Sunday, 27 February 2011

That's Entertainment...

A good night last night, enjoying that particularly British of entertainments, the Panto. This was one of the better manifestations of the art - an amateur production at one of the churches I'm minister of. No-one's reputations were on the line; people were simply taking part for the sheer joy of performing.

I'll be honest: the acting was hardly Olivier award-winning material. Lines were fluffed, or forgotten, but no-one cared: It was almost expected that there would be such mess-ups, and when they occurred they were simply laughed off by cast and audience alike. People gave their all, singing, dancing, hamming it up for all they were worth, and simply enjoying the experience. And most of them will be back next year: not even an errant fire alarm during the interval dampened the atmosphere.

Today I've been involved in worship, but only as a bit-player this week. I was preaching and presiding at a communion service in an ecumenical congregation in our circuit. It's interesting when one is in this position, listening to the comments at the door. Some will comment on the content of the sermon, some on the stories you told in the course of it, some on the hymns/ songs that were used. How much, I sometimes wonder, are their comments simply about how much they've been 'entertained' for the 90 minutes or so that they were in church? How often is worship gauged by what we got out of it, rather than by how it helped us to engage with God (however we understand that word) - as if it was something that is there purely for our benefit?

This afternoon I was enthralled by the World Cup cricket match between England and India, which ended so dramatically with both teams on 338 and therefore a tie. Perhaps it was the only fair result, after excellent batting and bowling displays from both teams. It was a tense game, with the momentum of the match swinging one way, then the next. And it was certainly entertainment.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Hare is running

Having enjoyed some time off work this week I took advantage of the space and bought tickets to a series of plays in the Sheffield Theatres this week by David Hare. Sheffield is blessed with a number of different theatrical spaces, each of which has its own particular 'vibe', which is one of the many things I appreciate about this fine city.

On Wednesday evening we were at the Studio Theatre at the Crucible, a small, intimate stage where the audience are on top of and at times almost a part of the action. The play was 'Plenty', the story of a woman's journey from war-torn France in the 1940s, where she'd served with SOE, through a number of relationships and tedious jobs, marriage to a Foreign Office Diplomat and her eventual descent into madness.

Thursday found us in the Crucible itself for the Olivier Award-winning 'Racing Demon', which focused on the lives of four eccentric London vicars, struggling with identity, ministry, theology and church politics. Some of the dialogue was wonderfully close to home, and showed up some of the hypocrisy that is all too evident in the church today. Perhaps the characters were a little cliched (the drippy one, the evangelical one, the gay one and the hopeless one), but it was - as were all the plays - very well acted by an excellent cast.

Last night's offering was staged at the Lyceum, a more traditional theatre with circle and balcony, and was entitled 'The Breath of Life'. It consisted of a dialogue that took place in the course of one night between two women (played by Isla Blair & Patricia Hodge), both of whom had been in a relationship with the same man. It was, by turns, witty, poignant and brutal, as they together struggle wit the feelings that they had, and still have, for this man who had scarred both their lives.

It'd been a while since I'd been to the theatre, but these three plays have reawakened my love of live drama, and I hope it won't be long before I return.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Some thoughts on preaching

I've been reflecting on preaching, following this morning's service. Here's why.

We've been working our way through Nehemiah over the last 6 weeks at one of my churches - not really long enough to do it full justice, but we were able to look at some of the main themes as we flew through. This week we reached the end, and the reading was Chapter 13. As is our custom one of our ladies had been asked to read the passage, and she approached me before the service to say that she's been reading through the chapter in preparation and had found it a really difficult passage. She really didn't like what Nehemiah had done at all, but was looking forward to hearing what I would make of it.

I have to admit that I had struggled in preparation with some of the themes in the chapter. The idea of banning inter-marriage with the neighbouring peoples resonated for me with David Cameron's recent speech about multi-culturalism, particularly verse 24 which speaks of the children not being able to speak the language of the country in which they live. Perhaps I 'bottled out', because I chose not to tackle these issues head-on, but instead looked at the underlying reasons why Nehemiah acted as he did - the holiness of God and of God's people.

What is it we are trying to do in preaching? There are some who try and tease out every nuance of every word of every verse, and there is a need for that at times. There are those who seek to elucidate the grand themes of Scripture, and look for their evidence in whatever passage they are considering, and there is a need for that at times. There are those who seek to find the contemporary relevance of Scripture to today's world, and there is certainly a need for that. And there are those who seek to help themselves and others as they struggle with God's word and those actions by God and God's people that are recorded there that seem to grate in today's culture.

The Word of God is alive and active, and therefore it needs to be wrestled with, not just in the study, but in the pulpit too. It will never be tamed, but as we struggle with it we may begin to understand more fully what God is saying to us through it, and its relevance in today's world - so different in some ways, and so similar in others, from the world in which the Scriptures were written. Through those struggles we will begin to glimpse the 'big picture', the grand themes of grace, salvation, forgiveness and holiness, and see how they can transform our lives, and to do so we may have to mine deep to unearth to real treasures that lie within.

This, I think, is starting to get at the role of the preacher, as one who walks alongside us, and the Holy Spirit as we listen for God's word today through God's word written and preached.

And the lady who'd read the passage for us went home a little happier, and understanding a little more, than when she came. Maybe it was worthwhile.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

What's new?

How do you discover new music to listen to, or new writers to read?

Although I can at times find them a little annoying, the recommendations on Amazon have provided some interesting discoveries over the last few months: Aeon Zen (sort of intelligent Prog Metal), Anathema (ballsy Post Rock) & Thieves' Kitchen (jazzy Prog) came to me that way. (The descriptions are purely mine, and I'm not 100% sure what they mean, so don't ask!) Cover discs on magazines have introduced me to a wide variety of otherwise unknown (to me) bands from across the world, like Crippled Black Phoenix, Lens, Lalle Larsen & Matt Stevens.

I'd actually heard of Matt Stevens through an advert he'd placed on Facebook, but had not really listened to his music. Having done so, I would highly recommend him to anyone who enjoys well-produced and well-played acoustic sounds: you can find him through this link. Check out his band, The Fierce and the Dead, too.

In terms of new writers, I've had some help from my wife, Judith, who pointed me towards Karen Slaughter from Georgia, USA, a writer of crime fiction, which is one of my particular favourite genres. It was through her love of Karen's work that I was introduced to another crime writer that I have really enjoyed -  a namesake of mine - Chris Simms. We came across Chris at a Crime Writers' convention in Harrogate last year, and I have to admit that I was attracted to reading his work simply because we share a surname (spelled the right way!).

Chris has been described as Manchester's answer to Ian Rankin, and he writes mostly about DI Jon Spicer. I would highly recommend any of his books; they all have their own particular strengths and its difficult to single any one of them out as better than the rest. He certainly deserves to be better known and more widely read.

But maybe you have some music or writers that have 'grabbed' you that you feel ought to have a wider audience. Who are they? Why do you like them? It's good to share.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A big change to small change

I'm just about old enough to remember the changes that happened to UK coinage 40 years ago today, when the old system of pounds, shillings and pence was replaced with the decimal system we have today. In fact I can still remember gooing to school that Monday morning with a 10/- note in my pocket to pay my dinner money for the week (and getting change).

Although working things out financially is now easier, having only to work in 10s rather than 12s & 20s like we used to do, there is still, for those of us who can remember them, a certain romance about the old silver sixpence (the tanner), the half-crown and the thrupenny bit. I remember I used to help our milkman on my way home from school at lunchtime each day, and he would reward me with 3d at the end of the week - that was quite a lot of money to a young boy in the late 60s. It also shows how much we've changed - probably for the worse - as a society, in that no-one batted an eyelid about me riding on the back of his drop-tail Mini van, or helping him. Just think of the Child Protection and Health & Safety issues there would be today!

I can also remember the excitement that there was about the impending decimalisation - we spent a lot of time in school preparing for it, and there was even a song to help us grasp the difference, which (if I remember correctly) went something like:
"Five New Pence is One Shilling,
Ten New Pence is Two.
It may seem very odd at first,
But it really is good for you."
They don't write them like that any more!

There was, too, the confusion in the elderly, who couldn't quite grasp the changes ('twas ever thus!), and the inevitable concern about rising prices as a result of the changes. But maybe it's been for the best. I still miss the old coins - you certainly knew when you had a pocketful of old pennies! - and often find myself thinking 'what would that've been in 'old money'?' Maybe I'm just a hopeless nostalgic, or just a sad, old man!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Love is...

Love is...

Chocolates and roses;
Candle-lit dinners;
Kisses and cuddles;
Gazing deep into each others eyes;
Warm and close and intimate.

Love is...

Patient and kind;
Not jealous, boastful or proud;
Not rude nor self-seeking;
Not short-tempered, nor ready to bring up every failing at every opportunity;
Not delighting in evil, but rejoicing in truth;
Always protecting, always trusting, always hoping;
Never giving up.

Love is...

Not remote, but incarnate;
Touching the untouchable: the leper, the outcast;
Throwing parties for tax collectors and prostitutes;
Reaching out your arms to embrace the world, only to have them nailed to a Cross;
Bigger than anything that can be ranged against it - even death!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Let loose in the kitchen

I love cooking, and I certainly enjoy the fruits of cooking, be it my own or other peoples. One frustration I have, however, is not having time during the week to cook much. So we've come up with a compromise, Judith & I: as she's at Uni on Fridays, which is my day off, that's the night I do the cooking. And tonight was the first night.

We'd actually been out to eat last week, and had visited a Tapas bar in the city centre. One of the dishes we tried was a chicken & chorizo dish, which we'd both really enjoyed. So I thought I'd do my take on that.

I cut up the chorizo into 1cm slices, and fried them in a little olive oil. When they'd started to brown I added a sliced red onion, and fired it off until soft. To this I then added a can of baked beans, a generous squirt of tomato puree and a good glug of red wine (accurate measuring!). That was then left to simmer, while I browned off the chicken breast, which I'd cut into 2-3 cm cubes, in olive oil, with a twist of black pepper and salt. When that was just starting to colour I added a splash of red wine, stirred, and then added the chicken to the other pan. A small glass of water finished it off, then I left the stew to simmer for about 15 minutes. I served it in a bowl with a rocket salad and a couple of slices of beef tomato.

Judith said that all it lacked was double the amount and some friends to share it with. I take that as a compliment!

She also made the point that it's usually men who, when they've cooked, feel the need to describe what they've done to all and sundry. Maybe she's got a point!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Location, location...

One of the interesting things about being in Sheffield for the last few years has been spotting film locations. You, dear reader, may well be aware that 'The Full Monty' was filmed in Sheffield - it was based here after all, and it's been interesting to try and find the places where that excellent film was shot. My wife, Judith, helped, as she is a native of the city.

I've just finished watching 'Four Lions', a film released last year, directed by Chris Morris, and concerning a groups of misguided would-be Islamist terrorists - again based in Sheffield. It was a very silly film, quite funny in places, and took the typically irreverent tone of much of Chris Morris's output. It is not a film to watch if you are easily offended. But the main thing I will take away from the film is that part of it was filmed in my house!

We moved into this manse in June last year, and before then the Circuit had been trying to sell the property. While it was empty, they rented it out to the production company that made the film, and a number of scenes were shot in what was the kitchen/ dining room (now the lounge), and the front room, which is now my study. Before we moved in we had some major building work done on the house, so things are very different now to how they are in the film, but it's good to know that I have had a part - albeit a very tangential part - in a British movie.

Sheffield is a great city: it has the highest student retention rate in the country, I'm told, and is a fascinating place to live, work and minister. And, it seems, it is in great demand for film locations - just last month there was a film crew just round the corner from us making another movie. Let's hope this continues, and keeps Sheffield on the creative map.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Still got the Blues

Doing my first spell of DJ-ing in 2011 this evening, with a tribute to the late Gary Moore. My usual preference is for Progressive Rock - that's what I usually play on my DJ nights - but tonight I'm guesting to present a blues anthology, with quite a bit of input from Gary.

Without the Blues, we wouldn't have Rock music as we know it: indeed, we may not have Rock at all. The Blues, coming as it does in the main from the hardships of the former slave communities in the South of the USA, has a soulful melancholy about it that has, I believe, great power to transcend cultures, ethnicity & social barriers to unite everyone in their common humanity.

Perhaps the greatest breaching of those social hurdles came with the advent of Rock 'n' Roll in the 1950s, as newly affluent white teenagers began to discover the likes of Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf, strapped on a guitar, and created a music of their own. This in turn evolved into the R 'n' B of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and Manfred Mann, which in turn spawned the beat groups of the 60s, Psychedelic rock, Glam Rock and the Progressive sounds of the 70s. Heavy Metal & Punk reverted to a rawer sound, but were still dependent on the basic structures of the Blues.

It was the Blues that gave rock music its 'guitar heroes': people such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck & Jimmy Page, who all started life in The Yardbirds; Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, BB King and more recently Joe Bonamassa, among others, all brought their own personal touch to the Blues tradition. And from Ireland Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore made their guitars sing as only they could.

The Blues continues to speak to the human condition, and although its exponents may go the way of all flesh, the blues will never die.

Monday, 7 February 2011

It's a cat's life!

This is Horatio. Horatio has been a part of our family for a few months now, and in recent days we've finally let him have the run of the house - well, parts of it. Before then he was strictly restricted to the kitchen, utility room and lounge. He's still not allowed outside, but who'd want to go out in this weather?!

Most of his life is spent either eating, sleeping or running around like a mad thing. He has his favourite toys -  a pink fluffy mouse and a blue & white ball with a bell in it - and he loves patting them around the floor and chasing after them, though he also seems to like chewing my slippers (while I'm wearing them) and my hand too! The picture above shows him commandeering my reading chair in my study.

Reflecting on his lifestyle, I can't help feeling a little bit jealous. Most of his time is spent asleep; when he's awake, he expects to be fed regularly (which we do), entertained occasionally, and have the choice of the best seats in the house (that's where I have to pull rank). But he also seems to enjoy company: now that he can roam around the house, he seeks us out, and spends quite a bit of time lurking in my study - usually just sitting or lying around (copying me, maybe?) And he does have his manic moments, rushing around the house like a dervish, letting off steam as only he can. How I envy that unabashed ability to let off steam or frustration at times!

When Judith, my wife, first suggested getting a kitten I must confess I wasn't much in favour: more responsibility and more expense (typical Yorkshireman!), just as we were finally getting rid of the kids seeing the kids begin to leave home. But I have to say that I have quickly been won over by his charm and playfulness, and his laid-back attitude to life. If I believed in re-incarnation, maybe I wouldn't mind coming back as a cat: they're obviously a higher life-form than us; and it seems they've got life sussed.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Amazing Grace!

We've been looking, over the last few weeks, at Nehemiah at Wesley Hall. It's not easy to do the book justice in only 6 weeks, but that's what we've given ourselves. We were looking this morning at chapters 8-10, which contain what is, I believe, the longest recorded prayer in the Bible. And what a prayer it is!

It is, in effect, a remembering of God's faithfulness to God's people from creation onwards, with an honest recognition from the people of their failure to live up to God's perfect standard for their lives. So we read: "You have kept your promise because you are righteous." [9:8]; "But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands." [9:16] "Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert." [9:19] "But they were disobedient and rebelled against you... so you handed them over to their enemies... But when they were oppressed they cried out to you... and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers... But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight." [9:26-28] "But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them, for you are a gracious and merciful God." [9:31]

What a wonderful image of God that prayer paints! A God who is constantly holding out hope to God's people, even when we reject it, or take it for granted; a God who is always ready to forgive, always willing to restore, always wanting to welcome the prodigal back into the family. There's nothing we can do to God that God's people haven't been doing to God for millennia, yet God never turns God's back on us for ever.

Is there any wonder that those who know this can't help but worship! This is Amazing Grace!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Extreme Measures

David Cameron has spoken today about what he calls 'state multi-culturalism', and claims that it hasn't worked. What presumably he means by this is Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Afro-Caribbean, Polish and other ethnic communities who retain much of their indigenous cultural identity whilst living in Britain. He sees these as potential breeding grounds for radical extremism and terrorist cells, and as such they need to be controlled a little better, or even curbed.

Not surprisingly his comments have met with opposition from, particularly, Muslim community leaders, who see his comments as misguided at best, and inflammatory at worst. Perhaps they could have been timed better, coming as they did during a march by the anti-Islamist 'English Defence League', giving ammunition to the far right in their bigoted battle against anything that may seem different and even slightly threatening. No doubt Nick Griffin will draw strength from Mr Cameron's remarks and peoples' reactions to them.

Although Cameron's remarks were aimed particularly at Islamist groups (and he specifically stated that he was not targeting Islam, but extremist corruptions of the faith), his comments have raise some further concerns for me. If, as he stated, he is keen for groups to 'believe in universal human rights - including for women and for people of other faiths' - rights that I believe to be fundamental, where does this leave certain Christian groups who believe as an article of faith that women should not have positions of leadership in the Church, or that Christianity is the only way to God and those who propound other faiths are satanic? Although I do not hold either of these beliefs, there are those of my Christian brothers and sisters (though usually brothers) who do. Where will they stand under Cameron's thinking?

He also asks 'do they encourage integration or separatism?' Is it naive of me to ask, where does this leave certain monastic communities who see separation from the world as central to their understanding of Christian discipleship?

Yes, ethnic communities should be free to carry out their cultural practices, where they don't harm anyone, and these communities should be free to express their cultural identity. But they should also seek to become part of the wider community in which they live - as many of them already do. We are one family, under One God: why can't we live, and be allowed to live, that way?

Friday, 4 February 2011

You can do this!

Ways to spend a day off: the story continues.

I've spent a large part of today watch a TV show on BBC iPlayer called 'Michel Roux's Service'. The essential premise of the show is that Michel Roux, a Michelin-starred chef, has taken on a number of young people from a variety of backgrounds in order to train them over 8 weeks to become Maitre d's or Sommeliers (wine waiters).

I must confess that I like Michel Roux: I like the way he cooks, but above all I like the way he deals with people. In both Masterchef: The Professionals and this series his attitude towards those he is working with, as trainees or contestants, is always positive and affirming. When any of his charges start to display self-doubt he is always the first to say 'You can do this!'; he is always looking for good in them, and complimenting them on their good points, rather than focusing on their bad points.

Contrast that with the approach of another of our finest chefs, Gordon Ramsey, who has made his name as a brusque, foul-mouthed, angry despot, who, it seems, rarely if ever has a good word to say about those who he is trying to help, or is trying to develop as chefs. Maybe he's better than that, but his TV persona - the way he is generally known - is not, I have to say, a pleasant one.

What impressed me was the influence that Roux was able to have on these young people, one of whom had left school at 14, got his first ASBO shortly afterwards, and had no direction really in life. Through the series he was able to sort himself out, and win a scholarship to train as a Maitre d. But all those who took part found the affirmation they had received from Michel to be life-changing.

How much easier is it to find good in people, and to build them up, rather than to constantly tell them how bad they are? How much more motivated would our young people be if we had more Michel Rouxs; people who simply showed some faith in them, and told them they could achieve whatever they want to? And who are better placed to be those people than teachers, parents, pastors and other church-folk: but do they/ we do that?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Human Skins

It may seem strange to some, but I'm really enjoying a couple of series on TV at the moment that aren't particularly aimed at my age group. No, I don't mean 'Tellytubbies', but 'Being Human' and 'Skins'. Both appear to be aimed at a much younger demographic than mine - I'm approaching 50 after all, even though at times I still feel about 17.

'Being Human' is the story of four housemates, one of whom is a vampire, one a ghost and the other two werewolves. Over the three series so far they have provided some interesting insights into what it means to be human, from those who are no longer fully that. Episode 1 of the new series had Annie, the ghost, being rescued from purgatory by Mitchell the vampire, who himself was forced to face up to some of the consequences of his actions over the last 90 years or so since his 'conversion'. In this week's story the group had the task of helping a 46 year-old vampire trapped in a 16 year-old body, with all the associated urges and issues of adolescence and blood-lust. As with the previous two series, this is wonderfully well-written and brilliantly acted.

'Skins' has always been a controversial show, and now in its 5th series is introducing us to a whole raft of new characters. I have to admit to being pleased that one of them, featured this week, is one with something approaching a decent taste in music - maybe there's hope for 'the young people of today' (says the old man). Again, the narrative gives interesting insights into what it means to be growing to maturity in 21st Century Britain, and the pressures, from friends and from society, that are faced by today's teenagers - not all that different from the ones I coped with back in the sepia-tinted days of the 70s.

I hope that programs such as these continue to be made, and continue to maintain the current high standard of story-telling, acting a production. Some of the scenes are not pleasant, but then at times life isn't, and it's good that we have these 'warts and all' portrayals of modern life.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

It's déjà vu all over again...

Groundhog Day - what a great film! Not 'great' as in 'Metropolis' great, or 'Casablanca' great, or 'Citizen Kane' great, but great as in 'warm, amusing and entertaining' great. It's not really a film you have to think about too much, to be honest, but I love it anyway.

It revolves around today, February 2nd, and a small-town weather reporter trying to 'get off' with his colleague whilst endlessly (it seems) repeating the same day over and over again until his goal is reached and he has become a better person as a result of his experiences.

This got me thinking: would I like a Groundhog Day? Is there a day in my life I would like another chance at, if that were possible? In the almost 50 years of my life I have made many mistakes, done many things that I regretted (almost as soon as I'd done them in many instances). If I could, would I like to revisit those scenes, and replay them differently? And what would be the consequences, for me and for others, if I could do that? For the relationships that I have messed up over that time?

The truth is that, sadly some may think, that is just not possible. Life is a live show, not pre-recorded, there's no second take to be had: what goes out goes out 'as is'. But as a Christian I believe that any of life's potential out-takes that couldn't make the cutting-room floor have been dealt with and forgiven - maybe not by those who were immediately affected by them, and sometimes not by their perpetrator, but by one who is ultimately concerned for every relationship, good and bad, and who feels and shares every pain. Lives can be, and are being, put right, not by re-running the past, but by letting the burden of their mistakes rest on the shoulders of one who cares for us [1 Peter 5:7].

This got me thinking: would I like a Groundhog Day? Is there a day in my life I would like another chance at: not one that was dreadful, but one that was incredible? That day when you first met the person who was to become your spouse, soul-mate and lover; that day when your first child was born; that day when you listened to your favourite record for the first time; that day when you first decided to follow Jesus. But then again, would they be that special second time around? Isn't part of their special-ness the fact that, although they are such a real part of who you are (certainly of who I am), they are also a dim memory - there, but not there. Yes, we can review them and renew them and remember them, but we can never repeat them. And maybe that's not a bad thing, as it would any cheapen what may be the key moments and relationships of our lives; those life-moments that make us who we are.

Today is also the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemass. This is the day in the Christian calendar when we remember Jesus being presented at the Temple, and being warmly welcomed by two old people, Simeon & Anna, who had waited for this day to come for many years. Simeon's response was not that this day could be repeated over and over again, but that he could now 'depart in peace', as the purpose of his life was complete: his eyes had seen God's Salvation. I believe that that is the goal of all our lives: that we may see God's salvation - and see it in the face of Jesus.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It's not cricket...

I've not written anything for a few days now, mainly because I had nothing really to say. Some who have read these posts in the past may wonder 'so what's changed?' These thoughts tend to come spontaneously - I write what I'm thinking at the time, so they may appear a little disjointed at times, but I think they come from the heart. So, here's my first bit of rambling for February.

Sport is meant to be a great leveller: teams or individuals playing out a contest on equal terms to determine a winner in a spirit of friendly rivalry, despite some obvious animosity and banter on the field of play. The recent Ashes series in Australia was such a contest, with no quarter given on the field, but a friendly drink shared together after the event.

This of course has not always been the case: there are some notable moments of what are deemed to be 'unsportsmanly behaviour' in the history of competitive sports. Maradona's infamous 'hand of God' goal against England in the World Cup is one example. Another happened 30 years ago today, in a Limited Overs International between Australia & New Zealand. 15 runs were needed by New Zealand off the final over, to be bowled by Trevor Chappell. Hadlee hit the first ball for four, but was out LBW off the second. Smith took two runs from the third and fourth deliveries, but was bowled off the fifth. So, with 7 needed from the final ball, McKechnie came to the wicket. Rather than risk bowling a no ball or a wide, Trevor Chappell was instructed by the captain, his brother Greg, to bowl underarm. He subsequently rolled the ball down the wicket, the batsman defended, and the game was lost, much to the frustration and annoyance of McKechnie, who threw his bat away in disgust.

And the game is remembered for that incident, not for the unbeaten century by Bruce Edgar, the non-striker as these events unfolded. Other notable infamous cricket moments include the 'Bodyline' series between England & Australia in 1932-33, where the Australian captain famously declared at one point "There's two teams out there, but only one of them is playing cricket!"

Fair play is traditionally seen as a particularly 'British' trait, and it's easy for us to see unfairness in others: a little harder to see it in ourselves. And sadly we live in a world where fairness doesn't always seem to be at the forefront of people's thinking. Politics and business seem to be governed more often than not by self-interest and a 'devil take the hindmost' philosophy: success and getting your own way seem to be the driving force of much that is done. So if you can get your goods produced for a few pence a day, rather than for a living wage, your natural business brain is going to go that route. You may call it 'out-sourcing', but it's probably still profiteering and exploitation.

It is perfectly possible for the world to be managed and run in a fair and equitable way. There are sufficient resources available to ensure that everyone has enough to live on. But that needs a political will, and a humanitarian will, that will lift the world's poorest out of the gutter and let them contribute to the game of life on a level playing field. Rather that than letting them think they have a chance, and then bowling underarm.