Wednesday, 3 July 2013

One hundred and twenty six?!

75 years ago this tea time, Joe Duddington earned himself a place in the history books:

"With my lovely blue streamlined engine Mallard, we drew away from Grantham. I accelerated up the bank to Stoke Summit an' passed Stoke Box at eighty five. Once over the top, I gave Mallard her head, and she jumped to it like a live thing!

Then, 'Undred 'n eight. 'Undred an' nine. 'Undred an' ten.

"Go on, old Girl", I thought. "You can do better 'n this!" So I nursed 'er, and shot through Little Bytham at 'Undred an' twenty three. And in the next one an' quarter 'mile, the needle crept up further.

'Undred twenty three and 'alf. Undred twenty fower. 'Undred twenty five. An' then for quarter of a mile, while they tell me the folks in th' car 'eld their breaths... 'Undred twenty six mile per hour. One 'undred n'twenty six? Tha' wus th' fastest a steam locomotive 'ad ever been driven in th' world."

Until just before they set off back towards London, not even everyone in the train, supposedly a 'brake test special', knew that a world record attempt was on the cards.

'Mallard' was only a few months old - just 'run in' really, and Joe reckoned he could have gone even quicker in the right circumstances, but thanks to the Second World War, a planned attempt to go faster in the autumn of 1939 never came to pass. Her record 126mph run stands to this day as a world record for a steam train.

Tommy Bray, Joe's fireman, must have been right on top of his game, too, as they hurtled along the East Coast Main Line. I ride on the footplate of steam locomotives at 75mph, and have ridden diesels at well over 100, and no matter how well an 'A4' rides at speed, the physical toil, whilst travelling at that speed, is something to marvel at.

All these years later, Mallard's record still stands, despite murmurings from the USA, and over the coming weeks it will be celebrated with what you have dubbed 'Mallard's Party' - which I think is a good way of putting it!

In the 1960s, when even 'A4s' were going back to their Doncaster birthplace, straight from service, to be cut up for scrap, two of the engines were re-painted and given away, as a kind of 'diplomatic gift'. 60008 'Dwight D. Eisenhower' went via Southampton and New York to a museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, later to be joined on the North American continent by 'Dominion of Canada', 60010.

Despite both having gone to countries with shortages neither of British ex-pats, nor railway enthusiasts, it is fair to say that neither engine was particularly well cared for. In fact, 'Dominion of Canada' was not only a tatty, rusty mess but sporting a great big dent in the iconic streamlined nose, made, apparently, by hitting it with a 'buckeye' coupling on a Canadian vehicle. '60008', meanwhile, had suffered the indignity of having her valve gear covered in silver paint, instead of being polished. Meantime, all four 'A4s' left here have steamed - three are still busy working on the main line and 'Mallard' takes pride of place at the National Railway Museum, in York. Their long lost sisters have quietly rotted.

To cut a long story short, after many years of saying 'no', the Americans and Canadians were persuaded to loan their locos for a visit to celebrate their classmate's record, on the condition that the NRM not only paid for it but did them up whilst they were here! The total cost of having the engines with us for little over a year is astonishing, and the costs are seemingly a source of some embarrassment to some of those involved. The money spent could have had 'Mallard' back in steam, as she was for the 50th anniversary. It might even have finished 'Flying Scotsman' off, but that's another story!

Nevertheless, enough people were desperate to see those engines back again, even if only briefly, that they stumped up the money.

'4489', as Dominion of Canada has become once more, looks absolutely stunning now, restored to her original condition, complete with Canadian style bell and whistle (Big Grandad remembers hearing that and knowing which engine it would be, when he was a boy!) and garter blue paint. We will see all six engines on Saturday, and that's the one I am looking forward to seeing the most - but by next spring, they will be gone, back to their hitherto less than careful, and seemingly less than enthusiastic, owners. That will be that.

What a shame, that the two engines could not return to steam here (for there is plenty of opportunity for them, and, indeed, a prospective investor!) with links to their respective embassies, and working visits to their adoptive home countries. Time will tell what happens to them this time round, but I wouldn't bet on seeing either again with my own eyes.

The story of those two engines  is not unlike yours, son, except you were never given away willingly, you were taken by force.

Each brief, hectic visit you spend with us, like those two shining engines in the museum at York on Saturday, is a glimpse of what could be. Objectively, you are in better hands. I no longer hesitate to say that. Your progress with reading, writing, speech and other academic basics is being hampered by inability, inattention and disinterest at home. You are at risk of falling short of your potential.

Like those two engines, you are loved and would be cared for better by those you leave behind, but the vanity of the 'owning' party requires that things stay as they are; like Mallard, as Joe Duddington pushed her towards the history books, 'you can do better than this' - but we can't hope to 'nurse' you to help you achieve it, with the lot we have now.

There is so much you continue to miss out on because I am only your Dad one full day every three weeks. I am your sister's Dad every day, and time will tell how you get on comparatively. In years to come, Step-Mum and I hope neither of you will feel hard done to. For now, we can but pray and strive for things to get better for you, and in the meantime, do our best to make what time we have, special. I know you are looking forward to going to York this weekend and seeing that once-in-a-lifetime lineup of steam superpower.

'Mallard' became the fastest steam engine in the world, 75 years ago this tea time, because Joe Duddington and Tommy Bray used the best of their skills and exhaustive physical effort to propel her to that achievement. Having at long last broken the total stranglehold that kept us apart completely for 666 days and left you alienated, I will keep them in mind as I continue fight for what's right, and strive to do my best to help make you, my son, the very best you can be.

See you on Friday, mate. I'll be the first parent at the gate, as usual.

Love from Daddy

Daddy is back, and is grateful to the many named and anonymous sources of kindly enquiry and support over the last few months, during which time the stress of extensive litigation and the impossibility of speaking candidly and with his customary authenticity without breaking arcane court secrecy rules has made (necessarily anonymous) blogging awkward.

Daddy and Step-Mum now have a little girl of their own, whom Daddy cares for, full-time. The news for Daddy and his son is better than it was, but still not good, as will become apparent over time. They were reunited in October 2012, by court order, after 666 days of forced separation.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A whistle from your Dad

I've just passed Norton Fitzwarren and as 'Oliver' digs into the climb to Whiteball, my thoughts turn further west.

Little Paddington is with me in the train and I hope to see some of our relations later on in the journey, but first we have to go through places which are particularly difficult for me - along the sea wall and past the nursery.

I know you will understand that I have reached the conclusion that I am entitled to a life of my own, and as such this is the first job west of Bristol I've done since I last saw you.

As we hammer over the marshes to attack the South Devon Banks, The crew have been asked to greet you with a whistle from me. It's the best I can do right now.

Love from Daddy

A whistle from your Dad

I've just passed Norton Fitzwarren and as 'Oliver' digs into the climb to Whiteball, my thoughts turn further west.

Little Paddington is with me in the train and I hope to see some of our relations later on in the journey, but first we have to go through places which are particularly difficult for me - along the sea wall and past the nursery.

I know you will understand that I have reached the conclusion that I am entitled to a life of my own, and as such this is the first job west of Bristol I've done since I last saw you.

As we hammer over the marshes to attack the South Devon Banks, The crew have been asked to greet you with a whistle from me. It's the best I can do right now.

Love from Daddy

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Keep the change

Yesterday I was at the airport to welcome my cousin (with her children) back to the land of her birth.

I don't know that you can actually catch jet lag, but thanks to an unscheduled late night helping out a friend, I went to bed when they had been in the air for an hour and a half and was arriving at Heathrow on the Number 140 by the time they landed.

There is a peculiar sort of welcome party laid on for those arriving in London this week:

Either you are shot by the 'Met' or smothered by the Olympic do-gooders in their gaudy shirts and new trainers. Tricky choice.

The man next door is one of the volunteers - he's been at it for almost two years now in various forms, and even his own wife has apologised to us for his preoccupation with all things Olympic!

Anyhow, hard on the heels of the Botswana Olympic team, my cousin and her son and daughter, and their luggage, came through the one-way doors and we headed back to the bus station.

My first cousins once removed have been to this country before but not for a little while. Mindful that Virgin Atlantic's catering might not have been up to much, I handed them a note, telling them it was worth more than they thought (the exchange rate being as it is!) and sent them off to Smiths to get themselves something to keep them going on their bus ride, which would have taken them not far from you.

They came back, suitably amazed at the availability of Cadburys chocolate and Coca-cola (although I am informed that it tastes different here!) and promptly handed me a generous fistful of change, having spent less than half what I'd given them. On the bus home this reminded me of a little story about Big Grandad, and his sister - my cousin's Mum, who sadly is no longer with us and had her own sad story of loss.

Big Grandad and my Aunty were the children of Great-Nana and Great-Grandad, who were Salvation Army officers. In those days, that vocation was a poverty-inducing one, and they were never very well off.

On a long train journey (before the days when officer families had cars), Big Grandad tells me that his parents told him to go with his sister and have something to eat in the dining car. Such was the expense of this (some things never change - railway catering prices being one!) that they couldn't afford to go with them.

Big Grandad and his sister went into the dining car and were offered all manner of food. Despite being particularly hungry, mindful of their parents' sacrifice, the two children politely declined everything that was brought out to them, to the bewilderment of the train crew. In the end, they had but a toasted teacake each (that was nearly a pun, wasn't it!), and that was that.

Returning to their parents, they were asked what they had had to eat, and as they gave their account, faces fell, as it turned out that dinner was a fixed price and they could have eaten as much as they wanted...

Now, I have to say this doesn't seem to run in the family. Despite having supposedly been fed at nursery, I used to take you in the restaurant on the 1200 Plymouth - Paddington and more than once you polished my meal off, causing me to have to order a second!

I'll be on the West of England main line again more than once in the near future, and heading your way. 

I know you will be moving away from the line when you leave the nursery, but keep waving to the trains, son. One day, I might be on it. And next time God's Wonderful Railway brings you to London, you can be sure of a warm welcome from all your family here.

Love from Daddy

Monday, 23 July 2012

A happy anniversary

Hard on the heels of a sad occasion which shouldn't be, we have a rather happier one, as Step Mum and I celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

Getting married twice was not something I ever had planned. I should add that it is not something you should ever plan for, but to quote Alan Partridge, I was given promises which weren't kept.

Covenants are important. We have talked about that a lot recently. I think the biggest lesson I have learned is that, as in business, the parties to a contract weigh one another up, and take considerable steps to ascertain the likelihood of one another keeping their part of the deal, one of the most important parts of a covenant is being sure not only that you "enter into this new and holy relationship with reverent thought, honest intention, and in the fear of God", to quote the Army articles of marriage, but that the other person does, too!

It was of course a day when you were keenly missed, but we had a lovely day, staged at places which were 'home' for me in particular, accepting the kindness offered by our Army and Railway families.
We had a job getting all our elderly relations to (and through) the day, and not quite all of them made it.

Our special train was hauled by Great Western Railway 4-6-0 No. 4953 'Pitchford Hall', specially chosen for the occasion, not only because it looked a treat on the umber and cream, but because it was the engine on which you had your first cab ride on your second birthday.

The specially made headboard, from the same foundry that produced the shedplate I had made when you were born, has since graced a number of other vehicles, including at the National Railway Museum and a run past Grandma and Big Grandad's house, and the level crossing on the North Staffs line where I used to go watching engine and van moves on the main line when I was a kid. We will of course use it on future family occasions.
Objectively, it has been a difficult first year of marriage for us. We have had a lot to contend with - but we have made it out the other side. Mummy's claims that you were at risk because there was a likelihood of Step-Mum kicking me out have been proved somewhat ill-founded. Indeed, Step-Mum didn't just welcome both of us into her life, but she sacrificed an awful lot for us - and without her I wouldn't have been able to get as far as today. There is no doubt, the full force of what Mummy has unleashed would have broken me if I'd been left facing it alone.

The thing is, when you have entered into a covenant and seen it smashed to pieces; when you have seen the administrators of that covenant run a mile, you are even more careful before entering another one.

You will find out for yourself in time that Mummy's wild claims about Step-Mum and me are a load of old cobblers, and that you have a Dad who keeps his promises, so far as he is able.

Time will tell what all of us make of our lives, with and without particular people around. I will be sad for you though, for all the time and people that you may have lost by the time you are free to seek the truth.

Love from Daddy

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Who moved?

Your fourth birthday leaves me wondering what to write to update last year's piece.

I told you then about the chronology of your life, about what had happened, and all the people who had vanished from your life.

A year on, despite having not even seen a picture of you since, we know a lot more that we did about just how that happened. We know what conflicting arguments were made, what dubious logic was successfully advanced to people eager to hear and act on what was self-evidently nonsense. We know, too, that our instincts have, as more often than not, been right, about what has been going on.

I have been told recently by Mummy's legal executive that I am not entitled to answers to questions about you, which include asking when and how you are going to see your Dad and your paternal family again - if indeed you ever will in some cases (Great Grandpa is really not well, for starters).

You however will one day be able to ask questions of your own, to which you will draw your own conclusions about the answers, from whatever information is available to you.

At your house today will arrive, as usual, a gift and a card from us (as from others), the only likely proof of which I ever will get is the signature from Royal Mail. We won't know if you got it, let alone see you open it. We won't know if you knew who it was from. We won't know if you knew why it was sent.

Today, as usual I will be found at Paddington. We certainly don't expect to see you there today, but it is good discipline and a point of focus for me. One day you might want to come and find me there. I want also to mark today the kindness of the people who have given to you by giving to us, in all sorts of ways, over the past year. They will understand the significance, particularly.

I'm not a big fan of smug wayside pulpits like the one above, even if the theology is right, but it would be a good challenge to all manner of people involved in your case at the moment. They know who they are.

It's not your fault - none of this is - but if you grow up and feel far from your Dad, guess who moved?

The question for you, then, is who moved you?

My commitment to you is that I will still be here if you come looking. Just like all the toys you put in their bed the day you left, I'll be waiting for you when you come back.

Happy fourth birthday, Son.

Love from Daddy.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Holy Huddles

Well, it's been a busy weekend in the Army world.

After an unexpectedly fraught day on Saturday, we made it to Westminster Central Hall for the evening meeting of the commissioning of the 'Friends of Christ' session of cadets, several of whom we know from various places.

It was good to share in the occasion; oddly enough, it was the first time I had been to a commissioning, despite the fact that for much of my life I would have envisaged already having been to my own.

You see, it is all very well the Candidates Director saying, as he did on Saturday night, 'Don't worry about your children. God knows about your children', but people like Step-Mum and I are in circumstances where it's not quite that simple.

I have to say that when you have been personally (and painfully) 'hung out to dry' by certain Army leaders to whom you looked for help, when you have seen your infant son's welfare become, at times, a political football, when you continue to see the Army at an organisational level ignoring the pain of people suffering an affliction which affects you personally, and when you know that speaking out about those things compromises your standing in the eyes of some mighty men (and women) who would hold your future in their hands were you an officer, and when you see Godly men and women stifled by church red-tape, it's a conundrum.

When your ability to 'leave your nets' is compromised by the debts you've racked up as you were dragged through the courts by another Salvationist, it is of little practical help that, under God, you have stuck to his, and the Church's, precepts, to that point. Especially when the Army struggles to show any sign of upholding and acting as arbiter over covenant relationships which it administers.

As it happens, the Army had every opportunity to have me for an officer before I even met your Mum; before practical matters impinged upon my ability to 'go'. I was a member of the Vocational Fellowship when I was still a junior soldier. Even my careers papers from school record (to the complete bewilderment of the 'careers officer') my intention to follow your great-Grandfather into training. In the end, I turned up to a candidates interview to be told off for being 'too Army', to find that my assessment conference place was cancelled (a surprise only to my Corps Officer and me) and that they would much sooner I become a 'Lieutenant' in a hurry, which would after all allow them to make me a corps officer sooner and plug a hole in the division. My insistence that I wanted to go to Denmark Hill and train properly for a life's work cost me any opportunity at all, at that stage.

A later interview a few years on the railway later, included on the divisional panel a young officer, not long out of the college, who told me 'we have to give you a hard time now, because we can't afford to have people dropping out all the time like they used to - this is a lifelong commitment'. Yeah, you guessed it - within a year, that particular Divisional Youth Officer had cleared off to another denomination at the drop of a hat.

Now, I am quite willing to testify to God's timing. I am quite happy to testify to God having guided my life in directions I never expected, or even wanted, because he knew better, and he held the future. Indeed, I can only have any credibility working in the field I do now because I have been there, done it and unwillingly bought the t-shirt myself. Nevertheless, I am also pragmatic enough to understand that organisationally, as from a policy standpoint, the Army is capable of getting things wrong, because it is full of fallible human beings like me. The Army has let people, has let officers, down in the past. Sometimes has been open enough to admit it.

As I sat in Westminster Central Hall on Saturday, I looked at my friends on the platform and I wondered where I fitted in - no less convicted of a calling from God to serve, but frankly not sure any more where he was asking me to cast my lot in the longer term.

In the ministry which I have recently embarked upon, I have no great resources of finance or people - but even Commissioners have told me (not that they want to be quoted as such!) that I am doing a pioneering work; that one day, the Army's practical outreach to families in general and fathers in particular might show the hallmarks of what we are feeling our way into.

That work is no less a calling and no lesser calling - and it offers me a degree of autonomy and a freedom to speak up and speak out which the Army's senior leaders tell us from the platform to use, and tell us in their emails not to. An officer recently pointed out to me that there are things I can do now which they simply wouldn't be allowed to.

Moving forward a day, and west a continent, General Bond spoke last night at the commencement of the International Leaders' Conference in Toronto. She, as usual, was speaking on her 'One Army, one mission, one message' theme. She said this (my emphasis added):
You are the Salvation Army... The SA on fire, the SA that knows who it is, the SA that is convinced of its calling”
Now Yes, we do respect other churches. We thank the Lord for what they contribute - and in many ways God has given them gifts he has not given us. Now that’s the truth. But God has given something to the Salvation Army that, if we surrender it, I think we will die. He’s given us a holy passion for him. He’s given us a holy passion for the marginalised. He’s given us a holy passion for the lost. We cannot lose it. We must be one Army on fire, all around the world. 
And we need to be the Army of the 21st Century.  And we need to, with this kind of purpose and power, to move into the world together...
...We were never meant to be a holy huddle. And if you are content going to your corps, Sunday after Sunday, enjoying the music, enjoying the fellowship, and you do not care what happens beyond your walls, I need to tell you, maybe I’m being too direct, but you’re not the Salvation Army
I absolutely agree. General, that sounds like an Army I want to be serving in. Wait, I am!

I have to say though, to the senior officers, from the soldiery, that this cuts another way:

You weren't meant to be a holy huddle either! And if you are content going to conferences, sitting in meetings and visiting one another at headquarters, week after week, enjoying tea and biscuits with dignitaries, promoting each others' books, stifling the creativity of the best officers, tolerating the incompetence of the duds, and pontificating upon the state of 'your' army, and you don't care what happens beyond your walls (or your halls), I need to tell you, and maybe I'm being too direct, but neither are you! (Except of course that, as we know, the Army legally belongs to the General).

I sense especially at the moment that the Commissioners are a 'holy huddle' of a sort, because it is very difficult to discern individuality, new thinking or difference of opinion among them. I don't doubt for a moment that they have all of these things, but it's as if there is an unspoken rule, tightening its grip, that they keep it behind closed doors, where the efficacy of internal debate is beyond the sight of the rest of us. Of course the church, and its leaders in particular, should show solidarity. But we are in danger of confusing holding the line with toeing one.

As an example from my own experience, those who have met with me (and they have) over the last little while to talk about you in particular, or the Army's response to family law in general (and I try to keep those subjects discrete) didn't want anyone else to know that they were doing so, and certainly didn't want to be quoted. Particularly since they have done so little, I wonder why. Maybe it's because they've done so little.

On Sunday, we participated in something of a 'health check' on our corps. I think a good few of us, when asked what we would like to do to improve what we do, looked at the boards of post-it notes and were struck that other people were thinking what we were. Not everyone agreed, not everyone felt able to say exactly what they thought, I feel sure, but particularly if you think the afternoon meeting needs revitalising, or the speakers in the foyer re-connecting, it turns out you are in community! That board of 'improvements' is now a range of opportunities which as a corps we can consider and do something positive with.

I happen to think that if the Army was less afraid of debate, and less afraid of letting people crack on, those Commissioners would likewise feel emboldened by community of views amongst those whom they lead. People would be able to come forward and encourage them.

As it is, ironically, an Army which, to quote the General's vision, reaches out to the dispossessed, inadvertently dispossesses the soldiery and corps officers in particular by failing to show that their concerns are the Army's concerns, and giving advocacy to causes which they personally can identify with or have expertise regarding.

To come full circle, I am reminded nevertheless that if Step-Mum and I are ever to become Salvation Army officers, we will have to have our candidacy signed-off by a Territorial Commander. One of the hurdles, if you will, is that we have, through no particular desire of our own, ended up at closer quarters to the top of the tree than most, and that speaking candidly of my experience, as I do, is unlikely to help unless things change!

General Bond told the conference yesterday "Any time his people meet together, he wants to come with the unimaginable, the unexpected and the impossible. So we will wait on the God who loves to surprise us". My question is, will the Army let me do the unimaginable, the unexpected and the impossible, for and with God? The messages are mixed.

Even so, as our Lieutenant friends, the 'Friends of Christ', settle into their new positions at the foot of that command structure, in appointments some of which are out on a limb, either metaphorically or geographically, (the General spoke last night of people 'working in difficult places' ) we wish for them God's richest blessing in their individual ministries - because whilst their officership will be governed by the Army, it is for the one who calls each of us that they will labour - and his will be the 'well done' for which we, and all our fellow Salvationists, of substantive rank or not, must strive.

Love from Daddy

Friday, 6 July 2012


A number of friends of ours are being commissioned as Salvation Army officers this weekend.

I thought I might, with that in mind, share this speech by Commissioner Vic Poke, our former Chief Secretary:

It's all about doing your best in the situation you find yourself in, and leaving the big stuff to 'the man with the plan'. 

 Love from Daddy

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The wages of stupidity

I had other plans for a piece I was going to write today - in fact two pieces were already vying for my attention when Step-Mum picked up a tweet from @salvationarmyuk which raised more than a little interest.

The 'Travelling Horse of Wrexham'
Whilst there's a saying on the railway that there's 'nowt so daft as the general public' (and a good degree of CCTV evidence to back this up), it is dangerous to proceed on that assumption in the PR space.

When the UK territory tweets "Read our latest response to the statements made on Australian radio regarding the LGBT community", they immediately invite not just a look at their piece, but for people to hit Google in search of their own truth. Five bewildering minutes later, having read the UK territory response (now, curiously, removed, but not before a screenshot was collected!) to something they didn't clarify the origins of, and the Australia Southern territory response which gave us the radio station name to whack into Google, I was listening to the 'Salt and Pepper' show on 'Joy 94.9', an Australian radio show, clearly by gay people, for gay people.

Their interview, on the back of a statement responding to a proposed boycott from a former pop star, which was only really reported by the gay media, with Major Andrew Craib, (at the time the Territorial Director for Public Relation, now all of a sudden Divisional Public Relations Secretary for South Australia, quelle surprise), was by the Army's agreement. He was not ambushed! That being so, you have to ask the question - what on earth were they thinking when they agreed to give an interview to a show which describes itself thus (cover your ears, children, the Army wouldn't want you reading some of these words so I've had to edit it):
"'Salt and Pepper' takes a salacious look at the week that was. Think of it as a queer media watch' Serena, the salty one and Pete,the peppery one, are a couple of grumpy old journo types who bring you an overview of the week in media. From Royal Wedding w**k to the simplest of idiots making stupid errors, we will look at media treatments of gay events around the world, and the headlines that you didn’t read right here in our own back yard. No one is immune – not event our own joystars. Join them to hunt through headlines, and wade through mediocrity, and just have a rollicking time."
I am not sure on what grounds they felt it was desirable or sensible to give an interview to a show for homosexuals which hinges on the word 'salacious', on a station with only 216,000 listeners, on a show that airs at 2300 on a Tuesday, but Major Craib's comments suggest that it was all about the money.

The Army was so desperate to try and make sure gay people kept giving, that it put itself forward for ritual humiliation. That would have been bad enough, but Major Craib's performance was an utter disgrace and a total embarrassment. If the show set out to 'wade through mediocrity', well, they succeeded.

I'm not going to type it all out, but I would encourage you, if you're a Salvationist, to grab your handbook of doctrine, a Bible, and listen to it here or here.

You might feel sorry for a soldier being stopped in the street and fed to the bears like this, but a Major? In a Public Relations appointment? Deliberately putting himself in that position? Was he crazy?

He didn't understand the scriptural or theological basis of our beliefs. He didn't understand the context of the book of Romans. He didn't even identify that the Army uses the same bible as all other mainstream Christians, or manage to make the point regarding Leviticus that if they objected to the old covenant, maybe they would like to take on a Jew regarding that, since they, not us, still live rigidly by it? Bit of a training issue, one might suggest?

He did, however, understand that his brief was to try to make good any damage to the Army's reputation amongst gay people or sympathisers, who may put their money where their mouths are and stop giving - and herein lies a greater problem, which becomes painfully apparent in the UK territory statement.

Another blogger has said this:
"Craibe’s reason for doing the interview was to convince members of the LGBT community that they should ignore the boycott call because The Salvation Army is a good organization doing good deeds in local communities. However, he was not prepared for the tough, but fair, questions he received. Instead, of tamping out the boycott flames, he undoubtedly fanned them.
While other Salvation Army spokespeople have stepped back from Craibe’s dogmatic statements, they have not completely repudiated them. They have all articulated the belief that members of the LGBT community are sinners existing in spiritual death and in need of salvation. Nevertheless, The Salvation Army is delighted to take their money. 
The Salvation Army is certainly entitled to its religious beliefs. But, given its beliefs, what did the organization really hope to gain by going on a radio show targeting the LGBT community? While Craibe was not adequately prepared, I’m not sure any amount of preparation would have helped much given the organization’s religious beliefs. Rather than helping to end the boycott, the interview will likely strengthen it.
The follow-up statements from The Salvation Army are also troublesome. The Salvation Army USA official statement makes it sound like the organization accepts the LGBT community. However, as Byrd’s [US NHQ PR Director] email to me reveals, the posted statement may really be just a fig leaf hiding what many in the LGBT community believe to be The Salvation Army’s true position: You’re a sinner. You’re broken. We look down on you. But, we want your money."
Even though I agree with the position the Army espouses, I am troubled by the logic, which is strong. It's not a big deal until you go to those people asking for their money, not least because once they've given, rightly or wrongly, they feel that they are owed a form of acceptance of their life choices which we cannot in all good conscience afford them.

As the blogger, Michael Rosen, concluded:

"The Salvation Army cannot have it both ways...
...The Salvation Army should develop a communications strategy before speaking. And, that strategy should be absolutely honest. Come to think of it, perhaps The Salvation Army needs to be honest with itself. Perhaps it should actually embrace the boycott movement rather than fight it. Perhaps it should stop accepting donations from people it believes are unrepentant sinners.
All nonprofit organizations should be true to their mission and values. When engaging the public, all nonprofit organizations should have a carefully crafted, but thoroughly honest, strategy in place. The Salvation Army missed the mark on both points."

William Booth believed there was no such thing as 'dirty money' - he would take it from anyone - even the likes of Lord Rothschild.

When I was a boy, I thought that was such a wonderful view to take; indeed, when I used to do my 'red shield appeal' (if you read 'red shield' in German, there's an interesting conspiracy theory!) enveloping during the mid-90s, our envelopes used to bear the words 'we do not benefit directly from the national lottery', or something similar. Grandad explained to me that the word 'directly' was because whilst we didn't take money from Camelot, we weren't to know if the tenner someone put in their envelope was as a result of three balls matching on the preceding Saturday!

It's not that simple though. In my youth I failed to perceive that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Not from the state, not from private donors. He who pays the piper may not exactly call the tune, but he can decide on the basis of the tune played if he wishes to fund the piper further.

The question I therefore ask is, does that matter? I would say yes, if it does to the donor, at least!

If you receive money to use as you see fit, that's great. But if you receive money wrapped with expectations other than those which you feel are right, that's a different matter.

The Army already subscribes tacitly to feminism, cheaply portraying men as abusive, homeless drunks who need setting straight and women and children as their victims, who need protecting. You only have to look at the materials we send to prospective donors, and put on the walls in our halls.

Similarly, at a lower level, there are those who, on this particular issue, are waving a rainbow flag through the Army's corps', and even the corridors of power, in pursuit of doctrinal change. There are many Salvationists who do not understand the Army's stance, because we are often scared of teaching it, and there are a good few, I reckon, who actively oppose it or even break it, but are soldiers nonetheless.

At the point where a radio show which claimed to want 'balanced debate' rounded on Major Craib for correctly asserting that homosexual acts are a choice, and therefore may be abstained from, there was a decision to be made. Do we want these people's money as our first priority, or do we want to be 'true to our colours'?

It was too late for the interview itself. Major Craib was in complete meltdown - in fact, we heard in the background the surest sign that someone is 'dying' in an interview - the ringing of their mobile phone, followed by a short silence and a message tone. I wonder who and what that was. Maybe we should have ordered Major Craib a taxi like Diane Abbott?

Returning to that first tweet, the international Army has decided to respond, and it's only because of that decision that the likes of me even know about the incident. That's right, something damaging happened in Australia as a result of a public spokesman dropping the ball, so we told the world. It looks like that has hit home now, in the UK at least, because the webpage, the statement, and the tweet advertising it, have all been excised less than 24 hours after they appeared. Light the blue touchpaper...

The interview took place on 21 June and it was yesterday, 3 July, that the UK territory's statement appeared. It appeared to have common elements with those from other territories. The opening paragraph, for instance, matches that on the United States NHQ page. Australia Eastern's Major Bruce Harmer's competent (though not hugely edifying) 'Q&A' response is also available there.

The UK territory chose not to link to that bit, but to write their own conclusion, and it's the last paragraph with which I must take issue:
"We respect and value the diversity of our staff and the people we support and treat them each as unique individuals. As well as having a right to be dealt with professionally, people can expect from us encouragement and a respect for their individual beliefs, ambitions and preferences." (emphasis added)
Insufficient use of the comma has inhibited the clarity of that last sentence, but I am sorry; for precisely the reason outlined by Paul in his epistle to the Romans, it would be utterly wrong of me to 'encourage' a preference for sin, the wages of which is death. (Rom 6:23). It would be wrong in civil society to believe that unsaved sinners merit wilful disrespect - it doesn't fit with 'love the sinner, hate the sin', but I am still entitled, indeed called, to the sincerely held belief that those who participate in homosexual acts are going to hell - and, regretting that, to sincerely want to do something to bring them to salvation and a more fulfilling way of life.

General Bond told us fervently from the Albert Hall platform a few weeks ago that she believes in the devil and hell, but not that we should evangelise out of the 'turn or burn' mould.

Scripture tells us again and again that the devil wants us to be comfortable with sin - to think nothing of it. That's the most dangerous situation - when we tell ourselves 'it's ok'. We are specifically called to guard against it!
"Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (Romans 12:2, MSG) 
"Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. " (Ephesians 6:13, NIV) 
Does the Salvation Army still believe in sin? In strong doctrine and strong mercy?

I hope so. If it doesn't, why would any Salvation be necessary?

If we do, then we should say so - and maybe it would be prudent not to expect donations from those who vehemently disagree, or would seek to mould us into something else.

A senior officer recently said to me that if we removed from the soldiers roll everyone who broke the dedication covenant made in relation to their children, we would have far fewer soldiers. We remove them for drinking alcohol, but not for failing to uphold the principles of Christian family life in relation to Children regarding whom they freely entered into an extra covenant relationship with God.

Maybe we should tell people, when they bring their child to the Army to be dedicated to God, that we don't actually worry about whether the covenant which the Army administers and into which the parents and congregation enter with the almighty, is kept? If the covenant is defiled by disrespect, the ceremony is as a clanging gong, is it not?

And if homosexual acts are one day no longer sin to be identified as such, when and how did we become arbiters? More to the point, which sin might we legitimise next?

The one that shouts loudest?

The one that's most socially acceptable or politically expedient?

The one which threatens to stop giving money to us?

If as individuals, or as an Army, we are ever foolish and short-sighted enough to take our eyes off being the best we can be, as saved sinners and sanctified saints, and dilute our doctrine for the highest bidder, or to keep the cartridge giving up, ours will be the wages of stupidity.

Eventually, we wouldn't even be there to love those people as God intended

Love from Daddy.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Keeping records

GULLIDGE William Arthur  

B Company 22nd Battalion
New South Wales

So reads, when translated from the Japanese phonetic script, the entry on the log thought to be the most accurate record of those on board the Montevideo Maru when it sank, torpedoed by a US naval ship, in 1942.

The Montevideo Maru was carrying POWs and internees, captives of the Japanese, when it was sunk on 1 July 1942. It is recognised as Australia's greatest loss at sea.

Amongst those on board, all of whom (the captives at least) perished with the ship, was one of the finest Army march writers - Arthur Gullidge, and most of his men of the 2/22nd Battalion Band, fellow Salvationists, seven of whom were from Brunswick Citadel corps and had joined up en masse with their bandmaster

Speaking at the funeral of the great Welsh composer Joseph Parry, Elfed said it was impossible to bury a musician because his songs and his music lived on beyond his death - and that is certainly true of Gullidge, the seventieth anniversary (to the day) of whose death we marked on Sunday afternoon with the playing of 'Emblem of the Army'

Gullidge's was a unique style of march, characterised by a minor key opening and (from where I sit) heavy, technically challenging bass solos, and indeed if there were to be any criticism levelled at his famous marches, it would be merely they are quite similar! You hear a Gullidge march, be it 'Victorious', 'Army of Immanuel', 'The Fount', and you just know it's one of his - or the 'honorary' one, 'Crown of Conquest', written as a tribute to him by Ray Steadman-Allen.

You can find out more about the story of Arthur Gullidge and his band, on YouTube, and in a recent blog piece here.

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was a communications man's nightmare in the dark days of 1942. The ship had not, apparently been carrying any markings indicating its cargo, and in the context of the thinking of the day, it is unsurprising that there was cover-up about what had happened until the war was over. Gullidge's wife and children were kept in the dark for three and a half years about the fact that he had died.

These days, it would be much harder to effect a cover-up like that. Wars are played out on the television, and where that falls short or is silenced, it is hard to stop social networks from doing their stuff. You only have to look at the lengths the Chinese have to go to now, with their attempts to effect censorship.

Nevertheless, obtaining information about much smaller matters like the state of your teeth, is rather more troublesome, even with all the legal provision of the Data Protection Act 1998, a piece of legislation Step-Mum and I are now very familiar with.

Two weeks ago, after I raised the issue with the aim of completing my set of healthcare records (and because the health visitors hadn't checked), Mummy suddenly decided you should go to the Dentists. She reluctantly gave me the details of the surgery, and when I rang them to check when you were due to be seen, they helpfully told me not only that you were going the next day, but told me, quite without me asking, the details of Mummy's next appointment, too!

Unsurprisingly, when I said I would like to attend with you, Mummy cancelled the appointment, and all of a sudden the surgery are being rather less obliging - indeed they've not replied to my correspondence at all. So, it's Subject Access Request time, another tenner to cover the maximum statutory fee and another trip to the post office for a recorded delivery.

We now have had to play the data purchasing game with, amongst others:
  • Hospitals
  • GP surgeries
  • A Primary Care Trust
  • Nursery
I've spent over £100 just on obtaining, or trying to obtain, information which I shouldn't have needed to ask for. The next step for some of these places is the Information Commissioner, or a claim in the civil courts. Not really good enough when some of those who have given the most grief are agencies of the state.

I have to say that part of the problem is that so few Dads in my position seem to go through the process of obtaining what they are entitled to. The moment I was prevented from keeping an eye on your health myself, these things became important. With one in three children missing their father from their home, places such as these should be receiving more requests than they are, and would as a result know more of their legal obligations.

For the benefit of other Dads who may be reading, everything you need to know is on the Information Commissioner's website.

Mummy would of course have little to fear from all these records being pulled, indeed she might be more keen to share them, if it weren't for the fact that they are stripping the veneer from her competency as a parent. Similarly, she probably wishes she hadn't told all her family and friends to read this blog, now that, with time, my claims about her duplicitous and vindictive actions are all being proved accurate.

In the same way that you can hear a Gullidge march and instantly recognise his hallmark, the day will come, a good few years down the road, when no matter what has happened (and I might even have gone to my reward by then), you can open the books and see the sheer administrative lengths I went to on your behalf in the face of all this hostility and opposition. Even if I haven't been, or aren't around, you will be able to discern the hallmarks of your father's labours.

Love from Daddy