Rowing round the world

Maybe this is the last challenge open to man on the surface of the planet – to row round the world. Olly Hicks has just started rowing round Antarctica, from Tasmania, and expects it to take several years. A few people have attempted this before but not succeeded. This builds on his solo rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

See the Virgin Global Row site here: Olly Hicks.

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No longer a “war on terror”

According to David Miliband, UK Foreign Secretary, we have not been using the phrase “war on terror” for the last few years, and now that President Bush (who invented the term) is retiring we are able to say so.

We are now seeing that the right response is to recognise the diversity of disparate terrorist groups and seeing that the right response to the threat is “to champion law and human rights – not subordinate it” and to seek to win through gaining international co-operation.

This sounds good to me: better to aim towards something good and tangible, than away from something we don't like. It's more likely to work! Furthermore, the only way to fight terror is not with weapons but by not being fearful. As President Franklin D Roosevelt put it in his inaugural address in 1933, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (Feel free to search this blog for my other thoughts on “fear.”)

More info from BBC News here.

Is Santa sexist? Is Rudolf really a girl?

A friend of mine who has recently become an expert on reindeer tells me that male reindeer shed their antlers in the autumn, and female reindeer shed their antlers in the spring. Pictures of Santa Claus and his reindeer that I have seen always show them with antlers, so they must be female.

Why does he prefer female reindeer? Does his most famous reindeer, Rudolf, know that she is female?

A hand in the darkness

As we move into the start of a New Year when much seems unknown and uncertain, I find myself reminded of words used by King George VI on Christmas Day 1939.

In the meantime I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you: I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.

The quote he used, by Bristol author Minnie Louise Haskins, has often been requoted since – even though the rest of her poem seems difficult to find – probably because it is so evocative. I find that it resonates within me as I look out into our present circumstances.

The context of the speech was the King seeking to encourage his people shortly after Britain and France had declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. Since I can imagine that this must have been one of the scarier moments in British history, perhaps we should appropriate its imagery and encouragement now.

May God bless you in 2009.

Links with thanks: Full text of the King's message. Biography of Minnie Louise Haskins.

Epiphany 2009.

Relaxing at Christmas

It's taken me a while to get into switching off over the Christmas and New Year period, but I got there in the end and it's been good to relax with family and friends.

Amusing vignettes include my young niece bringing food for Santa's reindeer that was composed of oats and glitter (I hope they have robust digestion); the local Crib Service which involved lots of children one of which fainted; a “grow-your-own toupee” that hardly grew; discovering Winter Pimms in several local pubs; and a quote seen on a narrow boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal, near Bradford on Avon on New Year's Eve:

“Only dead fish go with the flow!”

I'd also like to thank all those who would not have sent me Christmas Cards but nevertheless e-mailed me to say that they were giving the money to charity instead.

Happy New Year!