Tag Archives: BBC

Daily Thought: Blessed is the king …

Today’s Daily Thought on BBC Radio Solent draws a parallel between the events in Alabama 53 years ago and Jerusalem around 2,000 years past.


Civil Rights Movement Co-Founder Dr. Ralph David Abernathy and his wife Mrs. Juanita Abernathy follow with Dr and Mrs Martin Luther King as the Abernathy children join the front line, leading the Selma to Montgomery march.

It’s exactly 53 years ago today that Dr Martin Luther King led nearly 25,000 people to the steps of the state capital of Montgomery, Alabama, to highlight black grievances. This five-day march had started in Selma and closed a month of civil rights protests.

The BBC report described troops surrounding the capital and army helicopters hovering overhead as Dr King addressed the protesters.

He described the trek as one of the greatest marches in the history of America and said the aim was not to humiliate and defeat white people, but to win friendship and understanding. Dr King tried to present a petition of black grievances, but Governor George Wallace refused to meet the delegation.

During this Holy Week, we mark a parallel event towards the end of Jesus’s ministry on earth. He didn’t march with 25,000 people but entered the capital Jerusalem to cheers and acclamation sitting on a donkey.

The crowd waved palm branches and greeted him as a king and Saviour while Jewish religious leaders watched on in horror.

The scale of Dr King’s support on the Selma march almost certainly hastened his assassination. The crowds in Jerusalem chanting “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” definitely spurred on those who were out to have Jesus arrested and tried.

And, despite all the crowds, Jesus soon finds out that the road to the cross is one he has to travel alone.


Joey Barton, football and betting. Maybe the sport itself is addicted.

fun stops

800px-JoeyBartonThe news that Joey Barton’s football career appears to be over after an 18-month ban for betting irregularities may be irrelevant to many but it probably says as much about the sport as it does about the player himself.

The news is being reported as the latest tragedy to befall an undoubtedly intelligent but flawed man. Even Barton himself says, in his statement accepting the FA charges:

“I accept that this is one more mess I got into because of my own behaviour. This episode has brought home to me that just as I had to face up to the need to get help to deal with alcohol abuse, and with anger, so now I need to get help for my issues with gambling, and I will do so.”

The report on the BBC website by football reporter Phil McNulty is analytical about Barton and his many weaknesses but glosses over the fact that the whole professional game is in hock to the betting industry.

Indeed it almost accuses Barton of trying to pass the blame by his reference to this. McNulty writes:

Barton has divided opinion throughout his career – and he was at it again in what was effectively his retirement statement when he said: “If the FA is serious about tackling gambling, I would urge it to reconsider its own dependence on the gambling industry.”

He was referring to the links between betting chain Ladbrokes and the FA Cup.

It was a view that, yet again, polarised feelings. Was Barton making a valid point or simply trying to absolve himself from blame for breaking clear FA rules?

Seriously? Just Ladbrokes and the FA Cup?

You can’t watch football on any pay-per-view channel without being subjected to invitations to bet in every advert break – even in some cases with the very channel’s main football anchor popping up.

As Guardian writer  put it in his piece:

Barton’s ban comes at a time when football has never been more closely intertwined with the gambling industry. Eleven of the 20 current Premier League sides wear the logos of betting companies on their shirts, while the Football League itself is sponsored by a gambling company. The growth in online or ‘remote’ gambling has meant that not just every match but most of the elements within them can now be gambled upon. Recent estimates at the amount of gambling losses accrued in the UK put the total at around £300 per person per year.

I’ve always had a puzzled liking for Joey Barton’s intelligence and tweets that equalled my exasperation at his outbursts, violence and stupidity but I’m gobsmacked at how anyone can place 15,000 bets in 12 years. He says the average bet was just over £150 and many were for only a few pounds but there were 15,000 of them. Staggering. But then he is an addict and addicts do stupid things.

It seems to me, however, that football itself is addicted to betting. Perhaps if the whole business was weaned off there would be fewer Joey Bartons in the future and our children wouldn’t have to see the logos on their heroes’ shirts.

Since February 2013 the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has recruited 26 counsellors and launched a nationwide network to support current and former members who have gambling addictions.

The players’ union has been addressing the wider issues of emotional well-being and addiction for more than 14 years and this is an extra service for current and former PFA members: a safe place to get support and counselling. There is also a 24-hour helpline.

Clearly, players have to be responsible for their actions but there comes a point when the industry itself needs to recognise that its own financial systems are contributing to a problem. If football relies on the betting industry and allows the companies to trumpet themselves on shirts, around pitches, in every advert break and sponsorship opportunity then how long before it recognises that betting is just as harmful as smoking – it’s just that the destruction manifest itself differently.

What does the slogan say? When the fun stops, stop. It stopped long ago.


Aberfan: a hymn in remembrance

disasterjpgThe next two weeks are full of difficult memories in our family. The name Aberfan has scarred the whole nation of Wales but for my wife’s family there is a deeply personal resonance as the 50th anniversary of the tragedy is marked on October 21.

My father-in-law, the Revd Irving Penberthy (pictured below), was the Methodist minister in Aberfan when the disaster happened. Many of the 50-strong Sunday School died and he spent days comforting families as they discovered what had happened.

His immediate job was to go with them into the makeshift morgue and be with parents as they found their children. Then, as the village discovered how to live again, he rallied the community to build a community centre, to sing together, to learn how to laugh once more, to rediscover faith.


He now lives in Devon and is the only surviving minister from that day. He has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including the BBC and we will be taking him to Aberfan to speak at one of the 50thanniversary memorial services.

Next Sunday, Radio 4’s Sunday Worship broadcast at 8.10am will feature a short interview with Dad. On the same day, All Things Considered on BBC Wales programme at 09.03 will also be about Aberfan.

The following week, October 23, BBC TV’s Songs of Praise will be about Aberfan and will feature Dad reflecting on his experiences 50 years ago.

He has also been interviewed by a reporter for Wales Online, covering the Western Mail and South Wales Echo, so it’s likely there will be some coverage in those papers too.

On October 21 the BBC are also broadcasting a live Daily Service at 9.45-1000 on Radio 4 long wave. The Revd Roy Jenkins will be presenting.

As part of the reflecting on  everything that happened, I have written the following hymn. It will be sung at the service where Dad will speak and is being sung at the start of the service on Radio 4 on October 16 and also will close the Songs of Praise broadcast on October 23. On that occasion it will be sung by Treorchy Male Choir.


The tune, as fits a Welsh reflection, is Dim ond Iesu (Here is love, vast as the ocean).

God who knows our darkest moments

meets us in our brokenness:

walks beside us as a whisper,

holds our pain in his caress.

God, who leads through shadowed valleys,

where death’s bleakness dims our sight,

speaks a peace beyond our knowing,

floods our anguish with his light.


Far beyond our grief’s horizon,

as Creation holds its breath:

Love Divine, revealed in Jesus,

tears apart the chains of death.

Servant son and humble healer,

by your cross and life laid down

you have carried all our suff’ring

and you wear the victor’s crown.


Lift us up, now, risen Saviour

to the place where mercy plays,

where our broken hopes and heartache

find their healing in your gaze.

This is love, that God has saved us!

This is love, that Christ has died!

We rejoice that love has conquered

and has drawn us to your side.

Copyright 2016 © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Breadxit, Dave and George

“I say DC, is that you?”

“Of course it is, George, you rang my phone didn’t you?”

“Yes well sometimes one of those security chappies answers and I wanted to be sure it really was you.”

“I don’t have any security any more, more’s the pity. Only yesterday someone in Waitrose took the last bottle of organic full cream milk right from under Sam’s nose. A couple off months ago I could have had them deported. Now all I could do was sniff loudly.”

“Gosh DC, milk eh? How much did that cost?”

“Dunno Georgie. I think it’s about £15 a bottle. A bit like cheap Scotch.”

“Is it. Well I never.”

“No, I guess you didn’t. Anyway, what did you want? I’m very busy ironing the children’s sandwiches for school.”

“Oh yes. I’ve just heard some great news! Apparently Bake Off is leaving the BBC – that’s a TV station they tell me, a bit like Sky News but without Kay Burleigh.”

“And …?”

“Well, I was thinking, if you’re retiring from Parliament and those bounders in the boundaries whatsit are going to do away with my seat by the next election, we could do with a new challenge.”

“And you think we should become contestants on Bake Off?”

“No DC. This is my cunning plan. D’you like that phrase? I heard that on a history programme: Black-something. Anyway. I think we would be the ideal presenters of it!”

“Are you mad Georgie?”

“No listen DC. Apparently the two who do it now are this pair of comedy women – Mel and Sue. We could be ‘Call Me Dave’ and ‘Soggy Bottom George’.

“Soggy what?!?”

“Soggy bottom … it’s when …”

“Don’t even bother to explain George. Listen, I’m getting out of Parliament because I don’t want to be a distraction to the PM.”

“Oh, is that the real story? I thought that was just the news release from Number 10.”

‘Well it is really but I can’t tell them the actual reason.”

“Oh it’s not that again, is it DC? You haven’t! Tell me you didn’t!!”

“It’s OK George. I’ve got it under control. The therapist says it could be quite good for me.”


“Week three. Simon’s really excited about it by all accounts.”

“Well he would be. It’ll be the first time a TV talent show’s featured an ex-Prime Minister dressed as Marilyn Monroe singing ‘I’ve got a loverly bunch of coconuts’.”

“Simon thinks I’m a natural.”

“Oh Lord.”

Corden’s encounter with grace

Corden (left) with the main characters of Gavin and Stacey.
Corden (left) with the main characters of Gavin and Stacey.

A new pair of headphones has opened up a new world to me on my journeys in and out of London and given me a profoundly moving experience this week.

The BBC podcasts on my phone have been keeping me informed and entertained. The only problem so far is the tendency to start laughing at something no other passenger can hear … and then you look a right prat.

One of the programmes I listened to was an archived recording of James Corden on Desert Island Discs. I love Gavin and Stacey and had a sneaking feeling that Corden may have something interesting to say. How right I was.

He spoke about growing up as part of a Salvation Army  family, attending the meetings each Sunday and playing trumpet badly in the marching band. He wasn’t very complimentary about the other members of the Corp but had clearly been influenced greatly by parents who loved him and offered him unqualified support.

Corden told about a period when he was at his lowest. A combination of fame, acknowledged arrogance, criticism of some of his work left him feeling lost. At that very point his parents appeared and his dad, now a Christian book salesman, said: “I’m going to pray for you” – and did, along with a hug.

For the actor, the tears that followed were keys to a moment of release that still affected him deeply. It was the moment when he realised that he had to ‘grow up’. The emotion in his voice as he told the story showed that simply godly love had been crucial.

Perhaps seeing him on various TV shows it’s still a bit surprising to reflect that he’s had such a close encounter with grace, but his parents’ faith has clearly touched him deeply. He’s clearly an articulate and expressive actor. Maybe the next thing to be transformed is his language.