When an agony aunt is remarkably direct with a male correspondent

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This Mariella Frostup column from the Guardian is priceless.

Ms Frostup is a remarkably versatile journalist and broadcaster. One moment she’s presenting “Open Book” on Radio 4, the next minute she’s on panel on “Question Time” and then she pops up voicing adverts for Dettol.

Her “Dear Mariella” column is a very much a Guardian take on the Agony Aunt theme. Her answers are very considered and intelligent. I have read this column for many years. The column for 13th March stands out. It’s the nearest any Agony Aunt comes to losing their temper with a correspondent:

Sexual bucket list? I’m just loving the 21st century and this whole wish fulfilment epidemic. We’ve got children dying of hunger and treatable diseases, mothers not surviving childbirth, gay men being pushed off buildings in IS-held territory, desperate escapees of war and poverty drowning daily in the Mediterranean sea and a seriously deranged, racist golfer on the fast track to the White House – and you’re feeling cheated because you haven’t yet had anal sex?

Very sensibly and discreetly, Ms Frostup advises her correspondent to indulge in fantasy fiction. That’s about as coarse as it gets in the Guardian.

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Easter reflections

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This Easter has been a bit of a new experience for me. For the first time (I think) I attended a church service of meditation on Good Friday afternoon.

Someone I met on Good Friday evening talked about going down to the pub and going out for a meal to “get in the swing of Easter”. Good for them – and I resisted the temptation to suggest that the way to get “into the swing” of Easter on Good Friday is to grieve.

The Good Friday meditation service reminded me that an essential part of the Easter experience is the grieving, the re-hearing of the awful moments of Jesus’ death. The words of Isaac Watt’s hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross” sum it up very well:

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

We finished with that hymn on Friday, with its ending entreaty:

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

It is only through all this grieving that we have the joyous catharsis on Sunday morning when the tomb is found empty.

Another new experience this Easter was being in a choir. We spent many weeks rehearsing three beautiful pieces for the Good Friday service.

‘Wash me throughly’ causes some spellchecking usually. It is actually “throughly” rather than “thoroughly”. It was written by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, who was the grandson of Charles Wesley. He was a Victorian organist and composer. My copy of ‘Wash me throughly’ was wrapped in brown paper with copper script hand-writing on the cover. Quite a museum piece. The song is rather intricate. It goes down when you expect it to go up and up when you expect it to go down – it has long notes where you expect short notes and short notes where you expect long notes. But the overall effect is wonderful – especially in the Good Friday setting.

We also sang ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ by Gabriel Fauré, arranged by John Rutter, and the wonderful spiritual song ‘Were you there?’

I hadn’t heard ‘Were you there?’ until we started rehearsing it. It is a most wonderful song. You can hear it (performed by a mass Welsh Male voice choir) by clicking below.

After these moving, rather sombre tunes, we moved to the brashly loud and extravagant ‘Hallejujah Chorus’ for the Easter Sunday service this morning. That is quite a thing to sing. It’s bit like a vocal machine gun, but no less wonderful for that.

Thinking of Ireland and the Irish today

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A really significant anniversary today – the anniversary of the Easter Rising at Dublin Post Office in 1916.

It’s a moment to reflect on the awful events of the last one hundred years in Ireland and also in Great Britain.

We should never forget our role in this appalling series of tragedies.

But it is also a moment to hope that a line can be drawn and that peace and prosperity can continue and improve in Ireland.

'Electing diverse MPs' motion is comprehensive, balanced and sensible

Embed from Getty ImagesReading through the “Electing diverse MPs” motion for the York conference, I was struck by how it comprehensively covers the necessary territory in a very measured and sensible way. Continue reading

We have a moral duty to welcome people fleeing to Europe

Embed from Getty ImagesI’m catching up on telly. Last night I watched the first episode of Simon Reeve’s Greece series. It was a corker. You can see it on BBC iPlayer for a further 6 days.

I’m quite a fan of Simon Reeve. He’s evolved from being a sort of back-packing TV reporter into an intelligent and compassionate observer of the world. His programmes are part-light travelogue, part-incisive documentary. Continue reading