Category Archives: Reading

French Lessons ( and Others)

As I write this I am watching Monsignor Renard, the series with John Thaw as a priest in occupied France. It is odd becuase all the French seem to come from the north of England, while the Germans speak in German or with German accents. Maybe John Thaw couldn’t speak in a French accent!! Then again it could be seen as being to Allo! Allo!

The series is good but it lacks a sense of reality. It is a British view on a French tradegy and that it is the problem. There is a lack of depth to the story and the underlying tensions between the Petainists, the Communists, those who were patriotic to France and the vast majority who wished to live life as best they could.

This ties in well with the current “heavy” book I’m reading – The Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson. Some of you may actually know him, as I believe he worked in a 3rd rate educational facility somewhere to the west of here 🙂

This is a heavy academic styled history book. It covers the years of occupation but also the background to what helped to weaken France; how French society was lost and unsure of its own identity. That it had been lost since the fall of the Third Empire, the Dreyfuss Trial and the disappointment with the Third Republic.

I’m also reading Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert. I have already read his The Holocaust; Israel: A History and his 3 volume work on the History of the 20th Century. He is one of my favourite historians as he writes in an open and accessible way. His histories flow with a sense of personal involvement and a desire to share his interest in the subject he is writing about.

His book on the Holocaust brings this subject to life in a different way. He shows us how the persecution grew by telling us the story from the ground up. He tells the stories of the people who died each day and in each village, town and city. How a death here and several there, soon mount up into the hundreds, thousands and millions.

Almost no village, town or city in occupied Europe was unaffected by Hitler’s Final Solution. There were many acts of resistance to the policy but most, whether German or otherwise, chose to ignore what was happening, or actively took part.

It is funny how so many Germans, Poles, Russians, Balts, French or Belgians had no idea that all this was happening.

Fiction Breeds Religious Thought

I have almost finished C J Sansom’s Revelation. It has thrown up a few intriguing questions about non-conformist belief.

For those unaware. The series, of which this is the fourth, is set in late 1530’s and early 1540’s during the reign of Henry VIII and the reformation of the church in England. He manages to bring Tudor England and the religious turmoil very well.

What sets this book apart is that it deals with a serial killer who is following Revelation’s story of the angel with the 7 vials. This is a pre-cursor to the end of the Whore of Babylon and Armageddon. Thus the beginning of the Second Coming.

The other thing that this deals with is the way people at the time were struggling to come to terms with the change in the uprising of Protestant belief and the downfall of the primacy of the Catholic church. The people are divided between past forms of belief, the new form that is beginning to spring forth and a king who let the genie out of the bottle, and struggles to put the lid partially back on.

We also encounter people who were former reformers but are no longer certain of their faith. The writer sees the good and bad in Christianity and shows that they are uncomfortable with present fundamentalism.

Christianity was changing in ways that people have still not come to terms with. The Christianity of the Catholic church was ordered and had a basis of theology that was regimented and known to all. Then came the Protestant form. Here anyone can claim their own theology and interpretation of scripture. They also have a get out of jail free card, in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Any fool can claim that they can interpret scripture, wihout any theological training, just by claiming that the Spirit spoke to them; for example, the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. There is no way that you can disprove their claims totally so Christianity is weakened and divided.

One of the things highlighted is that many fundamentalists believe that they are the elect of God – the chosen who are predestined to be saved. This is a Calvinist trait that I’ve always had problems with. If God created with free will then we choose to belief or not. Equally, Christ’s sacrifice is belittled because God has already chosen who will and will not be saved. So why did he sacrifice Himself on the cross, the deed was unnecessary?

Neither am I saying that the Catholic church is right in all its teachings. Neither am I saying that Protestant belief is any more accurate or wrong. In addition we do not have the right to reinterpret the scriptures and bend their teachings to fit our own time and place in history.

I think that Christians need to discuss their beliefs, to see where there is common ground and also where there is poor, and non scriptual, theology. We should be working together to unify our faith but seem to be happy to remain entrenched in our own particular denominational ghettoes.

Then again, if we did this then people may actually become more interested in Christianity. Then where would the world be? Better to muddy the waters, and argue over obscure theological points, than actually do the work that Christians are here for.


This morning’s sermon was at a little chapel up the road from our own. It is another of those Victorian wonders that are a symbol of the welsh vallies. We have several of them up and down our valley. Like many other the congregation is small, there were 8 today excluding me, and advancing in years but they have a desire to grow.

This afternoon I have watched a little of Assignment to Kill and have settled down to watch Heavens Knows, Mr Allison – with Robert Mitchum & Deborah Kerr. The story of a marine and a nun stranded on a Pacific island in WWII.

I also managed to fit in 3/4 of Black Sunday with Robert Shaw and Bruce Dern. This was the first Thomas Harris book and film adaption. It is a little of its time but good – he effects leave a little to be desired.

I also finished reading Public Enemies and have now started reading Sovereign by C J Sansom, the third in the Shardlake series.


The Crimson Pirate is a cheesey but very enjoyable film from 1952. Very enjoyable – even FW was surprised at how enjoyable she found it. Lawman is from 1970 and was directed by Michael Winner (director of Death Wish and current Sunday Times restaurant critic). It has a great cast – including Robert Ryan, Lee J Cobb and Robert Duvall – and is well worth watching but it can be annoying with some of the repeated, unnecessary camera close-ups and zoom ins.


The Last Crusade is definitely my fave Indi movie. The Crystal Skull was only just better than the Temple of Doom.