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Year of the Rat

The rat is actually the most powerful piece on the board. My colleague introduced me to an old Chinese game called Jungle, which looks like a cross between checkers and chess. The game features opposing armies consisting of eight different animals, ranked in ascending power from 1 to 8, with the rat at the bottom…

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An alien gift

An alien flew through my window the night after Christmas. A beautiful Christmas beetle. I hadn’t seen one for years, but there it was, decked out in its Christmas colours of green and golden brown, alive and loudly squawking. As kids growing up, we had them by the plenty, along with their cousins of the…

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Tongues of angels

I wish I could speak in the ‘tongues of angels’, because then I would know how to pronounce that word that makes its appearance every Christmas: “Gloria in excelsis”. Is it pronounced ek/sell/sis or ek/shell/sis or ek/chell/sis or ek/shell/cease? O to have been a shepherd’s fly on the wall in Bethlehem. Just what language did…

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Stamping out stories

This year’s religious Christmas stamp shows “Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaping Herod’s wrath by fleeing to Egypt. Joseph leads the donkey carrying Mary and the swaddled infant Christ, while in the background Herod’s pursuing soldiers encounter a peasant tending a wheat crop. A legend relates how a field of wheat miraculously grew as the Holy…

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A Red Thumb

Celebrity farmer Matthew Evans, a man who seems to be able to turn a weed into a watermelon, was asked recently by a radio interviewer if he had grown up with a “green thumb”. He replied that his parents were “brown thumbs”, the sort of people who can only grow a lemon tree. My heart…

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Christmas rapping

Joyful arrangement Perfect engagement Total amazement Holy delight The Father is leading The Son now is speaking The Spirit is breathing Let there be light! Darkness intruded Innocence looted Garden denuded Love took its flight Guilt put its root in Death put its brute in Fear sunk its boot in Cold-hearted night So incarnation Came our salvation Grace in formation Heavenly Knight Lamb took his station Bloodied oration Standing ovation He won the fight Whoever perceiveth Whoever…

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Wretched rags

Martin Luther was right to rail against those wretched rags called indulgences. The 31st of October will mark another anniversary of his famous hammer-fist against them on the church door in Wittenberg. And 502 years later, his argument still stands. Indulgences are foolish in their conception, false in their logic, fatal in their hope, and…

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The Paltry Haul

In a reflection on the sad songs of Frank Sinatra, Paul Kelly composes a beautiful soliloquy on the losses in life. In part he says: “You reflect on all you’ve missed – how much of your life you’ve forgotten, how much has streamed by you, how paltry the haul in your little net.” What a…

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The perfect skimmer

I was stunned to learn recently that the world record for the number of impacts made by a skimming stone was eighty-eight. I think that I may have achieved seven or eight with a good skimmer on a good day at the beach, but eighty-eight is ridiculous. All I can say is that it must…

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Curling 101

I never thought I’d admit it, but curling is an exciting sport. On a recent holiday we managed to try our hand at the old game of broomsticks-on-ice. And what a surprise. An ice rink that is smooth and clear. Heavy polished stones that need to be carefully launched and with a subtle twist. Brooms…

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