Yes we Cynon!!

April 2, 2010

Well it has been a few months, but I finally managed to get a few minutes free so I thought I would type up a few words. I don’t seem to have as much time as I used to, but I thought one or two people might be interested to know what I have been up to.

For many years I have been interested in politics and current affairs.  I always thought it would be good fun to stand for parliament.  In fact, about ten years ago I sent off for a copy of a pack that would allow me to become an officially approved parliamentary candidate.  The pack duly arrived and was placed on a window sill.  Slowly condensation destroyed the paperwork and I never got around to applying.  Besides politicians all seemed really clever and had the gift of the gab.   After all, as I told you previously, I was never any good at public speaking.  One of Patrick Holford’s friends pointed out that I did not know what as I was talking about. No one, surely, would vote for an ordinary person like me would me?  However, the desire to do something never really left me.  Didn’t Trollope say that it was every Englishman’s desire to stand for parliament?

Anyway, back in 2008 the world’s economic system came close to collapse.  In Britain the FSA came very close to pulling the plug on HBOS’ ATMs.   The Iceland was insolvent which did not stop the British using the Terrorism Act to sezie the UK assets of their biggest bank.  The clever and sophisticated bankers at HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland did not know what to do. Fortunately, help was at hand from politicians across the world who helped provide lots of capital.  Poor President George Bush got caught up in everything.  There he was accusing Barack Obama of being a socialist, but at the same time doing what some commentators described as nationalisation.   Still never mind, I am sure he is enjoying spending more time on his branch.  The population of Iceland were outraged when they found out what happened.  The government fell.  And here in Britain?  It is pretty much business as usual really.  Nobody seems to be that outraged.  On the rare occasions when people do demonstrate they are confronted with a rather menacing police presence.

So much for clever bankers and politicians.  So I thought why not have a go myself and stand as a parliamentary candidate?  You will often hear the word “disgusting” when you talk to people around here in Rhondda Cynon Taff about politicians.  It is easy to be cynical.   There are still many, many good people in public life.   However, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that there is something not quite right with our political system.  The Pontypridd Labour Party recently selected a drugs lobbyist as their paliamentary candidate and no one batted an eyelid.

Will I be able to change anything?  Not on my own, but if enough people cast cynicism aside perhaps we can change things for the better: yes we cynon! 

To find out how things are going keep an eye on my totally public Face Book account:


Vote for Me!

August 2, 2009

Observing the political situation I was wondering how much better the world would be if I were in parliament.

So I thought to myself “why not stand for election to the House of Commons?”

Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as that and I have some forms to fill in. I’ll let you know how I get on …..

The Authentic Gospel of Jesus

August 2, 2009


I recently came across the work of Professor Geza Vermes. He comes from a Jewish Hungarian family that converted to Roman Catholicism. He trained as a Roman Catholic priest, but left the church in the 1950s.  Later he became the first professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford.  Some see him as the greatest Jesus scholar alive today.  His works included The Religion of Jesus The JewThe Changing Faces of Jesus, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus

It sounds incredible today, but a hundred years ago few regarded Jesus as a Jew at all.  It is a credit to the work of Vermes and other scholars that we can start to see and appreciate Jesus for whom he really was.  Some say it was down to Vermes the Oxford English Dictionary changed its definition of Christianity to the current one which is as follows:

The religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, or its beliefs and practices

Previous editions of the dictionary had stated that Jesus was the founder of Christianity.

As a distraction from wall papering I started the The Authentic Gospel of Jesus.  Vermes looks at the various sayings of Jesus in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke.  The Gospel of John is rejected as being totally unhistorical.  That’s interesting as when we are confronted with religious tracts or posters outside churches threatening us with eternal damnation the quotation is generally taken from The Gospel of John.  Oh dear.  Anyway, it would appear that most scholars date The Gospel of Mark to about 70 CE.  Matthew and Luke come later between 80 and 100 CE.  So we are not really dealing with eye witness accounts.  The authors of Matthew and Luke, according to the view of most scholars, had read Mark.  They also relied on something called Q which comes from the German for Quelle or source.  This is a bit more controversial as no one has ever produced a copy of Q.  Most conservative biblical scholars , not surprisingly, reject it totally.   As well as Mark and Q, the authors of Matthew and Luke also added their own material.

Vermes divides the sayings of Jesus in to three categories:  Narrative and Commands; Controversy stories; Words of Wisdom; Teaching in Parables; Quoting or interpreting Scriptures; Prayers and Related Instructions; Son of Man sayings; Sayings about the Kingdom of God; and eschatological rule of behaviour.  He analyses what Jesus says and compares it with what we know about Jewish religious thought and practice from the same period.  Doing that, and using his knowledge of Aramaic, he tries to decide whether or not the saying is authentic.  I would really recommend the book which is very easy to dip in to and out of, particularly as you will probably be familiar with many gospel sayings.  In fact through Vermes,  Jeshua bar-Joseph, the Man of Nazareth, becomes a much easier figure to understand than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of history.

Let me share one of the passages with you taken from the chapter on “Quoting or Interpreting Scripture”.  It discusses Jesus’ cry

Eloi, Eloi lama sbachthani?   /  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  (Mark 15:34, Matt. 27:46)

This is one of the first instances in the Gospels where we see a quotation in Aramaic, which was after all Jesus’ first language.  The New Testament was, of course, written entirely in Greek.   It is often claimed that in uttering this cry that Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22.  The psalm begins:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  [Psalm 22, v.1  The Revised English Bible]

but nonetheless has a happy ending:

The coming generation will be told of the Lord; they will make known his righteous deeds, declaring to people yet unborn: The Lord has acted.  [Psalm 22, vs. 30-31  The Revised English Bible]

Unfortunately, Jesus and every Jew of his time would have been used to hearing the Psalms recited in Hebrew.  The Hebrew text is actually:

‘eli, ‘eli lamah ‘azabtani

So why did Jesus speak in Aramaic rather than Hebrew?  The only conclusion that a dispassionate 21st century observer can come to is that it was not actually a quotation from scripture, but rather a genuine cry of despair. (The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, pp.193-194)

Vermes argues

Jesus was an existentialist preacher who endeavoured to persuade his disciples to change their lives and to collaborate with him in the great enterprise of preparing the way towards the Kingdom of God (The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, p.398)

He goes on to argue

Compared with the dynamic religion of Jesus, fully evolved Christianity seems to belong to another world.  With its mixture of high philosophical speculation on the triune God, its Johannine logos mysticism and Pauline Redeemer myth of a dying and risen Son of God  (The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, p.415)

It is all very sad when you think how it all turned out on the cross.  According to Vermes as quoted above Jesus wanted to bring together a community of people to help bring about the Messianic Age.  Did he regard himself as the promised Messiah?  It is difficult to say and Vermes does not seem to discuss the issue in the passages I have read.  The Jesus that emerges when you understand a bit of his Jewish background is not some soft figure who urges people to wait around, put up with a bad life in return for heavenly bliss.  See for example this passage from Paul who many regard as the true founder of Christianity:

Every person must submit to the authorities in power, for all authority comes from God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him.  It follows that anyone who rebels against authority is resisting a divine institution, and those who resist have themselves to thank for the punishment they will receive  (Revised English Bible Romans 13 vs 1-2)

Jesus certainly resisted and if there is any relevance to his message today I think it is that resistance is always the key to bringing about change, regardless of whether or not we succeed.



Change your life in three days with Christopher Howard (with a little help from a nutritional therapist)

August 2, 2009
If you attend our $1000 seminar we will shoot you ......

If you attend our $1000 seminar we will shoot you ......

Back in December 2006 a Christmas card arrived through the letter box.  It was from a nutritional therapist.  I bet that makes you jealous doesn’t it?  Well, the card was from a fully qualified member of Patrick Holford’s Institute for Optimum Nutrition.  So there.  You may not think the Nutrionista religion allows them to celebrate Christmas.  Well they do, just not the same way as everyone else.  In with the card was the most expensive present anyone has ever given me. There was a ticket to attend an event that would change my life in three days.  Normally the charge would be £695, but since my friend was recommending me I would get to go totally free of charge!  Wow.

So in March 2007 I turned up at the Excel centre in London to listen to lifestyle coach Christopher Howard who was coming over from the United States of America to help me change my destiny.  On signing up I had to declare that I did not have any mental health problems.  It seemed of an odd thing for them to ask.  I also had to confirm that I would not disrupt proceedings.  I have to confess I lied and put my signature in the right place.  The challenge was on: (1) not to let on to anyone how weird I was and (2) not to cause any trouble.  Surely if anyone did upset the organisers they would refund the value of their £695 ticket ehhhh readers?

It seemed to be a less exclusive event that I thought it would be.  There must have been more than 2000 of us in the hall just waiting for our lives to be transformed.  Before Chris arrived there was a warm up act from a former Australian doctor now working as a key member of the team.  At the side of the room were young people known as “The Crew” dressed in black T-shirts.  Their job seemed to be to look enthusiastic and run around.   Then Chris arrived to a raptuous reception.  Obviously, he was a good looking 40-something American.  He told us a little bit about his life.  Apparently in his younger days he had been stuggling, but then started attending seminars which helped to revolutionise his life. It all reminded me of an exhibition I attended in Nuremberg a couple of years before.

We were then asked to “buddy” up with the person next to us.  By getting their Mobile telephone number we could provide each other with support.  Unfortunately, the “buddy” I found was a young Italian who had heard it all before and said he was going to leave.  Oh dear.

At various points during the week end Christopher gave us pearls of wisdom.  He seemed interested in quantum physics and quoting from Jung and Gandhi.   Where Chris had learnt about these subjects was very unclear as he told us that he had left school at the earliest possible age.  Possibly his education had been derived entirely from training seminars.  Every so often some one would be called up to the stage for a bit of special personal attention.  Two people stand out.  One was a cage fighter.  I cannot remember the exact technique, but I think he was told to close his eyes and visualise himself winning the fight.    This rather went against the grain of the cuddly image of the self-help movement!  Later in the day Chris helped a single parent who worked part-time to change her life.  She seemed a bit lacking in confidence that Chris’ advice would work.  Funnily, enough he did not advise her to join a trade union, political party or campaign for better training and child care facilities.

I certainly met a number of interesting characters over the three days.   One of them was a postman who wanted to be be a life coach.  Not such a bad career choice as he would certainly know the way wouldn’t he?  Unfortunately, he had been off sick for the last six months.  How the course was aiding his recovery was most unclear.  In another practical session I found myself paired up with some one else who worked as some kind of a life coach.  He offered a bit of one-to-one tuition.  Excellent.  I told him a bit about my life. He suggested possible solutions.  Apparently, it was all about whether we as individuals were cause or effect.  He had decided that I was just an effect.  No matter what I suggested about future plans he always told me that I was an effect.   Fortunately, the session was over before I could become the cause of him having a black eye.  My partner in the next session was also a life coach, though she seemed a much more sympathetic character.  Her response to everything I said was: “Wow. That sounds great. You go for it.”  This proves I suppose that if you are not happy with your life coach just change the coach rather yourself!

Of course three days was not sufficient to change.  It was necessary to come back for more.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be costs involved.  However, by signing up that day we could make serious savings.  The most interesting seminar being offered was the Billionaire Boot Camp which offered the chance to get you inside the mind of a billionaire.  How they would do that or why you would want to be inside the mind of a billionaire was left unexplained.  Chris kept telling us that if we followed his techniques we would have loads of money and be able to live the life of our dreams.  All we had to do was follow the principles of NLP.  Unfortunately, by the end of the seminar I was still unclear what exactly his techniques were.  One could well understand how a vulnerable person could sign up in the expectation of being initiated further in to the mysteries of NLP.

As the seminar closed I was pondering on what I had learnt over the last few days.  I then heard a voice and looked across and saw a smiling young woman

I have been looking for you

Have you now

I walked on not really paying much attention as my mind was on other things.  It then struck that the friendly who had just spoken to me was the sympathetic who had seemed so enthusiastic about my life a couple of days before.  There was only one thing for it.  I had to go back in to the hall, find her, invite her out to dinner, be coached and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, the hall was filled with several thousand life coaches so finding my friend would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack.    There is a moral to this story, but for the life of me I can’t think what it is ….


Food Doctor Bagels – Are they Kosher?

June 14, 2009

Sometimes people ask whether I can think of anything positive to say about Patrick Holford and the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining as they say and I have to confess to having been a real fan of The Food Doctor’s bagels.  Though something happened to them about three months ago.  They and the pitta bread seemed to disappear.  It was impossible to find them in Wales and when I went to England on a visit I could not find them there either.  Relecutantly, I slowly started to consider that I might have to find another type of bagel.

However, last week there they were in my local Tesco.  So with joy I bought a packet of pitta bread and bagels!  But there seemed to be something a bit different about them.  The bagels I was familiar with had the letters KLBD on them meaning, of course, that they had been certified by the Kashrut division of the London Beit Din.  Have they lost their kosher certification?  Also, if I remember correctly the sodium contact of the old bagels was .23 or .26g.  However, the new ones have 0.3g which should mean – according to my copy of Nutrition for Dummies – that the salt content is .75g.  (To calculate salt content you multimply the sodium content by 2.5)  However, they list the salt content as 0.9g.  Is something nutritionally strange going on here or can some one just not add up?

I’ll try to give them a call later in the week about the salt content and kosher certification.  Until then I’ll be buying The New York Bakery Co’s multi-seed bagels which come in packs of five rather than four, have 0.8g of salt and are 5p a pack a cheaper.

Cycling in the Rhondda Valley

June 14, 2009

Last year I did a post on some research at the University of Cambridge that proved exercise and healthy eating could lead to a long life.  It was the theme of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science that celebrity nutritionists often unnecessarily complicate things with their attempts to make us eat so-called super foods and go on expensive detox diets.

By making little changes over the long term we can lead healthier lives.

Having recently moved to a new area I wondered how I could that in to opertion in my own life.  As luck would have it there was poster in Pontypridd library advertising a Sunday morning cycle ride organised by the local council.  So earlier this morning I cycled up to the Rhondda Heritage Park.  It was closer than I thought so, for once, I was early.  I took the opportunity to have a look at the exhibition inside.  It told the story of how difficult life was miners in the 19 and 20th centuries.  Certainly it was difficult to see what good a detox diet would have done.  Archie Cochrane’s autobiography “One Man’s Medicine” tells the story of how his interest in evidence-based medicine began in the Rhondda.

People started to arrive at the heritage park. For just £1.50 you could hire a bicycle and helmet for the ride.  For the next two hours  we were taken up and down hills and tracks.  It seemed an excellent way to meet new people and also get fit.  (As you know from one of my previous posts I am always very keen to meet new people!)  The leaders provided excellent advice on how to cycle better.  Thanks to Rhondda Cynon Taff council for putting the event on.  There was even water and squash provided at the end of the ride.  Certainly I never experienced anything like that back in the south-east of England.  It seemed like a cheap and easy initiative to get people fit and healthy.

Why not see if something similar is going on in your area or try to set something up if there isn’t?

The Death of Celia Wright

June 14, 2009

Do you remember Brian and Celia Wright?  Patrick Holford mentions them in The Optimum Nutrition Bible as being a great influence on him.  They worked together for many years. Until September 2007 Brian and Celia’s company sold lots of vitamin pills with Patrick’s face on them.  In return he would market their pills through his website.    After reading Optimum Nutrition for the Mind in early 2007 I bought some pills that would enable me to have a grear memory and concentration.  Unfortunately, they did not seem to work.  Anyway, buying the products meant that ever since I have been on their mailing list.  In fact being all the mailing list meant I found out that Patrick and the Wright’s had parted company.  In October 2007  Holford Watch blog announced this to the world.  Can’t think who told them.

Every month Mrs Wright would write an editorial for the readers.  Often it was nothing to do with with nutrition.  I do remember one of human rights in modern Britain.  However, the editorial in the March or April magazine was penned by Brian for once.  He announced that Celia was ill though did not go in to much detail.  He went on to say that they were making use of alternative remedies to help with the treatment.  I was quite incensed and nearly wrote a letter of complaint.  He almost seemed to be advocating alternative medicine as a means of treating cancer.

However, I am glad I did not put my foot in it because recently the May edition of Higher Nature’s magazine arrived.  Neither Wright had any hand in the editorial, but it was written by one of their staff who informed us that Celia was no longer with us.  This came as a quite a shock to me.  It must be very sad for her immediate family, friends and the staff at Higher Nature.  I’ll certainly miss the editorials even though they often had me tut, tutting in my breakfast cereal.

May you rest in peace

The Blog is now unpacked

June 14, 2009

Hallo dear Readers!

Any welcome back.  It has been a long time and I did wonder whether I should return to blogging.

You see I have left the south-east of England with its expensive houses and crowded train for the green valleys of south Wales.

Now I could spend all my free time surfing internet dating sites in search of nutritional therapists, admiring the view from my window and exploring the river Taff. However, that would be rather selfish and superficial wouldn’t it?  As you know I am not like that.  In Buddhist mythology there are being known as Bodhisattva, who although being enlightened spiritual beings choose not to enter Nirvana, but rather return to the material plane to help others obtain enlightenment.

That so that’s what I am doing now readers. I am back with a vengeance so prepare to be enlightened ….

Listening to David Colquhoun and The Little Black Duck

January 14, 2009

At Through a Glass Darkly we have managed to persuade two prominent Bad Science bloggers to deliver a talk. Well, they did not need much persuading. We just asked them and they said “yes.” Do you remember how I told you how we attended a seminar with ex-professor Patrick Holford? That cost £15 a head and there must have been more than 200 people there. You would have thought that it would cost at least £50 to listen to a talk with David Colquhoun and The Little Black Duck. But no there is no charge. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

There are about £100 of costs to cover so we hope you will consider donating at least £5 if you can afford to do so, particularly as all profit will be donated to The Treatment Action Campaign – a South African charity that campaigns for evidence-based treatments for those with AIDS.

The talk will take place at Oxford Town Hall on the afternoon of Saturday 07 February 2009 at 1415h. David will be advising on “How to Detect when Some One is talking Bull****” No doubt the Little Black Duck will be able to tell us about some of the strange characters he has encountered …

If you are able to be around in the morning we will happily give you our Oxford: Home of Lost Causes tour. Why not travel down on Friday evening if you live far way? There is a youth hostel next to Oxford Railway station and you don’t have to be a youth to stay there.

We look forward to seeing you at Oxford Town Hall on 07 February ..

Getting a life and getting a wife

December 31, 2008

In the last post I told you about how some one expressed annoyance at my blogging telling me to “get a life and get a wife.”

Well, what I did not tell her is that I have already tried.  A few months ago I saw a poster in a newsagents window down Basingstoke High Street.  “Do you have no life?  Do you have no friends?  Perhaps you are spending too much time at your computer, possibly blogging away whilst the world passes you by?  Well don’t get depressed come speed dating at the Basingstoke Arms next Thursday and make lots of new friends!”  Well, that was quite a turn up for the books.  I resolved there and then to try speed dating.  Once everyone saw how charismatic, articulate and intelligent I was I need never spend an evening in again.

So one Thursday evening I went along to the Basingstoke Arms. There were lots and lots of people there just waiting to be introduced to me.  Once they heard my tuna risotto recipe I would be well in.  Two hours later I went to the back of the room to see if anyone had left me their telephone numbers or rather to see who had not left me her telephone number.  There were only two pieces of paper waiting for me.  One said, “Get lost. You bore me.”  Playing hard to get ehhh?   The other said:  “I feel our souls have achieved a connection at the level of quantum physics.  A spark waiting to be kindled. When the universe was created our destinies were bound together. I have a strong interest in new age psychology and feel tuna risotto is a metaphor for something.  After all tuna is a fish and we are a the end of the age of pisces.  Who knows where history will take us.  ‘Phone me on Basingstoke 222 746.”
So I telephoned the number.  It was Basingstoke Building Society. Surely some mistake?  No apparently there is not much demand for naturopaths in Basingstoke at the moment so my new friend had taken a job at the building society, just for the time being you understand. “Can I take you out to dinner?” I asked.  “There is a great Italian restaurant …”  “Sorry I don’t eat Italian.”  “Indian?” “No”  “Chinese” “No”  “Lebanese?” “No, it is just I have some allergies and most cooked foods give me a problem.”  “Why is that?”  “Look it is just the way my metabolism is built” she growled.  “How about the vegan place above the holistic clinic?  I’ll ask them to make sure your food does not come in contact with anything cooked.”

So we met up.  My new friend nibbled on some rice crackers whilst I had a quinoa roast.   “Of course I am not just a naturopathic doctor,” she declared I can talk to the dead.  “Really?”  I replied “It would be great to speak to my grandfather.  “It is NOT as easy as that.  You just need to be prepared to act as a receptor for the disembodied spirits out there.”   “Well, I s’pose given that at your clinic you tell people to avoid conventional medicine there must be quite a lot of disembodied spirits trying to contact you.”  I have to say I looked rather good with a quinoa roast on top of my head. You might say it was a new age hair style.

So there I was still without any friends.  There must be some one out there who would appreciate me.   So I logged on to and quickly found some one who was a life coach. Now if that was not glamorous and exciting I don’t know what is.  Unfortunately, our meeting did not last longer than the starter.  “You chose garlic bread.  You’re obviously a loser with no friends.  You need a copy of my latest book How to Be Brilliant and Change your Sad Old Life for only £19.99 (CD optional for an extra £12.99).  In fact why not come along to my next seminar?  Usually they cost £695 + VAT.  However, select and lucky individuals get to come for free.  I do think you deserve and need a scholarship for my programme.”  [Readers I have to confess to attending the three day seminar. I’ll tell you about that another time.]

Undaunted at my second brush off I picked up the latest issue of The Basingstoke Bugle. They have a section for people who want to make connections NOT a lonely hearts column you understand, but rather a means by which intelligent and charismatic people could get in touch with each other.  “Nutritional therapist seeks similarly successful and charismatic individual for discussions about the latest nutritional theories (systematic reviews optional).”

The following week I was back at the vegan restaurant.  Once we started eating I asked the question that had been playing on my mind all week:  “What is a nutritional therapist?” “Well, ” she answered, “difficult to say.  One thing I will say is that I am not a dietitian. They take orders from doctors.”   “Okay.   Who do you take orders from?”  “Well there is a man, a leader of our movement who has spent the last thirty years studying nutrition. ”  “Is he a dietitian?”  “Err … no” said my date. “Let me show you something I do not show very many people.”   She then got something out of her hand bag that looked like a school pencil case.  She opened it up.  “Gosh,” I gasped, “You have got a lot of pills there.”  “They are not pills,” she growled, “they are supplements to help rescue me from sub-optimum health.”  “What are they supplementing?” I asked.  “Come to my place next weekend and all will be revealed.”

I arrived the following Saturday and was ushered in to the living room.  “Watch this,” she ordered.  For the next three hours I had to watch a video with a man called Patrick talking about something called optimum nutrition.  How that was different to normal nutrition Patrick was not letting on.  “Our movement has a bible” she declared.  “Ahhh yes.  Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  “No, not that bible this bible,” she said handing me a book called The Optimum Nutrition Bible written by the same man who had presented the video we had just seen.  Apparently the book could be mine for just £14.99, though the video was not included.

So the readers despite my best efforts I have still not got any friends, but the moral of this story is who needs friends when you have got a blog ehhh?