Author Archives: SMCjon

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 27

Genesis 41 v 25 – 34; Luke 2 v 1

Press Button B and Get Your Money Back

I read a newspaper article recently about me. It is a strange experience reading what someone else has compiled about you; I read it to see if there was anything there that I didn’t know about myself. The pivotal point of the article was that I had produced my first book at the age of 72, (actually I was aware of that fact) and why I hadn’t done it before. The newspaper reporter had interviewed me over the telephone due to not being able to visit because of COVID restrictions, and as we talked I thought of how the conversation would have been different back in the 1950s.

I can remember the first telephone that was installed in our house. My dad needed one for his building business and after much deliberation mum finally agreed.  The telephone was black Bakelite with a bright silver metal dial with finger holes corresponding to numbers from 0 to 9. We were on a shared line which meant that the telephone line outside the house served both our house and the house across the road. It was cheaper to install this way as opposed to a dedicated line, but it did mean that only one user could make calls at one time and It also meant that we could listen in to their conversations and vice versa.

Making calls was also different, we could only dial a local call, but any other calls that were long distance, (Trunk calls) had to be through the operator. This was achieved by dialing 0 and requesting the number, but we could only do this after 6.0pm because it was cheaper at that time.

Of course there were no mobile phones or cordless phones and I can recall that our telephone had a cord that had a life of its own. It used to twist and curl up effectively making it shorter in length resulting in the phone being regularly pulled off the table.

All telephone calls were paid for by the minute, local calls being cheaper than trunk calls, (which were cheaper after 6.0pm). Mum and dad were fanatical about the cost of the calls and they installed a wooden box next to the phone to put money in after every call. I was far too young to be allowed to use the phone but my sisters used to spent hours on the phone (according to mum and dad) and they had to put money in the box.

If you did not have a telephone at home, you could use the telephone box which to me as a lad was great fun. You had to follow a strict procedure in order to make a call. First you had to remember the number to be dialled, then the receiver could be lifted and the correct money inserted into the slot. Now you could dial the number. If the call was answered, then the button marked A must be pressed and then you could speak. If the call was not answered you had to press the button marked B and the money was returned. As a very young lad, every time I saw a telephone box I would go and press button B to see if the was any money left in.

A telephone box was also a welcome shelter when caught in a shower of rain but you had to pretend to make a phone call.

There are many examples of how messages were sent and received in the Bible. Luke tells us that Emperor Augustus decreed that a census must be taken across the Roman Empire. With no telephone, internet, radio or any communications it would have been a matter of messengers sent out across land and sea to organise the census.

God’s messages were sent through the prophets and their words of warning and repentance were spoken to the nations. Dreams and visions were also prominent. Joseph is well known for his gift of reading and interpreting dreams as in Genesis 41.

It could be argued that the most unusual message was delivered by mysterious appearing human hand writing on the plaster walls of King Belshazzar’s Palace as described in Daniel 5. King Belshazzar had defiled the drinking cups stolen from the Temple. Somehow you just know that words on the wall written by a mysterious hand are not good news and it certainly was not good news for King Belshazzar.

The words spelt, Numbers, Weight and Division. His days were numbered, he had been weighed and found lacking, and his kingdom would be divided and scattered. All of Daniels interpretation came to pass.

I can recall introducing the first mobile telephones into Nottingham City Council Building Control section in the mid- 1990s. They were made by ‘Motorola ’and were so big that you required a holster fastened round the waist in order to carry them.

A far cry to the slim mobiles/cameras of today.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 26

Philemon Chapters 1 – 25

Dear Sir – or, To Who it May Concern.

I received a letter recently, I know it’s not unusual to receive a letter, I get them all the time, usually from Inland Revenue, Gas or Electric suppliers, and so on, but this letter was different. It was hand written, on lined paper and the hand writing was meticulous. It was everything that my letters are not.

I tend to type my letters due to the fact that my handwriting emulates an unknown foreign language and can only be interpreted by experts from Bletchley Park, but this letter was Copperplate Calligraphy. Furthermore, this letter was from someone who I have not seen or heard from for almost fifty years.

It was from someone who I worked with at Huddersfield from 1969 until I left for Derby in 1973. He had obtained a copy of one of my books from a mutual friend and on reading it had generated a multitude of memories that had enthused him to write to me.

There is something about a hand written letter that is special. Typed letters tend to be official and regimented, whereas hand written letters are more personal and somehow sincere. Letter writing is a unique way of sharing thoughts with someone else that is in a different location, and is increasingly becoming a lost art form with the development of email and texting. A letter can portray sadness, excitement, congratulations, a cry for help or a combination of all the emotions.

Experts tell us that a letter should contain six elements;-

  1. The senders address
  2. The Date
  3. A Salutation (greeting)
  4. The Body of the message
  5. Conclusion
  6. Closing Signature.

The letter that I received contained all of these elements and all the emotions from events that had accrued over the 47 year period since we last met. As with us all it was a cauldron of good news, disasters, and at times suffering all laid out on the pages in a meticulous array of perfectly formed letters and words.

The Bible is full of letters, in fact it could be argued that The Bible is a consolidation of a multitude of letters written and handed down from generation to generation, some historical accounts of events, some reports of happenings, some of profound teaching, and some of prophesies and predictions.

It goes without saying that Paul’s letters are significant and central to Christian Theology, but for me, one of his letters stands out as a portrayal of his tenderness and love not always demonstrated in his other letters.

Paul’s letter to Philemon comes from the apostle’s heart and shows courtesy, tact, a little humour and love in order to get his plea on behalf of Onesimus, over in a tender but powerful way.

It has it all, dated about AD60 and written while Paul was under arrest, the letter has a passionate salutation and praise of Philemon’s work and service in the name of Jesus Christ before launching into his appeal for Philemon’s compassion, forgiveness and clemency towards Onesimus.

Paul was aware that to fulfil his request would be difficult for Philemon as it went against the rules on how to deal with a disruptive slave, but Paul points out that as Jesus forgave Philemon through Paul, so should Philemon forgive Onesimus in the name of Jesus.

In faith Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon possibly before an answer to his appeal has been received, he will return not just as a forgiven slave but as a brother in Christ.

Paul’s Epistle to Philemon has been described as, ‘A true little masterpiece in the art of letter writing’. – Ernest Renan

‘We are all the Lord’s Onesimi’ – Martin Luther –

Unfortunately we have no record of the result of Paul’s appeal but I have faith that Onesimus was received by Philemon as the prodigal son was received by his father.

I am just about to start my reply to my friend’s letter, I tried hand writing it but reading it through even I didn’t understand what I had written. I think to avoid him thinking that I have been taken over by aliens, I will have to type it, at least he will be able to read it.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 25

Matthew 4 v 23 – 25

When I was a Lad at School

During the COVID pandemic arguably the most controversial aspect has been the education system and the disruption to our schools. My daughter, who is a teacher, was explaining to me her new role of teaching on line using her lap top and the internet rather than the classroom. While we were talking my grandson was addressing complicated mathematical equations on his lap top as part of his school on line studies.

I started to think about my recollections of school life in the late 1950s. My lap top at that time was a chalk board which was kept in a box by the classroom door, (no health and safety considerations, anyone by the chalk board box was in danger of being battered by the door). Next to the chalk boards was a biscuit tin full of white chalk sticks which we used to copy the letters of the alphabet, written by the teacher, from the blackboard at the front of the class. When we had filled our chalk board with letters we would clean it with the sleeve of our jumper or leg of our short trousers, and we would start again. At the end of the lesson the chalk board monitor would collect the boards from everyone and put them back in the box, dodging the door.

That brings me onto another point, who decided who the classroom monitors would be? It was always the same people but never me.  Every time a monitor was required we went through the same procedure, the teacher would say. ‘We want two strong boys to carry the milk crate, two to give out the bottles, and two to give out the straws’. I think the selection process was unfair as no matter how hard I thrust my arm into the air I was never picked.  The two boys would bring the milk crate into the classroom and place it in front of the radiator, two other people would hand out the bottles and two more would hand out the straws, (who know where the fingers had been before handling the straws). All this gave the school milk its particular school milk flavour similar to wall paper paste.

There was a multitude of class monitor jobs, pencil monitor, book monitor, milk monitor, but the favourite job was undoubtedly the bell monitor.  This person had the job of ringing the bell at playtime, and it was always a girl, never me. This obviously left me with a complex for the rest of my life against bell ringing.

Sometimes we had a visit from the school nurse and we all had to que up in the hall and file past her while she rummaged through our hair, looked in our ears and at our finger nails. The school nurse always had a funny look on her face as if she had encountered a bad smell.

Play time was good and we could run around and let off steam. It was a favourite to fasten the top button of our coat under our chin and let it flow out behind as a cloak. This immediately transformed us into The Lone Ranger or Rob Roy or whoever was the hero of the day.

Some of the older boys would bring something into school from home and start a ‘craze’ and everyone would want one like it. One such craze was a whip and top but the teacher eventually confiscated them as they were too dangerous even with the relaxed attitude to health and safety. The next day the same boy brought in a magnifying glass and started to melt the paint on the school fence using the rays of the sun. The teacher confiscated the magnifying glass as well.

We did have Conker competitions in autumn and there were many scientific ways of treating your conker to make a winner over all the others. Marinating it in vinegar was a favourite or baking it in the oven, but none seemed to be effective.

I always found it strange that at the end of the day, before we could go home, we had to lift up our chairs and place them on top of our desk. Any other part of the day this would have been a criminal offence but at the end of the day it was permitted. It never entered my head that it could be to help the cleaner who came into school when we had gone home. I thought it was some ritual like saying a prayer and singing a children’s hymn to mark the start and end of the day.

In Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome and Corinth he stresses the importance of learning from the Gospels and emphasises to the believers that their faith cannot be strong without the knowledge and wisdom attained from the teaching of Jesus Christ. There is no better source of Jesus’s teaching than in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew was a Jew writing for the Jews explaining Jesus’s teaching on a way of life that will be righteous in the eyes of God. These include the Beatitudes, teaching about the Law, teaching about anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, love, charity, prayer, riches in Heaven and possessions.

Most important are Jesus’s teaching of salvation and the Good News of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

No wonder Paul puts so much emphasis on the need to learn through the Gospel.

The great thing about school was that you mixed with all sorts of characters, some who were a good influence and some who were not so good. It is part of the growing up process to separate the two extremes and feed from the positive while rejecting the negative.

One thing that is certain that learning is not a process that is just for schools, it is a process that continues throughout life.  

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 24

Malachi 3 v 1

I Will, I Promise.

I am thankful that some basic survival skills for life were high on my parent’s agenda when I was in my teenage years. The result of this meant that I am more than capable of cooking a decent meal, washing my own clothes and ironing my own shirts, capabilities that became even more relevant when my wife (Jean) died in 2012 and I found myself having to undertake all such tasks.

It was also fortunate that at the time the essential equipment such as washing machine, cooker and steam iron were all relatively new and have been performing well; – until now.

This week I was happily destroying the creases in my best white shirt when my steam iron let out a loud bang accompanied by a bright blue flash and no longer steamed, in fact it no longer did anything. It was obvious that there was no chance that it would be raised again from the literal ashes, so I had to venture onto the internet to find a replacement.

I eventually chose what appeared to be a suitable appliance, not too flamboyant, no go faster stripes and no turbo power, and clicked on to the,’ add to basket’ icon. I was interested to see a message pop up on my screen explaining the, ‘Company Promise’.

I had obviously chosen well as this company promised to provide a quality product, with a quality service, and a quality delivery package including a guaranteed delivery date and time along with a free tracking service. What more could I ask for?

I clicked on the button that said accept everything including the 24 hour delivery slot and the free tracking service. Almost immediately I received an email message confirming the day and time that I could expect delivery of my new steam iron. I am impressed with this company promise.

The day and time for the delivery arrived, and passed, but no parcel materialised. I did receive a message that assured me that I will be delighted with my new purchase and would a like to comment on the efficiency of the service I had received.

Before I had chance to apply my fingers to my lap top keys in a suitable reply, I received a telephone call explaining that my parcel had mysteriously disappeared and was no longer on the delivery van that should have visited my house. What about the free tracking system could that help? The system seemed to suggest that my parcel was somewhere near Retford heading towards Lincoln.

After sincere and passionate apologies I was assured that my steam iron would be retrieved and delivered to my house the following day and would be none the worse for its impromptu adventure to Lincoln.

That’s the problem with promises, they’re so often broken.

Helen Steiner Rice wrote in her poem, ‘The world is rife with promises that are fast and falsely spoken. For man in his deceptive way, knows his promise can be broken ‘.

In the Bible God’s promise is a Covenant, which is more than just a promise, it is a commitment, an agreement between two parties never to be broken no matter what. God made a covenant with Sarah and Abraham that they would have children and through their faith in God they had many children even though it seemed impossible.

God made a covenant with the Hebrew people to lead them out of slavery and into a promised land and a new life. God kept his covenant but the Hebrew people failed in their promises. God both judged them and held out a hand of hope and redemption. The promise of the Messiah, the Redeemer, and Saviour was made by God through the prophet’s centuries before the birth of Jesus but the Jewish nation were unwilling to accept him. Jeremiah 2: v 17 reminds the Jews that they brought God’s punishment on themselves by forsaking their Lord and God. Isaiah 40 v 1-2 offered comfort to the Jewish people through a redeemer to be sent by God the Father, and Daniel 7 v 13 – 14 describes the coming of Jesus Christ in Daniel’s vision.

 Through Jesus Christ God made a new Covenant with all people that our sins are forgiven and through faith we can look forward to everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven. God has promised that he will always be with us and God’s promise is never broken.

Well today is the promised day for the delivery of my steam iron. Its lunch time and I’m still waiting. However I have noticed that the cost of the iron has come out of my bank account, they are obviously more efficient at obtaining payment than delivering the goods.

There is still time I’m sure it will be here soon – promise.  

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 23

Genesis 6

All my Own Work

Now that the evenings are getting much colder I have started lighting my log burner in the conservatory. It easily heats up both the conservatory and the dining room but also provides a fascinating focal point. Through the glass doors the flames can be seen dancing and leaping around the fire box and the colours change depending on the type of logs that are being burnt. Occasionally, if a piece of wood is slightly damp, it will crack and spit sending bright burning red embers ricocheting off the glass doors like a firework display. It reminds me of the coal fires that we had when I was young; we always had a fire guard in front of the grate to contain flying embers and stop them from reaching the hearth rug. This was obviously to prevent the rug from setting alight, but also because mum had actually made the rug.

She made several rugs around the house, some were plain, some were patterned and some had pictures emblazoned across them. Mum would buy a piece of hessian the size that she wanted, then cut up pieces of material into small strips and thread them through the holes between the weft and the warp of the hessian backing.  The different colours of the strips of material made the pattern or picture on the finished rug. I think they called them, ‘Peg Rugs’.

Looking back, mum was quite clever with her hands and I can remember her knitting and click clack sound of the needles when she got up to speed. I can also remember her and my sisters making dresses. They would buy patterns made of tissue paper and lay them on top of material over the kitchen table. Then they would cut the material to the shape of the pattern and stitch them together into a dress.

Dad was more my style, he made garages and petrol stations out of plywood and I would cover them with, ‘Castrol’ and ‘Esso’ stickers. He always made them just the right size for Dinky Toy cars and I had one for Christmas one year.

Dad and I also made a crystal set radio, well I say Dad and me but I did little else but pass him a screw driver or pair of plyers. He made it in a blue metal biscuit tin box with a hole cut in the top to fit a dial which I turned to tune into a station. I regularly got told off by mum for listening to the radio through headphones under the bedclothes when I should have been asleep.

We did make a model aeroplane, it was a glider (no engine), made from Balsa wood. Each piece of the plane was pre-stamped into a sheet of Balsa wood and we had to push them out and stick them together with glue. The whole frame was them covered in tissue paper and painted with a liquid called Dope which dried hard. When it was finished I thought it looked great.

Dad and I carried it proudly across to some open fields close to where we lived and dad launched the aircraft into the wind from a high point to give it the best lift. Unfortunately these were the days before radio controls so when the plane left dad’s hand it was on its own climbing high into the air on the breeze. Sadly everything that goes up must come down and we carried the broken bits of Balsa wood and tissue paper back home and it never flew again. Perhaps I should try again with modern technology.

I did, on my own, build a model boat, again from Balsa wood, with an electric engine run from a battery contained in the cabin with a roof that lifted off. It worked really well and dad took me to Lister Park paddling pool In Bradford to sale it. I wonder what happened to it, (The boat not Lister Park paddling pool).

I also wonder how Noah must have felt when God told him to build a boat. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Noah did before this commandment from God but it is likely he would have been a farmer but not at all connected with boats. His boat was no Balsa wood, pre-stamped, push out and stick together model, it was big and the only plans were the dimensions given by God which had to be specifically adhered to.

The enormity of the task just can’t be imagined, not just the boat building but also reconciling the whole project with his wife, his sons and their wives. Putting up with the ridicule he would have received from his friends and neighbours. Then there were the animals, where did he get them from, how did he feed them?

Despite the seemingly impossible task before him, there is no indication in the Bible of Noah complaining, arguing or doubting God, in fact Genesis 6 v 21 tells us that Noah did everything that God commanded.

Perhaps there lies a message for us all in Noah’s story. No matter how impossible the task that God presents us with appears, no matter how many stumbling blocks appear before us on the road, no matter how dark and stormy the future may appear, God can be trusted to see us through. We must do everything that God commands.

I have just looked up how much new model aircraft kits cost on the internet;- Jet Fighter, remote controlled, all metal construction, – £800

I think I will stick to Balsa wood.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 22

Luke 19 v 1 – 10

Yorkshire Belle.

Childhood holidays tend to merge into one another and identifying specific years and the age I was at the time is often difficult. However, sometimes a particular event stands out and for whatever reason it presents a clear recollection even after many years. One such occurrence happened to me in the Yorkshire sea side resort of Bridlington.

In my younger days family holidays were always in a caravan in Bridlington or later on, in Morecombe, and I loved them. We usually went towards the end of August and there was always a vague promise of staying on after the intended week, into the Bank Holiday, but I never remember it ever coming to pass, dad always had to get back to work or some other reason always prevented it.

The particular holiday in question must have been in the mid 1950’s; I would have been about six or seven years old. Every Bridlington holiday had to include a sailing trip on the Yorkshire Belle, a pleasure boat that I think still operates today, (probably not due to COVID).  It was a large craft, bigger than a fishing boat and big enough to enable passengers to walk around and buy a cup of tea or an ice cream. There was even a man who walked around the deck playing an accordion to entertain the passengers during the hour or so cruise along the Yorkshire coast. On a sunny day it was idyllic as we glided across the water with just the rhythm of the engines throbbing away below decks accompanying the accordion.  It was an experience that was repeated many times on subsequent holidays, but on this occasion it turned out to be different.

On disembarking from the Yorkshire Belle we ascended the steps from the harbour up onto the sea front, where usually we ran a gauntlet of photographers who pretended to take your picture, then getting you to pose for a proper picture that they would charge for, but on this occasion we were confronted by a stampede of people running down the footpath towards the amusement arcade.

While mum grabbed my arm in a steel like grip dad asked someone what was going on, had there been an accident, or was there some other emergency?

A man replied, ‘It’s Lobby Ludd , he’s been seen in the arcade’.

Now at the time Lobby Ludd meant absolutely nothing to me and it was considerably later in life that I learned that the local newspaper had resurrected a fictional character that if spotted in a seaside town, would pay out £50 to whoever identified him. Bearing in mind that at that time £50 was more than two month’s wages for most people, all it needed was for someone to say that Lobby Ludd has been spotted in the arcade and the world and his wife would descend on the place armed with their copy of the newspaper to claim their prize.

In order to claim the prize you had to stop the suspected benefactor and say, ‘You are Lobby Ludd and I claim my £50 prize’. Care was needed because it might be the wrong man and that could be very embarrassing.

I think dad could have been tempted to join in the hunt, but mum was not impressed, she couldn’t get to the slot machines or her favourite Bingo stall. 

Luke 19 v 1 – 10

I wonder what it was like on the road to Jerusalem when Jesus was travelling that way. There was so much noise and people running around that the Senior Tax Collector Zacchaeus couldn’t do his work. After all it’s difficult to concentrate on counting money when all that commotion going on, besides there might be something in it for him.

I can imagine him going outside and stopping someone to ask what’s going on. Someone told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was coming and he would be passing right down the road where they were standing.

Zacchaeus had several problems, he was a tax collector so not well liked, he was in partnership with the Romans so that brought him enemies, he was well known for cheating people out of their money so that didn’t make him popular, and to make matters worse he was unusually short in stature. There was no way that he would get even a glimpse of Jesus as he passed by, unless Zacchaeus found himself a vantage point. A high tree for example.

From his elevated position Zacchaeus had a clear view of Jesus and Jesus had a clear view of Zacchaeus. Jesus knew all about Zacchaeus and all his problems, but it didn’t stop him talking to him, in fact it didn’t stop him eating a meal with him in his house, in fact it didn’t stop him from changing,  and reforming , Zacchaeus

Jesus said; ‘Salvation has come to this house today for this man, The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost’.

Zacchaeus was a reformed character giving back the money he had gained illegally along with more of his fortune given to the poor. Jesus didn’t give up on Zacchaeus, he changed him.

Just as Jesus will never give up on us.

Lobby Ludd became a bit of a joke with dad. Many years later when we worked together, if dad saw anyone running down the street he would often say, ‘Aye up lad Lobby Ludd must be about’ and if someone told him something that was obviously a lie, he would say, ‘Aye and I’m Lobby Ludd but you don’t get £50’.

I checked on the internet for the Yorkshire Belle, it is still in service but has been withdrawn for this year due to COVID.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 21

Acts 16 v 14; John 19 v 2

Wash Day Blues

It is true that you can buy almost anything on the internet but recently I came across something that was for sale that I hadn’t seen in many years. It was a Posser. For the benefit of younger readers, a posser is best described as an upturned copper bowl attached to a wooden handle like a sweeping brush, and used as part of the laundry process before washing machines were invented.

As a very young lad in the mid-1950s it was my job every Monday to help mum do the washing by operating the posser. The ‘Peggy Tub’, (we called it Peggy Tub but some called it a Dolly Tub) was brought out of the cellar and filled with hot water. Just for information, the Peggy Tub was a barrel shaped galvanised metal tub with ribbed sides, just used for washing. The clothes and bedding were added to the tub with some washing powder and I would push the posser up and down to rid the clothes of all the dirt. Eventually mum would empty out both clothes and water from the tub, add cold water and rinse the clothes.

Now there is something else to remember, wooden washing tongs. Mum would lift out the clothes from the hot water with a pair of wooden washing tongs; big tongs bleached white through the washing process, with a metal strap at the end to make then spring back to the open position. She told me they were Crocodile jaws and would chase me round the room with them.

It was the next stage that always intrigued me,. Mum would put all the white shirts and sheets, into the tub and then get a small white muslin bag containing a blue tablet and stir it round in the tub until the water turned blue. This was called a, ‘Dolly Blue’, but although the water was bright blue the shirts and sheets came out sparkling white. It was mum’s little magic trick.

Life changed when mum and dad bought a Hoover single tub washing machine. This was powered by electricity and had a small propeller inside the tub which spun round to agitate the clothes. Unfortunately, it also tangled the clothes into one gigantic knot, the pyjama legs would be entangled with the shirt sleeves and bed sheets were a real problem. It took mum ages to untangle them all. It never happened with the posser.

As time went on we progressed to a Hoover Twin tub machine that had both washing tub and spin dryer. After the washing process mum would lift the clothes out of one tub, (with the tongs) and into the adjacent spin dryer. The whole machine would then vibrate so much that it danced around the room with mum sitting on to try to keep it still.

By this time the Peggy tub, Posser, Dolly Blue and me were all redundant. I was approaching teenage years so helping with the washing was not  the done thing, but guess what still remained on the hook on the cellar wall; the tongs.

In Biblical times the colour blue or purple was significant. It represented sovereignty, power, wealth and authority. Royal robes were always purple to give a visual representation of the King or Queen’s authority and power.

In Acts, Paul meets Lydia of Thyatira who was known as a merchant of purple cloth. She was a very important person in the community, dealing with royalty and the rich and famous of her time. She was wealthy and it is said she had two houses. She befriended Paul and his companions and after hearing him preach she gave herself to Christ. She is often referred to as being the first European Christian convert.

Some Christian denominations recognise Lydia of Thyatira as a saint particularly in the Catholic Church. Her Feast Day is the 3rd August, whereas in the Episcopal Church it is the 27th January

Purple is also significant in the Temple, adorning the dwelling place of God. It was used in the carpets and curtains, (veils) and in the garments of the High Priests.

When Jesus was being taken to the cross the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus’s head, then placed a purple robe over his shoulders, mocking the claim that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Little did they know that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews but is also the King of all creation.

Song writer Graham Kendrick (Make Way Music) invites us to, ‘Come and see’; – See the purple robe and crown of thorns he wears. Soldiers mock, rulers sneer, as he lifts the cruel cross. Lone and friendless now he climbs towards the hill.

I looked up ‘Dolly Blue’ to see what it was made of. Evidently it was made of blue dye and baking soda and manufactured by Reckitts, – not magical at all, in fact quite boring, and do you know what? You can still buy it on the internet.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 20

Psalm 67: Ecclesiastes 3 v 1 – 8

It’s Harvest – Again

At the time of writing this we are at that time of year when we traditionally celebrate our Harvest Festivals, a time when our churches are adorned with large quantities of harvest produce, spread out in all its glory across the pulpit, window sills and festooned around the communion rail, and I love it.

Unfortunately this year, due to the COVID restrictions most of our churches look somewhat devoid of the usual seasonal displays and put together with the absence of singing voices,  our thankful praise is more from the heart than from our eyes and lungs, but never the less I have conducted three harvest services in as many weeks.

Perhaps it is due to my interest in farm tractors and having a grandson who is a farmer, that I seem to receive regular request for harvest services but as I love the thanksgiving I relish each service. I love the smell of the produce, the different colours, and the abundance of the produce particularly the local vegetables and flowers brought in from someone’s garden or allotment. In fact I love the whole concept of harvest thanksgiving.

I always think of a story in one of my ‘Yorkshire’ books. It is about a young Vicar who was appointed to his first, very rural parish. When harvest festival was approaching he was desperate to impress his worshippers, so he toured round his parish and visited all the farms requesting the farmers to contribute to the church’s display and to attend the service.

On the day of the festival he was in the church early to help the parishioners set up the displays containing great volumes of carrots, turnips, corn stalks, platted bread, peas, beans, cabbages, in fact every kind of harvest produce you could think of. His visits to the farms had certainly paid dividends, the church looked and smelt magnificent and everyone was delighted.

It was all going really well until, the doors at the rear of the church opened and farmer Green drove three sheep down the aisle. He was closely followed by farmer Smith who drove his prize winning pig down the aisle being chased in hot pursuit by farmer Johnson driving three young heifer calves.

The sheep spotted the carrots and made a dash across the front of the church to reach them, while the prize winning pig made for the cabbages. The young heifers preferred the floral displays, so lovingly arranged by Mrs. Higgingbottom, who almost fainted to see her artistic creations being devoured by the bovine juveniles.

Just when our young Vicar thought it could not get any worse, farmer Jackson entered the arena by leading his giant horse through the West Chancel. The animal, which was usually placid, presented almost one ton of Clydesdale muscle and sinew that had a particular passion for turnips and had spotted the display from the first pew. Nothing was going to stop this giant beast from reaching his favourite lunch, and nothing did stop him.           Chairs, tables, vases all went off in different directions while farmer Jackson hung on to the horse’s reigns as if nothing was happening.

Finally everything settled down and even Mrs Higgingbottom had been consoled to enable the young Vicar to deliver his sermon on ‘God’s Gifts’ and after a hearty rendition of, ’We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ a successful evacuation of the church was achieved without further mishap. Everyone agreed it had been a great harvest celebration and there was an abundance of produce left to distribute to the needy in the parish.

As our young Vicar reflected on his sermon, it did cross his mind that he wished God had shared a gift of constipation on the various farm animals present as it took over six months to rid the church carpets of the smell.

Although I have never had any similar experience I have used my tractor on several occasions to illustrate harvest, which has caused great excitement among the younger members of the congregation, (and one or two older members).

Harvest, after all is a celebration of God’ gift of the culmination of the maturity of the crops through the growing season. As Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything, sowing and reaping and the whole process is a gift from God.

But is harvest more than that?

H = Hope , – hope for the future no matter how dark the situation is today we have hope and faith in our God and the harvest is a sign of his continuing love for each one of us.

A = Assurance – assurance that God is always with us and his wonder of creation will continue to give us life.

R = Resurrection – as the stalk is cut down it gives new life through the grain scattered for next year’s crop, as Jesus Christ was cut down on the cross his resurrection gives us life everlasting.

V = Vastness – this reminds us of the vastness of God’s creation not just the gifts of food but of all his grace and love that is poured out upon us every day of our lives.

E = Everlasting – God’s love is everlasting and surrounds us for all time even in our storms of life he is there holding us above the waves.

S = Salvation – The Salvation we receive through our Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross so that we can have forgiveness and be one with our God.

T = Trust – Trust in our God, Trust in our Lord Jesus Christ because he will be with us always until the end of time.

There is more to harvest than just the food on the table.

I once parked my tractor outside a church as part of a Scarecrow Festival. A family approached me requesting if their children could sit on the tractor to have their photograph taken to which I agreed. While the mobile phone camera was clicking the father said to me, ‘How did you get the tractor here, on the back of a lorry?’ I replied that it came under its own steam, to which he said, ‘Does it actually work then?’

It’s surprising how quickly you can go off someone.

Derek T.

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 19

Daniel 3 v 19 – 25

Come on Light my Fire

In 1990 I became Head of Building Control at Nottingham City Council, a post I held for twenty years. I led a team who were responsible for all matters relating to Building Regulations and associated legislation across the City.

The regulations were complex and wide reaching covering all aspects of building design and construction in all types of buildings be it a garage in the back garden to a multi storey office block. The regulations were divided into various sections each section dealing with a particular aspect of construction and design and one section dealt with Fire Precautions and Means of Escape. Obviously with issues relating to fire there had to be close liaison with the Fire Service which resulted in regular meetings with the Fire Officer in order to maintain a coordinated approach to fire safety.

It was at one such meeting in 1999 when I was discussing fire safety in domestic dwellings with the Fire Officer at Bestwood Lodge Fire HQ on the outskirts of Nottingham. There was concern over an increase in incidents in dwellings on a national scale and we were looking for possible solutions that could be adopted to address the problem. One solution that was suggested was the installation of domestic sprinkler systems.

Sprinklers are small water jets that automatically activate when fire is detected and although they are widely used in industrial buildings were not common in dwellings.

The discussion revolved around how we could determine the effectiveness of domestic sprinklers and the answer was to set fire to someone’s house but that would only give us half the answer. What we should really do was to set fire to two people’s houses one with sprinklers and one without, and assess the difference. There was one flaw in our plan and that was we could not identify two house owners that would be willing to have their houses burnt to the ground, and as no one in the room would volunteer, (no commitment) the conversation drew to a close.

It was a couple of months later that I received a telephone call from the Fire Officer, to say that someone had offered two houses that could be tested by setting them alight. There was a pair of identical houses in a row of terrace properties that were to be demolished for redevelopment. A specialist company had volunteered to set one house up with a sprinkler system and the other house would be left without a system. The two could then be compared.

This was an opportunity not to be missed so the financial aspects were all agreed and the test was scheduled early January 2000.

Each house was furnished identically to give as far possible an accurate comparison, and fire appliances and crews were in attendance to use the exercise as an added opportunity for training purposes.

At the appointed time we all gathered at a safe distance and watched a fire fighter advance towards the building with a box of matches and a fire lighter, (actually it was all done by an electrical igniter but it adds to the drama) , and the building s were set alight.

I had decided to take with me a stop watch and a new invention called a digital camera, to record the event.

In a matter of seconds the fire developed and in a matter of a minute the fire had spread throughout the ground floor. It took just three minutes for the fire to reach the bedrooms and within five minutes the fire was emerging from the roof and the entire house was an inferno.

In the sprinklered house the fire was extinguished almost immediately and never actually got a hold on the ground floor. Fire damage was minimal and water damage was restricted to the area around the source of the fire.

It was reasonable to assume from the test that lives would probably have been lost in the unsprinklered house but would probably have been saved in the sprinklered house.

I submitted a paper on the findings of the test to our representative Institute at the time which was published, and I also attended a meeting with the Fire Officer at the Department of the Environment in London to present our conclusions but nothing came from our discussions. The regulations were amended some time later to include the provision of smoke detectors but there was no further mention of sprinklers.

In the Bible we can read in Daniel where three people were saved from an inferno by God due to their faith and righteousness. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were righteous devout people living during the rule of the tyrannical King Nebuchadnezzar. They refused to abide by his order to bow down and worship false gods and forsake their beliefs in the almighty God. As a result the three men were condemned to death by being thrown into a fiery furnace, but not any old furnace, this one was built up to be seven times hotter than any other furnace, so hot that the guards who opened the furnace doors were burnt up by the heat.

Not only were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego saved from the inferno, but not one hair on their heads was singed and their cloths had no smell of smoke.

Their faith and the apparition that he saw in the furnace changed the heart of Nebuchadnezzar and his belief in the one Supreme God.

Many of my reflections relating to my days of employment have to have a disclaimer that the legislation may have changed in the ten years since I retired but I am not aware of domestic sprinklers being introduced into new dwellings.

I have to admit it was very exciting to be involved in that experiment and I did keep the paper to the institute just as a reminder.  

Derek T.

Domestic Sprinkler Systems Article Domestic Sprinkler Systems Article

Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 18

Psalm 144

Crop Circles?

I am always intrigued as to how the human race developed over time, after all the stone age people had no books to refer to or any previous experience to help them learn or discover, so how did they live and develop?

For example, who first discovered how to harness fire and how did they do it? Was a matter of many burnt fingers until they got it right? Don’t forget they had no matches, or firelighters and they would not know how to rub two sticks together because there was no boy scouts in those days.  But we know from archaeological excavations that very early humans discovered how to control fire and use it to their advantage.

In addition to fire I wonder how early humans discovered how to grow, prepare and eat grain and cereals such as corn, wheat. barley etc. Once again from archaeological discoveries we have found evidence from early Stone Age settlements, of cooked food containing cereals which suggests that techniques of gathering grain and cooking it had been developed, so one of the earliest professions was the ‘hunter/gatherer/farmer’,

Evidence suggests that the early farmer had discovered techniques such as creating a furrow to sow the grain and early ploughing tools such as shaped branches and animal bones had been used for this purpose, sowing would have obviously been done by hand.

The use of animals as a power source is also a mystery, who was the first to even think to domesticate an Ox or even a horse to work for the farmer? But whoever did discovered a major breakthrough in early farming methods. I suppose it was the earliest environmentally friendly mechanisation, no pollution and lots of natural fertilisation of the soil in one stroke.

The industrial revolution had a significant impact on most industries in the late Edwardian and Victorian era, and adventures into steam power certainly changed the face of farming. Powerful steam engines were developed that enabled fields to be ploughed in half the time as with animals. Two steam engines working in unison across a large field would pull a large heavy plough between each other giving a straight uniform furrow. Steam was not environmentally friendly and carried with it undesirable side effects such as fire in dry summer conditions and immobility in wet conditions , and eventually it gave way to much more efficient, more controllable and affordable, Petrol, Paraffin and Diesel engines. By the early 20th century companies such as Ford, International Harvester, and Fergusson were developing compact, powerful and manoeuvrable tractors that had multi use facilities.

Preparing the ground for crops is not straight forward and follows a number of essential stages. After harvesting the ground is ploughed, and this in itself is a science. Each furrow must be the correct depth, not penetrating through the topsoil into the poorer sub strata underneath, each furrow must be straight and uniform, and each furrow must turn the stubble of the previous crop underneath to encourage enrichment of the soil. The richness of the soil is assessed and possible additives such as lime, fertilizers or manure (nitrates) added. Heavy chains or other specialist implements will them break down the tops of the furrows to aerate and the soil and gave a suitable tilth to allow the seed to be sown.  Early tractors would complete each stage as separate operation whereas modern tractors can now plough the perfect furrow, chemically test the soil, apply the correct amount of fertilizer, plant the seed and roll the soil in one operation and with the help of satellite navigation the driver can sit and read a newspaper while it all happens.

Similarly at harvest time the old methods of scything the crop by hand now give way to complex combine harvesters that can automatically cut the stalk, separate the grain, bale the stalks and jettison the grain into a waiting tractor and trailer. Gone are the days of farming machinery being uncomplicated, robust, machines of a simple design. Now we have complex machines that are scientific, computerised and very expensive.

I own two vintage tractors both from a family of compact machines designed to be efficient and manoeuvrable to best suit smaller farms and fields where bigger tractors were cumbersome and unwieldy. My tractors are from the late 1950s but there are many machines from the 1930s and older that still appear at tractor and steam rallies. Their basic but functional design and construction means that they still function today just as well as they did when they were new, (well sometimes and almost as good).

The well- known Hymn, ‘We plough the fields and scatter’, is of German origin, written by a poet called Matthias Claudius. It was first published in 1782 and was based on Psalm 144 originally having 17 verses. Jane Montgomery Campbell translated the poem into English language in 1861 and added music to teach it to children in a London school where her father was the Rector. The harvest hymn became the most popular song from worship books.

The point of the hymn is to give thanks to God for the harvest but also acknowledge that it is God that gives life to the grain, also feeds and waters the grain, swells the grain through the winter snow and develops it to maturity through the summer sun and produces the harvested grain.

I attempted ploughing with my tractors on several occasions and I can assure you it is not as easy it looks. Just keeping a straight furrow is difficult, it appears fine when you are looking forwards but it is when you turn round and look behind that you see the true picture. On one occasion I was so bad that if I had kept on going I would have created a crop circle.

Now there must be a sermon in there somewhere, ploughing our own furrow but only seeing he true picture of our mistakes when looking back at the times we took our eye off Jesus Christ.  

Derek T.