Category: Travel

Church Beer Festival

How did we get here? I’m in St Matthew’s Church Grosmont. There are 15 well kept racked real ales in the corner. The room is packed. There is a small ukulele orchestra playing The Lion Sleeps Tonight on the chancel steps!


How did we get here? It’s a Friday night. It’s my day off. I’m away in a strange land (ok, the Yorkshire Moors) and somehow I’m in a Church of England ancient village church. We got here because they were telling us about this in the pub last night. In a different town. By “they” I mean “people who have no link to the church”. “They” got me into church tonight. The “non churched”. And they weren’t the only ones. There have been three different groups of people telling us about how good this is going to be! None of whom are part of the church.

People who don’t go to church are telling the world that The Church(TM) are a positive thing? This doesn’t compute.

And everyone is so enthusiastic about the gift that the church have given them. “This is Grosmont, there’s nothing to do here” is what we were told “but this is going to be excellent”.

And it is!

The Place of Honour


As we sit in the Square of the Jewish Martyrs in the Old Town at Rhodes the whole world has slowed down. We laze in the late afternoon sun in a small cafe with a glass of beer shaped like a Wellington boot. Over in the corner of the square at the entrance to this cafe there is a Cockatoo on an elaborate wooden stand. There he sits all day living the life as he sits before his adoring public upon his throne.

Here the life is idyllic as he sits within medieval surroundings: fabulous archways and ancient columns are bathed in glorious golden sunshine. His day is taken as a regular stream of onlookers come over to see him, to be near him, to have their photograph taken with him. Like all cockatoos he has wonderful plumage on his head that he can extend to create a majestic crown. He loves being picked up and having his photo taken with an onlooker as he proudly display his plumage.

This is a great life! The people fawn over him as he is surrounded by more food than he can eat. The owners of the bar are forever fussing over him as they attend his stand. They extend a finger and stroke him under the beak or on top of the head as he nuzzles them. We watch as he gets down from his perch and sits in the lap of the bar’s owner like a kitten. They clearly love each other as he nuzzles into her lap being stroked. Life is good!

We sit and watch as the afternoon sun sinks behind a Byzantine fortification as we keep watch upon this place of honour he loves so dearly. And as he stretches his wings we see the price he paid for such an honoured pace with so rich a throne. The few feathers he has been left are there merely to keep his majestic looks. With a purely ceremonial function his wings no longer carry the plumage with which to fly. Never will he know what it is to soar higher and higher over the ancient city as the sun sinks into the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Nor will he be able to look down on the medieval archways nor glide over the golden beaches and rugged cliff faces.

He does still have his place of honour where all his needs are met. Onlookers still come to look at his ceremonial crown and gaze in adoration. The peanut supply is never ending and he is regularly stroked as he displays his glorious crown before the world.


Midnight at 60 Degrees North


The cloud has lifted on Shetland and Dr Ruth and I are staring out of the window at this. The locals call it the Simmer Dim. The scenery has moved from stunning to 8-o