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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Execution stayed: Beyond reasonable doubt? Really?

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Richard Glossip.  (pic: Sky News)

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin granted a 37 day stay of execution an hour after the US Supreme Court today (Wednesday) refused to consider new evidence.

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After a long legal fight ending in a 3-2 split decision of judges in the state criminal appeal court, a man convicted of murder in the US state of Oklahoma was due to be executed by lethal injection today, Wednesday.

He had lost his final legal bid to avoid being put to death. Only the Governor could order a stay.

Now, I am not going to enter or even start a debate about the rights and wrongs of any country or, as in the US, any state having capital punishment as an ultimate sanction. But I am going to question the competency of a judicial system that has convicted this man, Richard Glossip.

Let’s look at the undisputed facts of the case.

Barry Van Treese, who owned an Oklahoma City motel, was murdered in 1997. At that time, Glossip, now aged 52, worked there.

Justin Sneed, a handyman at the motel, admitted killing Van Treese with a baseball bat but said Glossip had paid him to do it.

He denies any involvement and says he has been ‘framed’.

Strangely, there was no physical evidence linking Glossip to the crime, just the testimony of the then teenager Sneed who escaped the death penalty in return for testifying against Glossip.

Sneed is serving a jail sentence, while Glossip still faces the death penalty.

What I find peculiar is that without any physical evidence, the prosecution’s case depended solely on the word of the person who admits carrying out the murder. And he became a prosecution witness as part of a deal with the District Attorney; a deal that meant he did not have to face the death penalty for his actions.

So, the court in Oklahoma had the word of one man against another – with no physical evidence.

Now, I may be missing something here but it seems to me to be impossible for anyone on a jury to say, after considering the testimonies of both men, that Glossip was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. Hell, I would surely have had reasonable doubt.

But two juries did decide just that. Yes, somehow, he was convicted twice.

And that is why Richard Glossip’s life was almost ended today. I don’t know if Glossip is innocent but to me he was not proved guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and that means he should have been acquitted.

It is often said that if you are not guilty you have nothing to fear. It seems that may not be true in all parts of the US.

British justice with understanding and compassion

Meanwhile, in the UK, a woman who admitted stabbing a man to death has had her prison sentence reduced from 7 years to just 3½ years. She had been cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.sarah sands

Her victim, Michael Pleasted, was a convicted paedophile and was on bail awaiting trial on further charges of sexual assault on young boys.

The judge stated that he had reduced the sentence to such a level because Sarah Sands, 32, (pictured right) had lost control and afterwards had given herself up to police, admitted what she had done, had not attempted to conceal or dispose of any evidence and had shown remorse through the investigation and trial.

He described it as an extraordinary case and also said the he had taken into account that Sands is a single mother.

I can think of more than a few people who would have happily done the same thing as this woman.

(Sarah Sands’s pic: Metropolitan Police/PA)

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Sombrero Silly Students

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Oh dear, it’s the silly season again. Well, to be totally honest, students’ union officers at a British university have proved just how daft supposedly intelligent people can be. A prime example of such silliness was in clamping down on a bit of fun in the name of fighting ‘racism’ and following their own ill-thought out rules.

It all came about at the Freshers’ Fair held at the University of East Anglia. This is where new students go to find out more about various clubs and societies they may want to join and also some local businesses take the opportunity to introduce themselves.

And it was one of these commercial operations that ran into trouble. Why? You might well ask.

Pedro’s, a local Tex-Mex restaurant chose to give away sombreros, you know the type – the outsize Mexican hat, to promote their business.

That’s where the Ministry of Silly Walks Rules got involved in the form of the union officials. They moved quickly to stop Pedro’s staff giving out any more hats and even went around taking the hats from students who had accepted them.

Then, with all the pomposity and seriousness they could muster they said that they took that action because non-Mexicans wearing the traditional item of headwear could be seen as offensive.

A union spokesman stated that the handing out of sombreros breached a key advertising policy which was sent to all stall holders before the event, prohibiting any use of stereotypical imagery in advertising.

It says: “Discriminatory or stereotypical language or imagery aimed towards any group or individual based on characteristics will not be permitted as part of our advertising.” Apparently, the sombreros were seen as potentially offensive and even racist under the policy that lists 15 types of discrimination, some of which include colour, ethnic origin and nationality.

Now, anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time will know that my wife is American. So, I asked her two questions: First, I asked if an American restaurant in the UK chose to give away promotional Stetsons, the traditional cowboy hat, and she saw them worn by non-Americans of any ethnic origin at all, would she be offended. She answered NO.

Ok so far, so onto the second question: I knew Lisa had been to Mexico and I needed her first-hand experience. Do they sell sombreros to tourists as souvenirs? YES, she said. And are they offended when a non-Mexican wears one? NO, of course not, she answered.

That rather destroys the silly rules to which the students’ union officials were claiming to be adhering. If Mexicans in Mexico sell these hats to tourists, how can anyone believe that they can cause offence? It is just nonsense.

One fresher is reported by a student newspaper as saying: “”It’s ridiculous – it’s a comedy hat, not some sort of sacred religious dress. Who is going to get offended? Speedy Gonzales?”

I could not agree more.

And, while I commend the union for attempting to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, it does desperately need two things as a matter of urgency, a sense of humour and a good portion of common sense.

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Cute toddler’s first steps on artificial leg

Bravery seems to be a recurring subject in my blog in the last few weeks. Now, a little girl is being hailed as being brave, alongside the heroes I have talked about in mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews.

The little girl in question, no more than a toddler, is the subject of a You Tube video posted by the Amputee Coalition of America. It shows her taking her very first steps with her new prosthetic leg.

She is clearly delighted, stopping to blow raspberries, before walking onwards. She falls over but picks herself up and walks on to her dad who is waiting with his hands outstretched. When she reaches him, he picks her up for a cuddle.

The video shows an inspiring moment in the little girl’s life. It is a moment that shows the child’s determination to not let her amputation control her life. And it is a determination that is shared by many people with disabilities but it is also a great example to those who think that their problem means that they cannot do anything; to those that seem to believe that the world owes them a living.

For reasons of privacy, the name and information about the little girl have not been shared online, nor has the reason why her leg has ben amputated, but the heartwarming video has captured the attention of many on both You Tube and Facebook. One Facebook user wrote: “Puts into perspective all the stupid things we complain about when we see the bravery of this little one.” Another added: “This cute angel will do amazing things one day! She is a fighter!”

Those comments both hit the nail right on the head. The video certainly does put other issues into perspective and she may well go on to bigger and better things. This is one girl who is not going to let her amputation get in the way of her life. She is already accepting her prosthetic leg as completely normal for her.

But, is she being brave? Well, her spirit is obviously enviable. In the video, she falls down but gets up easily and carries on. That is what life is all about – other children do that too.

Owing to living with multiple sclerosis, I have serious mobility and balance problems. In fact, when I am not using a wheelchair, falling is an all-too-frequent event. The floor is one of my closest friends!

The trick, however, is to get up and get on with life.

This little one is coping with her disability in the only way she knows. It is not a position of her choosing and as such, while I admire her fortitude, she should not be burdened with being described as ‘brave’ or labelled a ’hero’.  They are such high aspirations to have to attain and then maintain. Similarly, I am not being brave in coping with my disability; she and I are both just doing what we can to overcome our difficulties.

Long may she be happy and able to grow up without being negatively affected by artificial leg.

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Live for the future, let the past go

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Vicky Balch has every right to be furious with the awful hand dealt to her this year but she really must get a firm grip on her life and look to the future with a new, positive outlook. Otherwise she is going to have a truly miserable time of it.

On 2nd June this year, Vicky was one of several people injured and trapped in an accident on the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers, one of the leading theme parks in the UK.

Her injuries were so bad that, despite a series of operations, surgeons eventually had to amputate one of her legs. Another young woman also lost a leg as the result of the accident.

Vicky hit the headlines again today when she lashed out at the decision of Alton Towers bosses to re-open the ride. She is reported as saying that two senior bosses told her of their intentions, during a visit to her home. She said that they told her that they might be able to reopen the ride by the end of this year.

She is disgusted by the possibility of the ride being reopened at all, let alone within seven months of the incident. Is she right? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Before considering that, though, maybe we should take a look at her attitude to life in general since she suffered that terrible injury.

There is no doubt that the accident caused a considerable upheaval in Vicky’s life we can see that she has not yet been able to come to terms with it. In all likelihood, it is too soon. She is still suffering, still grieving for things she can no longer do.

“I’m very up and down at the moment,” she is reported having said. “Talking about things I can’t do any more makes me really emotional.

“I can’t walk my dogs and I can’t ring up my friends at uni and say, do you fancy having a drink tonight?”

Yes, she is in a bad place right now but, and I don’t mean to be unkind here, she has to realise that she is no worse off than some other people. She is using a wheelchair for travelling more than a very short distance, just like me. But she has now taken her first steps using a prosthetic leg, while I will still need a wheelchair.

Again, Vicky looked back instead of forward when considering her future when she said: “I feel less feminine now. The way people look at you, that’s a big thing for me. I liked the attention before but now they look at me in a different way. It’s horrible.

“After my first op I asked my mum, ‘Who’s going to want me like this?’ And I still think like that.” Well, while it is true that the guy she had been dating has now left the scene, I have no idea of what went on between them at that point and so will not comment on that.

However, looking ahead, Vicky is likely to meet men who are shallow and so avoid any possibility of a relationship with her but she will also meet some who see beyond her injury, beyond her prosthetic leg, and fall in love with who she is.

But first, she needs to let go of the past, accept the present and make the very best of the future. That’s the way to find happiness.

So, what about reopening the ride? Alton Towers’ management has discovered the accident was the result of human error. There was nothing wrong with the ride itself, they say. If that is true, as long as steps have been taken to eliminate an error such as this happening again and the authorities are happy, then put the accident in the past and let the ride be reopened.

And in the unlikely event that she is reading this: Vicky, we cannot change the past but what you do now will affect your life to come. You can make yours a great life, embrace it and live it to the full. Shape your life around what you can do now and what you can strive to achieve in the future.

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In need of love and a safe home

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Like many other people who find themselves honoured in some way for their good works, Anne Owen said that being appointed an MBE in the UK’s 2015 New Year Honours was not just for her but also for her family and friends.

You often hear award recipients say that. They say it is as much for their team as themselves and, to a certain extent, it is true. There is no doubt that without close support the individuals concerned could not have achieved so much – but the award recipients are the really worthy ones.

Anne was appointed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to animal health and welfare. anne-owen-380x502

She set up the North Clwyd Animal Rescue Centre in 1978 after she took in a stray dog. It is now the largest animal charity in North Wales (that’s in the UK, not the North Wales in Pennsylvania), rescuing more than 1,800 unwanted cats and dogs a year.

Reacting to her award, Anne said that she was really shocked and explained: “It’s not something I really think about, you just get on with life.”

Modestly, she added: “It’s nice that your work is recognised. It’s not just me, it’s my family and friends too.” True – and I’d add the animals too.

Of course, North Clwyd Animal Rescue is just one of numerous pets rescue organisations in various countries. And whether these are run by volunteers or larger charities with paid staff, volunteers are always welcome – as are people willing to give a pet a home.

I must admit to having a soft spot for the North Clwyd rescue centre as one day my then wife and I happened to meet volunteers with an exhibition stand in a local shopping centre. They also had a couple of dogs with them, dogs looking for their forever homes. Well, we fell in love with a large male border collie whose original name I now forget but we renamed him ‘Bryn’. We were even allowed to take him for a short walk. It was a match, we wanted him as much as he wanted a home and caring owners.

Of course, there was paperwork to be completed as well as a home check to be undertaken by the rescuers but within a few weeks, Bryn was with us. He was a softee and, at night, had to sleep in his basket in our bedroom. During the daytime he had a second basket downstairs but also had the freedom to run and play in our fields. He enjoyed a full and active life for many years until it was time for him to leave us. He was buried in one of our fields that he loved so much.

With Bryn as an inspiration, from that moment on our home was never without at least one rescue dog. At one time we had six.

So, if you would like a pet of your own, please don’t buy one without at least considering sharing your home with one that has needed the help of rescuers. They have a lot of love to give and in return just need your love and a forever home.

  • To contact North Clwyd Animal Rescue, you’ll find the website at: www.ncar.co.uk; on Twitter at @ncaruk; or on Facebook as NorthClwydAnimalRescue.
  • To find an animal rescue centre near you, just Google ‘animal rescue’ and your town’s name.
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Strange world of chocolate and religion

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The Pope addresses a joint session of Congress in Washington, while Kit Kat’s shape is fought over in a European court.

Is it me, or has the world got a little stranger over the last few days?

Just take a look at some of the events.

Confectionery companies have been slugging it out in two different court cases. First of all, a week ago the European Court of Justice rejected a request from Nestlé to trademark the shape of its four-fingered KitKat bar in Britain.

The court rules that Nestlé’s attempts to patent the ‘four finger’ design of Kit Kat don’t hold up under EU law. It follows a court challenge by rival Cadbury, which opposed Nestlé’s attempt to patent the design of Kit Kat’s when it filed its request back in 2010.

Then, yesterday, the German Federal Court dismissed a claim that the Lindt teddy breached the trademark of Haribo’s golden bear. The ruling means Lindt can continue to sell its chocolate bears wrapped in a golden foil.

The court said terms such as ‘teddy’, ‘chocolate bear’ or ‘chocolate teddy’ could be applied to the product just as well as ‘gold bear’ and, in a statement, said: “It’s not sufficient that the trademarked word is just one of several obvious names to describe the product form.”..

Switching from sweets to car manufacturers, we find that Volkswagen has admitted putting software in some of its diesel cars to ensure that lower emission figures are found during static testing. Researchers in the USA conducted tests on cars in use, and found much higher figures.

So far, the problem has only been proved to exist in America but hold on to your hats; Europe is going to start looking to see if a similar problem exists there too.

Another German motor manufacturer, BMW, has now been forced to deny being involved in a similar scandal after Auto Bild magazine alleged that the company’s X3 SUV had failed emissions testing. Who knows where that story may go.

Religious leaders have not escaped. The Dalai Lama stunned a BBC reporter by saying that he would welcome a female successor to his role – but only if she is attractive, otherwise she would not be ‘much use’.

The spiritual leader made what many see as shockingly sexist remarks in an interview yesterday, when he was asked if there would be a 15th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, and if it could potentially be a woman this time.

He replied: ”Yes, the female biologically [has] more potential to show affection and compassion.” When questioned if he was making a joke, the Dalai Lama leader assured the interviewer that he was deadly serious and said a female Dalai Lama would have more potential to show affection and compassion for ‘biological’ reasons.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis visited Cuba before going to the US. No slip ups there unless you include his address to Congress in which he called for tolerance towards immigrants, the abolition of capital punishment and the tackling of climate change. He also criticised  the arms trade and those who sell ‘deadly weapons’ for ‘money that is drenched in blood’. Although he was given resounding applause, many of the senators and representatives present are opposed to such policies.

The Pope turned down lunch with the lawmakers, instead choosing to help hand out food to Washington DC’s poor.

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Support – a question of sport

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Nationality and patriotism are areas that can both stir up strong emotional feelings that are mostly for the good but sometimes not.

Of course, the most extreme forms of both are found in times of war or conflict between nations but, on a lesser scale, it flows across into the realms of sport.

When I moved from London to North Wales in 1992, despite being English by birth and parentage, I became loyal to my adopted country and its rugby union and football (soccer) teams – even when playing against England.

I learned to sing Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (the country’s anthem) in Welsh as well as to spell and say the name of its longest village: It is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (and, yes, I did type all 58 letters without looking it up and without any correction being needed). Additionally, the only two rugby shirts that I have owned have been the red of Wales and the black of the Ospreys team based in South Wales. Although never having a Welsh football shirt, I still followed the progress and fortunes of the team.

So, what does that all mean for my impending move to Spain?

Switching allegiances from one British team to another was no big deal but supporting Spanish teams would entail a much greater transfer. But isn’t that what I will be doing by living there? In a way, yes it is but, conversely, I shall be remaining a UK citizen and I will continue to vote in parliamentary elections in the constituency I which I now live. So, loyalties will be divided.

Spain is not a major rugby-playing nation, so in that sport I shall continue to support Wales. Football is another matter, though. The Spanish seem to treat ‘futbol’ as a way of life, they are fervent. And the national team is good too, having won the World Cup in 2010 and the Euro Championship in both 2008 and 2012. I don’t think Wales will rival that team or play against it very much. It seems likely that I’ll be able to support both.

At club level, Fulham has remained my UK football team since moving to Wales but now I’ll need a Spanish one as well. On purely geographic grounds, that looks set to be Almeria that plays in the La Liga second tier in which it currently lies 16th of the 22 clubs. So it looks like I will have to get used to supporting a team that plays in a red and white striped shirt.

Baseball is another sport that interests me and, as theirs is the only stadium I have visited, Toronto Blue Jays is the team for me. On the other hand, Lisa being American says that my support should be for a USA team not one in Canada. Fair enough, I suppose, but I’d have to see them play first!

As far as my last major team sport is concerned, there is no need to change anything. This is because cricket is not a feature of many nations and so I can rest easy supporting the England team that represents the England and Wales Cricket Board.

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Lifeboat heroes of the sea

 

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Robert Wright, second coxswain of Pwllheli Lifeboat, died during s rescue. (Pic: RNLI).

Hero volunteers who put their own lives on the line to save the lives of others have twice been featured in the blog in recent weeks – and I make absolutely no apology for returning to the subject again.

This time, however, the focus of my attention is moving from mountain rescue teams to the equally dedicated and just as courageous volunteer crews who man the lifeboats that operate around the UK’s shores.

Members of one crew are this week mourning the death of one of their own. During a rescue operation on Sunday evening, Robert Wright, second coxswain of the Pwllheli lifeboat in North Wales, died after suffering a suspected heart attack.

He was taken ill soon after the lifeboat was launched. He was given treatment by the highly trained crew and then airlifted to hospital where, sadly, it was confirmed that he had died.

Mr Wright had been a crew member since 1970 and, as coxswain, led the Pwllheli crew from 1992 until 2013. He was made an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2008 for his services to the RNLI and the community.

He came from a family steeped in lifeboat service as Cliff Thomas, the local lifeboat operations manager, explained: “Bob was a loyal, committed and strong personality. His father and grandfather both served before him and his great uncle was coxswain at the beginning of the 1900s. The sea was in his blood.”

The UK’s lifeboats are not government-funded. They are operated by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) which is a charity and depends on contributions to fund its considerable expenditure. Indeed, it costs over £140 million each year to run its lifesaving service – all funded by generous supporters.

With 236 lifeboat stations and an active fleet of more than 340 craft, the RNLI can reach people in all kinds of situations and locations. Proof of this can be seen by the fact that last year more than 10,000 people were rescued,

So, what’s it like being a lifeboat crew member?

Imagine for a moment that you’re part of the crew on a lifeboat. It’s 2.30 on a freezing January morning and the pager has just woken you from a deep sleep in a snug warm bed. You then head out to sea in complete darkness with 10m waves rising and falling around you, ready to swamp you at any moment. Strong gale force winds throw the lifeboat around like a toy. A fishing trawler is in difficulties 23 miles out to sea.

Being part of a lifeboat crew is a major commitment, which could include risking your life. Your commitment isn’t only measured in the time spent involved in rescues. Increasingly, new equipment and faster boats mean that regular training programmes also account for much of your spare time. You may also be asked to help show visitors around the station and with local fundraising.

The RNLI provides first class training and equipment, guidance and support. Volunteers are offered the opportunity to make a difference in their local community, to save lives and be part of the larger RNLI family.

It is, without doubt, one of the most exciting and fulfilling, not to mention dangerous, volunteer roles available.

All members of the lifeboat crews are worthy of being called ‘brave’ and so many people have reason to be grateful for the prompt and professional actions of volunteers, like Robert Wright, who have saved their lives.

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What we believe is true, or is it?

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This picture caught my attention on Facebook today. It fascinates me, not so much for what it says but the whole concept of different religions in today’s world.

Before starting, let me first of all make one thing clear. I am not an atheist and do indeed have a strong religious faith. However, my beliefs are not those of the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or any other organised religion.

A much older religion calls to me, one of the Mother Earth and nature, one that recognises both masculine and feminine aspects of our deities. We are taught to harm no-one and never seek to push our religion onto others. We do not seek converts, nor do we claim that our religion is the ‘only’ way. And we don’t believe in the existence of the devil.

Having been brought up as a Christian, attended church and been taught ‘religious education’ at school, it should come as little surprise that that faith and the Church of England formed an area of intense interest for me.

Indeed, my first wife completed a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1999, for which I typed all her essays and so learned a great deal. By the time she graduated, I realised that any Christian beliefs I had held had just been metaphorically shipwrecked.

So, let’s look at the text in that picture.

“The King James version of the New Testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the Church of England.

“There were (and still are) no original texts to translate. The oldest manuscripts we have were written down hundreds of years after the last apostle died. There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts, with no two alike.

“The King James translators used none of these, anyway. Instead. they edited previous translations to create a version their king and Parliament would approve.”

All those are true, according to research available online, so we can hardly take issue with the summary that says: “So, (what) 21st Century Christians believe (is) the “Word of God” is a book edited in the 17th Century from 16th Century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th Century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st Century.”

But the truth is much worse than that.

Absolutely none of the gospels were written at the time they purport to talk about. Word of mouth stories were written down a hundred years, or more, later. Many texts were ignored when putting the bible together.

Mistranslations took place and have not been corrected to this day.

For example, Isaiah’s prophecy as originally written states that the Messiah would be conceived by an ‘almah’ (young woman) but in the Greek translation Isaiah refers to a ‘parthenos’ (virgin). From this, it appears that Matthew’s gospel attempts to justify Jesus’s divine parentage by claiming fulfilment of a prophecy that was never actually made.

And, as far as the resurrection is concerned, why was Jesus’s body removed from the cross so soon after the crucifixion? It was uncommon for a crucified healthy adult to die in the time described by the Gospels; the Gospel of Mark reports that Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning and died at three in the afternoon, or six hours after the crucifixion. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had died so soon (Mk 15:44). The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion was between two and four days.

It gives some strength to the argument that Jesus did not die on the cross and that, therefore, there was no resurrection. As Christianity is not my faith, I offer no comment on these beliefs or arguments except to say that everyone should be free to follow any faith of their choice or choose to not follow any at all.

One last point: something else on Facebook today was a negative comment about religious people saying they ‘know’ what happens after death. Another person wanted ‘proof ‘of the existence of an afterlife. To me, that is why it is called faith. There is no proof, no-one knows; there is only belief, only faith.

 

 

 

 

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Jester Erwyd le Fol is a marketing hit

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Whoever had the bright idea that led to Conwy, the walled town not the whole county, appointing its own jester deserves congratulations, commendations and a giant pat on the back.

Additionally, those who were far-sighted enough to agree to it have turned out to be a sheer geniuses in terms of marketing – both for the town and for its tourists. By all that I have heard, those honours seem due to the town’s chamber-of-trade.

For anybody who has been asleep all summer, let me bring you up to date. Entertainer Russel Erwood, in the form of his alter ego Erwyd le Fol, was appointed Conwy’s first ‘Jester in Residence’ for 700 years.

A special adoubement or naming ceremony was held and this led to the story and some amazing pictures appearing in an eye-popping number of media in so many different parts of the world and in a wide variety of languages.

The publicity thus gained for the town is far beyond what could have reasonably been thought possible. In fact, it must have been beyond most people’s wildest dreams. But it shows just what can happen when someone can think outside the box and get a town to appoint its own jester who can, among other things, balance a blazing barbecue on a wooden pole – all on his chin.

So, what’s the story of Erwyd le Fol? He can explain better than I.

jester eyesErwyd said: “I am the first professional jester to live within the walls of the 13th Century North Wales town of Conwy since my predecessor left the area over 700-years-ago.

“Dressed in the red and yellow of the medieval Kingdom of Gwynedd (or Kingdom of Happiness) I specialise in spreading joy and laughter where ever I go. Juggling, magic, circus stunts, balloon modelling and family friendly comedy combine to create the perfect package for all kinds of events including medieval festivals, country fairs, summer fetes, steam rallies, street shows, schools, weddings and birthday parties.”

Impressive stuff, I think you’ll agree but what about his predecessor of 700 years ago? Well it turns out that this was Tom le Fol who was personal jester to King Edward I. When the king was besieged for three months in Conwy castle during the winter of 1294-95, Tom le Fol was there too, kept busy by entertaining all who lived there.

I have to say that I first met Russell almost two years ago, well before Erwyd le Fol was even an idea let alone a reality.

A year ago, Lisa and I attended a hallowe’en party at Rhos on Sea Golf Club where Russel gave a cabaret performance including illusions, conjuring and even a little escapology all bound together with comedy. Clearly, he is a talented guy.

Mind you, even more impressive is the way in which he has pursued his dream of entertaining people.

Russel/Erwyd told me: “At age 14 I went to circus school. It was there that I trained in trapeze, acro and other circus skills but it was juggling and manipulation that really caught my imagination. It was during this time that I discovered an ability to make people laugh and I also started to learn magic and escapology.

“Since those early days I have had a career that’s seen me escape from barrels full of water; dangled upside down from my feet whilst strapped in a straitjacket; juggle at the Bahrain Grand Prix; perform for large national and international companies; featured in street festivals around the UK and worked as the magic consultant for TV shows.”

You can find out more by visiting Erwyd’s website (that’s one thing Tom le Fol could not have had) at www.conwyjester.co.uk

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