Britannia may not rule the waves, but we can still raise a smile

In previous years I have written reflections for Easter Week. This year I have something planned for Maundy Thursday, but as I am about to start a week’s leave and I try not to switch on my computer during times of leave in case I am tempted to work, I won’t be doing a series this year.

If you are looking for a serious reflection on Easter week you can start an old series I wrote here

Today I want to celebrate the great British public. This is not a jingoistic, nationalistic, EU referendum-related post. It’s a celebration of how the public in this country can embrace the unusual.

The National Environment Research Council has commissioned a new ship (text from The Independent)

The £200 million polar research vessel, which will be operational in 2019, is set to sail the waters of Antarctica and the Arctic carrying a team of 90 scientists and support staff.

In a statement NERC said: “Tonne-for-tonne, the ship – together with NERC’s existing two blue water research ships – will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world and will help put the UK at the forefront of ocean research for years to come.”

NERC was looking for a name to reflect the ship’s prowess in the oceans, symbolising the pioneering work they will undertake.

When thinking of submissions, they advised: “We’re looking for an inspirational name that exemplifies the work it will do.

“The ship could be named after a local historical figure, movement, or landmark – or a famous polar explorer or scientist…”

The NERC decided to put the naming of the ship to a public online vote, with submissions from the great British public. They were thinking of names like Endeavour, Falcon, David Attenborough and so on.

But the name that was put in as a joke and which is currently the runaway leader in the public vote is Boaty McBoatface.

YES!

boaty mcboatfaceI love that. I love the idea that this amazing vessel could be sailing around the world called ‘Boaty McBoatface’!

However, there is one small problem. Hidden in the terms and conditions of the public vote is a small, but significant, clause reserving the right of the NERC to select the final name.

It did make me wonder whether we should be naming ships in the Royal Navy in a similar way. It could be a new weapon. Imagine a captain of a foreign ship about to engage in a battle with a Royal Navy ship. He picks up his big binoculars and focuses on the ship that is steaming towards him. Then he notices the name: HMS Shootyshootyfloatfloat.

The captain is unable to issue any orders because he is laughing so much and HMS Shootyshootyfloatfloat is victorious without a shot being fired.

Humour can be disarming, when used graciously. It can puncture pomposity. It helps people to look at things from a different perspective. It’s difficult to be angry when you’re smiling. I believe that it’s a gift from God, and we need to use it.

I hope that this week you find things and people who make you smile. With whom can you share the gift of humour? If you see someone who hasn’t got a smile, give them one of yours.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

warning: a very silly person wrote this

If you are in the mood for a serious reflection this bloggage is a good one to avoid. Please don’t read on.

If you have a good opinion of me, perhaps you had better not read on… or maybe you should know the truth!

Let me set the scene: I was at a conference, listening to an excellent speaker who was making some excellent points in a really engaging way. I was glad to be there. It was edifying and encouraging.

And then the speaker said something serious and important that had a double meaning. It was not a double-entendre, and it was certainly unintentional, but as well as the speaker’s intended significant and excellent meaning there was a possible lavatorial interpretation that accompanied that phrase. (I will not be telling you what the phrase was, nor who the speaker was as it’s not fair on them).

I like to think that I am a relatively mature person. I like to think that I have a small amount of gravitas and wisdom. I like to think that I am a sensitive, spiritual person. I am now a Regional Minister and am supposed to set a good example to others. But at that moment the inner five year-old boy broke out of my subconscious and I could only think of the lavatorial interpretation of what was being said. Inside my head I was howling with laughter but I knew (because I am mature, have gravitas and am wise, sensitive and spiritual) that I should not show this at all. I tried to keep a straight face but every time I thought I was managing to do so I could hear the inner five year-old boy laughing again.

Just when I thought I had control of myself and the smirk reflex was being suppressed I made the mistake of glancing along the row. I was interested to see whether it was just me who had picked up the possible lavatorial interpretation. At that moment one of my friends along the row (who had clearly been wrestling with a similar problem) glanced along the row in my direction and caught my eye. There was a glint of mischief in their eye (and maybe in mine) and suddenly the smirk reflex was back in full flow, accompanied by an almost irresistible urge to laugh.

And you know how it is, don’t you? When you try to stop yourself from laughing and you know it’s meant to be serious and you don’t want to distract anyone else the only thing you are capable of doing is laughing.

I had to cover my face and try to look like I was seriously in prayer (it was a Christian conference). But then I sensed movement from behind me and realised that another friend was literally rolling on the floor laughing silently. At that point it was almost impossible to keep a straight face and very difficult to stop myself snorting out the guffaw that was bubbling up inside me. Cue ‘shampoo position’ in deep prayer.

Somehow, by God’s grace, I managed to control myself. The inner five year-old boy sulked back into my subconscious as I refused to listen to him and the laughter and smirk reflexes subsided… at least until after the session finished and I met up with those friends who had received the lavatorial interpretation and responded as immaturely as me. Cue much laughter.

As I think back on this I feel rather silly. I feel a bit guilty. I feel as if I ought to apologise to anyone whose opinion of me has been somewhat diminished by all of this. I apologise to the speaker who was brilliant and who was making an important point even as I wrestled with the inner five year-old boy.

I feel like a minion from Despicable Me, laughing at lavatorial interpretations (see the picture on the left for an example).

And yet, I still find myself sniggering and laughing when I think about it: there are some things that are just, well, funny.

Yes, there are times and places when it is inappropriate to laugh. Yes, we need to be sensitive to those around us. Yes, there are times when we need to be mature and sensitive and wise.

But*…

One of the things that I think is part of being made in God’s image is that we have a sense of humour.  And if God has given us a sense of humour (which I believe he has) I think that sometimes we have to allow the inner child to surface and allow ourselves to laugh (even if you have to suppress it until the appropriate moment when the bottled laugh uninhibitedly plunders your serenity).

I am a very silly person. And that’s all right. I think.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Let me further illustrate my immaturity. I wasn’t there when this happened however a friend who was there told me about it. Had I been there I would have probably responded as above. My friend did…

It was an important meeting and there had been a long discussion. They were close to reaching a consensus when someone who was always serious interrupted the seemingly unanimous flow of the meeting: “I have a ‘but’, and it’s a very big ‘but’.”