Always the runner-up

It was not long after I arrived in Beckingham near Gainsborough that I joined the Beckingham Institute.  Originally set up as a reading room by local shipyard owner Mr Watson to try to keep his employees out of the dens of iniquity in the nearby town, the Institute evolved into a social club boasting two snooker tables, a dart board and various other games.  Card playing, any form of gambling, and the consumption of anything alcoholic were not allowed.

As I was young and enthusiastic, and as is the way in rural communities, I was soon asked to join the Institute committee.  I often went along in an evening to play a few frames of snooker and a game or two of billiards. I spent many happy evenings playing against friends from the local Methodist church.  One elderly gentleman was a local preacher who had been playing billiards (“that’s the gentleman’s game,” he would say) since he was nine.  One day I decided to go along in an afternoon and meet a few of the members who used the facility in the day time.

I used my member’s key to let myself in.  Both snooker tables were in use and there were a couple of elderly gentlemen playing on each.  I sat down to watch, my cue in my hand.  After a while, one of the gentlemen on the smaller of the two tables said to his friend “That young chap over there, I seem to recognise him but I can’t place him.”  “Is it parson?” “Aye, I reckon it might be parson.”  They didn’t realise I could hear them!  “Does he belong?” Yes, I thought, after all I had just let myself in with a key!

A few minutes later one of them asked me “Would you like to come over here and play with us?” “That’s very kind,” I replied. “Well, you didn’t come to sit and watch, did you?”  “We’re not very good, mind,” said the other.  “I’m only a beginner,” I answered.  And so we began. After a few minutes I hit a red, and it canoned off another red and fluked into the pocket.  “Now then,” said one of my opponents, “you call ‘im what you’d call me if I took a shot like that!  I bet you won’t call ‘im that!”

Every year the Institute held its knockout competitions, and a system of handicaps meant that the less experienced players had a fighting chance against the better players.

I came across my trophies recently.  Most of them have in common the words “runner-up”!  To my credit I was runner-up in the billiards a couple of times, but never the winner!  I did manage to win the mixed doubles at snooker on a couple of occasions too, playing together with one of my Methodist friends.




In Bible times going to the local athletics meetings was a popular pastime and Saint Paul wrote about sports in his letters.  To the Christians in Corinth he wrote “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one wins the prize.  Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  I’ve never been a runner, and playing snooker and billiards has been the only sporting activity I’ve ever attempted.  And try as I might to “get the prize”, I seem only ever to manage to come in as “runner-up”!

Some of us are destined only ever to be the runner-up, it seems.


Babel revisited (Yorkshire Post)

Re-blog from Bishop Nick Baines

Nick Baines's Blog

This is the text of an article published on Friday 18 May (pre-Pentecost) in the Yorkshire Post:

Does Teresa May speak French? Or German? Or any other foreign European language?

I dont know the answer, but the question is not merely academic. As the UK finds itself at a point in its modern history where we need more than ever to understand and speak with our neighbours, not to be able to do so in their language is problematic.

Every other European leader speaks more than their own language. Recently Emmanuel Macron addressed the US Congress in English, a language in which he comfortably subjects himself to political and media interviews. Angela Merkel speaks English and Russian as well as German. Our senior EU negotiators and administrators all operate in several languages without problem. But, the British?

Well, I ask this question as the UK approaches…

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I Will

Re-blog from achristianthoughtfortoday

A Christian Thought for Today

We all have so much to be thankful for!! However, it doesn’t always feel that way and sometime everything feels simply naff! Lord, when life seems this way please help us to react well! Help us to have the attitude… even though I feel like this, I WILL praise the Lord; even though everything seems to be going wrong, I WILL give thanks to God; even though the Lord seems far away, I WILL remember that He is right by my side.

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Holiday memories…..

It was, I think, my first visit to Austria, and I was staying in a place called Nassereith.  As I walked into the dining room of the hotel for the evening meal on the first night, I asked a couple if I could sit with them.  We introduced ourselves, and it turned out that they lived just round the corner from my uncle in Leicester. I told them that I worked in Arnold, on the edge of Nottingham. The man told me that he regularly visited Arnold.  Why, I asked him.  He told me came to see a gentleman by the name of Mr Lightfoot.  Conscious that there couldn’t be very many Lightfoots in Arnold, I said “Not Colin Lightfoot?”  “Yes.”  When I enquired further (Mr Lightfoot then being the local undertaker), he said “I supply him.” It turned out that he sold the fabric which lines the coffins!  It is a small world, I thought, when you travel thousands of miles and meet someone who knows someone you work with!

Generally when I’m on holiday, I’ve kept quiet about what I do for a living.  On one occasion I was on holiday in the Loire Valley.  The table in the hotel dining room was a long one, seating maybe twenty people.  I sat down near one end.  The lady who sat next to me wanted to know my name, and where I came from, and what I did.  “I keep quiet about what I do,” I told her.  “Why?” “I have to,” I said.  She persisted with her questions. Was I a teacher? Was I a lawyer? She was unwilling to give up.  Did I, she asked, work for “MFI”?  Thinking she probably meant “MI5”, I told her that, no I didn’t. Eventually, in a very low whisper, I told her “I work for the Church of England”. She didn’t seem to know what that meant so I said “I’m a priest.”  Why, she wanted to know, did I need to keep quiet about that?  Some people, of they knew what I did, wouldn’t talk to me. It’s true, as some people don’t seem to want to talk to Vicars, or don’t know what to talk to Vicars about!  Some think we only ever want to talk about religion (which is just not true, especially when we are on holiday!) Just as surely as some wouldn’t want to talk to me, others wouldn’t stop, and would probably want to tell me their life stories.  There would be others who would feel inhibited on their holiday by the presence of a Vicar, and feel they had to behave!  Rooms would go quiet as “the Vicar” walked in!  A few minutes later as there was a lull in the conversation at our end of the table I heard a lady at the far end of the table say to her husband (quite loudly) “You’d better watch your language, there’s a Vicar down there!”  “Did you hear that?” The lady next to me replied “Yes, I did, point made!”

On another occasion I was half way up the side of a mountain in Austria, sitting outside a small Gastwirtschaft waiting for a meal which I had ordered.  Two people arrived and appeared to be looking for somewhere to sit, but all the outdoor tables were occupied.  They decided they had better look inside.  As I was sitting alone at a long table, and recognised them from the coach tour, I suggested they might want to join me.  They did. “As long as you don’t sing,” I said.  Amused, they wondered what I meant.  “It gets a bit embarrassing,” I said “if people you’re sitting with start singing.”  A silly comment, perhaps, but it broke the ice.  They told me their names and told me that their son was a Vicar near Scunthorpe.  “That’s interesting,” I said, “I’m a Vicar too.” “We thought you might be,” the lady replied.  How on earth, I wondered, had they worked that out? I don’t wear a clerical collar (the ‘ring of confidence’) on my holidays! So what gives me away?

Some years later, at a conference at a retreat house in deepest Leicestershire, I met their son. He was slightly taken aback as I walked up to him, shook him by the hand, greeted him by name and said “I’ve met the parents, now I meet the man!” “You’ve met the parents?” “Yes, I said, some years ago half way up a mountain in Austria!

On one occasion I was staying in the Black Forest and found myself talking to a gentleman who told me he was a hospital porter. The man he was sitting with at meal times, he told me, was an undertaker.  “So,” he said “we’ve got all eventualities covered on this coach!”  The following day he introduced me to the funeral director. We all got on like a house on fire!

A funny thing happened…….

It wasn’t on the way to the forum, but a funny thing happened on the way to the surgery.  I was going to collect a prescription when my eye caught sight of a thing looking a bit like a lobster on the pavement.  I thought it unusual, but took no notice.  In fact I wondered if it was a plastic toy!

A few minutes later, as I returned from the surgery with my medicine in my pocket, I spied another of these creatures. This one stood out more, and seemed to be upside down. I decided that these were crayfish.  I thought that to see one was odd, to see two even more so.

There had been a thunderstorm and lots of heavy rain.  It was almost as if they had fallen from the sky in the rain. Could it be, I thought?  I was sure I could remember reading something about crayfish falling from the sky.  Later on I ‘googled’ “crayfish fall from sky”. It’s not unheard of, apparently.

I found this  article on a site called, “Cloudy with a chance of crayfish”

So maybe they had just dropped out of the sky.