A cup of tea for Jesus

I was listening to a sermon.
Shocking, I know, if you watch church services on TV you would assume that sermons are the dull bit of a church service where most people doze or daydream. (Maybe I watch The Simpsons too much).

Anyway the passage being preached was Matthew 25:43, the verse that was being preached to was the bit where Jesus says (in the ESV):

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

This is a challenge.
We live in a world where political dialogue is about the “other” – the limitations needed on immigration, who is worthy of state support. Actually accepting a stranger into your household would be a risk deemed foolhardy- murder, rape or robbery would surely follow.
And with headlines about crises in the prison service, and prison guards having to get hep jabs just in case, who would visit unless they had to?
And as with hospital visiting unless it is friends or relatives who has the time?

I know myself – I’m not a spiritual hero.
So the sermon got me thinking and I recognised that while I clothe the needy (usually donating clothes via charities), and donate to our food bank (with some unease- I heard the CEO say he wanted a food bank in every town but I would prefer that our brilliant welfare state be properly funded to support those in need rather than a return to the pre-20th century approach that the church and civil society should provide), this sermon was a challenge to me.
What if it was Jesus sitting at the roadside? He of course says it is him (Matthew 25 again):

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So how can I do nothing with this clear message in front of me?

I can argue I don’t do nothing- I worked for a homelessness charity and would always donate money to them rather than hand over cash because of the risk of fuelling self-destructive drink and drugs.
I can think about the charity donations and the churchgiving, and maybe I can feel I do my bit and be thankful for the life I have that means I can do the giving.
But that’s Pharisee thinking.

Jesus as always makes things a bit less comfortable.
So with this sermon still ringing in my ears, I got off the bus to walk to work. There was a man there in a battered old leather jacket: “spare any change for a cup of tea?”
I walked on. But I felt awful.
He was there the next day too. I walked past.
And the next- I took a different route.

Then I considered what I was doing.
I was so bothered by what a sermon at church asked me to think about that a specific situation was calling on me to act.

So what to do?

The next morning I stopped at a coffee shop and got two cups of tea.
“Oh, yeah, I guess.”
I took a handful and a stirrer and got on my bus.
On the way I started to wonder if I was doing the right thing.
What should I do, hand it over and walk off?
Stay for a chat?
What if he refused it? Maybe he doesn’t actually want tea?
Would it just be massively embarrassing for both of us?
What if I got mugged for my bag/ phone etc. through showing I was a soft touch?
What if once I had done this once he expected a cup of tea every day?

He wasn’t there.

So I did the same the next day.
And the next.

But he hasn’t been back.

I can reflect that God gave me a chance to see how I react to a specific challenge from a specific sermon.

Or I can think, I hope that man is ok. I hope he has a good reason for not being at the bus stop asking for change for a cup of tea and that his life has changed for the better. I hope his story has a happy ending.

And if I see him again I will buy him that cup of tea.

The Anything Cupcake Mix

My toddler has a new hobby: baking. I discovered recently that he bakes once a week at nursery – he has usually eaten his biscuit or cake before he gets home so I have rarely had the chance to see the results – but he came home this week saying that he had made a red nose and digging in his bag revealed a smiley face cookie with icing and a glace cherry.

So we’ve been cooking at home too. He corrected my crumble the other day (I’d made it with flour and butter and his help but just as I was about to use it he said “no Mummy, you need to put sugar in it now then rub it some more”) and told me the timing (“it goes in d’oven from 11 to 12″ – in actual fact it took about 50 minutes).

So we’ve started baking cakes. It’s great fun when he has friends round, and an easy and tasty way of spending some time together in the afternoons. To date, we’ve made peaches and cream cupcakes, and adapted the recipe to be banana and toffee, triple chocolate, summer fruits, and vanilla and raisin. Baked at 180 degrees in a fan oven for 15 minutes (for mini cake cases) or 25 minutes (in the standard size silicone cupcake cases) these are speedy and fun.

Here’s the basics:
150g sugar
150g butter
Beat these together with an electric whisk.
Beat in 1 egg.
Add 150g self-raising flour – I’ve never yet found a need to sift it.
Plus a pinch of baking powder.
Beat in 2 further eggs.
Add in your flavours. I recommend big chunks of chopped banana and bits of dark chocolate (put half a bar into a plastic bag, seal the top and bash with a rolling pin to break into suitable chunks.
Stir in so these are distributed evenly.
Spoon into cake cases – I’ve found it fills 12 larger and 12 smaller cake cases usually, but sometimes a few fewer.
Cook as described above.
These timings will give a slightly soft and springy centre.
Cool on a rack, after peeling off the silicone cases.
These can be eaten just as they are, or with a buttercream cupcake icing (butter beaten into icing sugar and cocoa powder) piled on top, or a frosting (water or and appropriate fruit sauce beaten into the icing sugar and drizzled over).


Leftovers for lunch- twisty turkey lattice

So, leftover turkey.

It’s a pain, isn’t it?  Cold and sliced for a couple of days, hot and stirfried or chopped up into pesto for pasta.  Curried, too, if you can stand the thought.  It get’s hugely tedious. I know the real answer is buy a smaller bird, but no one ever does, do they?

Anyway, thought we were going to be snowed in today, so this is the leftovers recipe I’ve just made.  And rather yummy it was too. As it was made with leftovers, the measurements are somewhat approximate.

Twisty Turkey Pie

Left over turkey, shredded
3 slices left over bacon, chopped
third of a box of passata
third of a tube of concentrated tomato puree
3 chopped carrots
3 lumps of frozen spinach
1 glass white wine
5 chesnut mushrooms, sliced
1 pack frozen puff pastry, defrosted
olive oil
salt, dried thyme, lemon juice

Firstly shred as much turkey as you can stand.  My food processor’s still in the box from moving house, so I actually grated mine.  Very odd feeling, doing that, but worked brilliantly. Turkey is very low fat, so add a slug of olive oil and start frying, gently.
Add the bacon, and the tomato puree.  Boil a kettle and cover the three spinach lumps in a measuring jug to defrost.
Add the wine and passata to the turkey and stir, remember you’re still sort of frying it. Then add the spinach and water.
Chop carrots and slice mushrooms, add to the mix. Season with the salt, thyme and lemon juice.

You’ll end up with a kind of pale orange mixture, studded with veg and flecks of spinach.

Butter a pie dish, or if like me you’ve not actually unpacked those yet, a springform cake tin.  Roll out the puff pastry on a floured board, and put it into the tin, lining all sides with the pastry.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit patchworky, as long as it’s sealed.  Load in the filling.
You will probably not have enough pastry to make a full pie top from the leftover pastry.  Cut the remaining pastry into long strips.
Twist these and attach them across the top of the pie, like a lattice.
Butter or milk around the edges to glue them to the edges of the pie pastry, and across the lattices to make them nice and shiny in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes at 190c, then check every 10 after that to see if it’s done yet.  Mine took 50 minutes, but it will depend on the quantity of filling.

Best use for leftover turkey I’ve found yet…

(NB that’s not my pie – can’t get my photo to upload – so that one’s from http://tobykitchen.wordpress.com/page/2/ and may actually be filled with rhubarb… but it does nicely illustrate the twisty lattices)

Feeling autumnal, feeding autumnal

(not my pork, but a very similar looking one from Asda magazine!)

I promised to share a recipe that we made up the other week and which turned out to be totally delicious and perfect for autumn.

Pork and Cider Casserole

4 pork neck steaks
1 330ml bottle decent cider
pork/ chicken/ vegetable stock cube
1  bag chantenay carrots, topped and tailed
8 portabellini mushrooms, sliced
2 eating apples, cubed or in neat slices
4 sprigs rosemary
salt, pepper, dried thyme
olive oil

(one chopped onion and two crushed garlic cloves)
(crème fraiche)

We started off by coating the steaks in flour, and browning them in the olive oil.  Put them into a big lidded pan for the oven (we used a Le Creuset).
Once that’s done, really you should cook the onion and garlic in the same pan until the onions are golden after which they should go in the same oven pan as the pork.
But we forgot to add them all together and the casserole was still delicious.

Next, we added half the carrots, all the mushroom and apple to the pan, frying these a bit to release the flavours,  then tipped those into the same pan.  Seasoning with the salt, pepper and thyme, we topped up the pan with cider so that pork and bits were completely covered, adding the rosemary sprigs to the top.
We dissolved a stock cube in a little bit of boiling water and stirred in the resulting goop.
This all went into the oven at 180c for an hour and a half.  You could take the lid off for the last half hour to reduce the sauce into something nice and sticky.
You could stir in crème fraiche at the last minute if you like.

We served ours with jacket potatoes, and more carrots (the other half bag) – yum.  Just the thing now the nights are drawing in…

Fat is definitely still a feminist issue

As the bloggers have it, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Christina Hendricks has apparently got so fed up with being called curvy, she’s going to slim down from her (UK) size 14 to fit the Hollywood norm. This is her at her current size.
Christina is of course already gorgeous, someone to aspire to look like and sparking a fashion revival of 1960s style c/o her role in the show Mad Men.
But she’s far from the first to feel the pressure to lose weight to seek public approval or worse, to feel happy with herself in public.

Sophie Dahl was voluptuous, the first plus size super model, but shed loads of weight after becoming famous. This is one of the “before” pictures.

Even Margaret Thatcher, whose voice famously changed as part of her makeover to become a credible party leader, lost a stone.  It was never mentioned.

What’s going on?  Leaving aside the issue that the fashion industry has nothing to do with making the average woman look beautiful and everything to do with selling us something to idealise (and to keep buying their products to cover our flaws), we have to ask ourselves why do women do this?

The idea that this might be being done to appeal to men is nonsense – men tend to prefer curves (according to an article in Current Anthropology, a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 is thought to be the best in terms of demonstrating good health and fertility).
So is the pressure coming from other women?  The front of the weekly gossip mags always seem to be about celebrities who have lost or gained weight, and in the case of the latter, sometimes there are pregnancy rumours. That seems a particularly cruel way of noticing that someone’s gained a few pounds.  Look at the female columnists: they seem to gain their prestige by criticising other women.  Which man gets the criticism for his looks that women in the public eye are subjected to?  It’s ludicrous.

The classic TV pairing of older-man-younger-woman is still the norm on regional news programmes around the country.  Moira Stewart has disappeared from our screens.  Jenny Murray and Libby Purves seem confined to radio.
But Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney do still seem to be allowed out, and the BBC at least has been trying some positive action to encourage women over 35 to appear on our screens.  Last year, in an effort to overcome the apparent ageism, the BBC advertised for older women to read the news and added Zeinab Badawi (world news on BBC Four), and Julia Somerville and Fiona Armstrong to their portfolio of news anchors.
And I try to feel grateful for the existence of Loose Women on ITV1, even if it’s not really my sort of programme…
Notice though that these older women presenters are still relatively thin and certainly glamorous.
The average sized woman in this country is a size 16. For older women, the average is higher.  Can it really be the case that average sized women are only represented on screen by Mary Bryne on the X Factor and Anne Widdecombe  on Strictly Come Dancing?
Mary Byrne on the X Factor

Before you wonder if I’m going too far, think about Adrian Chiles, Michael Macintyre, Eamonn Holmes, Mark Addy in the Tesco ad… With the exception of Michael Macintyre (who appears solo and whom we can forgive almost anything if he can indeed get the country skipping again…) most appear on screen with a younger/ slimmer/ more glamorous female partner.

Having an all-male panel on comedy programmes is still acceptable.  More usually these days there’s one woman – for example Jo Caulfield, Andi Osho, Lucy Porter, Shappi Korsandi on Mock the Week,  Sandi Toksvig, Maureen Lipman, Jo Brand or Emma Thompson on QI.  But as Sandi Toksvig said recently, when are we going to get the three woman, one man panel without it being considered a “special edition”?  Well part of the problem could be that women aren’t funny (rubbish + more of this rubbish from Christopher Hitchens),the rumour that it’s women that don’t find women funny, and men don’t fancy funny women
(If you’re interested in all this, try http://www.funnywomen.com/index.php)

Age is a problem, but fat seems to be the last taboo.
It seems that being fat is the fat person’s own fault, and therefore they’re a reasonable target for worse treatment or rudeness.
A while ago Ryan Air floated the idea of BMI-priced seating, and a fellow euroblogger stirred the controversy.  But my point – that pregnancy (and miscarriage) cause weight to increase, as does the menopause, show that policies like this could potentially discriminate against women…
I should probably at this point mention the fat/ poverty link.  But this is not an infallible rule. Some people who are fat are comparatively rich – not everyone subscribes the the Wallis Simpson maxim “you can never be too rich nor too thin”. And I’ve not even started on the race/body fat issue.
All I’m saying is that the issue of fat is a bit more complicated than the media might have it…

It’s worth noting that while one third of UK women are overweight, one third are underweight.  Being overweight can lead to all sorts of health problems, but so can being underweight.
So we should really be asking why, if fat people are kept off our screens in case they’re “normalised” or seen as anything other than a problem, why is it acceptable to show underweight people with such frequency?
I have friends with young daughters who are really concerned already by their daughters calling themselves fat, worrying about how they look – and the scary thing is that this seems now to apply to toddlers.  And don’t get me started on pink and princesses…

But if fat is a feminist issue, what should we do about it?
1) every time there’s a gym without childcare facilities, that’s a problem for mothers who want to exercise.  Any woman going to a gym should challenge this ongoing problem, on behalf of all.
2) Every designer who makes their clothes so that they look good on skeletons, and doesn’t provide samples/loan dresses even in a size that fits pre-diet Hendricks and Dahl, they put off someone like me from even bothering to slim to look good in their designs as I’m never going to both be happy and fit those clothes. We should make clear – perhaps via social media – that this is unacceptable, and by the way do they not realise how much of a potential market they are alienating.
3) Every time a female journalist criticises another woman for her weight or her looks, particularly if the woman criticised is a politician, scientist, writer, or is involved in a career which does not naturally lead to being a “brand ambassador” for a cosmetics company, we should comment on the website or email.

What do you think?

Basil’s grown up cooking for kids

(image from Omnivorous bear who read the same Observer article)

Another installment in my efforts to teach my toddler to cook.  We do this when it is raining. Today, we made packet Postman Pat cakes.  No information needed.

But we also made basil biscuits.

This is amazingly easy.

50g butter
50g sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 handfuls chopped basil leaves
(I used thai basil as it happened to be at hand, but greek or standard is perfectly good too).

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Toddler can do this, slowly.
Blend in the flour and baking powder.
Knead in the bowl, or on a board, roll into a sausage.  Put back in bowl, roll in the chopped basil leaves, keep rolling around to mix the basil leaves in evenly.
Make the dough into a 2cm wide sausage. Cut into 1cm slices.
Put on a greased baking tray, and bake in the oven at 180c for 12 minutes.

Now, these could happily be changed around – parmesan in place of the sugar, lemon juice and peel in the sweet biscuit mix,or tomato puree or sundried tomatoes in place of the sugar.
Toddler’s not completely sure about them, but has said he’ll try again after his nap…

Cooking with Mummy…

… today, we made cheese and ham breakfast muffins.

Heavily modelled on an M&S magazine recipe, we adapted to what we had in the house.
If you want to make the same, you will need:

300g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
a few grinds of pepper
3 beaten eggs
225ml milk
1 heaped tablespoon hummous
25g parmesan cheese
5 slices of ham, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
Handful of basil, chopped
125g cheddar, chopped
Extra parmesan to top

Heat the over to 190c, 170c for fan ovens.  Put some silicone bun cases into a muffin tin.  It’s amazing how precise toddler wanted to be about this.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Grind pepper in.  Add the eggs, hummous, parmesan and half the milk, and stir to make a kind of batter.  This is fun and messy.  Add the rest of the milk slowly so that it doesn’t get too sloppy.

Fry the ham and shallots in the olive oil (despite toddler’s protests, this was my job…). When shallots are golden, tip into the batter.

Add the cheese – we used some cheese slices so toddler could tear them up and chunks are best but you might want to grate or chop some up so that it melts through the muffins as they cook.
Rip the  basil and add to the mixture.

Now, spoon into the bun cases, filling to just below the top of each case, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on the top.
Make sure you look in through the oven door as they cook to see them rising!
Once cooked, take them out and cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then put on a rack to cool further.

Eat while still warm.

If you want them to be a bit more sophisticated, you could serve with scrambled eggs. Or bechemel sauce.  Mmmm.

PS the photo is not our muffins – need to download my phone photos for that…

Are potatoes the root of all evil?

The chiropracter sorting my RSI said to me that he wanted to test whether I was sugar sensitive, and that I can’t physically deal with all the stress I’m under at present.  Tell me something I don’t know…

I should explain, last week I had the migraine from hell.
I’ve had migraines since my teens but far more of them following a car crash I was up to one or two a week. The headache clinic at St Georges hospital in London helped sort it out a bit and then a prescription drug keeps it under control, and I’ve managed my migraines relatively successfully for a year or so.
But this one snuck up on me. I’d taken the drugs for it a few days earlier when I thought it was coming, but it arrived without warning on and I couldn’t even get out of bed with the light sensitivity and nausea.

I hadn’t mentioned to the chiropractor but as he felt my neck he asked whether I’d had a really bad migraine this week as I was holding my head as if I had.
After the various cracking things that help sort it all out, he pushed two points in my stomach which were very painful (apparently this is an adrenal acupuncture point).
He asked about the stress I’m under at the moment and established that this was very high indeed and multisourced.

Now I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to lose some weight for quite some time and I’m increasingly convinced that it is part of my body’s reaction to stress that I seem to cling onto the weight even when doing the things that have in the past helped me lose weight.

We talked about this and he tested my sensitivity to sugar – I’m not to my knowledge diabetic and can think of many reasons to cut back on it but “sugar sensitivity” is a new one on me.
But having seen myself that I could not perform the same exercise as well after sugar as before, I’m beginning to think that Sportacus has a point.

And in order to help control the migraines further (as well as help kickstart weightloss) he suggested avoiding sugar – at least until my next appointment in a month – and cutting out potatoes, replacing them with sweet potatoes.

So given there’s so much sugar in everything, this is an interesting challenge…
Why are potatoes so bad for you?
I know that the starch has something to do with it.  And  they get a separate points value at Weightwatchers rather than being part of the free vegetable allowance.
But do they contribute to my migraines?
Are they in fact the root vegetable of all evil?

Not convinced but I’ll give it a go – but I reserve the right to go a bit Rincewind about them… within limits of course…

Just desserts?

Or why Rupert Murdoch ought to care about clafoutis…

The tree in our garden turns out to have edible cherries.
This is fabulous – I love cherries and my mum and I picked loads of them yesterday.
They are small, dark Chanel Rouge Noir in colour and sweet, with a slight sour note.  Perfect.

We have so many I decided to cook them, and searched my cookbooks in vain for a clafoutis recipe.  The only one I could find required me to make a custard first, and with a migraine coming, that was too much.

So I went online.
The first two recipes Google found were on the Times Online website.  But guess what?  They are now hidden between the £1 a day, £2 a week pay wall.
Did I pay it?  Did I heckaslike. I found the recipe at the excellent Green Chronicle
And it was delicious.

The thing is, when I find a recipe on the Guardian’s website, I often get distracted.  I end up reading Comment is Free, looking at different bits of the news and enjoying more of the lifestyle bits of the paper.
I used to do that with the Times website, but really what I’m after is the recipe.
Or the Alphamummy debate, or the theatre review that I was looking for.

But nothing makes me particularly inclined to pay £1 to get the recipe.

I already pay a TV licence and have access to the BBC.  I pay Virgin Media and have access to Euronews, Sky, CNN, Al Jazeera English and more.
On top of that there’s Google news and any number of online news outlets.

I used to buy the Guardian, the Times or the Independent pretty much interchangeably if I had a long train journey – otherwise reading a newspaper other than Metro is a luxury I’ve learned to live without.

And now we do so much more online, there’s a realm of excellent citizen bloggers out there who do not have pay walls and provide excellent news commentary, often better than the paid columnists in the mainstream media (I’d rather read Nosemonkey than Jan Moir any day).

So I don’t know whether the paywall is the future of online newspapers or not.  All I know is that it has made me feel less inclined to read the Times overall, and certainly not willing to link to anything that might mean me or my few readers shelling out £1 a day to read it.
If fewer, dedicated subscribers is the business model that works, then it just makes me worry about the quality of what I’d be getting behind that paywall anyway – less now, more in 10 years time.
I’m sure the clafoutis recipes would be fine, but you know what I mean.

Lent – not just a past participle…

image from freefoto.com

Embarrassing incident at work today. 

As I walked through reception I saw a colleague I barely know with a dirty mark on her forehead.  I thought about telling her, but decided as she was about to get into a mirrored lift that she’d see it herself in good time. 

But when I got back upstairs, I saw another colleague with a mark and said “ok, I’ve missed something, what’s the mark about?”

“It’s Ash Wednesday”, said my colleague.
Of course it is. What a fool I felt.

I made pancakes last night for Shrove Tuesday (embarrassingly good since they were made from a Betty Crocker instant batter shaker, and it made me wonder why I’d bothered making them by hand so many years). 
I won my only real school prize for Scripture, writing an essay on the origins and meaning of pancake day (see this post for more detail).  As they said on the TV news yesterday, we’re all so used to thinking about pancakes and live in such a relatively prosperous and increasingly secular society that we’re forgetting that they symbolise something.

But the ash marks reminded me that not everyone’s forgetting. 
My colleague mentioned the services that were taking place at Westminster Cathedral and asked me if I too was Roman Catholic, to which I replied no, C of E, and that I’ve not seen that for years (the universal tradition is to burn last year’s palm crosses from Palm Sunday to make the ash, which in itself is a symbolic act).
She suggested looking up the Westminster Abbey website to see if my denomination was doing it too, which was kind of her.  One thing about working on equalities issues is that – far from the way that we see equalities described as being about the sweeping away and secularisation of society – it’s about celebrating and recognising our diversity and that that’s what makes life interesting.

But it reminds me of a conversation with a friend last week.  We talked about giving things up for Lent and how hard it was this year (I’m trying to give up fruitless worrying about the future, she’s giving up alcohol).  Both are small, commemorative acts of personal use rather than big dramatic acts clearly visible to all.

She mentioned that her parents were unlikely to consider what she’d given up “enough”, but she hoped that it would be understood and would not be held against her getting a pass to heaven.
I’ve pondered this last point, because its on this precise issue that we pass for the cultural to the spiritual and a small but significant difference of view.
It’s easy to forget what is cultural (rememberance of the 40 days in the wilderness) with what is spiritually necessary (that is acceptance of Jesus’s gift to us, God’s forgiveness, that the price of our sin has been paid and God’s law fulfilled). It’s not about trying to fulfil a standard – Jesus’s whole message was effectively that this is pointless as no one on their own merit will ever be good enough to meet God’s perfection.
We’ve seen this reflected in so much of religion, both within Christianity and in other faiths, the hope that by setting rules that must be obeyed you’ll be more what God is looking for, or trying to buy your way in to God’s good books through good behaviour. And of course we know that rules that set out to help can become a hindrance by being too hard to meet or becoming the aim themselves rather than the glory of God. 
Christians know from Jesus that nothing they do will be good enough, that it’s faith in Jesus (known as justification by faith) but even then the issue is complicated, with James 2:24 in the New Testament the point being made is that what you believe modifies your actions. As wikipedia sets out unusually clearly, true faith in God results in a desire to follow his instruction to love one another, and thus would result in good deeds.  But that’s difficult to get your head round – resulting in many heretical positions down the centuries.

Lent reminds us of a hardship endured, and ultimately a sacrifice made for us. It reminds us to lend part of our thoughts to this, for this short period (the classic 40 days to Easter).
But Lent is not just the past participle of “to lend”, it’s a real thing affecting the way in which millions of people in the UK live their lives (and with larger population for C&E Europe, possibly a growing number).  We may not have the parading in sackcloth and ashes of the mediaeval world but the connotations of fasting and repentance (conveyed by lack of decoration in church) and regarding the world a little more contemplatively do echo on.  Typically we’ve hung onto the fun of the pancaking feasting which the population forgets the follow-up fasting.

But the echoes are now rebounding more loudly.  Combined with increasing willingness to show religious faith publicly, whether wearing headscarf , turban, skullcap or cross, even if there are consequences because to those doing it it’s a mark of what is important in their lives. The ash marks are both traditional and the latest manifestation of this. Yes they are symbols, the symbol of the thing rather than the thing itself, but symbols matter.

Let’s think about it, while we digest.