As regular readers might have noticed, I went to Nottingham at the weekend. Unfortunately my preexisting cold has got worse because instead of spending the weekend wrapped up in bed drinking lots of hot lemon and honey I went out in to the world and tried to be normal.

Clearly my immune system is punishing me for the arrogance. I have lost my voice and The Cough has attacked in force. Since my job involves answering phones for seven and a half hours a day, it’s not really practical for me to go to work. So I thought I’d write instead about some observations I’d made over the weekend.

It’s that time of year again when corporate forces would like us to believe that love is directly proportional to pounds spent in their shops. Lincoln, Nottingham and Sheffield were packed with people spending money on pointless geegaws rather than actually spending time with each other. But that’s a rant for another time, probably when I write about Christmas card reciprocity pressure.

No, what I wanted to write about this afternoon is that perennial horse manure spread by racists (I apologise to horses and their dung, because horses and dung are actually useful) that you’re not allowed to publicly celebrate Christmas any more because it might insult non-Christians.

Compared to Immingham, Nottingham and Sheffield are intensely diverse in terms of population, and yet I saw no signs that Christmas was banned; the shops were all having Christmas promotions, the streets were lit, there was a ‘Christmas Wonderland’ in the centre of Nottingham, the Salvation Army was out singing and collecting.

No one was protesting, or objecting. Would a city or three be boldly celebrating Christmas if it was ‘banned because some people are offended’, ‘political correctness’, etc.?

No, I don’t think so. Now, shut up projecting your insecurities on to the rest of us and enjoy yourself.

Talking, even at one remove, about religion, there was something else I noticed on my way back to the train station, which I found interesting.

There’s a church I pass in Nottingham city centre every time I’m in the city. Every time I’ve passed it on a Sunday morning, going to get my train home, there has been a group of men holding placards with something like ‘The only way to god is Jesus Christ’ written on them. There is also usually one man stood on a grand raised flower bed with a tree in the middle haranguing passersby, basically to get to church or go to hell.

How lovely.

Across from this group of preachers was a homeless man trying to keep warm.

I wandered whether the ‘preachers’ had actually followed the tenets of their religion and given the man food or shelter? From what I could see they all had their backs to their poor neighbour, ignoring one whom they could have given aid to in favour of harassing those who didn’t want or need aid.

I felt bad for not giving the man the coffee and pear I’d got from my hotel for breakfast, and needed to keep my blood sugar levels under control (there wasn’t much choice of breakfasts, I went for the healthiest option), and I was just hurrying down the street to catch my train. If you’re going to the trouble to spend your mornings in the street preaching surely you can spare some time to get a homeless person a cup of tea? The person is right in front of you, there’s a church behind you which I’m pretty sure has a mug, kettle, tea bags and water supply that can be spared.

I don’t understand why people don’t live their beliefs, rather than just preach them. Surely it is more in keeping with the teachings of Jesus to help the less fortunate than to bully people in the street? Jesus was, if he existed, an itinerant preacher, who gave food to the hungry and ‘healed’ the sick. Do unto others, judge not, and all that.

While on this particular high horse, there’s a trend affecting the more evangelical churches that I’ve noticed. A complete lack of good manners is evident in their street preaching.

Two examples from Grimsby earlier in the year. One church was offering a free meal to anyone who visited them at a certain time on a certain day. But only if diners stayed to be converted. The meal offer was in large bold type, the information about the religious meeting afterwards was in very small script.

Now, I get that they believe they have a duty to ‘save’ people but trying to dupe people is bad manners. Offering food to the hungry but only on the condition that they come to a religious service is disingenuous.

The second example is worse. I was on one of my rare visits to Grimsby’s Freshney Place Shopping Centre in the summer (I hate those sorts of places – too many people, not enough space) and in order to get in I had to get past a group of preachers. Fair enough, there is usually some group or other at that particular entrance because there’s a lot of foot traffic all day and a bit of a square to set up in; I’ve run the gauntlet of charity muggers, preachers, cheap tat sellers and others before, not a problem. Headphones in, eyes forward, quick pace. Job done.

I know, I’m despicable.

But this time I had to turn round and walk away, out of my way, because I wanted to punch whomever had organised this little preaching day.

Why, I hear you ask, would a peaceful, polite woman like myself feel pushed to violence by street preaching? (That’s if you’ve got this far.)


Seriously, they had small children, eight or nine years old, walking about with placards, handing out leaflets and preaching at people.

In the middle of the day.

In summer.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is abuse in the name of religion, in my opinion. Adults can believe whatever they like and act on those beliefs if their actions are within the law, but children should not have to take part, and should certainly not be subject to religious indoctrination. I vaguely remember being a child, there’s no way I’d have volunteered to spend my precious free time stood in the middle of town preaching; playing with my friends was much more important. I find it hard to believe this group of children weren’t pressured in some way to join the preaching activities of their parents, whether directly or indirectly. Kids are impressionable, I had my niece and nephew convinced there was a elf living in the tree at the bottom of the garden in my old house and that every time I made pizza I had to make a mini pizza for them, for five or six years; children trust their adults, and that trust is abused when any organisation uses children as propaganda agents.

Don’t get kids to do your preaching for you, and learn some manners.

Now I’ve got that out of my system I’m going to get my cold meds and try to feel better so I can go to work tomorrow.



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