Fiction Quick Reads 1

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A short story set in Sri Lanka during the armed conflict between the Tamil Terrorists (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka armed forces. There were many occasions during this period that long held friendships and relationships between people of different races were strained. The impact of the conflict has had far reaching consequences on not only individual families directly affected by the events, but on society as a whole.

https://www.amazon.com/Friend-racial-conflict-character-friendships-ebook/dp/B00S7OFKA6?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

 

Get me to the church on time

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Does being religious demand seriousness, solemnity and no jokes?

This is the impression I get whenever I attend a place of worship or a gathering of worshippers. Since my experience has predominantly been that of the Christian church, I will refer to that more frequently than to other places of worship.

It appears to me that there is almost an expectation that the congregation in a church should be of a solemn disposition. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact it should be so, given the reverence with which we approach our worship. My problem is that this solemnity is taken to an extreme when natural tendencies of humans are subjugated. What this does is to give the impression that any expression of joy and laughter are frowned upon as not befitting the presence of our Lord. What we forget is that joy and laughter are indeed what we have been blessed with through our creation by the Lord.

I remember the time in my youth, when I used to attend church. My friend Dennis and I would sit together towards the back of the church. Isn’t that what Anglicans do anyway?

Now Dennis is an extremely funny person. I mean he has a great sense of humour and it is infectious. His comments on whatever was going on at that particular moment in time, invariably tickled my funny bones. It was a battle and a half, trying to contain my expression of it. In other words, I could barely hold back the laughter that would spontaneously erupt from me. My sniggering, which sounded extremely loud in the quiet confines of a church full of pious worshippers, was not appreciated. Rightly so. After all, who wants to be disturbed in their devotions by two silly uncontrolled youth who didn’t appear to have any regard and respect for the Lord?

Yet it was not a lack of respect for the Lord on our part. It was just happiness that was given to us by our Lord. If however our entire time in church was filled with uncontrolled sniggering, that would be a problem. But sporadic interruptions with expressions of joy I think should be welcome. Just as much as the sound of children’s laughter and playfulness, though sometimes disturbing, especially in the middle of a sermon, need to be enjoyed. In fact, such a diversion should be welcome if it does arrive, particularly in the middle of a boring delivery of a sermon. For it is never the subject of a sermon that is boring, but the delivery of it.

Our current disposition, has in fact led people away from church rather than drawing them closer. To some degree, the charismatic forms of service at some of the newer churches have tried to address this drawback. But I still find the tunes to be ‘less than joyful’. While they have tried to jazz things up, the only new thing appears to be the clapping.

My mind is frequently drawn to something Bill Cosby (that comedian who was much loved some years ago and is not so loved now) said as part of one of his shows.

When you look at people entering an ice cream parlour, there is generally a smile on their faces. There is an expectancy of joy that is evident in the way they talk and the way they walk. Their cares are far behind them and that cool sweet foretaste of the special flavour of ice cream is all that matters. Children may be skipping their way in whilst the adults are indulgent of their children’s misdemeanours and they themselves are looking forward to tasteful happiness in the immediate future.

On the other hand, if you look at people entering and exiting a health food shop. I am yet to see children skipping their way in. In fact, I hardly see children entering one of them. The adults go in as though they are afraid of being caught in the act of entering such an establishment. There is a solemnity inside that is stifling and even the helpers in these shops are serious when they extol the benefits of this pill or that powder. There is sombreness in the way your bill is handed over to you, along with the reverently packaged goods of pills and powders and roots. People exit these shops with a look that seems to say, ‘I’m trying to be healthier than you. But I’m not really looking forward to taking this stuff in this package!’

So what is the point?

People are happy when their expectations are of satisfaction rather than undertaking a turn of duty. That is to say that if people go to church because they feel it is their duty to do so, they become much like the customer in the health food shop. Alternatively, if they go to church with an expectation of experiencing joy and peace of mind and camaraderie and laughter in the presence of our Lord, then they become more like those skipping their way into the ice cream parlour.

Surely therefore, if we believe that being gathered together in the presence of our Lord is an experience to be savoured and enjoyed, then it is up to us to create that environment in the church.

Picture this.

As you approach the doors of the church, you hear the organ playing “Get me to the church on time.” You smile because you recognise the tune and it brings happy memories of a very enjoyable feel good film. The rhythm of the song gets into you. Your head starts nodding and your body starts bobbing, as you sway your way into your pew seat. You smile and greet your seat neighbour, who smiles whilst also nodding and bobbing. You strike up a conversation with your nodding and bobbing neighbour and say something like, “Isn’t this wonderful? It makes me feel so alive.” Your neighbour smiles and acknowledges saying, “Yes, it’s a refreshing change to listening to some doleful music. I love it.”

Organ Player

The mood is set and the church bells ring. There is a moment of silence. The organ, with all stops open introduces the hymn, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” The choir is full of voice and leads the rendition. The congregation is feeling good and joins in the singing with gusto. The church is filled with praises to God. That would surely get His ear. 3 verses, 4 verses and the congregation is awake and full of energy.

The priest reaches the altar, turns around to the congregation, raises his arms and proclaims, “Jesus Chist is risen.” The congregation bellows, “He is risen indeed.” The service is up and running. The people are in the ice cream parlour.

God is happy because we are happy. The stage is set for a period of wholesome worship.

So what is it to be?

Joyful expectancy in being gathered together to worship our Lord or the meek attendance at church, to satisfy a sense of duty?

The choice is ours.

Improve your eyesight naturally

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There is a lot of talk and literature devoted to exercises to improve your eyesight naturally. They go so far as to say that Spectacles harm your eyes and promote deterioration of sight, keeping the eye industry alive and well.

I am a great supporter of using natural methods to gain better health. I am going to give these exercises a try and see what progress has been made after about a month (starting 28 May 2015).

The following video shows a simple exercise for the eyes and concentrates on relaxing your eyes. It’s a good one to start with.

The next video shows exercises which are a little more involved and touches on the ‘improvement of sight’ aspect.

The following video contains some exercises that are reported to improve your vision. I was aware of some of them and have tried them intermittently. Not regular enough to claim a lot of benefits. There is an upsell in this. Don’t get caught up in that. I believe if these exercises are done over a period of time, there should be an improvement. Let’s see how it goes.

William H Bates was the doctor who is credited with pioneering the improvement of your eyesight through exercises. Below is the link if you are interested in purchasing his book. It is a very detailed read and is not ‘thriller’ reading content!

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=william+bates+the+bates+method+for+better+eyesight+without+glasses&sprefix=william+bates%2Cstripbooks%2C1062

Good luck with the exercises. Let’s see what improvements we have.

Andrew Strauss apologising for getting caught! What a joke.

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“I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen,” Strauss said, as his error became public knowledge. “I am mortified and profusely sorry.”

Andrew Strauss expressing his opinion of KP during a break in commentary as he believed he was off air. Unfortunately for him the microphones were still on and his comments were heard by many ….. millions.

What is Andrew Strauss sorry for? Getting caught “on air” for expressing his opinion of Kevin Pietersen? Or is he really sorry he said what he said about KP? That it was in a moment of anger and it was a wrong choice of words.

It appears from empirical evidence that Strauss’ opinion of KP is genuine and it was not a slip of the tongue. Rather it articulated clearly what he thought of KP and it was unreservedly spoken. The only problem was that he was caught on air and heard by a million viewers of a cricket game.

Despite the deteriorating standard of the use of the English language in public, the fact that the expletive was broadcast is considered “not acceptable” in the TV domain. Ironical when you consider the level of invective that is thrown around in modern films and TV shows.

That is not however the point. The question is, what is Strauss apologising for.

It appears that the problem clearly lies with “getting caught” on air.

Would it then have been more appropriate for Strauss to apologise to the many who are perhaps offended by the less than delicate use of language by him? Quite clearly his estimation of KP hasn’t changed. So apologising to KP is meaningless.

Being mortified about getting caught Straussy is a ridiculous reason to apologise for. What it says is that if your distasteful comments were not made public, you wouldn’t have turned a hair, even the few you have.

A Story in 5 ………………….

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This was the product of an exercise to use these 3 words Darkness, Chair, Sadly in the first paragraph of a story that has a beginning, an end and needs to be written in 5 minutes.

Sadly it’s another night of darkness. The power cuts are on again. While it has a sexy name like “load shedding”, life does not become half as sexy when I can’t even find a chair to sit on.
I am groping in the dark trying to find my way around.
Where the devil did I leave that torch?
Oh I know, it was next to my bed the last time I saw it. Of course, saw it when the lights were on! Ha ha ha ha.
I stumble along and walk right into the wall next to the passage. I am never able to negotiate that turn with my eyes closed. Anyway, I am groping again and find myself walking down the passage to my bedroom. I enter it without mishap and float towards my bed.
My shin walks right into the base of my bed. Ouch!! A few expletives exit my mouth.
I bend down slowly and carefully, wave my hands suspiciously and I find the torch.
Light, at last.

The many shades of Cricket ………………….. (A conversation between two old timers, Bill Williams and Bob Roberts at the Club.)

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“Hey Bill, what do you think about this Murali business?” asks Bob.

“Why what happened. Is he playing again? Diabolical action. I don’t know how they allowed him to keep bowling,” says Bill.

“No he has retired. But Cricket Australia has contracted him to help our spinners.”

“Wonderful choice. Great bowler. Didn’t he get about a thousand wickets or something?”

“He got 800. The most by any bowler,” says Bob.

“Great bowler. I mean even our Shane Warne didn’t get that did he?” asks Bill.

“Yes he couldn’t quite get there, but then he didn’t play test cricket for a while.”

“Yes yes. He took some sleeping tablets or something and didn’t get up for about one and a half years or something isn’t it?”

“He took some diuretics. Apparently it helped him improve his looks.”

“Good on him. He needed it. Even if it meant sleeping for that long,” agrees Bill.

“So what about Murali working with the Australian bowlers?”

“What about it. Great bowler,” says Bill. “We can learn a thing or two from him.”

“But we reported his action to the powers that be at the time.”

“Diabolical action”, says Bill.

“And we boooed him from the roof tops and called him a chucker and all sorts of names,” counters Bob.

“Did we?” asks Bill.

“Yes. Well not from the roof tops but from Bay 13. That’s as high as we go.”

“Yes yes. You always get these …….. what did that former Prime Minister call them ………………… recalcitrants. You always get some recalcitrants in a crowd.”

“But you also said he had a suspect action Bill.”

“Yes but that was when he was bowling against us. We couldn’t play the bloke remember?”

“So how does he now become a great bowler?”

“Well didn’t you say he got 800 wickets?”

“With a suspect action.”

“Diabolical action.”

“So is it alright for Cricket Australia to engage him to coach our players?”

“Well if he can get 800 wickets, what’s wrong with our players trying to get a piece of the action?”

“I don’t know Bill. We crucify the bloke while he’s playing and then recruit him to tell us how to do it.”

“Hey Wayne,”  (Bill calling the waiter), “get us another round will you?”

“What do you think of ‘mankading’?”

“Isn’t that an Indian thing?”

“Well it was an Indian cricketer who first ran a batsman out at the non striker’s end.”

“Diabolical. Where is the spirit of cricket these days?”

“Well that happened about 50 years ago.”

“Diabolical.”

“So do you agree with it?” asks Bob.

“Well it depends. Who was it done to?”

“Most recently to a batsman called Buttler, an Englishman.”

“Who else would have a name like that. That’s alright then.”

“What’s alright?”

“That it was done to an Englishman. Who did it?”

“A Sri Lankan. Another one with a suspect action.”

“Diabolical. That’s the problem these days. These new cricketing nations. They are starting to get better than the English and us Aussies. We have got to find a way to keep them at the bottom of the table.”

“Well the English reported this bowler just before the final game in their ODI series. Thought they could throw the Sri Lankans off.”

“Did they?” asked Bill.

“No. The Lankans won the series. Sri Lankans are at the top of the one day international table I think.”

“Unbelievable. That’s without Murali as well.”

“Yes, they are a talented bunch.”

“Well we got Murali now. Let’s see how they face us next time.”

“But Murali won’t coach the Aussies against Sri Lanka.”

“Hmmmm. That’s a bit of a problem. Maybe we can poach their coach then.”

The myth of the Spirit of Cricket

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Yesterday’s (3 June 2014) run out of Jos Buttler in the game between England and Sri Lanka at Edgebaston, has brought all the tweeters out to air their respective opinions. Many of them resorted to the adage of the “Spirit of Cricket”, to by and large voice their point of view on the matter.

Reading through some of them, I began to wonder what this “Spirit of Cricket” is.

My understanding, gathered through some very quick research and cutting through the verbiage, is that the game of cricket should be “played in a truly sportsman like manner”

In addition to remaining responsible for the Laws of Cricket, MCC has also long believed that the game should be played in accordance with its traditional ‘spirit’.
In the late 1990s, two distinguished MCC members (and ex-England captains), Ted Dexter and Lord (Colin) Cowdrey, sought to enshrine the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ in the game’s Laws.

This would remind players of their responsibility for ensuring that cricket is always played in a truly sportsmanlike manner.

To recount what happened in this particular game,
Sachitra Senanayake in the course of one over, twice brought to the attention of the standing umpire and Jos Buttler, that Buttler was leaving his crease at the non striker’s end too early and gaining an advantage of a couple of yards in running between the wickets.
In the following over, Buttler continued leaving the crease early and Senanayake ran the batsman out.

It is generally accepted that what Senanayake did was well within the laws of the game. The question that it raised was whether such an action was within the spirit of the game.

The action that precipitated the run out was that Buttler kept taking an early start at the non strikers end. It is ironic that the pundits have chosen to ignore the fact that Buttler’s act is considered “taking an unfair advantage”. Yet the consequent action by the bowler, which is part and parcel of the game, is derided as being against the spirit of cricket.

One of the commentators quoted a law which presumably stated that the batsman should be in the act of taking a run to be run out in that manner. If Buttler was not taking the steps towards starting a run, what he was doing wandering out of his crease as the bowler was coming into bowl!

If the Spirit of Cricket promotes the “playing of the game in a sportsman like manner”, I wonder if “unfair” play, as exhibited by Buttler in this instance, conforms to the spirit of cricket.

Playing in the spirit of the game raises some other thoughts that bear mentioning.

One of my favourite bug bears with the game, the way it is played in recent times, is sledging.

I have always been under the impression, that the game involves the use of skills in bowling to dismiss a batsman or restrain him from scoring. On the other hand, the batsman is expected to use his skills in scoring as many runs off the bowler and avoid getting out to him.

Cricket has always been played with occasional comments being passed by the bowler to the batsman, generally in jest, on the ability of the batsman to play the bowling. These have been humorous on most occasions and have added some colour to a game that can go on for 5 days and not produce a result.

Unfortunately over the last 30 years or so, the team on the field has resorted to directing comments (not so much in jest) to the batsmen in order to ruffle their feathers and cause a break in their concentration. Some of these comments and the inevitable retorts by the batsmen, have necessitated the umpires becoming involved to prevent what could have turned out to be ugly physical altercations. Obviously the purpose has been to divert the attention of the batsman away from his batting and thus create an advantage to the fielding side in their quest to get him out. In other words, when the skills of the bowler fail him, he and his team mates resort to working on the emotions of the batsman, verbally.

I have shown the fielding side to be the instigator of these comments as it is rare to find the batsmen starting this kind of “conversation”. None of the sides involved at the top level is exempt from these practices with some sides more vocal than others.

Sportsman like? Spirit of Cricket?

A fresh approach to batting has been brought about by the introduction of the Reverse sweep to the batsman’s repertoire of strokes. While the “Dilscoop” which involves hitting the ball over the wicket keeper’s head is adding a bit of spice to the game, the reverse sweep however is another kettle of fish.

It has long been a practice (and maybe even a requirement) that the batsman is informed of the arm the bowler employs in delivering the ball and the side of the wicket from which it is being delivered (eg. right arm over or left arm round etc). The umpire calls this out at the beginning of a spell of bowling. It is inconceivable for the bowler to inform the umpire how and from where he is going to be bowling (right arm round for example) and in the course of the run up change his mind and deliver from an alternate spot – right arm over or indeed left arm round. In fact it may even be illegal (not sure about that).

However, there is no requirement for the batsman to follow these similar rules. He is apparently free to change his stance from right hand to left hand while the bowler is running up to bowl or even a little bit later. So while the bowler is trying to maintain a line outside off stump, the batsman is able to suddenly transform that line to one that is outside what is now effectively a leg stump.

There has been no attempt to address this anomaly and is now an accepted part of the game that confers an unfair advantage to the batsman.

Sportsman like? Spirit of Cricket?

There is another practice in the game that belies the principle of “fair play” and has become acknowledged as part and parcel of the game. This relates to the constant replacement of fielders on the field with substitutes, just because the fielder needs to take a rest, get a rub down or for whatever inane reason. This practice is constantly tolerated by umpires and is abused by certain teams more than others.

Sportsman like? Spirit of Cricket?

The start of yesterday’s game was marred with the news that Sachitra Senanayake was reported for a suspect action. This came as no surprise, as many observers of the game have felt that his action looked abnormal.

However, what was disturbing was the timing of the announcement.

This bowler has been bowling with the same action for a number of years, with a number of different umpires officiating at the various games. There were (presumably) no reports on its legality. Senanayake appeared to have come into his own on this tour to England and was indeed the leading wicket taker in the one day series just concluded. The batsmen facing him were having difficulty reading his deliveries and they were also finding it difficult to score off him. 4 matches into the series and on the eve of the deciding match, it is revealed that Senanayake’s action is being reported. Could the announcement not have been delayed for a day? Makes you wonder!

Sportsman like? Spirit of Cricket?

It is very easy to get on the pedestal of the Spirit of Cricket and be very vocal on different media outlets that are available these days. I believe the sanctimonious commentators who are quick to jump on this bandwagon need some introspection on the various practices that appear to be “unfair” and have become accepted parts of the game, before they rise up in arms about an incident that appears to be completely fair and has been executed fairly.