Dragon Posts

Spring is Sprung

By Richard E

I was reminded of a little ditty from the Bronx this morning, when I saw what a beautiful Spring morning it was in the garden, despite the frost. You need to have that strong accent, but it goes like this:

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz,
I wonder where the boidies iz,
They say the boids is on the wing,
But that’s absoid, the wings is on the boid.

But it was these colours which might give us all a lift while we are imprisoned:->

Then it was back to work!

Er, back to Marion’s List!

Funerals during the coronavirus restrictions

From The Magazine

Photo by Pixabay

Funerals have changed almost beyond recognition under the strict new rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Church of England funerals may now take place only at crematoria or at gravesides. Only immediate family may attend, and they must keep their two-metre distance.

To help those who are grieving-at-a-distance at this difficult time, the Church of England has published a simple guide. It provides both prayers and also suggestions of how people can pay their own tribute at home to the person who has died.

These include finding a photograph of the person who has died, writing down memories of them, and lighting a virtual candle in memory of their loved ones.

The Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar, Head of Welcome and Life Events for the Church of England, said: “It’s so difficult when you can’t go to a funeral… to say your last goodbye and know that your special person’s life has been honoured, prayers offered, and God’s love experienced.”

More details at: https://www.churchofengland.org/ Life Events.

Photo by Pixabay

Aroma Tea & Coffee, Shrewsbury

From Roy Bower

How’s This for Service?

It took many years of trial and error for me to find my ideal brand of coffee to fill my breakfast cafetiere. Eventually I plumped for Mountain Blend, sold by Aroma, a family-run shop situated next to St. Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury. I was worried that, in the present circumstances, it may not be possible to replenish my stock of beans, so it was with much relief that I saw Aroma’s web-site page (https://www.aroma-coffee.co.uk), not only assuring us that the shop is still open for business, but (more importantly from our point of view), that orders could be delivered, posted to our home address. The icing on the cake is that orders worth £5 or more are delivered free of charge.

Photo by Sarah G. on Unsplash

Yesterday, Friday 17th April, I ordered 1kg of beans at 10 a.m., thinking they would arrive in a few days’ time. To my great surprise and delight delivery was made by a family member from the shop in Shrewsbury to our front door in Pontesbury at 5-30 p.m. on the same day.

I feel very strongly that we should do all we can to support small family businesses in these very difficult times, so, if you are looking for a selection of tea or coffee, why not give Aroma a try?

THE BOOK OF ESTHER 1

By Reverend Christopher Cooke

Week 1

Patricia Tull points out that of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, 38 have names of men.
How many have names of women?

Esther and Ruth are not only distinguished by the names of the books but also by being free-standing narratives springing from Judean history.

The characters, Esther and Ruth, are “women in alien lands”.

Carol Bechtel relates this story:
Soon after historian Deborah Lipstadt won a court victory over holocaust denier, David Irving, she went to Purim at her local synagogue. Then the Book of Esther, as ever, is read out. The words of Esther 4:14 struck home: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Carol Bechtel argues that God has given us the Book of Esther “for just such a time as this.”

Which Version of Esther?
The Jews and Protestants have the ten chapters found in our Old Testaments. The Catholics recognize six additions which can be found in our Apocryphas. I shall concentrate on our canonical version.

Esther By Edwin Long

How should we read Esther?
There is a total variance between Jewish and Christian practice here.
How often have you read the Book of Esther?
How often have you heard it read in Church?
Martin Luther did not know what to do with the book. One passage appears in our three-year cycle and then, of course, it is optional whether it used. Its messages are over-looked.
In complete contrast, the Book of Esther is central to the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Purim. It is read with great excitement and alcohol. It is the Jewish pantomime but with a critical storyline that has become all too relevant time and again, Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned there are jeers and hisses.

The Triumph of Mordecai – Pieter Lastman (1624).

Whenever Mordecai or Esther are mentioned there are cheers and hurrahs. When it is read aloud, then humour bubbles up. Hamans are constantly turning up in history.

What sort of literature is the Book of Esther?
Ahasuerus is also known as Xerxes. On the one hand, the writer is very well aware of the customs of the Persian court. On the other, King Xerxes/Ahasuerus was often at battle during the period of the Book of Esther. In addition, his listed wife does not tally with either Queen Vashti or Queen Esther. The book is also full of exaggeration.

Vashti By Edwin Long


There may not have been a definable Oliver Twist, but that does not mean there isn’t great truth in that novel by Charles Dickens. Carol Bechtel makes the same point about “A Christmas Carol” and its surreal moments.
The Book of Esther is a story with deep truths. As Carol Bechtel says, fiction is not the absence of truth but the vehicle for it.
God is very much in the background.
In this, the Book of Esther shares a number of features with the story of Joseph and the Books of Ruth and Jonah.
Sidnie Ann White describes Esther as a novella or short story. It is meant to be entertaining and the author maintains a tone of comic irony or even satire. Adele Berlin describes it as a “burlesque” (comic lampoon) and that ties in well with how Jews celebrate it.
The Book of Esther is full of feasts and banquets. Michael Fox drew attention to the ten banquets in two halves. It is surely no accident that Purim is a two-day festival. Jon Levenson argues that the banquets can be summed up by the Hebrew phrase: “the reverse occurred”. This is because the second half of banquets reverses the intention of the first half.

Xerxes I sculpted on his tomb

Dates and history.
The book of Esther is set during the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus or Xerxes I who ruled from 486 to 465 BCE.

597 and 587/6 BCE– The Kingdom of Judah is defeated by the Babylonian Empire and the Exile and prison camps take place as well as the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
C546 BCE – The Babylonian Empire is defeated and subsumed by the Persian Empire. The Persians tended to allow subject peoples to develop a certain limited autonomy and local religions were tolerated and encouraged (Books of Ezra and Nehemiah).
334-323 BCE – The whole region is conquered by the Macedonian Alexander the Great.

The opening words of the Book of Esther, “This happened in the days of Ahasuerus”, suggest the writer is looking back to a previous time. The author uses several Persian loan words and many authentic Persian names. The book is written in late Biblical Hebrew and the language is akin to the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles which are usually dated around 400-300 BCE i.e. eighty years after the action.
However, it probably cannot be later than the rise of the Seleucids during the Greek period around 200 BCE. Then the Greek rulers took an increasingly antagonistic policy towards their subject peoples. The Book of Esther talks about accommodation with the ruling powers and after 200 BCE, this was less possible. There is also an absence of Hellenistic vocabulary or colouring. So the Book of Esther is generally considered to have been written between 4oo BCE and 200 BCE.

Because the Book of Esther shows no interest in Palestine or Jerusalem whatever, it is generally thought to be written from the Jewish diaspora/dispersion.

A set of questions to aid reading the Book of Esther

1:1-2:4

The story takes place in Susa, one of the four capital cities of the Persian Empire during the reign of King Ahasuerus in the early fifth century BCE. The Kingdom extended from India to Ethiopia. The number of provinces varied but they were usually around thirty. Esther and her older cousin Mordecai are Jews living in Persia as a result of the Babylonian exile a century before. Patricia Tull, Sidnie Ann White.

1:1-9: Pomp and Circumstance.

What do you make of the number of provinces?

What do you make of 180 days of feasting?

What do you make of the surroundings and the furnishings?

“The absence of women at Ahasuerus’ banquets enhance the perception that these were really just overdone ‘stag parties’, with all the licentiousness and disrespect the term implies”. Jon Levenson.

1:10-21: Queen Vashti Sparks a State Crisis.

Why does Queen Vashti refuse to appear?

“One woman pulls the rug out from under the most powerful man in the world… and she does so while his whole world is watching”. Carol Bechtel.

What do you make of the judgement after the consultation of the sages and with reference to the laws?

How does King Ahasuerus shape up?

Is there a fear of contagion?

There is some doubt about whether Persian laws were unalterable but can you think of anything similar?

Does Ahasuerus remind you of anyone today?

“Jewish listeners, brought up on the prophets, were sure to be making their own observations, and slightly assessing the injustice of the system that created so great a gulf between rich and poor”. Joyce Baldwin.
2:1-4: Roundup of the Contestants.

The king needs a new Queen. What do you think of the advisors’ suggestion?
Is this a modern equivalent to a beauty contest?
What else does it remind you of?
What does it say about the position of women in Persia?

The People You Meet – Chester Straw

By Richard E

About 45 years ago, I was working in Libya. I was the Chief Surveyor for the Oasis Oil Company Inc., actually, I was the only surveyor, but the title felt very important at the time.

The Oil Geologist- Photo Richard E 1975

Now there was a much older engineer there, with the unlikely name of Chester Straw. By now, he has long gone, but I still fondly remember him, and a remarkable thing he taught me.

Chester was from the Deep South in Louisiana, and spoke with an accent which could curdle milk, but when you work in the oil business, you get the hang of it after a while. He walked with a pronounced limp, from an oil field accident (one didn’t ask), and was in constant pain with arthritis and rheumatism. (Something else he bequeathed me) Yet he was kind, gentle and very wise.

Oilfield Accidental Fire – Photo Richard E 1976

One day, Chester dropped round to see me in my shack of an office in Waha, about 150 miles south of the Mediterranean Sea. He wanted me to bring some survey flags to mark out a ‘Flow Line’.

Flow lines are the 4 inch diameter steel surface pipes which carry oil from the wells to the receiving station for process further up the system. They can be quite long (miles), and due to temperature changes, they quite often move about, and they are very rarely straight, they just snake around all the time, so if they become buried in the shifting sand, which is also common, they can be extremely difficult to find.

Belhaden Oil Receiver in Sand Sea – Photo Richard E 1975

So we set off with about 50 flags, which are short wire rods about a foot long, curled at one end and with a little coloured bunting tied on so that they can be easily seen. Surveyors stick them into the ground as ‘rough markers’, they are not precision indicators, but good enough for a 4 inch flow line.

About 10 miles out, we stopped in a huge open featureless sandy area, and Chester took a couple of brass welding rods about 18 inches long, and bent them into a right angle so that the short end was about 4 inches long, and the long end 14 inches. With the two rods held in his fists so the 14 inches were centrally in front he began to criss cross the desert sand, Every so often he would indicate where I was to insert a flag. After an hour or so we had exhausted my flags and we were about a mile from my Land Rover, so leaving him where he was, I hoofed it back to the vehicle, and then brought it up to him, to save his arthritic legs.

Photo of Author by Ali (Student) 1975 Even the work Jeans had flares in the 70’s!

Chester was of course ‘Dowsing’, and full of disbelief, (I’m a true sceptic) I asked him if he was serious about what he was doing. He simply shrugged, and decided to ‘show’ me how to do it, and I was soon very successful, though full of doubt as I still am today.

Now according to Wikipedia, “Dowsing is considered a pseudo science and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance”.

Later that day, Chester had a D8 dozer pushing sand away, and after getting about 10 feet down, we all thought he was mad, but he persisted, (half the engineering team had come to look) and then about 15 feet down, there was the line. So, if Wiki is right, and that was random chance a mile long, I have a bridge to sell you!

A few years later, and now in private practise ‘at home’, I was on a civil engineering site, and the ground working gang were trying to find a water main, so I grabbed a couple of welding rods, just like Chester, and found the water main for them. They treated this first with utter disbelief, but then other contractors would ask me to ‘find’ things, gas, water electric old buried walls, and my best find of all, a Roman Road.

This latter ‘find’ was for a major developer from Maidenhead who had a large site in Andover, which was known to have a Roman Road, and there was a Planning Condition that it should be carefully exposed, so that the topsoil covering it could be examined by the County Archaeologist. The archaeologists are not much bothered about the road itself, they’ve seen plenty, but the topsoil immediately on top of the road, often has many artefacts.

It is very easy to damage ancient remains, and so the contractor was not allowed to do a ‘Time Team’ “Let’s get a JCB” type of operation. These things have to be done carefully, and by hand. So the contractor asked me if I could find it. Now I always tell contractors that I am still a sceptic, even though I have yet to be unsuccessful. So with a great deal of trepidation, I took my trusty rods, and started to criss cross the field. All of a sudden there was a very strong reaction, and moving on 10 feet later, a negative reaction. I marked this out and moved on back and fore, and pretty soon I had two rows of flags 10 feet apart, right across the field. These were the strongest reactions I have ever experienced in my thirty years of dowsing, and I bet old Chester was smiling down on this sceptic. The first bit of my marking out was carefully dug by hand, and about 18 inches down we struck stone, mostly flint cobbles, and it just turned out that the flags were absolutely on the line of the road.

Like many engineers, if you gave me something for Christmas that was mechanical or electrical in some way, I would prefer to take it apart, to see how it works, rather than to use it, and I can feel lots of heads nodding in agreement with that. So when it comes to ‘dowsing’, although I can’t see how it works, I remain highly sceptical, but then again, just because ‘Wiki’ doesn’t know, simply means that so far nobody else has found an explanation either.

I do remember in the 80’s, the RICS Land Survey magazine had a long article on the subject, which was very supportive, and I suppose that once I knew that the RICS was sort of Ok about it, I did feel a bit more comfortable with it.

It’s important to make clear that this ‘skill’ has nothing to do with metal detectors, and people who look for metal objects, but of course, in the more up to date world in which we now live, there are many more sophisticated methods of locating underground objects, and I guess those who remember me ‘dowsing’ for cables would only mention it while reminiscing over ‘The Good Old Days’.

Because of the friends we have made

From Heather Ryder

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

A poem my aunt sent several years ago to my late mother I thought it was appropriate for this time as I’m sure we will have made many more friends throughout this ordeal one way or another :-

If nobody smiled and nobody cheered, and nobody helped us along,
If every man looked after himself and good things all went to the strong;
If nobody cared just a little for you, and nobody thought about me,
And we all stood alone in the battle of life, what a dreary old world it would be.
Life is sweet just because of the friends we have made and the things in common we share.
We want to live on, not because of ourselves, but because of the people who care.
It’s giving and doing for somebody else, on that all life’s splendour depends,
And the joy of the world when you have summed it all up is found in the making of friends.

Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash

The List

By Marion Elliott

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Those who know me well know that I am a “list” person! The habit developed many years ago, when I found myself waking several times during the night thinking of something I mustn’t forget to do the next day.

And so the List ritual began!! Each night before heading upstairs I list everything that I have to do the following day, and then I add Richard’s “to do” items so that they are not forgotten too.

Not only did this habit improve my sleep pattern, but guaranteed that I wouldn’t overlook anything whether collecting a prescription, phoning a relative, visiting a friend, keeping a dental appointment … anyway you get the picture.

To the amusement of my better half, he has witnessed me add something to the list during the day that I’d unexpectedly fitted in, and then immediately strike it off !! Its so very satisfying to have everything crossed off by the end of the day ready to start a new list for the following day.

And then came the Corona Virus and the Government’s instruction that we should self isolate, especially those of us of a certain age, to stay home and stay safe for the next twelve weeks.

So a strategy and focus for dealing with this was called for, and my immediate thought and yes you’ve guessed it, that I, no We needed a List. It would be so easy to drift through the next eighty four days and at the end of it having nothing to show for our period of isolation, so this was a list with a difference, not a scrap of paper as used for my nightly listing, but for this mammoth list an A4 sheet of paper would be needed.

Long overdue tasks both indoors and outdoors were scribbled down, the list filled the A4 sheet of paper to the extent that we might need more than 84 days to work through it!

Photo by Mockaroon on Unsplash

Into our third week and reflecting on self isolation, is that the days have flown by, its been super to have more time at home together, (I now realise that in our pre isolation days we spent very little time at home at the same time) we’ve consumed far more coffee than in pre Covid-19 days, we are thankful for the digital age giving us video calls, virtual dinner parties with family, email communication, church services streamed to our sitting room, and are very grateful to the wonderful team of volunteers who stepped forward to look after the needs of the village, and to all the people who don’t have the option to stay home, those who bring food to our table, those caring for the sick, the emergency services, the surgery, our superb chemist team, the list goes on. The only contribution we can make to combatting the virus is to stay home and stay safe and yes, thirteen tasks crossed off the list, so we are feeling very pleased with ourselves, only another twenty six to go. Will we achieve our target? watch this space..

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash