is a good thing 🙂

In terms of numbers, they have their own colour and also their own place. I’ve made a picture to try to illustrate what I mean. I can see patterns in the numbers and sort of see if they look right, which helps with arithmetic and seeing patterns in sequences. People often have colours, and God is a particularly velvet turquiose.

Uncertainty

It’s been a busy week with essays to get done, so I haven’t had the chance to blog for a little while. In case anyone wonders what a mathematician is doing writing essays (I got a grilling from a friend on Facebook for this yesterday), I am doing a BA in Theology and Ministry with the Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership. For the most part, it’s been a good experience, though given it’s in its first year, there have been teething problems. I’m currently doing a module on the Christian tradition, which has given me the chance to write essays on Anglicanism’s shaping by the Reformation and on the Enlightenment.

The first of those ties into a current dilemma: For some time, I was exploring the possibility of Anglican ordination but that didn’t work out because I didn’t want to lie about the nature of my relationship with TractorGirl. Now, during my time in Durham, I’ve attended Methodist churches at the same time as worshipping at the Cathedral  due to being part of Methsoc. My theology has in some respects moved closer to Methodism than the high Anglicanism I had settled into when I arrived in Durham, but there is a lot about Anglicanism that I still really appreciate.

The reason I’m rambling about this is I am considering joint membership of both churches and this raises certain issues:

  • Is the three-fold ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons the only model for church order or can other models such as the Methodist system work? Is it contradictory to accept two very different structures?
  • How important are the Sacraments, and in particular, participation in the Eucharist, to my faith and how I understand it? I have no problem accepting Methodist sacraments as valid because I go with Richard Hooker’s receptionist understanding and admire Wesley’s emphasis on regular communicating. However, both the Methodist churches in Durham only have monthly communion.
  • Tied in with this is the Methodist sense of membership involving belonging to one particular church, unlike the Anglican system, shaped by being the established church. In practice, this means choosing a church to belong to, and while I’m very definitely part of the family at my preferred church, services there clash with the Cathedral Sung Eucharist which I usually go to. I worship regularly at the other Methodist church’s evening service, but feel much less part of the family there. How to choose?

To add to all of that, the only thing I really miss about exploring ordination is being able to preach. Methodist local preaching has been suggested to me and does appeal, but I’d need to worship regularly in the church to be able to do that with integrity, which may mean having my membership at my less preferred church, or attending the other and sacraficing being a regular at the Cathedral Sung Eucharist. Help!

At the same time as all of this, I’m pondering my future career plans. There are a couple of jobs I’m applying for this week that would use my maths and keep me in Durham. One of them is to do with regional development, which is something I’m more than open to looking into in the future, and it’d be great to be able to use my maths to do something useful.

I think, in the long run, I’d love to have the chance to work on the interaction of science and faith like I was able to in my Enlightenment essay, but am not sure how to make this happen. Answers on a postcard, please!

Caption Competition

Today, while reading something over TractorGirl’s shoulder about Notting Hill Nuns (and you thought Hugh Grant was the height of the action around there. He ain’t got nothing on the nuns, baby!), I noticed this lovely picture on the Premier Christian Radio site:

Ideas for a suitable caption are most welcome. The prize will be a piece of pie. My ideas were:

‘Staying Alive!’

‘Hello, earthlings!’

‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. No, that can’t be right….’

‘Hands up, baby. Hands up!’

‘Hands down for coffee, you cuddly charismatics!’

TractorGirl offered, ‘So, who do I vote for?’

Greetings!

Hello there!

You may know me from such things as occassional comments and references on TractorGirl’s blog. But I am not Troy McClure. If you thought that I might be, look away now.

I am a final years maths PhD student at Durham University and a committed (though not a ‘men in white coats’ way) Christian. Since I submitted my thesis a few weeks ago, I have been persuaded to use some of the time on my hands to start a blog. I’m looking foward to getting to know lots of lovely Wibsite people and procrastinating even more than I currently do, which for anyone who knows me on Facebook, will know is already quite a lot. Eeeee!