... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday, 25 December 2017


How to tackle a box of Celebrations - especially if it's a shared one - is obviously the the question vexing the minds of the nation at this time of year. Should you pick randomly, or is it acceptable to root out the last Caramel? Or perhaps you should distribute them on an agreed basis - if such agreement can be reached.

I used to be an advocate of the random approach - it's as good a rule as any, but it wasn't necessarily maximising my Celebratory enjoyment. Then last year I hit on the audacious approach which I am still utilising - for as long as they are available I will eat all my favourite ones first, then once they are gone, my second favourite, and so on down the list, until we get to the Milky Ways, which I won't actually eat.  Other people's choices still introduce a random element - what will the top remaining choice be? In this way, the range of colours in the tub gradually diminishes and I don't have to mix my chocs.

And here is my personal order of preference:
1. Maltesers (the Celebrations 'Teaser' is much, much nicer than actual Maltesers)
2. Twix
3. Caramel
4. Bounty
5. Galaxy
6. Marathon
7. Mars
8. Milky Way

What's yours?

And talking of celebrations, I hope you're having a splendid Yuletide/Christmas, call it what you will, holiday. I posted a card through my new next door neighbour's letterbox yesterday, after some careful consideration... because she's a - apparently quite devout - Muslim. I selected a card with polar bears on - neither Christian nor Pagan imagery - and hoped to see her over the holiday and wished her a very happy 2018. Two ironies were not lost on me, however - the first that I have no problem at all sending 'Christmas' cards to the many fellow atheists of my acquaintance; and the second that my understanding is that most devout followers of other religions would have more respect for, and find more common cause with, a Christian than with an atheist.

Julian Baggini had a thoughtful piece in the Observer yesterday, and I thought this extract was particularly good:

   Atheists are not just people who don’t believe in God. Put positively, our belief is that the natural world is all that there is. Only by fully accepting this fact can we live good lives that are true to our nature. The marking of midwinter brings these truths home. It reminds us that the cycle of life and death turned for aeons before we were born and will continue its rotations for aeons after. It exemplifies the legitimate hope that darkness can be followed by light but not the false hope that we can ultimately escape the fate of all living things. In our feasting, we are asserting the value of appreciating the good things while we have them, while remembering that nothing is meant to last, for good and for bad.

I was talking at the work Christmas party last week to a relatively new member of staff who is a Christian (some of my colleagues were quite shocked that I just came out and asked him). Someone asked if I was a 'militant' atheist (I guess Dawkins has a lot to answer for). Where once I might have been, I decided that no, I'm not. Inasmuch as I'll fight for anything politically, in the public sphere, it's secularism - and my Christian colleague was happy to agree with that. However I might once have felt, now I see my atheism as a private belief. I don't need or even want everyone to believe the same as me. But what is, surely, vital is that we preserve that space where everyone's beliefs can flourish without threatening anyone else's.

Last Thursday I made a point of wishing everyone a happy Yule - I don't believe in Pagan gods any more than the Christian one - but I do think the Pagans have the best calendar.

Anyway, whatever you believe and whatever you are celebrating, I hope you are having an amazing time.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree that we should "preserve that space where everyone's beliefs can flourish without threatening anyone else's" but I cannot repress (and I do try) the thought that believing something irrational weakens the believer in some way.

    My problem but there it is.

    Have a good new year, boating and otherwise.