Saturday, 12 July 2008

Holiday blog episode 2

3rd July

More about donkeys

The Donkeys’ and Asses’ Council (DAC) has asked for an apology and a ‘complete retraction’ of adverse comments in this blog re donkeys. Was I aware of the genuine affection in which they are held? Did I know that the Donkey Sanctuary is among the best supported charities in this country? Was I not ashamed at contributing to the ignorant prejudice concerning ‘this much loved and often misunderstood member of the animal kingdom’?

I can only repeat that I have nothing against them. I know they have an honourable history. After all, you can’t go through vicar training at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford without learning about Balaam’s ass. Balaam was the international superstar guru of his time. If you really wanted to diss someone, he was the man you called in as your trump card. Which is what Balak wanted to do the advancing Hebrew people. It was something like the BBC dragging in a heavy-weight expert to deal with some Church of England quarrel like women bishops (Christina Rees), liberalism (Rod Thomas) or homophobia (Colin Slee). They head for the studio and their sat nav tells them their route is blocked. However much they argue, it won’t let them go that way, or any way. Eventually the satellite beams down the reason: there’s an angel in their way. Sat Nav knows best; and the Beeb never gets the killer interview it hoped for. Well, Balaam’s ass was like that. He, or she, actually saw better than the world’s leading seer, or guru. ‘There’s a blooming great angel in the way - and he’s got a sword. And there’s no way, Balaam, I’m going to argue with him.’ Balaam in the end was forced to admit that the donkey was right, and he was wrong. And Balak got a very different outcome from what he’d hoped.

So let me agree and state categorically that donkeys are no mean beasts of burden. After all one once carried the most significant figure in history into Jerusalem. (Though, ironically, the point of that would be lost if it wasn’t in fact just a workaday beast of burden.) Rest at peace, donkey-lovers, everywhere. I love ‘em too.

2nd July

Summer Watch

It’s like Summer Watch here. We park our car just outside a barn where there are two swallows’ nests. There’s a constant swooping in and out and that squeaky chatter. I don’t know if swallows have more than one brood, but by the look of it there are some which have fledged and by the sound of it some are still in the nest. When the barn door is closed, there’s window above it through which they can come and go. Their speed and accuracy is phenomenal. Yesterday one landed between the path and lawn right by our feet. It was such a slender and fragile creature, just lying there close to. It is quite amazing that these delicate-looking birds will fly south as far as East and South Africa in the autumn before returning here again next spring. They can be forgiven the deposits left on the car for that.

It was a glorious summer’s day here. Being up on a hillside, we didn’t have the sweltering temperatures of centre court. But we had breakfast and lunch in the sun (and the wind) overlooking the Black Mountain, visited occasionally by a native red kite passing low over the house. We sometimes see them over Stanford, but those are the reintroduced specimens. The owners of the house here put out bird feeders, which are usually crowded with tits, finches, sparrows, and from time to time a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers. A family of marauding grey squirrels continually decimate the nuts and seed, and sadly Jess has lost any hunting instinct she once had.


  1. I keep thinking about the donkey carrying The King.

  2. For anyone to think you are 'dissing' the donkeys by using it in a so called 'negative' manner is missing the point. Far from that. The humility and fragile gentleness of the donkey is very much reflected in your story. If you walk like a donkey (for me, I walk more like a kind of duck) well, that is an exceptional blessing. It always feels like donkeys have a story behind their eyes. You have that. And yet a strength to carry others - you have that. And also a weakness, something slightly amusing - perhaps it IS amusing to lose one's dignity to a degree but that does not make you - or the donkey - 'stupid'. There is something FREEING in losing control!
    The donkey is a servant in so many ways. NOT in control. Not a control freak.
    In a world of control freaks, what an amazing thing to let go of that control and DEPEND - on God, on others. Donkeys depend on others to feed them, to care for them, to encourage them, to protect them. But they are also able to give so much back to their carers. They are able to give strength and to carry.
    How amazing that as a new kind of donkey, you are learning not to be a control freak. Perhaps our biggest struggle as humans. You are learning to TRUST.

    Michael - and anyone else reading this - if you havne't already, you MUST read 'The Shack' by William Young. Buy it at New Wine. It will blow your mind.

    As for you ass, well, I don't feel in a position to comment....