Friday, 24 December 2010

end of the cold war, humanism, friends, happy christmas

We went on a lovely walk this afternoon in the snow.

There are a lot of green lanes near the village and it's easy to imagine you're catching glimpses of how the landscape looked in previous centuries.

There is also what remains of RAF Bampton Castle--shown in two of the above pics. Now the buildings have been turned into business units and only a couple of the installation's steel towers are left. But when we moved here ten years ago, the place was still a cold war listening station. There were armed sentries, giant pylons and porcupine fields bristling with rows of little masts. Then it was decommissioned, over night it seemed like, and diggers worked late into the evening, eerily clandestine, dismantling everything.

On the way home this afternoon, we called in at the Morris Clown and saw friends, which was lovely. Excellent Christmas Bonus on handpump too.

At home, listening to the radio, I heard a news item about the Pope's broadcast on the Today programme earlier, which I missed. David Starkey was on talking about the Rationalist Association.

I have to say that I have a lot of time for the RA and its magazine The New Humanist. I first came across it--and its fellow Humanist publication, The Freethinker--amongst the piles of magazines in the graduate common room at the Bodleian in the early nineties. Someone, I don't know who, used to put them out for people. Reading them was a life-changing event. Magazines that contained articles written from a point of view that I'd felt but not been able to express myself.

At the same time as I discovered these mags, my parents moved to a cottage not far away from my old junior school in Gloucestershire. I walked sometimes beyond the Roman Camp to the church above the school. Years before I'd played Joseph in the nativity play to Sally M's Mary. Sally's dad was Egyptian and she was dark and very pretty. She was kind too and I was in love with her, of course. I remember the evening light in the church one time in the nineties and how magical it seemed. It put me in touch with the poetry of religion and how I'd felt about it as a child.

For a time, in the nineties, there was a Humanist programme at Westminster College, Oxford, and I considered applying to do a masters in the subject. I explained that I saw myself as a Christian Humanist and the people running the programme seemed to be interested in what I wanted to research.

Despite thinking of myself as a Humanist, the Christian part mentioned above remains important to me, because, I suppose that was the tradition I was brought up with. During the difficult family times during the nineteen-nineties I prayed. And recently, when old sadnesses have resurfaced, I sometimes stop at St Barnabas on my walk into work and pray--often using a Catholic prayer book, which I bought years ago at Worth Abbey when I was visiting a friend who was part of the lay community.

Are, I wonder, my religious-humanist views confused, post-modern, dilettante or just muddled-normal?

Well, tonight, rather than midnight mass, it's off to the Horse Shoe for the bawdy christo-pagan mummers play. The Bampton mummers have been performing the same play--with topical additions--since the mid-nineteenth century. It's great!

Later, by the fire at home, I'll think of friends and wish them a very happy Christmas.

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