Columnists

Political life pulses to an emotional geography all its own. But the special power of the European question to disturb the atoms of our political class has been tangible, audible and visible since Easter and the cacophony is still rising in volume.

In the world of education, ideas marketed as innovations are often old hat. When “cross-curricular” became the latest in a series of evermore cringe-inducing buzzwords, many teachers shook their heads and rolled their eyes, reminding each other that collaborative links between subjects had always existed.

“In St Paul’s five bishops were photographed dancing in their cassocks,” reported John Bingham in The Daily Telegraph. It was perfectly true, for the Church Times published just such a photograph, adding the comment: “The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, appears to be a practised pogo-er.”

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26 May 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
I always look forward to my trips to Hull. From York, the train runs unhurriedly through a wide, flat land of stock-still cattle and hedges. This pastoral scene is rendered abruptly gothic by the cooling towers rising like castle battlements at Drax power station.

In April 2014, the then First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, called on his party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to stop looking for “lundies [traitors to the Unionist cause] and start looking for converts”.

To celebrate Ascension-tide and the suddenly improving weather, I decided to walk up Criffel, a hill in Dumfries and Galloway. It is not in the big Galloway hills but down on the coast, and the views from the top are spectacular – it looks out across the Solway Firth towards the Lake District and its glorious long, high hill-line.

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19 May 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Can there be a better walk to the swimming baths? Trunks rolled in towel, I set off down Green Lane, an old cart track running from our village to its market town of Thirsk.

There is growing pressure from the scientific community in Britain for the law to be relaxed regarding experimentation on human embryos. This follows the news that scientists have successfully kept alive a fertilised embryo in the laboratory up to the 14-day limit British law allows. Some would like the research to be taken a stage further. Some emphatically would not.

“Partying Leicester City fans filled a hospital emergency department to bursting point, forcing bosses to urge people to stay away,” the Mirror online reported at the weekend. “Most were treated for minor injuries or alcohol related incidents.

The resumption of meat-eating after Easter was met with rejoicing and relief in my university chaplaincy. Abstaining from meat in our community is an ascetical rather than an ethical practice: we give it up because we enjoy it.

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12 May 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
I stood at the window. A grey, windy morning with little to see. Boating through a strong headwind, a herring-gull flotilla was making for a newly ploughed field on the far side of the parish. I was about to return to work when a lone gull caught my eye. A glance showed that this one was different.

What words could possibly describe the Hamas Charter? After all, not many organisations are explicitly committed to rejecting peace and waging genocide.

A teacher asked her class of nine-year-olds to draw a picture of the Ascension. Not surprisingly most of them did a fairly conventional portrait of Jesus rising up into the clouds.

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05 May 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Hail storms. Snow. North winds turning umbrellas inside out. Yesterday, the swallows, having just arrived, gathered in confusion on the telephone wires. A slow spring has some benefits though: the flowers are lasting longer.

The possibility that steel making might end at Port Talbot in South Wales has touched a national nerve. The seemingly relentless loss of heavy manufacturing capacity over the decades since oil prices quadrupled in 1973-74 has affected us far more than I think we realise.

A third of the way through the year, the media have got it into their heads that more famous people than usual are dying. I can hardly think this is true. As with other fairly random statistics, bunches sometimes seem to form.

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28 April 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Sparrowhawks are nesting in our neighbour’s larch again. You can hear them halfway down the village. Is this why the smaller birds, for a second year running, are showing no interest in the bird boxes?

Whether you are a royalist or a republican, or somewhere in between the two, there’s no denying that in the way she has fulfilled her duties the Queen has been a shining example of a life given in service.

A strange and wonderful thing happened at Easter – and I find I am still thinking about it, thinking towards the future as well as casting back to the events – so I am going to write about it. In my parish we celebrated the first two liturgies of the Triduum without a priest.

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21 April 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
The newt rose from the depths of the garden pond like a cosmonaut drifting weightlessly through space.

In 2009 the Catholic Church’s International Theological Commission proposed a fundamental change to the way the Church regarded natural law. It could not be presented “as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject”, it said.

Three out of four brands of tampon, according to a recent piece in The New York Times, are designed by men.It is also largely men, no doubt, who then levy a tax on these tampons, as though they were cakes, biscuits, hot pasties, or similar inessential items we purchase for pleasure.

The face of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, looked out from the top half of the The Daily Telegraph front page on Saturday beside a big headline: “My secret father”. Coverage of this exclusive filled six more pages.

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14 April 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
I stepped out the back door under a blue sky. By the time I had got down the lane, the sun had disappeared under a skirl of dirty clouds.

In the Easter season Thomas makes two notable appearances, one much more significant than the other. The gospel story about doubting Thomas has to be one of the most misunderstood episodes in the New Testament.

The most informative entry in Zimbabwe’s national budget is a blank space on page 217 – beside the label “capital expenditure” for secondary schools.

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07 April 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
There were four of us walking through the spring woods. Our niece’s Hampshire boyfriend, a keen fly fisherman, was explaining the beauty of speckled chalk-stream trout when I noticed the flowers decorating our crushed limestone path.

Schools now have a legal duty to do all they can to prevent extremism. This, along with responsibility for the academic, emotional, moral, social, cultural and spiritual development of hundreds, possibly thousands of students, pushes the role of teacher from a deliverer of knowledge close to the realms of magician.

My local supermarket had signs up advertising the date of Easter throughout Lent, as it did for Halloween on stacks of pumpkins last autumn. But The Daily Telegraph reported a perhaps, um, confected row about Easter eggs.

You may be aching for the European referendum campaign to be over. Wherever you stand on the big question of leave or remain, the chances are that you are already jaded with the tone and pitch of a debate thin on poetry, heavy on personalities, with its acrimony index high and threatening to rise still further.

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31 March 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Bringing the washing in from the line, we laid it over the bed. A buzzing began. A pyjama top moved slightly. The buzz grew louder. Then a bee popped out from the pyjama jacket pocket. It was a buff-tailed bumblebee queen, our largest bee and the first to emerge in spring.

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